A 4-year-old boy in the Philippines whose hernia made it too painful to play with other children didn’t realize how lucky he was.
Angelo* was born in an impoverished village on the southern island of Mindanao to parents who sacrificed to ancestral spirits and objects in nature. Few people there could afford to go to a doctor or dentist even if there were one.
Native missionaries, however, found out about Angelo’s needs as part of a medical mission’s outreach to the area poor. It provides free health care to hundreds of people.
A volunteer surgeon for the medical mission was also the director of a private hospital in a nearby municipality, and he suggested that surgeons there operate on the preschooler. The native ministry agreed to pay for the surgery, and Angelo’s parents gratefully agreed.
“The scheduled operation was performed, and the parents were so happy because their son could now play and run without pain in his loins,” the ministry director said. “Because of the successful operation, the child’s parents were encouraged to regularly and actively attend Bible studies and church activities.”
He said the parents are now elders at the native ministry’s local outreach in their area, undisclosed for security reasons. The couple also encouraged relatives and neighbors to participate in the native ministry’s activities, and they also are growing nearer to God.
Five of the volunteer doctors for the medical mission come from the native ministry’s church; three others come from other churches, he said.
“We can trust our own doctors in the ministry, since they are trained to be servants, live a simple, sacrificial lifestyle, can adapt to difficult situations in the areas and are willing to serve without monetary remuneration,” the leader said. “They are committed to the gospel.”
Nurses and other medical staff members come from the same fellowship, and the extraordinary number of doctors and other health care professionals in the church encourages other young people in the body to take up medicine. The leader hopes they will be able to fill in for aging doctors and add to the pool of available caregivers.
“We need to increase the number of doctors to be able to conduct more free clinics on a regular basis,” the leader said. “More young people are planning to pursue medicine in the near future.”
In a country where many people live in remote, rural areas with no access to health care, the ministry’s impact is wide-ranging and dramatic.
“Those hearts that are seeking the Lord after they attended the medical missions are being followed up in Bible studies,” the leader said. “Many community ministry outreaches in the countryside were started after the free clinics were conducted. Moreover, many people join the Bible studies after they see the commitment of ministry leaders to help them spiritually and physically.”
As new believers grow in Christ, he said, the Lord blesses their work as farmers, laborers and professionals and, in combination with vocational training programs the ministry provides, communities see both health and economic levels rise.
“Work ethics are improved, hard work and honesty are being internalized,” the leader said. “Through the years their children started to be reached and were able to attend to school, and joy and peace started to reign in their homes and lives.”
Gambling and other vices in the neighborhoods have begun to vanish, and some people who have come to faith in Christ through the medical ministry have been elected to local offices as people realized that godly leaders can be trusted with government affairs, he said. This has led to a decrease in otherwise rampant corruption.
Impoverished villagers are not the only ones who benefit. The medical ministry also sensitizes doctors, nurses and other volunteers to the needs of the poor, encouraging them to heed the biblical call to care for them, he added.
Legislation passed last year providing affordable health care for all people in the Philippines takes effect this month, but it has no effect in remote areas where there are no doctors or facilities.
In the past decade more than 1,000 mostly rural hospitals have closed due to a shortage of doctors, according to an industry monitor.
Non-profit hunger awareness group The Borgen Project adds that the poor in the Philippines have long suffered unequal access to health services. Private facilities provide better quality care than the public providers that the poor resort to – in the event that such facilities are within range of their limited transportation, the group notes.
“These [public] facilities have less medical staff and inferior supplies,” it states. “Only 30 percent of health professionals employed by the government address the health needs of the majority. Healthcare in the Philippines suffers because the remaining 70 percent of health professionals work in the more expensive, privately-run sectors.”
In the face of such huge needs, the native ministry’s impact is strongly felt.
“Our goal is to be part of the answer in meeting the physical/medical needs of our fellow Filipinos,” the leader said. “The most important reason, though, is to share the gospel with the patients, because we believe spiritual needs should be addressed together with physical needs.”
Native missionaries are working throughout the country to meet such urgent physical and spiritual needs. Please consider a donation today to equip them to bring the love of Christ to hurting people.
*Name changed for security reasons