Feature

The Road to Real Healing

Transforming lives through medical missions

By

Sounds okay to me,” I told a worker who had asked me about changing a medication.

It was my second day as a medical missionary among Cambodian refugees in Thailand, and I was left alone to work two wards. It was obvious I was in over my head—I had no training in tropical diseases and had never treated a patient with tuberculosis (TB) or leprosy, the maladies accounting for most of the cases I was seeing. Praise God; nothing disastrous happened. That was back in the 1980s, and I have learned a lot since then.

I am a missionary nurse with The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Mondul Kiri Province of northeastern Cambodia, where cultural issues, Buddhism and animistic practices are often blended with traditional and modern medicines. Currently, I do leadership training in local churches as well as providing community health services, but throughout the last 20 years, I have had varied roles both in and alongside the health system.

Education Goes Both Ways

At the refugee camp, I helped to train men and women in medical skills and ministered to patient needs. But I was also learning. Like many U.S. health-care professionals, I wanted to maintain a sterile field in which to work, but with the dust, mud and flies, I learned to just do the best I could. My nurses’ training also taught us to be accountable with medicines, but in the camps, meds often disappeared for use by the military. Nonetheless, God opened opportunities for me to share the gospel and see transformed lives. Many, even those who were a bit hardened, put their faith in Christ, and some medical workers today are not only practicing proper medicine as a result of our camp training but also walking faithfully with God.

In 1992, I transferred to World Relief (Compassion and Mercy Associates [CAMA] had no medical work then) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where we taught simple health lessons to Christian women so that they could in turn teach others. At one session, I was teaching on the importance of breastfeeding when a teacher said, “Well, I better have another baby and do it right.” And that is what she did! During my tenure with World Relief, I realized that because the Khmer Rouge had murdered many educated people, the Cambodians were uninformed about their own health care, and many medical workers gave inappropriate care.

Compassion and Mercy

When CAMA partnered with the health system in Battambang, I joined the work. While a national counterpart and I were helping with immunizations in a village labeled “evil” by locals, we encountered a very sick girl. We left some medicines and prayed for her. About a week later, she was well. As the mother thanked us for saving her child, we told her about our Savior and Healer. When we returned the next Sunday, a number of people wanted to hear about Jesus. A small group of believers formed, which continues to meet. Besides this group, we planted many other gospel seeds through medical care.

In 1997, I moved to Kompong Cham, not far from Phnom Penh, where I helped a church group with an informal community health evangelism project. We began visiting some of the increasing number of AIDS patients in the province, doing what we could medically and sharing the gospel.

One woman was so sick that Buddhist monks began a death chant. The next morning, I went to her home with the idea of sharing the whole gospel to snatch her out of the fire, as it were. After a long session, she accepted Jesus as her Savior. The result? Angry monks—but great joy on her face as a new child of God.

Other churches began AIDS outreaches, and many people came to know Jesus before they died. Tragically, some feared they had so much bad karma (had done too many bad things) that believing in Jesus would be useless, but others are still living and testify to the changing work of God.

Into the Path

After a while, I began to work with cancer patients. Someone at the local market told Chanthy, a woman with breast cancer, to come see me. She and her husband, Sok, were members of a cult, but after my helper Sophy, her husband and I shared the gospel, Chanthy and Sok put their faith in Christ. Sok even started a literacy class in their village so that people could learn to read the Bible. Unfortunately, cancer took Chanthy’s life, but she never lost the joy of the Lord.

Khim, another woman with breast cancer, also became a child of God. Then, like Andrew bringing Peter to Jesus, Khim brought her sister, who also became a believer. There were no other Jesus followers in their village, so they made a 45-minute trip every two weeks to study the Bible with us and another new believer, Sok Leang.

Sok Leang had been sick with TB for two years when her family asked us to take her to the local hospital. There, we shared the gospel with her and other TB patients. Sok Leang asked Jesus to be her Savior and then seemed to take a turn for the worse. Staff members didn’t want her at the hospital because they feared she would die and a spirit would vex them. Sophy and I poured out our prayers to the Lord, and He spared Sok Leang. She has remained stalwart in her faith even among unbelieving family and villagers, and desires to be used by God.

If any of these patients had been treated in the Cambodian health system, we would not have gotten to know them. God brought them into the path of the gospel.

Joy and Peace

A few years ago, I moved to Mondul Kiri, which has a high population of tribal people with strong animistic practices. Followers of animism are not easily won to Christ, but one day, a man dying of liver failure from ritual alcohol abuse requested three times for the church elders and me to come pray with him.

“Why do you want to know Jesus?” we asked.

“I see that believers have a joy and peace that I don’t have, and their lives are different,” he responded. The next day, he and his family prayed with the elders, and a couple of weeks later, the man left for his heavenly home. His family continues to attend the church in that village.

God may be opening new doors of opportunity involving health care. When the government gave the provincial hospital bad marks for not having health education and for poor patient care, officials asked if we could help them get a TV/DVD system for educational purposes. A nearby village is strongly animistic, but we hope to impact lives through health education.

Another opportunity is in the local prison. CAMA and Prison Fellowship are looking at ways to work together in reaching incarcerated men and women. My goal is to reach into the health system and village homes to meet the physical and spiritual needs of patients and health-care workers. I know that God will bring others along soon who need to hear about Jesus before they die. The hardest part about being a medical missionary is discerning when to help, how to help and how to bring medical and spiritual care together. The road is not easy, but Jesus calls us to walk it.

Past Alliance Life Issues

Share

Get Involved...

Pray.

We cannot “Live the Call Together” unless prayer is central to all we do.
Pray with us »

Serve.

Is God calling you to service? We’re here to help you connect your passion with God’s purpose.
Serve with The Alliance »

Give.

Help build Christ’s Church by supporting the ministry and workers of The Alliance.
Give today »