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Missionary Training

( Originally Published 1913 )

We now commence the consideration of an aspect of the Medical Missionary's training which is of supreme importance, and which, while in no way obscuring the necessity of regarding the professional preparation in the light of a solemn obligation, is yet that which must be kept always in a foremost place. It has already been observed how essential it is that the Medical Missionary should be pre-eminently a missionary, and that in no way he should ever forget that he is called to preach as well as to heal.

Speaking at the Ecumenical Missionary Conference held in New York in 1900, Dr C. F. Harford, Principal of Livingstone College, and Secretary of the C.M.S. Medical Auxiliary, placed the same emphasis upon this essential fact. He said—" I would assert in the most unhesitating manner that the Medical Missionary must be every inch a missionary. It is the one who can aid the body who will have influence on the souls of the patients, and if there is a dissociation between the medical and the spiritual, the primary idea of the Medical Missionary is gone. We want then, as Medical Missionaries, persons of the deepest spiritual power. There is no need of any elaborate theological training, nor even must the Medical Missionary necessarily be a great preacher, but experience in the sacred privilege of soul winning, and the power and know-ledge to point clearly the way to everlasting life, should be regarded as indispensable." In the same strain Dr Jacob Chamberlain of India spoke at this Conference, using the following words—" The idea is confirmed that no man and no woman should assume to be a Medical Missionary without putting the great emphasis on the second word, i.e. missionary. Anyone who goes out as a Medical Missionary, and does not put the emphasis on that second word, is a misfit in the missionary ranks."

But now there arises the practical question as to the extent and character of this evangelistic work of the Medical Missionary. Does it mean that to the Medical Missionary will fall all the different forms of missionary labour which attach to the calling of the Evangelistic Missionary ? Clearly and emphatically, No t Obviously, to expect one who has the responsible and exacting demands of medical and surgical work, coupled, as it often is, with insufficiency of skilled help, to add to all this, the work of a pastor, a teacher, a preacher, and a general missionary superintendent, is to lay a premium on inefficiency, and insure an early break-down. No such attempt at the impossible is necessary or expedient. The Medical Missionary must be an evangelist, but his service in that supreme task must not be expected to overstep the limits of his special sphere.

That is to say, the Medical Missionary will to the utmost work as a preacher of the Gospel amongst the patients who seek his aid. He will leave no stone unturned to win souls for Christ in his hospital and dispensary, and when engaged elsewhere on his errands of mercy. If, in addition, as must rarely be the case, the Medical Missionary has time for further evangelistic effort, beyond the bounds of his medical work, it will be to him a coveted privilege to redeem such opportunities for the sake of Christ. But if no occasions like that present themselves, he need not repine, but rather esteem all the higher the unique opportunities which come to him through his medical work.

One word of caution should, however, be stated here. The Medical Missionary will be performing a disservice to the whole cause, and not adding to its value, if, in order to do what may appear to be the more spiritual side, he neglects the rightful claims of his medical work. True, he must never shelve the general super-vision of the evangelistic work of his Medical Mission, but if his pressing medical duties forbid his taking part in all the services, if his work as a doctor effectually prevents his taking all the share he would like to do in such work, then the Medical Missionary should regard it as his part to see that others—fellow missionaries and native helpers—are redeeming the opportunities which the medical work has opened up and which he can himself utilise so sparingly.

Now if from what has been said above we may deduce the general character of the Medical Missionary's evangelistic work, it will be easy to determine wherein he needs to be thoroughly well grounded, and the lines along which his preparation should proceed.

He will require to possess-

1. A knowledge of the Bible, particularly the Gospels and Epistles, and how to use it.

2. A clear grasp of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith.

3. A knowledge of the evidences of Christianity.

4. An intelligent acquaintance with the religious

beliefs of the people amongst whom he is to labour.

5. An experience of definite evangelistic work, including soul winning.

There is nothing in this which need alarm any Medical Missionary candidate, nor is there one point which he will not be thankful to have studied when he is brought face to face with his missionary work on the field. Placed opposite to that work, the above summary is the irreducible minimum of efficient preparation, nor is it more than any well-drilled Christian worker, here at home, should be expected to possess. We are fully aware of the onerous demands upon time and strength which confront medical students of the present day, in regard to their professional work. And in no sense of the word would we wish to weaken the close and earnest attention which those preparing for Medical Missionary work should give to their medical training. The highest skill and widest ability is needed on the Mission Field. But when all that is said and allowed, the imperative necessity for preparedness in relation to what is essentially the supreme purpose of the work must be conceded. To designate the work as Medical Missionary, and yet fail to include an adequate missionary preparation would be but to retain a name that would of necessity —owing to this elemental defect—come dangerously near a misnomer, as regards the practice of Medical Missions.

It is therefore of material importance that due consideration should be given to the problem as to how this Missionary preparation of the Medical Missionary can best be secured.

Two possible ways of solving the question are suggested by the Report of the Fifth Commission of the World Missionary Conference, and, taken together, they would seem to afford sufficient promise of covering the ground. One is what may be called the outside, and consists in plans whereby the medical mission student can be helped, by organised effort, in the direction desired. The other may be described as the inside, and is that preparation which he can work out for himself. Both are important, and both should find a place in the experience of every medical missionary candidate.

To begin with the first, the suggestion is made that the Secretaries of Missionary Societies, together with the Student Volunteer Missionary Union and the Secretaries of Missionary Training institutions, should early get into touch with a considerable proportion of their medical candidates, and so be in a position to help them all through their student days. This has already been done in the experience of one Society (the B.M.S.), which has formed into a small Association all those medical students with which it can come into contact who are preparing for its foreign work. Those belonging to the Association are communicated with regularly, and where there are a few in one centre, these have meetings at occasional intervals, at which an effort is made to secure the presence of a Medical Missionary from the field, who can give his experience of the work and afford counsel and guidance. Such meetings have been found most helpful in sustaining an earnest spirit amongst the students, and in keeping them in close touch with the Society. Moreover, there has been arranged in connection with this Association a scheme of Bible and Theological study which the students are asked to pursue through their medical course, and upon which two examinations are held during the period of preparation. These afford the students themselves good tests of their knowledge and give to the Society a means of knowing how far their medical candidates have the requisite amount of missionary preparedness.

Apart from what has thus been done in one instance, there is, of course, the instruction that is given by the Medical Missionary training institutes to the students preparing under their auspices.

This consists in both systematic biblical instruction and in actual experience in evangelistic mission work. Taking as an example the training work of the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society, we find that the students who are prepared under its ægis have first of all yearly courses of lectures on the Bible, Christian Doctrine and Evidence, together with some outlines of the non-Christian faiths. All this, it will be observed, covers most essential ground. Then, in addition, the students engage in practical evangelistic work in the Cowgate district of Edinburgh, where the Society has as its mission headquarters a building known as the Living-stone Memorial. Here a resident doctor is kept, and an active dispensary work carried on, in which the senior students take a large share. Open-air preaching, dispensary services, and all the work of a busy home mission centre give to the embryo Medical Missionaries splendid scope for the missionary part of their training, and many a doctor upon the Mission Field to-day looks back with gratitude upon his " Cowgate " experiences.

The same might be said of the training afforded by the London Medical Missionary Association, with whose Institute there are connected various Medical Missions, in the work of which the students obtain a direct acquaintance with evangelistic effort. Systematic Bible study is here a feature also, and is of a valuable character.

For those students unconnected with any Medical Mission training college, considerable help can be derived from the Bible Study Circles organised in connection with the Student Volunteer Missionary Union.

There would, however, seem to be a distinct need for greater effort on the part of the larger missionary societies in the way of providing more systematic assistance for medical missionary students in the missionary side of their preparation. Particularly should stress be laid upon practical evangelistic work and definite experience in soul winning. It is to be feared that too many medical missionaries have gone out with very defective acquaintance with this side of their preparation, and as far as ever societies are able, their medical missionary students should be guided along this line.

Then in the next place there is the preparation that the student can effect for himself. This is of paramount importance, because the more he schools himself to habits of personal devotion, and personal Bible study and Christian service, the more will he lessen the risk of sinking the missionary in the medical and the stronger will he become as a hardened soldier of Jesus Christ.

It will be readily realised that the temptations to faith and character to which again and again a Christian medical student is subjected are often very acute. These temptations go very frequently right to the foundation, and the trial is often a fiery one. They cannot be shirked, however, and hard though it may be, the medical missionary student must wrestle with them and become victorious. Otherwise he will stand no chance when he faces yet heavier odds on the field. Of all men the mission field has no room for those who are assailed with doubts that have never been silenced.

We would therefore urge with great earnestness the importance of every student cultivating a life of private devotion, prayer, Bible study, and thought, and maintaining as far as ever he can attendance at the services of the House of God. Beyond this it seems to us most important that when opportunities offer for evangelistic work in the open air and in mission halls on Sundays these should be seized, as well as any openings for personal work amongst fellow-students, and with patients in the wards. There is nothing that so keeps a man's faith and love true and bright as personal service for the Christ who has redeemed him. And if all through his student days this aspect of his missionary preparation is regularly maintained, there will be no fear that the medical missionary student will come to the point of departure for his field of work other than well prepared for a life of loving, successful testimony for his Lord.

There is, alas, a terrible danger of spiritual declension during student and post-graduate days, and the imperative necessity of maintaining, at all costs, the habits of personal devotion and regular Christian work, to which we have alluded is very great. Pathetic examples could unhappily be given of quite a number of intending medical missionaries who have suffered spiritual shipwreck during their student career ; and we owe gratitude to Dr Harold Balme for specially drawing attention to this grievous cause of leakage from the ranks of medical missionary volunteers. In instance after instance, it is to be feared, that the lapse had its origin in a neglect of private devotions, in a failure to cultivate the inner Christian life. The " morning watch " has been omitted or slurred, the " daily portion " has been crowded out ; and the pressure of other claims has been allowed to invade the time that should have been kept sacred for the soul. We therefore plead that medical missionary students should keep zealous guard over their spiritual life, and so school themselves to regular habits in this connection that by the help of the Holy Spirit they shall come off victorious in this insiduous temptation of the Evil One.

The question as to whether missionary societies should make provision for their accepted medical candidates to devote a certain period before sailing to a course of special preparation at a missionary college or training home depends, it would seem to us, upon the necessities of each case. If such a course be arranged with the idea that it might take the place of any missionary preparation, of the kind described above, during the student days, we would most strongly deprecate it. Nothing can take the place of the early and systematic association of the medical and the missionary in the life thought and work of the one whose purpose it is to devote his life to his service. At the same time there are, without doubt, occasions where the addition of a course of special missionary study after graduation is of the highest advantage and indeed necessary. It should certainly be insisted upon whenever there is any suspicion of missionary unpreparedness on the part of the medical missionary candidate ; and if there be any difficulty in fitting in a course at some special College, etc., a most excellent alternative is to be found in a time of reading and evangelistic work with some master mind in the ranks of the Home ministry.

During the time that is being devoted to the foregoing, or whilst the accepted medical candidate is pursuing his post-graduate medical studies, a further very useful extra preparation is that which consists in preliminary study in the language of the people amongst whom he is hoping to labour. This is strongly advocated by the Fifth Commission of the World Conference, and now that facilities are increasing for prosecuting such study in at least a few of the Eastern languages, and in more than one centre in Great Britain, and elsewhere, it is to be hoped that medical missionaries will not be sent out in future without having had this addition to their missionary preparation.

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