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The Need For Medical Missions

( Originally Published 1913 )

"He's true to God, who's true to man. Wherever wrong is done To the humblest and the weakest, 'neath the all-beholding sun. That wrong is also done to them and they are slaves most base Whose love of right is for themselves and not for all their race."


IT has been well said that " Destitution is the greatest plea for help," and certainly if that dictum be applied to the physical necessities of non-Christian peoples, then their call for succour in time of sickness becomes clamant in our ears. It is hardly possible to overstate the need. Standing, as we do, in the full enjoyment of the ripe fruits of Christian civilisation, and hardly conscious of the wealth of our blessings because they are so abundant, it is very difficult to imagine a condition of things in which some of the most essential of those privileges are absolutely unknown. Limiting ourselves for the moment to the relief of physical suffering, what a vision of distress and despair rises before us as we picture an utter absence of medical and nursing know-ledge, and beyond that even further, the most appalling ignorance of the very simplest ideas as to sickness and its cure ! About four years ago, Professor Dr Martin Edwards, of Harvard University (U.S.A.), visited China in the interest of a scheme for the establishment of a Harvard Medical School at some centre in that land. Upon his return he issued a report in which he sought to bring home to people in America the medical condition of China, and the following extract, which we here beg leave to quote, will serve most admirably to convey a conception of the physical needs of one of the greatest Mission Fields :

" Perhaps we can get a better idea of China's medical condition if we think of it in terms of our own land. Imagine, if you will, our country of ninety millions of people, with splendid institutions for the preserving and the betterment of public health. Now in order to get a real conception of what China is, we are going to begin a process of elimination.

" First, we will take out of this country of ours all the hospitals we have, save one hundred and sixty, that being the number that there are in China. (There are almost as many hospital beds, however, in Chicago.) Next take away every infants' hospital and every hospital that is given to taking care of the mother in her hour of need. Next we must close the greater number of the dispensaries for our poorer people and leave them without care. Let us go further and dismiss from every state and city the Boards of Health. The sewers then of each city must be filled up, and all the various institutions that are acting to preserve good healthful conditions for the individual and the city must close their doors. Now it seems as though that is enough to take away from this country of ours, but we will have to do more yet. All of our medical schools, save one, and that only established three years ago, must disappear. We will go still further, and take away from our ninety millions of people all the scientific knowledge we have of how disease is caused and how transmitted.

" Then take this forlorn country, and pack it full of tuberculosis, put it in every home. Leave no city without smallpox. Scatter everywhere the other; countless diseases which we have here in greater or less extent. Then place in the south-east area the bubonic plague. See that no state of the Atlantic Coast is free from the devastation of cholera. Then all over this stricken country spread the loathsome leprosy. And when that is done, summon just four times as many more people, all of whom desire, as we, to be healthy and strong, and whose hearts, strangely enough, love and suffer and break, even as ours, and say, ` Here is where you must live,' and that is China ! "

Let us pause and give time for this graphic and terrible disclosure (which might, with varying degree, be applied to the condition of many another Mission Field), to sink into our mind. This is no attempt to harrow the feelings, or work upon the emotions. It is simply a recital of facts, a statement of things as they are, and a revelation of the condition under which millions upon this earth are living and suffering and dying today. Is there then, we ask, no need for Medical Missions ? The appalling state of the sick in these non-Christian lands arises, as Dr Harold Balme has pointed out, from three causes. First the absence of all sense of responsibility (except for one's personal relatives) which characterises every country until the Gospel penetrates it. Secondly the superstition and cruelty of heathen medical methods. Thirdly the awful results of ignorance and neglect. Each of these factors enters into the production of the terrible suffering which is so widely spread throughout these dark lands, and as we pass in review the principal Mission Fields we shall find abundant evidence of this lamentable state.

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