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The Home Base Of Medical Missions

( Originally Published 1913 )

" The Church of Christ, in all its branches represented in this Conference has at its command resources for the completion of this work possessed at no other period in its history ... It is not so much a question of new resources as of the development and employment of resources already existing, but as yet either undiscovered or unemployed."

Report of Commission VI. of the World Missionary Conference, 1910, upon the Home Base of Missions.

No attempt to deal with the enterprise of Medical Missions would be complete without some reference to the Home side of the work. In many senses, indeed, this may be regarded as that of more pressing importance. With considerable force it may be argued that unless a strong and effective Home Base can be established it is idle to discuss the subjects that have claimed our attention in earlier chapters. Manifestly there must be such a base, and the better equipped it is to consider the problems and wisely sustain the labours of those at the front, the more likely it is that the whole cause will achieve its highest degree of usefulness.

Let us commence with a clear understanding of what is exactly meant when we speak of the Home Base of Medical Missions. It is of first moment that we know where we stand here. We refer then, by the foregoing designation, to either separate and distinct Medical Missionary Societies, or to Medical Auxiliaries of general missionary associations : in either case, organisations which include within their counsels the expert judgment of Christian medical men interested in the spread of the Gospel. The plan whereby the direction and support of Medical Missionaries and their work, is left in the hands of general Mission Boards, to be dealt with by those who have no particular knowledge of this phase of missionary work, is, we venture to assert, calculated to keep back rather than further the efficiency and interests of the enterprise. To imagine that Medical Missions require no special technical experience for their administration and development is a serious misconception which should never be entertained. If there is a need, and room for the propagation on the Mission Field of this highly specialised department of missionary labour, then here at home there should be brought into being definite bodies which will give to Medical Missions the consideration and support that they deserve and demand. This need not mean more than the establishment of Medical Mission Auxiliaries in connection with the existing missionary societies, but it certainly should mean nothing less.

The functions of such a Home Base may next be considered, under the following headings : (1) Educative, (2) Financial, (3) Administrative.

(1) Educative.—The work of informing and educating the Home Churches concerning the claims and needs of Medical Missions is naturally the first task to which the energies of a Medical Mission Auxiliary requires to be directed. Until there has been created an intelligent interest in this aspect of missionary service, there cannot, obviously, be any effective advance in its extension on the field. Here clearly must be found that wise laying of the foundations which is the guarantee of success in later stages.

Now when this work is undertaken, two things become apparent ; first, that Medical Missions possess qualities which permit of a particular interest being aroused, and second, that there is ample room for the development of this specialised interest without detracting from the attention that should be given to the more general sides of missionary labour. Let us look at each of these in turn for a few moments.

Taking the first, it will, we imagine, be patent to all those who have become acquainted with the considerations discussed in previous pages, that Medical Missions are calculated to make an appeal to the mind and heart of the Home Churches which is all their own.

The note they strike in the imagination of the Christian public is one which inevitably awakens echoes of sympathy from those touched with the spirit of Christ. The message they convey is so perfectly human and yet so divinely inspired with the compassion of the Saviour, that it is impossible to conceive its rejection. Again and again it will be found that the man who is indifferent to missions as missions is quick to admit his sympathy with Medical Missions. Their necessity is so undeniable, their peculiar functions so incontrovertible that there is hardly anything easier in the whole realm of missionary advocacy than to generate a special interest in Medical Missions.

Then when we come to inquire whether there is room for the creation of this particular interest without displacing that taken in general missionary activities, there is elicited the very plain fact that such is the low ebb of real missionary interest in so large a number of the Home Churches, that the scope for rallying to the standard of Medical Missions the many who manifest no care for ordinary mission work is very great indeed. How often is there found amongst good Christian people a strange and unaccountable blindness to the rightful claims of Christian missions as ordinarily carried on. Let, however, Medical Missions be presented to these friends, and it is wonderful, in many instances, how their lack of apparent sympathy is transformed into active support, and what is still more encouraging, this new interest on Medical Missions is often followed by the commencement of an interest in missions generally. Furthermore, even amongst those who are included in the ranks of " Missionary people," it is repeatedly the fact that there is a ready willingness to appreciate the special significance of Medical Missions. The introduction and diffusion of an interest in this particular section of the missionary enterprise is therefore not merely a possible achievement, but one that is definitely attainable.

The actual ways in which this educative function of the Medical Mission Home Base will be discharged are many and various, and naturally cover a wide field of organised advocacy. Three only have we space to mention here. First, there is the work that can be done by the production of medical missionary literature, and which cannot be said at present to be at all adequately exploited. The appeal of the pen is certainly lacking, to a great extent, as regards Medical Missions. Only one of the great British Missionary Societies has, as one of its monthly publications, a periodical devoted to the interests of Medical Missions !

Second, there is the invaluable service that can be rendered by mission study. It is impossible to speak too highly of its importance. By its means, if Medical Missions are chosen as a subject, a really intelligent and comprehensive interest can be secured. The holding of study circles throughout the churches would mean a most effective contribution to the removal of apathy and the stimulation of a keen interest in this phase of missionary effort.

Third, there is the advocacy of the spoken voice. And here let us emphasise the value of securing medical speakers, and if possible, medical missionaries. The doctor, man or woman, is the one preeminently who can, with greatest influence, press the claims for Medical Missions. His presentation of the matter will be often listened to and be welcomed by 'those who would give very little attention to the non-medical speaker. Not that the latter cannot urge the claims of Medical Missions with peculiar power, but that the doctor stands in the position of one who knows, and whose professional knowledge enables him to speak with particular force and clearness. The organisation of special medical missionary meetings at which addresses can be given upon this aspect of Foreign Missions, is therefore a line of propaganda calculated to exert a strong influence in the work of the Home Base.

(2) Financial.—It naturally follows that after the educative function has been brought into exercise, there is both room and a call for the putting forth of effort to secure financial support on behalf of Medical Missions. As to the necessity for adequate funds, so as to render possible efficient development of the work, enough has already been said in previous pages. And it does not need more than a passing acquaintance with the general state of the finances of practically every missionary society to be aware that, as things stand at present, there is small hope of those adequate funds being at disposal, apart from what may be accomplished by means of some special appeal. Obviously then, it is one of the main tasks of the Medical Mission Home Base to bring all its powers to bear upon the successful organisation of such special support as may be won by representing the needs of the work.

Moreover, this is the natural complement to what is done in educating the Home Churches as to Medical Missions. If they are being led to an appreciation of the value of the enterprise, then in orderly sequence there must follow an appeal for the consecration of gifts to this service.

Now, we are quite aware that there is a good deal said in defence of making but one general appeal for missions, and refraining from the organisation of Special Funds. It is urged that the latter inevitably mean a diversion of help from the General Fund, and that what is given in one direction is simply, or very largely, lost to another. Arguments are advanced in favour of " pooling " the financial result of every appeal, and whilst no objection is entertained to presenting various aspects of the work and stating their several needs, yet it is considered by many that it is inadvisable to create a distinct and Special Fund for any one given object. Of course this will be understood to refer only to missionary societies which are general in their character, and not purely medical, and where a Medical Mission Department takes the form of an auxiliary.

On the other hand, it seems to us that there are several solid reasons in favour of the plan of having a Special Fund, certainly as far as Medical Missions are concerned. In the first place there is the undeniable fact that there is a not inconsiderable number of the members of the Home Churches who are prepared to exhibit practical sympathy with Medical Missions, while remaining, to a great extent, untouched by the appeal of missions in general. It is to us all a source of regret that such friends should fail to realise the sublimity of the missionary enterprise as a whole, or miss the obvious moral that " Christian " and " Missionary " are inter-changeable terms, in the vocabulary of the religion of Jesus Christ. But it is nevertheless the fact that in the modern Church many are glad and willing to accord their support to Medical Missions, if the appeal for that work be presented to them, when to the claims of missions, as ordinarily understood, they only shew a nominal interest.

Then there is, in the second place, the further consideration that many of the members of the churches, who are already keen supporters of missionary work can be induced to take a still larger share in the cause if they have brought under their notice some special section of the work requiring particular help. That, it will also be admitted, is an unmistakeable fact. Again and again has it been found that the result of making an appeal for Medical Missions, after repeated attempts to increase the giving of any Church or congregation for general missionary funds had been made with varying success, has been to enlist new and fresh subscriptions from those who had apparently arrived at the limit of their missionary contributions. A new chord has been set vibrating in the sympathies of the heart, and to the fresh strains there has come a renewed uprising of the spirit of the Master. The need for an advance in giving, in order to meet a hitherto unknown want of the Mission Field, has pressed itself home upon the Christian consciousness, and the appeal for such, instead of leading to diversion of support, has discovered additional help and enhanced the conception of the greatness of the missionary enterprise.

Beyond this yet again, it is suggested in the third place that specialisation in giving renders the act very frequently more intelligent, and less indefinite. We do not say that this is always the case, nor that the reverse is by any means an unvarying rule. But it is without doubt true that contributions devoted to special aspects of the work other than to the cause in general, do mean to the giver, in many instances, a more definite interest and a clearer idea of the scope and character of the work than is otherwise too frequently the case. The subscriber who, in addition to what he may give to the General Fund of his missionary society, contributes to a Medical Mission Fund, for the support of doctors, nurses, and hospitals, acquires through so doing a broader grasp of the work, in the large majority of cases, than is the case when he makes no such special subscription. The very act of particularising his gifts causes him to think more about the work, and to become more conversant with its diversities of operation.

And finally, there is the testimony of experience, concerning which, as far as can be ascertained, there is no uncertain sound. In the case of those societies which have instituted special Medical Mission Funds, far from leading to support, being diverted from General Funds, it has been emphatically proven that the Medical Mission appeal has resulted in the creation of new and " found " revenue. In a certain few instances, subscriptions, which previously went into the General Fund, may have been given to the Medical Fund, but that is the rare exception, and not the rule. What has actually happened is that the support accorded to the Medical Mission appeal has been so encouraging that the societies in question have been enabled to make an advance in their Medical Missions that otherwise was deemed impossible. Doctors have been sent out, hospitals erected, fresh medical stations commenced, and the entire medical field impelled forward with the stimulus of new hope and vigour. Instead of the General Funds having to declare their inadequacy to meet such calls, they have not had even to face the problem, and, by the growth of the Special Fund, have actually been relieved of practically all the Medical Mission expenditure. That is the testimony of ascertained fact, and it should prove sufficient to silence any remaining doubt.

It may be interesting to the reader if the author here gives some actual figures from the experience of the medical auxiliary with which he has been officially connected for the past ten years. This auxiliary was established by the Baptist Missionary Society and the Baptist Zenana Mission in 1902, and at the end of the first financial year in March 1903, an income of £432 had been received for the Medical Missions of the " parent " societies. It was obviously the day of small things. But the work of educating the churches was carried forward, and the appeal for financial help pressed home, with the result that at the close of the tenth financial year in March 1913, the total Income reached the figure of £11,760. Moreover, the number of medical missionaries had been increased from ten to twenty-six ; the number of hospitals from four to thirteen, and a staff of nurse missionaries created, thirteen in number. All this, let it be observed, has been effected without adding to the responsibilities of the General Funds, and so far from occasioning the diversion of support, the fact has been brought out that the average yearly deficiency in the General Funds of the parent societies has been less for the ten completed years of the medical auxiliary, than it was for the corresponding period immediately preceding them.

The medical auxiliary of the Church Missionary Society has an even yet more encouraging story to tell, and the support that can thus be given in the shape of actual experience, to the working of a Medical Mission Department, should certainly commend, with considerable strength, the utility of its financial function.

(3) Administrative.—The work that requires to be done in sustaining and directing the labours of the medical staff on the field is naturally an inseparable part of the service falling to the lot of the Home Base. Moreover, it is a duty which grows easily out of these educative and financial functions which have just been noticed. Given that, interest has been aroused, and funds collected, it is of importance that there should be set in operation suitable machinery for administrative purposes. Therein is found an additional responsibility of the men and women who are called to serve at the Home end of the enterprise.

Now, it is not necessary in a book of this kind, to enter at any length into a discussion of the various aspects of Medical Mission administrative work. All that comes under that heading will be thoroughly and quickly appreciated by those who are associated with the conduct of any missionary society. There are, however, two points upon which, in our opinion, the greatest stress should be laid. First, that the administration of Medical Missions should be carried on by a special departmental committee appointed for the purpose, and having a medical secretary, and second, that this Committee should have in its membership Christian Medical men and women who are truly interested in Medical Missions. Here again it must be understood that we are referring to the administrative work of Medical Missions in connection with one of the general missionary societies.

Regarding the first of the above two points, it would almost seem as if it were superfluous to emphasise such an apparently obvious consideration. And yet how few amongst the missionary societies, in Britain at least, have delegated the matters appertaining to their Medical Missions to a special committee constituted for that section of the work ! To an astonishingly great extent the administration of Medical Missions has been in no sense differentiated from the manage-ment of missions in general, and its problems left to the consideration and decision of bodies who can lay claim to no particular intimacy with the special lines along which Medical Missionary service must run. The result, naturally, can hardly be calculated to pro-mote the finest leadership in Medical Missions.

Emphatically, if this work is what it has been shown to be—a highly specialised department of the Missionary enterprise—then for its effective administration there must be duly and wisely appointed committees who can make it their particular care to become familiar with the varied aspects of modern Medical Missions. We plead in no way for a dissociation between the administration of general mission work and that of Medical Missions—were that to occur it would be a matter of profound regret—but rather that whilst linked closely and intimately with all the other deliberations connected with the conduct of a missionary society, there should nevertheless be a distinct provision made for the consideration of the department of Medical Missions.

And then, as an essential part of such an arrange-ment, it would appear both wise and expedient to have attached to any Medical Mission committee the services of a medical secretary, who can form part of the executive of the Society, and be the officer specially charged with Medical Mission administrative work. When it is remembered that Medical Missionaries form a band of men and women who are engaged in highly technical work, in the discharge of which they have frequently to look for assistance from home, how almost axiomatic it becomes that there should be at the Home Base a medical secretary who can rightly interpret their needs and desires to the Committee, and be their agent, so to speak, so far as that is needed. Furthermore, since one of the duties that must naturally devolve upon a Medical Mission Committee is that of inquiring into the professional fitness of Medical Mission candidates, does it not appear yet more incumbent that the secretary should be a medical man or woman ? He (or she) can get into early touch with prospective candidates, whilst yet they are medical students, in a way that no non-medical secretary can ever hope to do, and, by so doing, help to guidé them along the best line of preparation. In short, the more the matter of this administrative work is looked into, the more does the need and wisdom of securing a medical secretary for the Home Base become apparent. And seeing that there are not a few medical missionary volunteers who, after qualifying, have, for various reasons, been debarred from going to the field, it would seem as if there ought not to be any insuperable difficulty in finding those who might serve in such a capacity.

The second point above alluded to is one with which we feel assured there will be general agreement, viz,, that upon Medical Mission committees there should be as large a proportion as possible of Christian medical men and women. It is obvious that the work of such a Committee necessitates and presupposes the counsels of these experts. Clearly their presence upon the Committee is a guarantee that due and adequate regard will be paid to the special problems and methods of Medical Missions. Moreover, it may rightly be assumed that the missionary interest and devotion of the medical men and women in the Home Churches can best be utilised and retained by securing their assistance, in the foregoing way, for the work of their professional colleagues on the Foreign Field. Consequently everything points to both the need and desirability of having several medical members upon committees appointed to administer Medical Missions, and, the fact, mentioned above, that there are to be found hindered medical volunteers in the ranks of the profession at home, should in this respect also afford promise of a sufficiency of material.

And now in summing up the main points around which our consideration of the Home Base of Medical Missions has ranged, we find that they may all be resolved into one outstanding plea for the establishment of Medical Mission Auxiliaries in connection with those missionary societies which carry on medical work. Whether it be for the sake of the interest at home, or whether it is a question of the maintenance and successful prosecution of the work on the Field, the argument for the existence of specific auxiliaries, pledged to the cause of Medical Missions, seems cumulative in its force. The teachings of experience have combined with the assumptions of theory to support this specialisation at the Home Base. And the three functions of a Medical Mission Auxiliary, which have been briefly sketched, all provide a wealth of opportunity for any who take up the work of such a Home Department. Obviously the call of the hour is thus to strengthen the base of this important section of the missionary enterprise, and we cannot but believe that if that were done, a fresh and conspicuous advance would characterise the whole field of Medical Missions. The present is pre-eminently the moment for the friends of Medical Missions to band themselves together for a great forward crusade, and by the holy bond of a common purpose, to strive mightily for the furtherance of this blessed work. With all the earnestness that we can command, we therefore plead for the organisation of Medical Auxiliaries, and for the delegation to such departments of the responsibility for creating a wide interest, a generous support, and an efficient administration for the agency of Medical Missions.



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