I am taking a bit of a break from blogging for now. We live in the Philippines and have been walloped by disaster. Strangely, the Philippines has been doing fairly well of late with good economics and the perception (at least) of less corruption. But then came three big disasters:
We live in Baguio… a city in the Philippines that was not affected by any of these disasters. That is a blessing, but also an opportunity. One is not called upon by God to live lives of thankful complacency. It certainly may be understandable that people ask “Why would God allow such tragedies to happen?” A really good question, but another good question is “Why did God spare us from these tragedies?” The second question I believe is much easier to answer than the first. We are spared to share.
We are presently partnering with a number of groups in chaplaincy and training. Some of our team are prepping to leave for the destruction zone. Tonight my wife and I will be training a team that will leave two days from now.
The rest of the time we are emailing, texting, checking with support and with needs.
Blogging is good, and theological speculation is enriching. But sometimes one has to do something.
Wrote an article, “Divine Intervention: The Flight of Elijah in the Context of Crisis Care.” If you want to read it, it is in the magazine that can be downloaded (pdf) at the link below. I think it is a pretty decent article on the topic (although even after about 5 or 6 cycles of editing there are still some annoying grammar… ah well.)
Since my dissertation for medical mission events in the Ilocos Region, Philippines has been approved, I am going to start putting a few posts together that look at some aspects of this. I particularly focused on the role of churches in medical missions who wish to have long-term impact in their community.
A. What are Medical Mission Events? A medical mission event is a one-time (or at least short-term) activity where medical people come into a community to provide various types of health care. These include medical screening, hygeine training, general medical treatment, dental screening, tooth extraction, eye care, minor surgery, circumcision, etc. It may include other care such as evangelism, acupuncture, relief packs, film-showing, and pretty much whatever can be put into a short period of time.
Medical mission events are extremely popular in the Philippines. On the positive side, they do sometimes bring needed medical care into a community that lacks even basic services. Churches often like them because it gives themselves an opportunity to advertise themselves, and do something for the community. Local government (barangay) officials like them because it, once again, shows an effort at helping a community, and makes the leaders look good.
Some remote places rarely or never have medical missions. Some cities have them occur quite regularly. Some specialized medical missions also come to larger cities such as for major surgery, cleft palate repair, and the like.
B. What type of mission is medical missions? Medical mission events can be categorized a number of ways. One way is to say that medical mission events are a form of RELIEF missions. Relief missions is work that involves the short-term meeting of a specific felt need, particularly with help from outside sources. This is as opposed to DEVELOPMENT missions, which is the long-term meeting of felt and and real needs, particularly through the utilization of internal resources (with perhaps some material and knowledge transfer from outside sources).
Another way to classify it is to say that it is a form of SOCIAL MINISTRY. This is to contrast SPIRITUAL MINISTRY, which focuses on the classic religious activities of evangelism, church-planting, discipleship, and church growth. However, medical missions often incorporate both spiritual and physical activities (as well as training) so some would describe medical mission events as being HOLISTIC or WHOLISTIC MINISTRY. Some people prefer the more traditional spelling of “holistic” while others (to emphasize care of the whole person within the whole community prefer the spelling “wholistic.” I prefer the latter spelling, but I am amazed at how heated some people get over this issue of spelling. Spell it however you want… doesn’t bother me.
3. Who does medical missions? In many parts of the world it appears to be assumed that foreigners do medical missions. Reading missions literature, it is hard to find many articles on nationals providing medical care for themselves. In this case a foreign mission team (church-based, NGO, or other organization) will partner with a local host and do medical missions in that country.
However, in the Philippines, locals do a lot of medical missions as well. In this case local medical doctors and nurses will go with a team (again, church-based, NGO, LGU, educational organization, etc.) and work for one or more days at a remote site.
Sometimes the medical mission is viewed to be a religious activity and evangelism and other “spiritual” activities will be included. In other cases it may be strictly secular or humanitarian.
I have been involved in two organizations in the Philippines (NGOs) that do medical missions. Dakilang Pag-Ibig DIADEM Ministries primarily does medical missions in Northern Philippines. Bukal Life Care & Counseling Center (I am presently with) does mostly counseling and CPE chaplaincy training, but does periodically still do some medical missions. With Dakilang Pag-Ibig, evangelism is a major part of the medical mission. With Bukal Life, we often do have evangelism, but we commonly focus on psychoemotional counseling and relationship building.
4. So are Medical Mission Events good or bad? This is a COMPLICATED question. Good people strongly disagree in this area. I will try to give a fairly balanced response… but will save that for the next post (Part II)