A Short History of Sharing the Gospel through Medical Work

In the 1970s David, a former Malay soldier with leprosy, received care from an OMF nurse in Thailand: ‘when Minka put my stinking foot on her lap to treat my ulcer, then I knew what the love of God was.’[1]

Medical mission like this has always been part of OMF’s work. Our founder, James Hudson Taylor, grew up working in his father’s chemist’s shop and later took medical training in preparation for service in China. There he found treating people physically also brought opportunities to share about Jesus, the healer of souls.

So in 1866 when the Lammermuir set sail, Hudson Taylor and the first China Inland Mission workers carried with them medicines and equipment so they could set up a hospital and dispensary.[2]

Jesse McDonald: the CIM’s first female doctor

In 1913 Canadian Jessie McDonald became the CIM’s first female doctor. She joined the veteran missionary doctor Whitfield Guinness at Keifeng hospital and served there for 26 years. The CIM hospital was the only medical facility in the area and patients travelled far to be treated. McDonald made a point of treating all patients equally, including in 1939 Japanese soldiers wounded when invading the city. McDonald’s medical skill and her capacity for developing the medical facilities and training Chinese staff won her a great deal of respect. Yet she also sought to ‘point to the Healer of souls. Her great joy was when a patient or someone else she met came to faith in the Lord Jesus.’[3]

Treating leprosy, building a church

In 1951-2 McDonald reluctantly left China with her colleagues who moved into the surrounding countries. In 1956 the CIM opened Manorom Hospital, the first medical facility in Central Thailand. The hospital developed particular expertise in treating leprosy. This was widespread in the area and meant social isolation for the patients. However the hospital and its remote clinics welcomed them, even with their sores that no-one else would touch, and so they began to feel valued and loved. Through the work the leprosy patients also heard about Jesus and soon a church was formed. In fact, this church was the very first in Central Thailand. Shortly after another church whose members were physically healthy developed. Despite fear of the disease initially separating the members, within a generation the two churches united, showing the reality of the gospel in their lives. Today several leaders of the united church are former leprosy patients.[4]

Today there are around 100 OMF workers serving across East Asia as doctors, surgeons, dentists and in a whole range of other medical roles. Join us in September as we hear some of their stories of demonstrating love in action.

Praise God for the witness of medical mission past and present!

[1] Rose Dowsett and Chad Berry, God’s Faithfulness: Stories from the China Inland Mission and OMF International(Singapore, 2014) p.88.

[2] Roger Steer, J Hudson Taylor: A Man In Christ (Bletchley, 2001) p.187.

[3] God’s Faithfulness p.300.

[4] God’s Faithfulness pp.90-95.