ebook: The Kingdom strikes back -- Signs of the Messiah at work

Chapter 3: The lepers are being cured

David Livingstone. To many people that name -- David Livingstone -- is synonymous with Christian missions and for good reason. God used David Livingstone to focus attention on the appalling spiritual and physical needs on the African continent. Originally, Livingstone had dreamed of going to China. He wanted to go as a medical doctor. This interest in healing the sick once led him to write: "God had only one Son, and He gave Him to be a medical missionary."

That sentence highlights the importance of Jesus' healing ministry. While here on earth Jesus did spend a lot of time teaching and preaching. People called Him "Rabbi." That was a term reserved for respected teachers. He was, of course, much more than an outstanding teacher. He healed sick people! Those healing miracles were inextricably intertwined with His preaching and teaching. The Gospel accounts make them almost inseparable. You could even say that Jesus' total ministry was a healing one. It was a healing that sometimes was physical and other times spiritual.

The context in which Matthew places the Sermon on the Mount underscores this unity of the various facets of Jesus' ministry. Just before giving the text of that message, Matthew notes how Jesus healed "all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed" (4:24). After the text of the message, Matthew tells how Jesus healed a leper and then the centurion's servant.

For His followers, Jesus modeled a ministry style aimed at dealing with both physical and spiritual problems. Part of the Kingdom's message is about our future destiny. It also expresses a burning concern for the quality of life in the here and now. Jesus modeled this concern for His followers. Then, He went one step farther. He guided His close disciples through hands-on experiences in resolving both physical and spiritual problems. For example, before He talked to John the Baptist's disciples about His Messiahship, Jesus had sent His own 12 disciples on a preaching mission. In sending them, He "gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness" (Matthew 10:1).

Another time "the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go" (Luke 10:1). Their task? They were to have, like Him, a ministry of both preaching and healing. He told them: "When you enter a town ... Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you'" (Luke 10:8-9). Here, as in His meeting with John's disciples, Jesus highlights the link between the Kingdom of God and miracles of healing.

After Jesus' ascent to heaven, healing miracles were a conspicuous part of the apostles' ministries (Acts 5:12-16). In the Samarian revival led by Philip, for example, healings were commonplace (Acts 8:5-8). Through the centuries, Jesus' concern for the sick has set the tone for His followers. Following in their Master's footsteps, Christians have been known for their deep concern for the sick and needy. Such compassion has shone most clearly in cross-cultural missionary thrusts.

The greatest humanitarian effort in human history may well be the ministry of missionary medicine during the past 150 years. Where the gospel has gone, so has medical care. Medical missions, more than anything, disarms shrill critics of Christian missions. In Haiti today, for example, apart from the capital city of Port-au-Prince, Christians provide most health care in the country. The Kingdom is striking back!

Across the cloud-capped mountains of Haiti and through its deep valleys, the Church of the Nazarene has planted churches. Nazarenes in Haiti have evangelized the lost. They have discipled believers. They have led them into the experience of heart holiness. There -- where they work, witness, and evangelize -- malaria and tuberculosis are widespread. Diarrhea, dysentery, scabies, tropical ulcers, and skin diseases are common. AIDS, venereal diseases, intestinal parasites, and typhoid fever take a heavy toll. When someone in an isolated village gets sick, God is often the only available doctor. The Church of the Nazarene has been working in Haiti since 1950. Not surprisingly, through those years there have been ample testimonies of God's miraculous healing touch. Praise the Lord!

Alongside these miraculous displays stand those healings resulting from the ministry of medical personnel practicing the healing arts in Christ's name. In Haiti the Church of the Nazarene has an active medical ministry with qualified missionary and Haitian personnel.

The Witch Doctor versus the Missionary

Bill Dawson, a physician's assistant and certified X-ray technician, went to Haiti as a Nazarene missionary in 1986. Once someone arrived asking him to make a house call not far from our main health center on the edge of Port-au-Prince. Normally patients living close to our health centers were asked to come in for treatment. This saved time and also meant that the medical person had the diagnostic equipment of the clinic available to him. On this day, however, they said the patient was too sick to move. So Bill grabbed his bag full of whatever medical people carry and took off.

When he arrived at the little house, he noticed coins scattered on the ground in front of the door. Startled, he stopped and looked around. He noticed other clear signs that a voodoo priest had been there before him. He knew they had called him as a last resort when the voodoo witch doctor's charms and spells had failed.

As he examined the sick man, Bill began to pray. The battle lines were clear: Voodoo had failed; Bill had come to bring healing in the name of Christ. Would he succeed? Bill treated the man and returned home. Then he called the other Nazarene missionaries and medical personnel to prayer. The tide of the disease turned, and the Lord got credit for a clear victory of healing.

The results aren't always that dramatic. Still, in Jesus' name, Nazarenes run healing ministries in Haiti and scores of other countries around the globe. The Messiah has come. He is at work in the world!

Nazarene concern with the physical well-being of Haitians goes back to the beginning of our work. Paul Orjala was the first Nazarene missionary to Haiti. Less than two years after his arrival he bought land near Port-au-Prince. It was to serve primarily as a Bible college campus.* At the entrance to the campus they also built a small dispensary.

*The site purchased near Port-au-Prince to be used as an educational campus has had several name changes throughout its history. References in this book to Nazarene Bible Institute, Nazarene Bible School, Nazarene Bible College, and Haiti Nazarene Theological College refer to the same campus but reflect expanding educational purposes. Chapter 5 explains in more detail the latest program: TEE, Theological Education by Extension.

That original building has been enlarged three times. Missionary nurses like Lois Rodeheaver Ford, Carolyn Parsons, and Joan Reed worked there. Physician Assistants Michelene Collins and Larry Wilson used it as a base for developing a Nazarene medical ministry in Haiti. Recent donations of equipment and supplies from U.S. hospitals and mission groups like REAP and Compassion International have turned the Nazarene Health Center into one of the best equipped in Haiti.

It provides low-cost medical care for the people nearby. It also is a training center and base of operations for a medical ministry seeking to touch all of Haiti. Nazarenes in Haiti run 24 rural pharmacy dispensaries. Most of the health workers staffing these were trained in the main clinic near Port-au-Prince.

We now have a government-certified program that each year trains 6 to 12 village health workers. This means that each year 6 to 12 new villages will gain a qualified medical worker and a small but adequately stocked pharmacy. In addition, the medical staff there is working on an experimental project to try to ensure that every Nazarene church in Haiti has at least one person promoting good health, sanitation, and nutrition.

Jesus reminded John's disciples that, wherever He went, the sick were healed. Such a ministry continues around the world today.

The battle is not always easily won. Satanic forces have transformed some modern healthcare advances into frightful nightmares. To many Haitians, the hypodermic needle is the ultimate medical weapon. One injection carries more psychological weight than bottles of pills. A medical person's reputation often rests on how many shots he gives. Unprincipled charlatans have seized on this mistaken notion. With no medical training, they pose as medical experts. They offer to cure any illness with injections. In their greed they reuse unsterilized needles, spreading deadly diseases like AIDS and hepatitis. Even those who escape serious complications often develop absceses ,under the skin from dirty needles.

Nazarene medical missions provide a healing alternative to these quacks. Once again the Kingdom is counter attacking.

Why not a hospital?

People often ask: "Why don't Nazarenes build a hospital in Haiti?"

Good question. After all, Haiti needs more medical facilities. We Nazarenes have experience in running hospitals in India, Papua New Guinea, South Africa, and Swaziland. Why not Haiti?

There are good reasons for not building a Nazarene hospital in Haiti. It is not because we lack the money. It's not because we couldn't find committed people or that we lack the organizational know-how. Rather, we haven't built a hospital in Haiti because it does not fit our long-range goals.

The Gospels show that Jesus did not sit in one place, waiting for people to come to hear Him. His ministry was an itinerant one that combined healing and preaching everywhere He went. Matthew tells us that He "went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness" (Matthew 9:35). We're trying to follow a similar pattern. Our medical goal in Haiti is simple: health care for every village where the gospel of the Kingdom is preached. That's not original with us. Jesus showed us how.

Now, let's suppose the Nazarene top leadership had decided to build a hospital in Haiti. Hospitals gobble up money and personnel. Still, had we wanted to build a hospital in Haiti, I believe we could have done it. We would have found the money to build it and equip it. No doubt dedicated Nazarenes would have given their lives to staff it.

Here's the problem: We would spend lots of money. We would put together a top medical staff. But we would be serving the healthcare needs of one limited area of Haiti. People in that one valley would have excellent medical care. That, however, would leave untouched all those other Haitian valleys where Nazarenes preach the gospel.

Our goal has been to meet health care needs wherever we're preaching the gospel. That's a lofty goal, given our limited resources. As Nazarene leaders have hammered out a workable strategy for Haiti, they've had to make choices. In medicine, we had two alternatives. The first alternative is build a hospital and center our medical work in it. The second alternative is develop a workable village-based healthcare program.

A strategy using community-based health care follows the advice given nearly a half-century ago by a Nazarene Commission on Medical Missions. This group gave its final report to the General Board in 1953. It concluded we could best reach our medical missions goals by focusing on small clinics and dispensaries. It cautioned against exhausting our limited resources in a few hospitals.

When this report came out, Nazarene work in Haiti was still in its early days. Noting that fact, the report gave some specific advice for Haiti. The commission proposed that we set up a dispensary at once in Haiti. It urged that mobile clinics become part of our Haitian medical ministry. That's the approach we've followed. From today's vantage point what the commission suggested has proved to be a wise course of action.

Where Nazarenes have gone preaching about the Messiah, we've also taken health care.

Community-based healthcare

Not long ago I watched a red-and-white, four-wheel-drive Mitsubishi drive up on the Bible college campus. It parked in front of the Nazarene Health Center. Purchased for our medical work by a Canadian government grant, that jeep was coming back from a rural trip. Dust covered every inch of it. The people getting out looked tired. A nurse, a tuberculosis agent, an M.D., and a couple of workers began unloading supplies and equipment. They had been out in an isolated valley on a two-day mobile clinic.

They were drained and wanted to get home. Still, they stopped briefly to tell me about their trip. As they talked, their faces began to light up. They had seen an unusual case or two. They glowed with excitement about the relief from suffering they had given. They were also pleased by the large number of people who had come for consultations.

A mobile clinic is a one- or two-day trip to an isolated village by our health center staff. It will have been announced in the church and community ahead of time. Thus, long before the Mitsubishi crammed with medical personnel and supplies appears around the last bend in the road, crowds will gather at the church.

Charges for seeing the doctor range from 20 cents in some areas to a high of $1.00. Patients also pay a small fee for medicine. These charges help offset the costs of this medical care; thus our resources stretch a bit farther. Charging something also keeps curiosity seekers from swamping the medical team with fictitious ailments. Of course, people with life-threatening problems get help even if they cannot pay the small fee.

Our dream is to assure a minimal level of health care in every outpost where there are Nazarenes. With over 300 churches already organized and new ones being planted every year, that's a faraway hope. Still, we're working at it.

One way will be through training what the Haitian government calls "health agents." We are working on government approval to train five or six of these at a time. Competent pastors and laymen will get five months of hands-on training in our main health center near Port-au-Prince. They'll then be qualified to open a small clinic and offer limited health care services.

The clinics will be an extension of the church's spiritual ministry. They mark the Church of the Nazarene as an organization that cares about people. They are signs of the Kingdom. Some of these men are planting brand-new churches in the areas where they open a dispensary. Thus medical missions is an integral part of the church planting and evangelism strategy for Haiti.

Nazarenes are preaching the gospel to the poor. The Lord is also using us to cleanse the lepers and heal all manner of other diseases. The Kingdom is striking back. And the Church of the Nazarene is part of it!

Immunization program

Disease prevention is an important aspect of community health. A chief thrust for public health agencies is inoculation against preventable killers and crippling diseases like polio, tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough. Immunizing people plays a key role in our medical ministry in Haiti.

Recently the Haitian government's Health Ministry held a Polio Prevention Day, aimed at immunizing as many Haitian children as possible. Our clinic on the Bible College campus helped give those immunizations. Coincidentally, that day came during the Caribbean Regional Council meeting. Nazarene leaders from all over the Caribbean flew into Port-au-Prince. They met on the campus of Haiti Nazarene Bible College. Together they shared testimonies, looked at their shortcomings, and made plans for future outreach efforts in the Caribbean.

On one day of that conference, Nazarene doctors and nurses immunized 200 boys and girls against one of childhood's crippling diseases. That happened on a corner of the same campus where the conference was being held. Two signs of the Kingdom appeared together: disease being driven out of the bodies of people and reports of evangelistic successes in preaching the gospel to the poor!

Not long ago World Vision joined us in a health care project on the island of La Gonave. That island is one of the more disadvantaged areas of Haiti. Most of the 35 Nazarene churches on that small island run an elementary school as part of their ministry.

One of the things World Vision helped us do was give a physical checkup to all Nazarene schoolchildren on La Gonave. We have a dream that one day every Nazarene school-child in Haiti will get a physical checkup during the school year. With approval of the new health agent program, we believe that this dream can become a reality.

Medical teams

One summer a group of nursing students from Olivet Nazarene University planned to visit Haiti. They were going to help us open five new rural clinics. Unfortunately, some political tumult thwarted their plans. A few weeks later, however, things had calmed down enough for a group of nurses from Tennessee to come. We do not have as many medical teams visiting Haiti as we do construction groups. Still, there are medical people taking a "bus driver's holiday" to spend their vacation using their medical skills for free in Jesus' name.

The Lord also uses people without special medical trainingto heal the ravages of sickness and disease. A group from Dallas saw some real miracles of healing during a evangelistic campaign in Port-de-Paix.

A Nazarene Mission Team from Jacksonville, FL, brought God's healing touch to Haiti. This team from the University Boulevard Church of the Nazarene came to build a prefabricated metal chapel in an isolated area in the northwest corner of Haiti. That village where they built the church, St. Matin, is at the end of the worst road I've ever traveled. Missionary Bill Dawson compared it to spending four hours driving up and down the steps of the U.S. Capitol building.

Like most Nazarene Mission Team projects, preparations got underway for the project long before the team ever arrived. It looked as if Satan was trying to use mechanical problems to prevent the construction. Every trip we made to St. Matin was plagued by more than the usual number of flat tires. In one of the trips to ferry materials to the job site, a pickup broke down. The jeep towing that pickup for the return trip over the mountains burned up its clutch. Then, as the Jacksonville Nazarenes left Port-au-Prince headed north, our large truck threw a crankshaft rod through the side of the engine block. We were forced to rent another truck to carry the team and materials. On and on the list of problems grew.

In spite of all those obstacles, the team made it to the village. During the week there, the pastor of the Florida church, Rev. R. E. Zollinhoffer, did not do much construction work. Instead, he found himself running a first-aid clinic.

It began the first day. Our building sites often attract crowds of Haitian children. This one was no different. Among the children who showed up was a small boy with a foot slashed by a machete.

"Pastor Z," as his church warmly called him, saw the boy. He rummaged around in the Nazarene Mission Team truck until he found a first-aid kit. As the other men started to work on the building, he began cleaning out the wound, bandaging it properly so that healing could take place.

Word spread quickly in that rural area. "Pastor Z" became "Nurse Z." He cleaned old, infected wounds. He stanched infections and dispensed aspirins. Most of it was simple first-aid work. Still, to those rural Haitians, Rev. Zollinhoffer was a miracle healer.

The rest of the team put together a metal church building. That was a real Kingdom victory. A new altar was built to give sinners a place to ask forgiveness. Those sheet metal walls and roof would soon ring with shouts of joy and praise. Over to one side of the building site, the Kingdom struck back in another way. There, under the shade of a mango tree, the lame began to walk again, and the sick found healing.

Nutrition centers

In Haiti, it's the children who suffer most from health and nutritional problems. Malnutrition is most devastating to children under five years of age. At that crucial age, long-term malnutrition causes irreparable damage, including irreversible mental retardation.

When He was here on earth, Jesus had a special place for children. Through the years they have continued to be of special concern to Kingdom people.

A Nazarene nutrition program aimed at young children got underway years ago in Haiti with missionary Carolyn Parsons. Right now we have five centers in operation. Severely malnourished children under five years old get two nutritious meals daily for bup to three months. During this time their mothers must also spend five mornings a week at the center. There they learn to feed properly balanced meals, using only the most meager resources.

Health education

We are trying to set up an ever-expanding network of village health agents. Dr. Judy D'Amico came and spent four years working with a program to put a "health evangelist" in every local church. This would ensure that at least one person in every local Nazarene church had some training in proper sanitation, preventive health care, and good nutrition. We are also trying to give some basic health education to every Nazarene pastor in Haiti.

Our extension training program for licensed ministers features 48 classroom hours of health instruction. This particular course meets the science requirement in the Minister's Course of Study. The two-month health course gives the pastors some basic first-aid knowledge. It also covers recurring problems like tuberculosis, diarrhea, and childbirth complications. Inexpensive, locally available remedies are explained.

Young men studying in the resident Bible college also have a week-long seminar on health during their four-year program. This week of health studies, required for every student, features 25 classroom hours of instruction by Nazarene medical personnel.

Retreats for pastors and wives sometimes include first-aid classes. At the end of such retreats, every parsonage couple takes home a box of first-aid supplies for use in their church. Our main health center in Port-au-Prince sells replacement supplies for these first-aid kits at or even below wholesale cost. Our Haitian Creole publications program has produced some booklets on infant care in that language.

The Kingdom is striking back. The lepers are being cleansed.

Moral cleansing

On at least one occasion, Jesus approached a sick man and said to him: "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." (Matthew 9:2). That day, the man found both moral and physical cleansing. Thus, when Jesus spoke to John's disciples about cleansing the lepers, He could have meant both physical and moral cleanliness! Sin is, of course, the most loathsome and chronic of diseases.

Around the world, in over 160 world areas, the Church of the Nazarene boldly proclaims itself a "holiness movement." Pastors and lay leaders preach pure hearts and clean living. Biblical holiness radically changes the moral quality of your life. It also can make a striking difference in your physical health.

For example, in Haiti, unsanitary dressings applied by voodoo priests often worsen illness and infections. Some non-Christian rituals actually propagate illness and disease. Deviant sexual practices in the name of religion spread venereal diseases and even the dreaded AIDS virus.

As people experience heart holiness and begin living holy lives, their moral cleanliness means fewer health problems. The miracle of the coming of the Kingdom is a miracle of health. . . . [ continue reading ]

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The crippled are walking

chapterThe response of Jesus to John's followers finds an echo today in a Caribbean island. The lame are learning to walk. The Kingdom is striking back. . . . . [ more ]
-- Howard Culbertson,

This ebook is on world missions. It shows how the words of Jesus about Kingdom signs resonate with what's happening in the Caribbean island of Haiti. These 6 chapters plus a foreword and a conclusion demonstrate that the Kingdom is indeed in our midst.

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