Thursday, October 30, 2008

What will you do? (5)

An urban congregation in sub-Saharan Africa has very positive experiences with Mercy Ships and other short-term medical outreach programmes. They approach a mission agency staffed by Europeans, Americans and local health professionals. It is funded by Korean Christians and they plan to establish a permanent clinic. The local congregation argue this is one of their most powerful evangelistic tools.

‘The government provides only the bare minimum when it comes to health care’ says one of the elders. ‘If someone is very sick, they may get treatment at a public hospital for a reduced fee, but often there is no opportunity to access medical services. It’s not so bad here as in rural areas, but even here in the city there are not enough facilities. So people with “connections” get served in the hospital sooner, even before people who may be very sick and have waited a long time, but don’t know the “right” people.’ He goes on: ‘Western and Asian churches who are economically strong but don’t help their poorer brothers and sisters, never mind those who might be evangelised, are really no different than the rest of the world. Christians who have much have a duty to help believers who have little.’

Another influential church leader takes a different view. She claims the local congregation should instead put their efforts into expanding local services. ‘Health care is a right and the government should provide it. When the church steps in all it does is supply a quick fix, like putting a plaster or band aid on a gaping wound. Both the local people and the mission agencies should try to get the laws changed to provide adequate national healthcare services.’

What issues does this story raise?
What will you do?


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Blogger tyronebcookin said...

I, we (maybe I can't really speak for Mercy Ships since I work in the galley/kitchen and I am not a trained Media Liaison BUT)the goal is to work hand in hand with the local government if they are poor or unable to provide monies for these projects...not to say we give the money, but maybe we build the clinic and help search local doctors to help staff it, or rebuild facilities that are already in place and train people to be able to fix the equipment.

it may be a true statement to say 'the government should -or is supposed to- give or supply this for free' BUT it would be more accurate to say most of the time they don't have the funds or resources.

In any case,our particular focus is not to be 'santa claus'...why go pave a road, build a modern day westernized hospital and say 'look what we have done for you!' when in reality no one in that country has the equipment to repair the road when it gets old, repair the modern hospital equipment (or even have anybody who is familiar running it)...or think for one minute any electricity or clean water can be provided to keep the hospital going?

Best to get the local people, churches, AND GOVERNMENT involved and seek out a few doctors or 'first aid givers' to fill a clinic made more to suit the local village or town.

Drill a water well or show them how to prepare ways to sterilize water with their resources.

Need to buy a generator? Who is going to pay for the fuel after you leave?

Making sure everything is sustainable after you leave, should be the first thought in your head before starting any endeavor...otherwise most times you have created a dis-service, a false hope, and another building full of stuff that will later be sold for 'scrap' so they can continue to eat during their poverty.

All that being said, that should be the organizations outlook, if you are a volunteer for that organization...then go in, do all the good you can do! And make sure your opinion is heard within the organization if you feel things could be changed or better...

We have a 'debriefing' for when you leave (perfect time to air all grievances and ideas) and chaplaincy for all the times during your stay.

Good topic/post!

4:18 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi tyronebcookin,

Welcome. I was using the Mercy Ships as an example for discussion of justice and healthcare and did not expect anyone from the Mercy Ship to respond. Thank you for your sharing and I agree with what you have said.

The issue is whether the 'rich' churches and organisations in the West should come in to help or the indigenous churches should be doing it themselves. This is very pertinent in many third world countries.

8:35 PM  
Blogger tyronebcookin said...

Hmmm, well yes, I see...(being humorous)

In that case I would also be interested in the responses (being serious)

Hopefully some more opinions will chime in!

1:46 AM  
Blogger Carolyn Burns Bass said...

If families, churches, and other humanitarian organizations were more effective at meeting needs within their communities, there would be no need for bureaucratic government programs.

In the real world, however, the local churches simply don't have the financial resources to provide assistance on the same scale as the wealthy churches and relief organizations in the West.

Rather than come in, do the work and then leave, a more effective method would be for the Western organizations to work with the local churches in creating and funding sustainable practices that will function once the organization/ship has moved on.

11:44 PM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

hi Carolyn Burns Bass,

welcome. I agree with what you have written. This scenario is to illustrate that in the real world, things are not an 'either/or.'

Yes to foreign aid nor no to foreign aid. Yes to local churches taking an active role in their country's healthcare or no, the local churches take a low profile.

Like you and tyronebcookin, it's both. There is a place for involvement of the international church (which include parachurch organizations) and the local church should be involved in their healthcare, including involvement in bureaucracy and politics.

Do try the other scenarios.

12:39 PM  

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