Reaching the Nations through Medical Missions - Radical

Reaching the Nations through Medical Missions

Medicine in missions—that’s how I think of my day-to-day as a pediatrician in Peru. Medicine fits in like an edge piece of a jigsaw puzzle; it gives shape and form to when and how I’m doing the work of the Great Commission, but it’s not the central focus—the gospel is.

The practice of medicine has long concerned itself with the alleviation of human suffering. As believers, we affirm that we live in a world broken, torn by sin, and our physical bodies are no exception. Romans 8:22 tells us that all creation groans.

I have become better acquainted with this groaning of creation.

I have become better acquainted with this groaning: an orphaned baby dies of pneumonia in the night, an older child painfully limps about on spastic, twisted limbs, and passersby idly shake their heads, speculating about whose ugly sin is being avenged in their suffering. 

Life hurts, and it’s hard. I have been humbled by deep poverty and difficult pathology, forced to recognize that there simply are some hurts that don’t go away in this life. But we can begin to listen beyond the groans to hear the voice of an infinitely good God, which is when the gospel truly begins to shine forth in the practice of medicine. 

Medicine is a Gospel Opportunity

Listening beyond the groaning happens in a lot of different contexts in and outside the exam room. It happens in talks with families, clinic staff, and other onlookers. A child’s pain gives opportunity to teach, explain, and answer the hard questions about the human condition.

Metrics for good care aren’t tightly bound to the number of patients seen or the complexity of the illnesses treated. Rather, they’re measured in conversations about that which is eternally most important. So yes, you’ll find me rushing about with a stethoscope swung around my neck, but more often than not you’ll also see me seated with a Bible in hand chatting in a clinic waiting area. 

We live in a world where more and more people in developing countries like Peru have access to antibiotics and medications. Thinking about how medicine fits into missions demands a slight shift in emphasis. We don’t want to be about the business of duplicating the efforts of local government aid programs. Yes, traditional humanitarian aid models remain greatly needed in areas torn by war or natural disaster, but in many places, the greater need is a simple spurring on toward human flourishing.

We need to challenge individuals and families to press on despite chronic pain and hardship to live for the glory of God. We call those who feel isolated from their local community by sickness or disability into Christ’s community, the local church. 

Gospel Conversations Start with Developing Relationships

For this reason, my work has been reoriented to encouraging spiritually and emotionally secure environments for children from the womb onward. It involves building deep relationships with families, requiring slow, plodding work. 

Although I still participate in campaigns to stamp out pediatric anemia and parasitic infections, I see the lasting value of systematically investing in a child’s earliest development. These early, tender moments provide a transparent, up-close look at the family’s struggles, developing an avenue for sharing the hope of the gospel.

The Gospel Reminds Us of Our Need for Christ

This focus on growth and development invariably puts me in contact with blind, autistic, and physically handicapped children. Caring deeply for kids with special needs is counter-cultural in so many places around the globe. Common wisdom says that it is foolish to give to those who can’t give anything in return. But the gospel brings complete transformation. 

Common wisdom says that it is foolish to give to those who can’t give anything in return. But the gospel brings complete transformation.

Are we not all weak and helpless, unable to offer anything good of our own to the Lord? And yet, in Christ, he gives us everything. Romans 5:6–8 tells us this so clearly, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Family-oriented care positions pediatricians to invite the physically weak and spiritually dead to the only place we all can be made strong and whole and alive—the cross of Jesus Christ.

So I make my appeal for sending more medical professionals: physicians and nurses and physical therapists committed to the work of evangelism and discipleship and to showing the world the goodness and glory of God in the slow, steady, blessed work of nurturing children and others in need. In my mind, that’s a truly fitting—and Christ-honoring—way to reach the nations through medical missions. 

Courtney Miller

Courtney Miller currently lives in Tacna, Peru, where she serves through medical ministry. She desires to help Peruvians know the Word of God well so that the Gospel spreads through healthy local churches. Courtney graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and is a pediatrician. She and her husband Andy were sent by Trinity Baptist Church in Vidalia, Georgia.


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