In 1975, as South Vietnam was falling, a man named Dr. Raymond Benson was on the last airlift from the roof of the American Embassy.
Dr. Benson’s vision was for Christian medical professionals to establish clinics around the world. His hope was to heal people physically and spiritually introduce them to Jesus Christ. Out of that desire, Medical Ambassadors was created.
While Dr. Benson was correct in his assessment of the physical and spiritual needs of people around the world, he did not anticipate that the same people would keep coming back to the clinic with the same preventable illnesses, often leaving no time to address spiritual needs. It became clear that this clinic-based model was not sustainable. In fact, MAI was creating a culture of dependency within the communities we were trying to help.
Considering this, Dr. Paul Calhoun, current president of Medical Ambassadors, transitioned to a new model. Instead of going into a community and giving free care, MAI entered bringing only questions. Instead of giving the communities what we thought they needed, local leaders were asked, “What do you need to be happy and healthy?”
Their answers guided our focus and lesson plans were developed on various topics. In time, the available lessons included far more than only health topics. Depending on what the local leaders determined their communities needed, there were teachings on how to work together and solve problems, teachings on agriculture, literacy, family relationships, micro-enterprise, coping with disability, and more.
The genius of this approach was that the education could be replicated at the grassroots level, neighbor to neighbor. Instructors teach learners who become instructors who teach learners who become other instructors who teach other learners—well, you get the idea.
Certainly, there were still physical needs requiring professional medical attention—clinics and hospitals continue to be essential. However, 70-80 percent of people in these clinic lines could now be helped at the community level.
This development model under the leadership of Stan Rowland, became known as Community Health Evangelism (CHE). Evangelism…because seamlessly woven into the lessons of health are basic biblical truths: you can be clean on the inside as well as the outside; you have great value because you are wonderfully and beautifully made by God.
Today, we are proud to be a work in progress. We are committed to learning from the communities we work with and listening to God. We deeply desire to align ourselves with His plan and power.