God’s presence, provision emphasized at MedAdvance 2022

Amy Sanderson, IMB missionary in Sub-Saharan Africa, speaks with Deborah Bolian, president-elect of Baptist Nursing Fellowship and assistant professor of nursing at Mississippi College, and another BNF cohort. IMB Photo

Nick is a pediatric nurse practitioner. He also serves as a missionary, formerly in Ukraine.

Before the war broke out, he used his gifts, talents and passion for medicine in underserved areas affected by the smaller ongoing conflict. In addition to helping with church-planting efforts, he partnered with established churches to offer clinics for the community. Now, living outside Ukraine, he partners with Baptist unions in bordering countries, to deliver food, water and medical supplies inside the border and minister to refugees.

He’s found that healthcare helps to build a bridge to the gospel, showing people the love of Christ and helping to dispel misconceptions they may have about evangelicals. He is seeing people in their 50s and 60s opening their hearts to the gospel.

“When they see that you’re a doctor who actually cares, their interest is piqued,” he shared.

Nick was one of the missionaries present at MedAdvance 2022. Attendees had face-to-face interactions with seasoned medical missionaries at the International Mission Board’s June 23-25 conference. It was hosted by Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia. Nearly 200 attended.

Focused prayer was a highlight of the MedAdvance conference. Led by IMB’s prayer office director Lisa Farrell, attendees prayed in small groups for specific requests throughout the conference. IMB Photo

Connection, prayer and discovery

Conference leaders explained that MedAdvance is an annual conference for healthcare professionals, students and church leaders to:

  • connect with IMB missionaries and leaders for networking and questions;
  • discover how God is at work as healthcare missionaries share stories from around the world;
  • learn how to serve God’s mission at home and overseas using God-given talents, skills and experiences in the healthcare field.

A main event at the annual conference was the Affinity Marathon, where attendees heard about opportunities for healthcare missions in each of the IMB’s eight geographical areas of focus. In addition to the Affinity Marathon, attendees were offered breakout sessions on topics from “Being a Healthcare Volunteer” to “Theology of Suffering and Spiritual Warfare.”

Attendees also gathered as a large group for worship and to hear encouragement and information from current and former IMB missionaries and personnel. During these sessions, times of intentional prayer were prioritized.

IMB President Paul Chitwood brings video greetings to MedAdvance attendees. Nearly 200 were in attendance during the June 23-25 conference. IMB Photo

Medical missions – ‘risky business’

Todd Lafferty, IMB’s executive vice president, addressed some of the hardships missionaries face on the field. He expressed that he wanted to present the real picture of missions.

“There’s cost, and it’s risky business to share the gospel among the nations,” Lafferty said.

Knowing the risks, “Why give your life to this?” he asked. “Because Jesus has all authority.”

He added, “This Commission starts with the supremacy and glory of Christ, then we go out and make disciples.”

Left: Todd Lafferty, IMB’s executive vice president, brings a word of challenge and encouragement to MedAdvance attendees, explaining that medical missions is “risky business.” IMB Photo Right: Susan Lafferty spent decades on the field as an IMB missionary alongside her husband, IMB executive vice president Todd Lafferty. She encouraged those attending MedAdvance to cling to Christ, especially in the spiritually dark places. “I learned that abiding in Christ though prayer and the Word was not an option. It was a necessity, a daily necessity, because without Him, we could do nothing,” she said. IMB Photo


Dr. Larry Pepper, affinity health strategy coach with the IMB, speaks to attendees at the MedAdvance conference in Glen Allen, Virginia. He serves in Sub-Saharan Africa. IMB Photo

Lafferty shared six ways to fulfill the Great Commission.

  • Going
  • Seeking
  • Baptizing
  • Obeying
  • Growing
  • Multiplying

“Jesus didn’t promise us an easy way,” Lafferty continued. The easy people groups have been taken. The difficult ones remain, he explained.

He emphasized, “We’re not promised a safe life, but we’re promised an abundant life through Christ.”

Lafferty referenced the IMB’s Revelation 7:9 vision of “a multitude from every nation, tribe, people and language knowing and worshiping our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“But we can’t do it alone. We need our churches ­– we need you – walking with us, walking down those streets, into those cities, and up those mountains, carrying this good news of Christ,” he said.

“Will you go?”

This… for the rest of her life

Dr. Heidi Haun, a missionary surgeon at the Baptist Medical Centre of Nalerigu, Ghana, also spoke.

She shared that 20 years ago, another missionary surgeon asked her this question: “Can you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?”

Her experiences providing help and hope to those in need in Nalerigu have led her to give a resounding yes to that question.

  • Yes! – “I have seen how God has provided a light to my path and direction every step of the way.”
  • Yes! – “I have delighted in the Lord. He has given me the desires of my heart.”
  • Yes! – “Knowing that this is the opportunity to glorify God with my life and work each and every day.”
  • Yes! – “As God draws me to abide in Him, I have found my strength and joy and rest in Him.”

In conclusion, though, she asked attendees the same question – “Can you see yourself doing this for the rest of your life?”

Lifetime of clinging to the promises of God

Dr. Rebekah Naylor, IMB’s director of global health strategies and organizer of the MedAdvance conference, spoke on the promises of God from Joshua 21:45.

Dr. Rebekah Naylor stresses the promises of God at the MedAdvance conference in Glen Allen, Virginia. Naylor gave firsthand accounts on how He has proven Himself faithful throughout her ministry. IMB Photo

“God’s character mandates that He will keep His promises,” Dr. Rebekah Naylor shares as she addresses attendees at the MedAdvance conference. IMB Photo

Prayer was a main focus of the conference with multiple times set aside to pray in small groups as well as corporately. IMB Photo

She explained that “our ability to rely on promises that have been made, depends on the one who made the promise.”

Naylor said that in the Great Commission, the Lord promised to be with His disciples. “God’s character mandates that He will keep His promises,” Naylor added.

Naylor shared some of God’s promises and how God kept them throughout her entire ministry.

  • In Proverbs 3:5-6, He promises that He will provide direction.
  • In Deuteronomy 31:8, He promises His presence.
  • In John 14:13-14, He promises to answer prayer.
  • In 1 Thessalonians 5:24, He promises He will enable us to do what He calls us to do.
  • In John 14:27, He promises peace.
  • In John 15:11, He promises joy as we abide in Him.

Matthew and Amanda Waldraff, IMB missionaries in the Americas, present mission opportunities to MedAdvance attendees. The affinity marathon times were one of the highlights of the MedAdvance conference. Attendees heard about opportunities for healthcare missions in each of the IMB’s eight geographic areas of focus. IMB Photo

Naylor recounted how God led her through medical school and her surgical residency, even though as a woman in the 1960s, that was rare.

She shared about a time her practice as a missionary surgeon in India was in jeopardy over local laws and regulations, and God provided a way for her to remain in practice.

She recollected a local strike when an effigy of her was hung. Still, God protected her.

Naylor shared testimony after testimony of God’s grace in her ministry and of Him fulfilling His promises to her.

She closed by quoting the words to the hymn “Standing on the Promises”:

“Standing on the promises I cannot fall, / List’ning ev’ry moment to the Spirit’s call, / Resting in my Savior as my all in all, / Standing on the promises of God.”

Next year’s MedAdvance conference will be held at Brentwood Baptist Church near Nashville, Tennessee, August 3-5. For more information on healthcare missions, visit imb.org/healthcare.

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