Does your heart get excited when you hear of how God is at work in the “hard places” of the world? Mine does. There are countries where believers in Jesus face terrible opposition or even death—and yet somehow God’s reputation keeps growing and new people are attracted to him despite the danger involved.
In many of these “restricted access” countries, foreign missionaries are not accepted so Medical Ambassadors International (MAI) works in close cooperation with national, local partners. Our role is to provide training, mentoring and encouragement.
Let me tell you a story that comes from a very difficult place in which a faithful group of believers has been seeking to influence their neighbors for God. MAI’s key link to this group is one of our highly respected regional coordinators. I will call him YH because I cannot name him, nor can I tell you who is the partner group which whom he’s been working.
This group of local believers had been able to draw together a small group of people who were following Jesus. As they discovered more and more about who Jesus was and what he taught, they realized Jesus had called them to love their neighbors as themselves. But they weren’t sure what that looked like.
This is when YH met this partner group and began to help them. He taught them about Community Health Evangelism, helping them analyze the strengths their community possessed as well as the problems they faced and the sources of these struggles. The group acknowledged not only were people dying without knowing Jesus, but people were frequently very sick and often the youngest children and the elderly in the community died due to these bouts of illness.
As YH led the discussions, the group came to a discovery. People were getting sick because they were not using toilets. The perfectly acceptable method of toileting was to find a bush at the edge of one’s yard and go there. But germs were easily spread that way. So the Christians decided to build a public pit latrine where many in the village could access it, both Christians and non-Christians.
Unfortunately, the only people in the village who were willing to use the latrine were the Christians. The traditional way of taking care of needs were not easily changed. Instead, they made fun of the Christians and their novel ideas. Several, however, were attracted by the stories of a God who loved them personally and who became a man and died to offer them forgiveness. Soon several had put their faith in this man, Jesus, and had found a wonderful new life. Despite the opposition and ridicule, these new believers thrived as they worshipped in secret, home-based gatherings.
One of the new believers was a young woman expecting a child. Her husband worked in a distant place, but was allowed to come home on leave for the birth of his son. The family was very excited. They made plans to go to a nearby government hospital for the delivery.
However, things did not go well for this family. Just before the birth of the baby, the young father died in a freak fishing accident. Without him, the grieving mother delivered what seemed be a beautiful son. However, shortly after the baby was born, his head began to swell rapidly. The doctors said,
- “We think your baby has cancer.”
- “We think he needs an emergency operation.”
- “We cannot operate without doing a CT Scan.”
Because her husband had just died, the only support system the young woman had was the small group of Christian believers around her. These believers did not have enough money to afford either the operation or the CT scan. All they could do was to pray – and pray fervently! So that is what they did.
Because the young mother could not pay for further medical care, she and her baby son were discharged. Everyone expected the baby to die. But the group of believers continued to pray. Then something happened the doctors could not explain.
The baby’s head stopped swelling. It gradually went back to normal size then continue to grow like the head of a normal baby. The little boy started eating, sleeping, growing and developing exactly like normal babies do.
This was a huge encouragement to the group of believers, and the woman was filled with joy instead of the grief that had engulfed her.
Whether it was the story of the baby’s remarkable recovery, or the fact that all the Christians using the latrine seemed to have healthier children in general was not clear, but God used something to cause a shift in the attitudes of the surrounding community. Little by little, people who had scorned the idea of using the latrine started experimenting with it.
These days, as more people start building their own latrines, they have begun to ask more questions of the group of believers. “What other development ideas do you have?” Some have even begun to ask, “Why do you believe in Jesus?” That opens the way for an honest response: “Do you remember that baby with the strange big head the government doctors said would die? Remember how he did fine without the hospital test and surgery? All of us Christians prayed, and God answered us. That’s how Jesus works. Can I tell you about him?”
The Holy Spirit makes use of many things to draw people to Jesus. It might be a miracle, like this one. However, sometimes learning how to do simple things to improve their lives (like building latrines) can be what God uses.
That is why MAI leaders like YH can be such a help to other partners. The impact of MAI is most felt in these difficult-to-reach places. Many missions are finding CHE (certainly called something else in these locations!) is a non-threatening way of getting a conversation started. When local people are trained to look for opportunities, these conversations lead to deeper questions about faith.
However, Medical Ambassadors believes CHE is much more than a hook to get people interested in Jesus. It gives Christians a chance to love their neighbors the way Jesus did – both physically and spiritually— caring about what makes their neighbors sick, or that a young, grieving mother is in crises with her newborn.
YH is an extremely effective Medical Ambassadors leader. Not an American, he comes from a culture where telling others about his financial need is very difficult. As a result, his regular funding coming in to MAI from his donors is not really enough to support his needs. How does a dedicated, capable man like him continue to travel and mentor these far-flung teams when his needs are unmet?
You have given generously in the past. I thank you for listening to God’s directions and for responding with a warm heart. I know you see your giving as a tool, allowing you to participate in God’s work through MAI. But now I am asking God to call some people to join the team who stands with YH. Might you be in that group? And would you join me in praying that God will call many others?
The situation YH is in, is similar to many of our international leaders. Your donations have been part of what God used to empower them as your representatives around the world. Thank you so much. If you’d like to designate a future gift, the enclosed response card will help you.
As we in the United States look forward to Thanksgiving, you need to know that I am very thankful each one of you. Please join me in thanking God as we remember his goodness together.
John Payne MD
P.S. Many of you know that two years ago God helped my doctors find my concurrent cases of kidney cancer and prostate cancer early enough that good treatment has been available. I believe your prayers for me contributed greatly to the health I have enjoyed, even as I undergo further treatment this fall. In addition, your prayers for Medical Ambassadors have left me constantly amazed by the goodness of God. Thanksgiving indeed!
We appreciate your prayer and financial support. Without you as a member of the team, this ministry would not be possible.