Physical and Spiritual Healing

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clinic children playing

The hot sun gradually beat back the shade across the dusty courtyard of the compound while women and children (and some men) would crowd in for hours for basic medical care. This day, a clinic day, provided an opportunity for the missionaries to welcome the community into their home instead of going out into the villages to theirs, effectively helping to bind them all closer together. The clinic they provide is inspired in its simplicity and effectiveness. Developed completely without the need for a trained medical professional, it provides basic care, infant formula, and a locally modified nutritional supplement based on WHO guidelines to a people who are in the most need for it. Meanwhile, a dozen kids played on a small toddler’s playset–the three missionary kids were also integrated into the community, befriending the children their age while the women and babies were receiving care.

Clinic supplies
As a physician, I am a welcome, but largely unnecessary luxury this particular day. When there are such broad, basic needs for physical and spiritual sustenance, more advanced, individualized care must wait. We have a multitude of people to serve and only so many hands and feet to distribute it. This would go on all morning or all day–however long was needed until all the women had been served and then repeated on a weekly visit.

As basic as the supplies were, it was exactly what was needed. I can still see the face of an elderly woman with a newborn who she was left to care for. The bottle she used was old, the nipple rigid, and the hole large enough that formula would flow out of it just by tilting it on its side. While she obviously cared for the newborn, the child’s skin was sunken from dehydration and malnutrition. As we replaced her bottle, provided formula both for now and later during the week, and showed her how to properly use the bottle, a look of relief and appreciation came over her face. She was receiving the tools she needed to give this child a chance at life.

Niger woman with child
But physical needs were not the only ones being met. As each group came into the courtyard of the family’s compound, they first received the Gospel. They would be absolutely quiet as a member of the team would tell a story from the New Testament and pray with them. Sometimes this would be a parable, others a story of Jesus’s life, but all would directly point to Jesus as the loving Saviour that cares deeply for them.

If this strategy sounds familiar, it should. When Jesus was beginning His ministry, he would often pair healing and teaching together. In Acts 3, shortly after Pentecost, Peter heals a lame beggar, then goes on to give a sermon to the astonished crowds. Preaching and healing go hand in hand as ministry to both spiritual and physical needs.

clinic severely dehydrated child

While being the most basic, straightforward medical clinic I had ever been a part of, it was also the one that most directly and efficiently accomplished the Christian mission–meet people where they were, address a vital physical need, and provide an opportunity to directly and broadly provide contact with the good news of Jesus Christ. Please pray for the these women and children (and their husbands and fathers) who are not only thirsty for physical nutrition, but are parched for the grace of a loving God.

James Belcher

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