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Current Medical Volunteer Opportunities
Click here to see a list of current opportunities for health care professionals overseas.
Helping the disabled make new lives for themselves
By Tess Rivers
BANGALORE, India — Life has not been easy for Sabal Pathak.* Born with cerebral palsy, Pathak, 18, lives with his family in a rural village outside Bangalore, India. Although he is mentally alert and highly sociable, Pathak suffers from severe deformities in his arms and legs. He cannot walk; even crawling is difficult.
For the nearly 90 million people like Pathak who live with disabilities in India, day-to-day life can be grueling. Often bearing a social stigma because of their infirmity, many disabled people, especially women and children, are particularly vulnerable to abuse and abandonment. Human rights agencies report that 80 percent of people with disabilities in India will not live past age 40.
Personnel of Bangalore Baptist Hospital’s Community Health Department hope to change the statistics and attitudes toward persons with disabilities, explains Dr. Naveen Thomas, the deputy director and chief of medical services at BBH. Thanks to donations provided by Southern Baptists to general relief efforts and Global Hunger Relief (formerly the World Hunger Fund), BBH recently extended its efforts to help the disabled within Bangalore and surrounding villages.
The project, called 2013 Empower, builds on a two-year initiative to integrate the disabled into mainstream society in 40 villages, Thomas says. Over the past two years, BBH offered support to nearly 500 people, giving them access to government programs and facilitating rehabilitation services and vocational training.
Pathak is one of the beneficiaries.
“Initially, we thought of arranging a wheelchair so family members could take Sabal where he needs to go,” Thomas says. After more discussion, BBH instead provided Pathak with an “adult-sized” tricycle, which provided independent mobility as well as therapy for his withered limbs.
“Training was extremely difficult because of the deformities to his fingers,” Thomas recalls. “But with his determination and perseverance — and our encouragement — he gained confidence.”
Now, Pathak regularly drives his tricycle throughout the village streets without support.
“His family and the villagers are very happy to see him moving around (independently),” Thomas says.
Soon, 2013 Empower will expand services to an additional 20 villages, taking disability services to approximately 750 people. An opportunity to partner with government agencies to establish and manage a rehabilitation center could extend the services to approximately 60,000 people with disabilities.
Pathak will likely benefit from this as well.
In the coming months, “we are planning to give Sabal some income generating activities to make him financially independent,” Thomas says.
Thomas thanks God for His guidance as the hospital expands its services to the disabled. He is also thankful for the committed doctors, nurses and other workers involved in the project.
Ways you can pray:
• For whole-life healing of Pathak and others like him
• For adequate resources that will allow BBH to carry out their work among the disabled
• For good cooperation with local authorities
• For BBH personnel to demonstrate God’s love among those who are suffering.
*Name changed. Tess Rivers is an IMB writer.
'Kingdom of Darkness'
Sharing the good news of God's love through health care
Dr. Doug Page serves as a doctor in a dangerous part of the world, touching lives with the healing power of medicine -- and the love of Jesus. Life is anything but normal. “We’re surrounded by razor wire, and we have guards. That’s not normal," Dr. Page says. "Everything is on the table. God gives us things to give up.” (To download this video, search for it by name on the IMB Resources page.)
"Then He sent them to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal the sick." (Luke 9:2 NIV)
For Christians, healing the sick has always gone hand-in-hand with sharing the Gospel. Jesus modeled it Himself, and He sent His followers out with explicit instructions to both proclaim and heal.
Health care also has always been at the heart of Southern Baptist global missions, from the appointment of J. Sexton James as a missionary physician to China in 1846, right down to the present day. The face of health care missions in Southern Baptist life has changed, but we still focus on making disciples and starting churches while meeting physical needs.
Today the health care needs around the world are as unprecedented as the opportunities. The statistics on children’s health are staggering by themselves:
More than 22,000 children under age 5 die each day -- almost 1,000 every hour. About 3.3 million die during the first month of life; almost 6 million within the first year. Infectious diseases cause 64 percent of those deaths.
In many developing countries, children under age 5 routinely die from treatable afflictions like pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.
In Africa, malaria strikes 94 of every 100,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. Tuberculosis affects 345 out of every 100,000 -- contrasted with only 29 in the Americas. Non-communicable diseases, like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer -- now make up two-thirds of all deaths globally.
For adults, poor health not only shortens life but also reduces a person’s ability to provide for family -- pushing even more at-risk people deeper into despair. When communicable diseases run rampant and access to health care is virtually nonexistent, the eternal implications for entire villages and even people groups are truly, literally grave.
Traditional mission hospitals still play a significant role in Southern Baptist mission strategy, and we partner with such institutions around the world. But the central focus of health care missions today lies with outpatient clinics and primary health care in remote areas. Southern Baptist missionaries also leverage their training and skills in the various health care disciplines to help educate a new generation of indigenous workers around the world. Today more than 250 health care-qualified individuals serve under career appointment through the International Mission Board.
Health care missions, in fact, fills a key strategic role in taking the Good News to the unreached peoples of the world. Where doors are closed to many others, health care professionals have unique opportunities to care, share, make disciples and empower the church.
Available and ready?
Your first step toward involvement, individually or as a church, is to make yourself available and ready to respond to God's direction. You can become informed about health care needs across the world and identify opportunities to use your skills in strategic ways that lead to new disciples and churches.
God may give you a burden to pray for people in need and the health care missionaries who serve them. God may call you, as He has many others, to a career overseas in international health, serving as part of a team that shares Christ and starts churches alongside national partners. Or the Lord may direct you to go as a volunteer for a shorter term, either as an individual or as part of a team.
Special events are sponsored by the IMB on a regular basis to help you discover God’s plan for you in health care missions. For information about the current schedule, visit:
or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to talk with someone about getting involved, contact Dr. Rebekah Naylor, an emeritus missionary physician who serves as Medical and Health Care Consultant with Baptist Global Response, a key IMB partner in health care initiatives. Contact Dr. Naylor at email@example.com or visit www.gobgr.org.
The MedAdvance conference connects health care professionals with strategic global evangelization. To see video presentations from the most recent MedAdvance, click here.