The History of MAI
At Medical Ambassadors International we build relationships with the world’s most vulnerable people, and together we work to heal communities both physically and spiritually. In 1975, as South Vietnam was collapsing, 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 both physically and spiritually. Out of that desire, Medical Ambassadors was formed.
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. It became clear that this clinic-based model was not sustainable. In fact, we were creating a culture of dependency within the communities we were trying to help. In light of this, Medical Ambassadors transitioned to a new model.
Instead of going into a community and giving free care, we entered bringing only questions. Instead of giving the communities what we thought they needed, we asked local leaders, “What do you need to be healthy and thrive?”
We let their answers guide our focus and started developing lessons on those 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, on agriculture, literacy, family relationships, microenterprise, coping with disability, and more. The genius of this approach is that education can be replicated at the grassroots level, neighbor to neighbor. Instructors teach learners who become instructors who teach learners who become instructors who teach 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 those clinic lines could now be helped at the community level. This development model 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 in His image.
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.