Remedy: Healing for the Nations
In this article from the winter 2017 edition of Today's Christian Doctor, Dr. David Stevens introduces Remedy, CMDA's new medical missions conference.
by David Stevens, MD, MA (Ethics)
I believe healthcare missions is the key to completing the Great Commission. We will accomplish the Great Commission when every people group hears the gospel. The Bible promises when that happens, Christ will return!
Wow! But why is healthcare missions the key?
Unreached people groups are overwhelmingly located in difficult-to-access countries that are hostile to Christianity. Mission organizations have tried to penetrate these countries by using non-traditional methods and sending missionaries to do business, teach English or start development projects. More often than not, however, these faithful relational evangelists are found out and then quickly thrown out.
Just a few months ago I heard this familiar story again. In a predominately Muslim country, a young couple ministered compassionately to their neighbors while doing secular work. They were beginning to see fruit as people put their faith in Christ and a small house church was formed. As their converts began witnessing to others of what God had done in their lives, some of the people who heard their testimonies told the local mullah what had happened. His complaint to the Muslim government resulted in a quick deportation order for the young couple.
In the same country, a pioneer medical team was working with the same mission. They had boldly written on their work permit applications that they were medical missionaries. Because of the care they provided to the desperately needy, they were welcomed with open arms, not thrown out.
So if healthcare missions is one of the most effective strategies to finishing the Great Commission, then we need to multiply its effect by increasing the number of healthcare missionaries. We must challenge Christian healthcare professionals to go, and we also must ensure they are well prepared to effectively serve in difficult areas. They need to know how to share the gospel. They need to know how to plant house churches in the context of where they serve. Simply practicing healthcare is not enough. No matter how many lives you save during your lifetime, sooner or later, all of your patients will die. It is inevitable. Only as we introduce patients to Jesus Christ and they accept Him as their Savior can they have eternal life.
I’ve been the Chief Executive Officer of Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA) for more than 23 years, but I’m still a healthcare missionary at heart. That is why I’ve put lots of my time and effort into expanding CMDA’s efforts to catalyze medical missions and make it more effective.
But getting missionaries to the field doesn’t just start and stop with hosting a conference once a year. As a ministry, CMDA started the Center for Medical Missions to network, resource and sustain healthcare missionaries on the field, as well as prepare those ready to go. More than 800 of CMDA’s members are career medical missionaries who need our prayers, advice, encouragement and knowledge about resources to help them.
This begins, however, long before they arrive on the field. It starts during healthcare training, so the Your Call program mentors those called to missions during their long years of training. I started it because of the struggle I personally had toward the end of my family practice residency in following my own mission call. If I hadn’t thrown fuel on the fire of my call through short-term trips, reading missionary books and developing a mentoring relationship with a career missionary, I probably would have never gone to Africa. In medical school, and especially residency, you are professionalized. You learn how to make decisions, keep your cool in life and death crises and lead the healthcare team. In my last year, I almost put my hands back on the steering wheel of my life, thinking I didn’t want to lose my independence and financial control while some missionary organization told me what I could and couldn’t do.
CMDA also trains new healthcare missionaries—more than 400 of them in the last 10 years. Mission sending agencies give their new appointees language acquisition and cultural training, but they can’t prepare their healthcare missionaries for the challenges of practicing overseas such as too many patients and too few healthcare professionals, as well as understanding a different culture’s worldview of health, burnout, conflict resolution, development, project fundraising, management, administration and so much more.
The Summit, a conference held each fall for sending agency executives, was started after I realized that expecting these executives to manage their healthcare outreaches was like asking me as a physician to manage a commercial bank. I know nothing about banking, and most mission executives know almost nothing about healthcare missions. We bring more than 100 executives together each year in Charlotte, North Carolina for education, networking, sharing best practices and envisioning the future.
CMDA’s Continuing Medical & Dental Education Commission hosted its first conference in 1979 to help missionaries stay up to date medically. It has grown remarkably over the last 38 years, and now has more than 100 volunteer faculty members and a great spiritual renewal thrust for missionaries and their families at its annual conference. Up to 750 missionary families gather for 10 days of education and renewal in Greece or Thailand each year.
God has increasingly put CMDA at the hub of healthcare missions, but there is still much more to be done. My top priority is to challenge more healthcare professionals to prayerfully consider healthcare missions for their career. The greatest need in healthcare missions is not more money, hospitals, clinics, equipment or supplies. Instead, it is more healthcare missionaries who are better trained and sustained.
The Global Missions Health Conference (GMHC) came to life many years ago when the mission leaders of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky joined me on a Global Health Outreach (GHO) trip to teach them how to lead their own short-term medical teams. The concept of the conference was conceived as we sat around a table at a government guesthouse after taking care of men all day in a deplorable Zambian prison. On our return to the U.S., we had a follow-up meeting at CMDA’s headquarters and the GMHC was officially born the next fall to meet the great need to catalyze more involvement in healthcare missions.
Since then, the 282 campuses where we have outreaches have been the rich spawning beds for new missionaries. More than 3,000 attend the GMHC each November, and almost half of those are students. Last year, more than 900 people came forward to make commitments.
Recently, Dick Furman, the co-founder of World Medical Missions, told me that every single one of their post residents sent out for two years to get their feet wet in medical missions were influenced to do so by CMDA and the GMHC.
The data shows that as powerful an influence the GMHC has on accomplishing the Great Commission, almost all the attendees come from within a six-hour drive of Louisville, Kentucky. As impressive as it is to see the buses, vans and cars roll in to visit the 200 exhibitors or attend a number of the 120 workshops, less than a fourth of the country is impacted by this conference.
But I have the REMEDY for that!
REMEDY—a new medical missions conference from CMDA.
Most people call the GMHC the “Louisville Conference” because they can’t remember its long name. REMEDY is easier to remember, and it’s a more inspirational description. Medical missionaries bring the REMEDY for both physical and spiritual sickness. They are a channel to bring healing to the nations.
Though it has a different name, REMEDY is a clone of the GMHC in Louisville. Will Rogers, who plans and runs the GMHC, has been very involved in planning this new event. The conference runs March 23-24, 2018 at First Baptist Orlando in Orlando, Florida with the same quality of workshops, plenaries and exhibitors. Missionaries will attend from all over the world and mission organizations will be represented.
The conference is for the curious, the interested, those committed to go and people already serving in healthcare missions. It’s for students, residents, fellows, graduates and more. Plus, it’s a great time of the year to plan a Spring Break activity either before or after the conference, so grab some friends and come join us. If you’re a graduate healthcare professional, bring a colleague, student or resident with you. You can even rent a van and bring your local CMDA chapter with you. We are working on offering free housing for students and missionaries, so stay tuned for more details.
You will be inspired, challenged and equipped at REMEDY. You will meet people of like mind who seek to complete the Great Commission. You will make new friends and deepen your spiritual walk, whether you end up serving in this country or overseas. Every Christian can be a missionary wherever God calls them!
I want to see the world reached for Christ, don’t you? I want to use the skills God has given me in healthcare to help the needy just like Jesus did. And, like He did, I believe it will give me an opportunity to introduce patients to the only One who can give them eternal life.
I’ll be there! Hope to see you there as well!
Fore more information about Remedy, including the venue, breakout sessions, registration costs and more, visit www.cmda.org/remedy.