The Appeal Of Medical Missions
( Originally Published 1913 )
" We came into the world to do, and not to dream. Let us then arouse ourselves, let us be workmen for Christ. There is a great work to be done for Him in the world and very few to do it. Let us be among those few."
THROUGHOUT the previous chapters the endeavour has been made to bring into prominence the obvious lessons that are to be deduced from a review of the enterprise of Medical Missions. It now only remains for us to seek to interpret in a few closing words what is the sum of those teachings, the final message that this great work would bear to those whose lot it is to " tarry by the stuff." That Medical Missions have such a message none can doubt. That it is further a message which the Home Churches ought to hear, and ponder well, there can be no room for question. The whole situation of the work is simply pregnant with meaning, and unless the clock is to be put back, it is imperative that there should be an attentive ear on the part of the Church to the appeal that is made.
First then, we submit, Medical Missions, being what they are and possessing the qualities that they do, cannot be neglected without harm to the missionary enterprise. It is impossible to avoid this conclusion. The very genius of their ministry is the genius of missions. To deny Medical Missions a place amongst the essential forces of Christian Missions would be to do a great and serious injury to the spread of the Gospel. Moreover, Medical Missions are the inevitable sequence to the teachings of Christian morality, and to exclude them from the scope of missionary effort would be to render meaning-less certain elemental precepts in the ethics of the New Testament. The case for Christian evidence and the cause of philanthropy have both been weakened owing to Medical Missions having been treated in the past as of small moment. The advance of the Gospel amongst Heathen, and particularly amongst Mohammedan nations has been seriously handicapped through the large neglect of this aspect of mission work. No fact is more patent, none more emphatic than that Medical Missions are calculated to occupy a place of undeniable importance in the missionary enterprise. And the message that is borne by them to the men and women who have to stay at the base is certainly the clearest possible affirmation of the truth that Medical Missions cannot be overlooked without inflicting grievous detriment to the whole cause of the evangel.
This assertion receives the greater support when it is remembered how almost immeasurable is the opportunity that Medical Missions present to-day to the servants of Jesus Christ. No one who has given time and thought to a study of the value of this department of missionary effort will deny the existence of such an open door in nearly every direction. Whether it be the situation created by the thirst for education in China, or that afforded by reason of the physical necessities of the people in mission lands, or again that presented through the effete superstitions and ignorant prejudices of Mohammedan and other races, it is manifest, beyond all reach of doubt, that Medical Missions are faced in the present age with magnificent opportunities for contributing towards the fulfilment of the Saviour's last commission. To confront such a position with an attitude of neglect and indifference would be to act with lamentable disregard to the Redeemer's interests.
Moreover, there is one solemn fact that is to be reckoned with in this relation. The opportunity that exists to-day is by no means an enduring quantity. It cannot be looked upon as an asset which will stand equally good for coming generations. As a matter of fact, everything points the other way. All the indications emphasise the transient and passing character of the opportunity. The doors that are open to-day are not fixed in that position : they are just ocsillating on their hinges, and are becoming subjected from the inside to the pressure of forces which are non- or anti-Christian. The one thing for us to re-member is that the existence of this present opportunity lays upon us a present responsibility, which, if we are to be true to Our Lord, we must do our utmost to discharge to the full. It is pre-eminently a case where we cannot bequeath an opportunity to our successors, nor leave to them our duty to the present generation. In the providence of God we of the Christian Church to-day have been called to wield the instrument of Medical Missions in a situation of unparalleled and critical opportunity. We have had laid upon us a distinct responsibility which admits of no evasion. We have been charged with a great trust at one of the crises of the ages. Can it be thought that our response to that opportunity, that responsibility, that trust, shall be anything else than unquenchable enthusiasm and whole-hearted personal service ?
Then in the second place, Medical Missions, having the work to do which they have, and subjected as is their practice, to conditions at once onerous and exacting, must be efficiently supported. There can hardly be any fact to be deduced from a study of the subject of more moment than this necessity of adequate support. It ranks pari passu with the obligation just noted under the previous heading. Indeed, it may well be said that unless Medical Missions are sustained with thoroughness and efficiency, their very prosecution, as has already been seen in an earlier chapter, is scarcely worth the effort put into it. With striking unanimity does every voice in the annals of the enterprise bear testimony to this pre-eminent need. " Send us Medical Missionaries," they cry, " but only if you mean to adequately support them in their work."
And here it is necessary that we should clearly lay stress upon the fact that by support we do not refer alone to financial aid. That is, of course, called for, and in much larger measure than heretofore, but by itself it is by no means everything. To justify the term efficient support there must be understood proper staffing of medical stations, adequate provision of buildings and equipment, wise and sympathetic ad-ministration, and a careful utilisation of all available resources, both on the field and at home. All this is requisite, not one item is superfluous, if there is to be that support of Medical Missions which is essential to truly effective work. Efficiency in this, as in other callings, is the secret of success, and it can only be secured by a sufficient measure of all-round support.
Does this sound as if we were stipulating for ideal yet impossible conditions ? Does the recapitulation of such terms look as if we were shutting the door on Medical Missions ever attaining their best ? We think not. The resources of the Christian Church are not so depleted nor so lacking in elasticity as to afford no hope of its being able to find what is needed for the efficient maintenance and development of this phase of its foreign work. Christian bodies that can raise big century and sustentation funds for Home work and take in hand large schemes for social service are not faced with the impracticable when the comparatively small demands of their Medical Missions are formulated. We are persuaded that there are ample resources for all that may be needed in that connection, only, and this is an important proviso, those resources need organising. The various functions of the Home Base all require to be brought into active operation, in order that the desired end may be secured. But granted that this is done, and carried through in the spirit of prayer and faith, we have nothing but confidence as to the result.
Moreover, there is one feature of the work of Medical Missions which is full of promise and encouragement, and that is the possibility of obtaining a fair measure of local financial support in the shape of fees and contributions from patients and wealthy natives. It has already been found by experience that local receipts of the above kind can be reckoned upon as a source of revenue at practically all medical stations, which means that the problem of support is not one that is wholly dependent upon the Home Base. In fact in not a few instances the local expenses of a Medical Mission have been largely defrayed by contributions obtained on the spot. Accordingly there is room for considerable hopefulness concerning the future support of this work, and the only point that must again and again be insisted upon is the essential one of no inefficiency regarding which the message of Medical Missions is most clear and definite.
Passing on from this consideration, we find in the third place that Medical Missions bear witness to a great inadequacy in their representation on the Foreign Field. This is one of the saddest facts we have to chronicle. The existence of a state of need is sorrowful enough, but the maintenance of that state when there is a supply to meet it is sadder still. And that is, alas, exactly the condition of things on the Mission Field to-day in regard to Medical Missions. The need is an undisguised and terrible reality. The provision to remove it is pathetically inadequate. And all this in an age when there was never more medical science, never more healing skill ! Obviously there must be something wrong with the distribution.
Let us take two different sets of facts and examine them for an instant. First, as to the number of doctors in Great Britain and those holding British medical degrees on the Mission Field. Taking for the former figure the returns published in the " Medical Directory " for the current year, the number of medical practitioners in the British Isles is seen to be 32,600, which means roughly that there is one doctor to every 1380 of the population. For the latter figure the statistics given in the January (1913) issue of " Medical Missions at Home and Abroad " will serve admirably and show us that there are 435 medical missionaries practising abroad with British medical qualifications. These are labouring in 26 different fields, and many of them must be in positions where their " medical parish " totals over a million—in several cases yet more. What a striking disparity this reveals between the " Home " and the " Foreign," in regard to the distribution of medical aid ! Can there be any question as to the need of the latter ?
Then, secondly, as to the proportion of medical missionaries upon the staff of British Missionary Societies. There are today in round figures some 5700 missionaries belonging to some 70 different Societies, carrying on work amongst Heathen and Mohammedan peoples. Amongst this number, as stated above, there are 435 medical missionaries which means in round figures that in every thirteen missionaries there is only one medical missionary. Now when it is re-membered how wide is the range of the missionary value of Medical Missions, and how great the scope for their contribution to the forces of the Gospel, is it not patent that the foregoing proportion is in every sense of the word an inadequate one ? Even allowing for the obvious fact that there must always be more other missionaries than medical missionaries, can it ever be considered that the present minority of the latter affords sufficient promise of compassing what is needed ?
From these two separate points of view it is therefore possible to arrive at one and the same conclusion regarding the inadequacy of the medical missionary representation on the Foreign Field. Indeed, looked at from whatever standpoint may be selected no other finding is conceivable, and the message of Medical Missions resolves itself on this point into a clear and unhesitating plea for a strengthening of the medical agency in the work of Christian missions. The influence of the day when Medical Missions were treated as a side issue has lasted too long. They are supremely an integral element in the propagation of the Christian faith. To tolerate a continuance of their present feeble share in the enterprise would be to display a singular inaptness in reading the signs of the missionary situation. Let the Christian Church set herself with renewed purpose of heart to rectifying this lack in its efforts for the spread of the Gospel, and the cause of missions will have been reinforced at one of its most vital and needy points.
And now turning once more to hear what further message this enterprise has to convey, we find finally that Medical Missions embody in their conception and service a summons to the highest type of young Christian manhood and womanhood. It is, we suppose, hardly possible to peruse the records of what Medical Missionaries have attempted and accomplished, and what to-day numbers of them are still achieving, without being stirred with the thrill of a great inspiration that would impel one to desire to do likewise. The unwearying devotion that is everywhere conspicuous on behalf of the suffering and the outcast ; the skill and patience that are so freely meted out to those in need of help and healing ; the willingness for sacrifice that characterises men and women of high talent as they toil on with scant reward, as far as earth is concerned, amongst the loathsome and the low in many of the dark places of the earth. Who can come into contact with such work, however remotely, without being filled with a holy emulation of these servants of Christ, and stirred with something of a like passion !
Then when the mind wanders to the appealing needs that cry aloud for Medical Missions, the conditions of distress and sorrow that present, on so large a scale, the very field for this ministry, how can there be any hesitancy in acknowledging to the full the summons that is borne across the seas for more workers in this vineyard ? All that is continually being told by medical missionary after medical missionary adds force to the undoubted fact of the urgency of the call for the consecration of many more lives to this aspect of Christian service.
Now of necessity this summons comes to the young men and women of the churches in particular. For theirs is the opportunity of life service, theirs the capacity for responding to the great call ere it is too late. And the point we would here emphasise is that this appeal is one which is particularly directed to the highest type of young Christian manhood and woman-hood. The magnitude of the work, the demands it makes for the best of brain and heart, the qualities of sound judgment and resourcefulness that it necessitates, the grasp of scientific detail and accurate knowledge that it requires, and the capacity for leadership which is preeminently the attribute of every successful Medical Missionary, all mean that there are wanted for this service trained and disciplined minds, fitted by nature and by grace for work that is above the ordinary. Medical Missions present a summons not for the lives and talents which it is thought might be spared, but for those which everything seems to say are needed here at home. The young men and women who have had the advantage of a sound and liberal education, and who to that have added a training in medicine, and who have manifested powers that would mark them out for positions of responsibility, if they remained in the work of the Home Church, they are the ones to whom the call and message of Medical Missions sounds most clearly today.
And we must here confess to not a little disappointment that so few of that type seem disposed to take up Medical Missions as a career, or, as it should be said, fail to respond to the call of God, and to the voice of human need. It has been the privilege of the author to spend a large part of the past decade in speaking on Medical Missions throughout Great Britain, and one of the things that has struck him most is the number of the sons and daughters of good families who are apparently inclined to take up any and every calling save the ministry of the Church at home and abroad. Many of these are adopting medicine as a profession, and the question has again and again suggested itself —Why should they not give themselves to Medical Missions ? We are aware, of course, that such a step means a sacrifice, both to them and to their parents, but is there anything in the world worth doing that does not mean sacrifice, and is it not in the very essence of Christianity that "' God the Father' gave," and " ` Christ the Son ' offered Himself " ?
We pass on this summons of Medical Missions to the parents and families of our Christian homes throughout the land. With them, we are assured, lies the possibility of giving such an answer as shall solve for the present generation the problem created by the deficiency of medical missionary candidates. Surely they will not withhold the consecration of their best ! Chief amongst the vocations of earth may be placed the noble calling of Medical Missions, unique in its potentialities for doing good, and achieving a twofold service for God and humanity. Sublime in its conception, and altruistic in its beneficent mission, where can there be found a finer life work for the sons and daughters of the Church ? Shall it ever be that by turning a deaf ear to such a call, any of those will one day forfeit the Master's " Well done, good and faithful servant. . . . In as much as ye did it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it unto Me"?
And so we bring to a close this all too brief and imperfect sketch of the glorious enterprise of Medical Missions. It cannot be pretended that the subject has been more than touched, yet it is hoped that in some small way what has been written may prove of use in deepening interest in this aspect of Missionary work. Three things would the author ask of his Christian readers ere they close their perusal of these pages.
First of all, that they would each and all resolve to give Medical Missions a greater place in their prayers than the subject has ever before occupied. Particularly that they would remember in such a way the medical missionaries and nurses (by name, if known) of the Society with which they are connected, and if it should happen that none of these have yet been added to its staff, pray that this may be brought about speedily. Also that if they themselves, having life before them, might take up training and offer themselves for Medical Mission service, that God will clearly reveal His will and make both them and their parents willing to fall in line with His purpose.
Secondly, that every reader would make it his earnest endeavour to influence and interest all and whomsoever he may, whether it be a church, a Sunday school, a Bible class, a young peoples' society, a circle of friends or Christian medical students, or at any rate some individual, in the work of Medical Missions. This may be done in various ways, in part it is hoped by the utilisation of material contained in these pages, but whilst the method adopted may differ, there can be no doubt as to the value of seeking to help the work herein described.
Thirdly, that each reader would decide to have some practical share in the support of Medical Missions. Many already, we do not doubt, will have taken that step, but perhaps they may feel led to take a larger share. And in the case of the many who have never yet indicated any special practical sympathy with Medical Missions, and who might do so, it is earnestly hoped that from this moment onward they will liberally subscribe to the support of the Medical Missions of their own Society. Enough has been said to make clear the necessity for such support, and all that need here be added is to say that the funds in aid of Medical Missions are without exception very inadequate, and unable to allow of such a response, as could be wished, being made at present to the clamant appeals for the more efficient development of this ministry of healing. Need we recall the fact that the Christ who gave the commission to " Preach and Heal " also laid upon His disciples the injunction, " Freely ye have received, freely give."
May Our blessed Lord so fill us with His Holy Spirit, and so constrain us with the memory of His undying Love, that, like Him, we shall be " moved with compassion " as we hear of those needy suffering multitudes across the seas, and count it our blessed privilege to go ourselves, if that be possible ; if not, to send forth others, as He once did, to heal their sick.