The Spiritual Challenge facing Christian Health Workers in Africa
This article was written by Gordon & Sybil McKillop, Elim missionaries in Zambia.
Christian medical workers in Africa have a deep desire to demonstrate God’s love for people through caring health care. This is the ONLY motivation that would keep them serving in an extremely challenging medical environment!
Throughout decades, providing good medical care has been a valid way to ‘open the door’ to effective mission in other cultures. It is not infrequent to hear people state to others in a village how they were quite literally dying and no one else seemed to care except ‘X’ who showed them God’s love and patiently nursed them back to health and strength. Others whom we have met again recently expressed thanks that they had completed schooling and were now in good jobs. They had been told by parents that, as babies, they had received life saving medical care at a mission centre.
In Africa clinics frequently encounter other forms of ‘medicine & healing’. Often before coming to a clinic patients have already been treated with local remedies some of which are toxic and can mask the original condition. This proves to be an on-going challenge to health workers today and to the armoury of medicines in their clinics. New medical health workers have to quickly learn that traditional ways of healing in Africa have not died out and that many are still in the grip of the ‘Great Illusionist’, the Enemy of men’s souls.
When a medical worker is asked, ‘How did my child get malaria?’ the western health worker will explain that a mosquito carrying the malaria parasite bit her.
This explanation completely satisfies the western mind but the African is left with another even tougher question, ‘Who sent the mosquito?’ The entire universe of the African sees every event in life as having a spiritual cause behind it.
Too frequently we see a very sick person strapped in the carrier of a bicycle being taken somewhere for treatment. We stop and offer them a lift in the car to the clinic but are graciously told, ‘Thank you for offering to help but this sickness cannot be cured by your type of medicine.’ They move away in the direction of the traditional healer who has already convinced them that he can determine and remedy the cause behind the sickness for a price. Just last week an elderly man, a traditional healer himself was sick and died. He had already sent for another traditional healer who wanted £50 up front and a goat to determine the cause of the illness and then another £50 for a home visit with a remedy.
We are engaged in a spiritual battle for hearts and minds today. The Great Illusionist would have people believe that certain tribal healers can affect great cures for sicknesses which western medicine cannot help.
Any gospel brought to Africa is no gospel at all unless it takes these powers seriously and can demonstrate an alternative, which works in the form of an uncompromising trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is certain that this worldview will not change except through the working of the Holy Spirit in men’s lives. The Apostle Paul said (Rom 12:2) to those in Rome do not be conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind. This change of worldview can only be accomplished by the indwelling Holy Spirit
How we need to see this today in Central Africa, a renewing of minds to see that the Lord God, the great creator is the One to whom we should turn for salvation and life.
Please pray for Christian health workers who have unique opportunities to influence men, women, boys & girls for the Lord. Communicating the Gospel across cultures is not easy. However, the Gospel has lost NONE of its ancient world changing power and we praise God for the many in Africa today who have proven this for themselves.
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