Bringing Gospel Hope through Palliative Care

Khun pastors a small house church on the outskirts of a city in Southeast Asia. One day, Khun went to the city’s main hospital and asked for permission to visit cancer patients and offer spiritual support. She rejoiced when the hospital officials agreed as until recently, open evangelism in this area would have resulted in a few days in prison. Khun and her church members used this opportunity to visit patients and share the hope of Jesus. They also got to know their families and provide practical support, as patients are usually sent home to die. As the love of Jesus has been seen and heard through this church’s ministry, many have come to put their hope in the living God.

As the love of Jesus has been seen and heard through this church’s ministry, many have come to put their hope in the living God.

Khun first caught the vision for this holistic approach to sharing the gospel when she took part in a four-day end-of-life care training course that my colleagues and I run. We have now been organising this training for churches in throughout the country for over four years. The journey of developing it has involved many joys and challenges and we have seen God at work as he grows his kingdom.

Understanding Local Needs

When I initially came to this country, I focused on the work of integrating into the local language and culture. During this time I explored ministry possibilities and wondered how, and if, God would make use of my medical skills, as I had been a GP before coming to Asia. As life became more established, I was able to build connections in the medical world, and through these, I began to understand some of the local needs and, in particular, heard about the need for appropriate care of those who are dying. I also had growing insights into the spiritual climate; the predominant belief of an active spirit world and the ideas surrounding this means that many struggle with the fear of death. Knowing that the hope of Jesus can transform these situations, I began sharing this new idea with a group who do medical work within the largest evangelical denomination.

Through many steps involving prayer, persistence and patience, we finally developed a four-day course to equip believers to care for dying people in their homes as a way of bringing them the hope and love of Christ. Volunteers receive training in the simple care of patients, along with learning how to care for the whole person, including the spiritual needs of the dying and their families; sensitively praying with people and sharing faith when it is appropriate. The training includes discussion time where participants can share their own experience of caring for dying relatives, role-play which gives the chance to assess and treat ‘patients’, Bible studies to look at the model of Jesus and group games to help volunteers plan how they might work together as a team.

we finally developed a four-day course to equip believers to care for dying people in their homes as a way of bringing them the hope and love of Christ.

Empowering People to Serve Locally

Our hope and prayer after each training is that the volunteers will return to serve in their local communities and bring glory to God through holistic home-based care. The kingdom of Jesus is seen and heard when comfort and joy are brought to those who grieve, the good news is proclaimed, and praise for God replaces fear and despair. Those who respond warmly to the good news have been welcomed into existing churches, but a significant prayer for the future is that this approach may be used to plant new churches in communities that are yet to be reached with the gospel.

Although we do not often get to hear of how each group puts the training into action, stories like that of Khun’s church do filter through and bring cause for encouragement. Most recently, we heard of a young volunteer who visited a nine-year-old boy in a large city hospital. When he returned to his village, she continued to visit him and his family until he died of a brain tumour. Along with several family members, he came to hope in Jesus. At his Christian funeral, the good news was proclaimed to their neighbours.

The next step of the journey is to leave the training in the hands of local colleagues, which will allow them to continue adapting and growing the ministry according to local needs. There are already ideas of how they can develop a stronger network to support volunteers, including a reliable system of support from medical professionals, and maybe even starting a hospice. One big lesson we have learnt along the way is that God works in his ways and in his time. With so many people faithfully praying for this ministry since its inception, we have been able to trust that he is there in the encouragements as well as the difficulties; and we wait in anticipation to see what he does next!

Sarah
Serving in East Asia

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