As we said in our last post, one must have a passion as a Christian medical missionary. Passion for one’s profession and passion for Christian mission are interdependent in order to achieve the desired effect (mission practice in relation to that profession), despite the difficulties in performing medicine in mission environments.
A general example is considering a situation where a sick or injured patient needs treatment and does not have sufficient funds for his or her treatment at a higher health center. But similar treatment can be provided to that patient at a lower center at a lower cost, based on several factors such as the patient’s social status (poverty) and missionary compassion (for Jesus Christ’s sake) and determination to do a good job professionally, even improvising equipment for lack of proper equipment. (passion for the profession).
Missionary hospitals of the Church of the Unified Method are usually located in rural areas. Several can be found in cities in some countries. In such situations, the rural area could grow into cities around an already existing hospital. Medical missionaries should be prepared not to reside in cities.
For us, we have never served in cities, but in rural mission centers, so our patients are poor. Although hospitals must survive, medical benefits must be paid, taking into account the social status of the community. Due to the poor social status of the patient, we ultimately offer free treatment and / or scheduling payment plans. Other sources of hospital revenue will be donations, and in some countries limited government support. Financial and material support for hospital supplies is very important for missionaries to meet work needs.
Associated with this poverty is the problem of neglect and hunger. There are patients who not only do not have money for medical bills; they have nothing to eat. They range from younger people to those who may be physically disabled and neglected, to older people who are neglected by their children and relatives.
We had to get involved in social work, which includes giving food to the vulnerable in the community. Like Christ, not only do we need to be healed; we have to provide food. This has led to what appears to be a permanent feeding project for pregnant women who come to wait for childbirth to pregnant women of our hospital who are waiting for home.
Basic medical equipment is not always available at mission hospitals. This situation should not prevent someone from doing the job and moving on. So I learned to be willing to improvise as long as it was safe for the patient at that point.
A few years ago I decided to help a young man who suffered a complex leg fracture (tibia and fibula are long leg bones) after his inability to move to the next level of care where he could be an orthopedist or General Surgeon and where he could be better treated. He said he had no money to go there and would rather go home.
My idea was to do normal traction for six to eight weeks. A few days later, in our Central Sterilization Department, I found an “External Fixation Set” to manage complex fractures. I was excited to use it for this patient and prepared to take him to the operating room. The operation went well until I reached the last stage when our theater nurse said that there was nothing to tighten the nuts that hold different parts of the external fixation together, thus putting the bone fragments in place. Still, I couldn’t stop the surgery.
The only idea was to send a hospital driver to wash my vehicle keys of sizes 12, 13 and 14. We quickly sterilized them by putting them in a metal kidney container, poured methylated alcohol (alcohol) and set it on fire. After the alcohol burned out, I was sure the keys were sterile. wrench # 13 fits perfectly into the nuts and was used to tighten them well. The patient was successfully sent home after 3 weeks when the wound healed, and the fixation set was removed after six weeks.
Medical missionaries must be prepared to take on more tasks at the hospital / site. The same applies to employees of the institution. This is due to the frequent lack of staff in such institutions. Although most medical missionaries each have their own specialty in medicine, they all work as general practitioners because the number of patients is huge compared to the number of physicians available.
This must have stemmed from the fact that in the early days of the mission center’s founding, usually first by evangelism, the team could have one doctor (early or later) to provide medical services. Services will certainly begin with consultation and treatment of simple ailments. As time goes on, the doctor faces more and more complex diseases that the doctor is expected to treat. To help patients, the doctor may need to set aside his or her specialty, to save lives and given that nearby hospitals may not be able to resolve the case.
The mission’s work system prepares physicians for versatility, who are willing to address the medical needs of at least 80% of patients. In addition, you never know where you will find yourself in need of medical care. Most of the treated patients are improving, and a few will need specialist help, which does not fall into the area of specialization of medical missionaries. In such a situation, such patients are referred, followed by possible financial assistance.
We do not have any challenges within our family. That’s because both my wife and I are missionaries and both in the health profession. It may not be easy for professionally discordant couples, but God has blessed us with a strong partnership in serving God.
Dr. Emmanuel and Florence Mefor serve as health (medical and nurse / midwife) missionaries at global ministries. This post was republished with the permission of UM & Global, the collaborative blog of the United Methodists Professor of Mission.