imb connecting ... meeting health care needs
Well project brings ‘healing water’ to western Zambia
LUKENA, Zambia -- The medical clinic was desperately needed, and construction on the impressive facility in Zambia’s Western province was complete. Seven clinic buildings, three staff houses, a water tower -- all solar powered. With the closest hospital more than 30 miles away, the people of Kaoma district would be deeply grateful.
Just one problem: No water.
The first well went dry before construction was complete. Bedrock broke the bit on the second borehole. Then the contractor left the job -- and took the money -- before the work was complete. Three years into the project, Zambia’s Health Ministry and the United Nations gave up in frustration.
The new clinic compound was a ghost town.
IMB missionary Mike Smith saw an opportunity to make a big impact with a small investment.
“In relation to what had been spent already, a small amount of money was needed to open a clinic that would meet the physical needs of many,” Smith said.
Baptists are virtually unknown in Western province, and word of new Baptist work often results in rumors about "Satanists," Smith said. “While one borehole will not end all debate or rumors, it will certainly demonstrate Christ's love in a practical and tangible way. While people will know that Baptists have not come to meet every physical need, they also will know they are people who truly represent God and are willing to show their faith and not simply talk about it.”
Working with humanitarian partners and U.S. churches in a project called “Healing Water,” two new wells were drilled to directly supply the clinic and neighboring villages, Smith said. Since the clinic opened in June 2012, more than 4,300 patients have been seen.
Now the once-abandoned clinic looks like a bustling little town. On the days infants and small children are seen, hundreds of people overflow the small waiting area into shaded areas outside. Women from the nearby villages bring vegetables, peanuts, and other items to sell. Babies are delivered almost daily, and patients are treated for malaria and HIV. Check-ups and education are provided for expectant mothers.
Besides the benefit to area residents, one unanticipated effect was the way the project blessed hospital staff, who were walking about half a mile to draw water for bathing, washing clothes, drinking, cooking and the few patients they were trying to see until the well project was completed, Smith said.
“I will not soon forget the day we finally finished installing the solar pump in the second well. We flipped the switch on the pump and waited for the tank to begin to fill,” Smith recalled. “When I opened one of the taps at the clinic, the four or five women nearby started splashing the water, dancing around and singing praises to God for the water he had provided.
“I then went and found Nurse Muyoya, the acting clinic officer, who had just finished delivering a baby. I took him to the second well, and we stood and listened to the sweet sound of water falling into the tank,” Smith added. “He looked at me and, with tears in his eyes, simply said, ‘Thank you for everything you have done.’ I don't know if Nurse Muyoya has received Christ yet or not. However, I do know that he witnessed the love of Christ and has tasted the blessings that come from Him.”
The World Hunger Fund resources that financed the project are blessing more than 4,000 people in the area and have brought the good news of God’s love to hundreds, Smith noted. Five people have made public salvation decisions. He asks friends to pray for those who have received Christ and the clinic staff, as well as the leader and members of Katunda Baptist Church, the nearest congregation to the clinic.
“Pray that God's will is done in relation to potential preaching points and new churches that can be started in this area,” Smith said.
Fighting epilepsy with household toilets
In one area of Asia, NCC (neurocysticercosis) plagues many people because of the traditional practice of eating raw pork. NCC is a highly preventable parasitic disease of the nervous system and the main cause of epilepsy in developing countries. The proper use of household sanitation facilities will break the cycle of the disease. Southern Baptist humanitarian partners attacked the problem by building demonstration toilets in several homes, followed by a local rally to report on the difference those facilities made. Dozens of families signed up that day to have toilets installed in their homes, and almost a third of the households without toilets have made a commitment to build one.
Training nurses in rural Central Asia
In a remote rural area of Central Asia, only 35 nurses were available at one 80-bed hospital to serve more than 600,000 people -- and most of those nurses had no formal training. Southern Baptist humanitarian partners helped organize a training program that in two years placed more than 40 trained nurses in service, raising the level of health care in a region that has long suffered with inadequate and insufficient care. The first year of the program, about 200 prospects applied for the training, which involved classroom instruction six days a week and supervised clinical practice five afternoons a week.
'Let it be me'
Sharing the good news of God's love through health care
Jesus commissioned his disciples to follow his example of caring for people's needs -- both for today and for eternity. This music video, featuring Dr. Rebekah Naylor and Drew Cline, stirs the heart for a holistic response to a world that needs Jesus. (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.