Attitudes to cultivate for the aspiring medical missionary

28 Apr


Medical missionary work (especially in remote rural areas) is frontline Christian work and needs highly committed people. There are several important attitudes that are essential for a medical missionary to be confident with his or her work and comfortable with the situation he or she is placed in.

I was impressed with Hebrews 11:1 to 12:2. This passage appears to be specially written for those who are considering missionary work as a vocation with real life examples from the Bible.

11.1 says that we must have faith in God and believe what we cannot see. This is a basic requirement. In verse 6, it says that without faith it is not possible to please God. This is also a basic requirement in any relationship. Let us look at some of the examples and see what we can learn from their lives:

  1. Noah: We read that Noah was warned by God about the coming flood and built an ark according to the specifications God had given him. When I think of the story of Noah, I feel it is an encouragement to those who need to face ridicule. We are not told how long it took for the flood to come after Noah started to build the ark. The patriarchs lived for hundreds of years and it could easily have been a hundred years. Imagine explaining to everyone that there would be a flood and you were building an ark to save God’s people – year after year the rains came on time and there was nothing unusual – I am sure that everyone must have teased Noah and many would have decided that he was mad. So, it is with God’s instructions to His people. Often, they do not find acceptance in the eyes of the world – friends, family and peers. It is difficult to proceed forward with God given faith believing in something yet unseen but this is the first requirement. Another lesson from Noah’s story is the diligence with which the ark was constructed – perfectly fashioned to meet the measurements given by God. Are we perfect workmen and women? I hate to see sloppy work – as a surgeon, I like to see each stitch fall perfectly into its place – correctly placed, correctly tightened giving the assurance that the anastomosis will not leak or stenose. We should take pride in the work we have been given, so that the work done in God’s name brings Him glory. I am sure Noah had a team to build the ark, so also we need to ensure quality performance from our team – nurses, doctors, technicians, pharmacists, maintenance people and others who work towards making a hospital’s work a beautiful thing in the eyes of God.
  2. Abraham: We read that when God told Abraham to go, he went, even though he did not know where he was going. Complete, trusting and immediate obedience – a matchless quality for God’s missionaries. It is written that he lived in tents – he did not acquire lands to build permanent buildings. Why? What is an important advantage of a tent over a permanent building? The tent can be built on any open temporary space and it can be folded away when we decide to travel again. Abraham was tuned to God’s voice and he lived in tents so that when God told him to move, he could do so within a short time. We are called to be citizens of the kingdom of God posted as His ambassadors in this world. We are not to acquire permanent roots here, we are rather asked to build up our riches in heaven by living lives of obedience and surrender. Abraham was not a poor man and could have easily acquired permanent assets in this world but he knew that there was a much greater city waiting for him to dwell in when he died and went to be with God in heaven. I also see in Abraham’s life a desire not to waste a moment in going the wrong way. An awareness of the passage of time is a key requirement. Time is the most precious asset in our hands. We do not know how long we are going to live and our opportunity to do something of eternal value is limited by the time that is available to us. We need to use time wisely and not waste it – be prompt in our obedience so that every minute takes us more purposefully to the goal that God has placed before us.
  3. The sacrifice of Isaac: We are told that Abraham and his wife Sarah were childless for many years. However, God had promised a son and this miraculous son was given to them in their old age. Abraham must have been overjoyed and must have doted on his only son – the apple of his eye. Imagine listening to God telling him to take his son, his only son Isaac and sacrifice him as an offering – a very difficult thing to do – yet, Abraham obeyed instantly. I was wondering whether Abraham became so attached to his son that God was taking second place in some areas. God wanted to know where Abraham’s priorities lay. Do we have Isaacs in our life – something that is coming between us and God – it could be a relationship or personal ambition or material desire. God is asking us to give up our deepest desires as an offering to Him so that we desire only to please him. He is sufficient for all our needs and will supply them according to His infinite wisdom – do we trust Him with our whole life?
  4. Moses: was brought up as the son of Pharaoh. He could have easily lived a comfortable life. However, when the time came, he chose to be identified with his despised people and give up the comfort that he was entitled to. When we give up our time, our possessions and our lives to God, God creates something precious and beautiful with what we have given Him. We will live our lives to the full potential that He has for His children, a life of excitement and fulfillment. We also learn about perseverance from Moses’ life – everything took time. There are no easy or instant solutions to most problems on the mission field. We must learn to change the things we can and live with the things we can’t till God acts and be willing to wait joyfully till then.
  5. Persecution: the latter verses talk of people who were tortured and killed for God’s sake. This is the history of modern missions too. When the first missionaries went to Papua New Guinea, the natives ate them. The average lifespan of a Western missionary in Africa in the early days was only 8 months. Missionaries who went to provide education, health services and talk about the life giving word of God perished in large numbers along with their wives and husbands and their children – the mission work was built with their sweat and blood. Today, most missionaries live comparatively comfortable lives. The problems we face today can be best termed as trivial temporary inconveniences and in return for facing these, we are assured of God’s riches in heaven. We need to look at our lives and circumstances with a heavenly perspective.
  6. This passage closes with the great exhortation in chapter 12, verses 1 and 2 – “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us cast aside all that hinders us and the sin that entangles us and run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and is seated on the right hand of the throne of God”. I thought that we are not only encouraged as we read the stories in the Bible and as we read the life stories of many missionaries who have gone on ahead of us, we can also imagine that they are up there in heaven cheering us on as we come face to face with all sorts of difficulties, so that we may not lose heart but with new energy and God given vision complete the task set before us.
  7. Can we live lives like these great heroes? Yes, we can. If we are able to face ridicule and work diligently like Noah, obey completely and instantly like Abraham and give up our own ambitions and desires to Him; if we can reject the attractions of the world like Moses and face our problems with fortitude looking at our problems with a heavenly perspective, we too can live lives of faith and see God do great things through us. We are unable to do all this with our own strength but with God all things are possible.

We are not asked to go alone to work for God in unknown places and face unknown dangers. God wants us to take us by His hands – He will come with us and with Him beside us, the dangers and inconveniences of the road are forgotten and we are able to joyfully run the race and complete the task set before us. May God be with us.


Dr.Vijay Anand Ismavel MS, M Ch

Medical Superintendent – Makunda Christian Hospital, Assam

P.S. – you can contact me on or on Facebook “Vijay Anand Ismavel’. Our hospital is also on Facebook “Makunda Christian Hospital” with some interesting case discussions. Please also look at our websites and

3 Responses to “Attitudes to cultivate for the aspiring medical missionary”

  1. David Paul January 10, 2015 at 9:46 am #

    Excellent thoughts and comments about the cost of discipleship, especially for a full time missionary but more broadly for all of us who seek to follow Christ, whether placed in the position of a full time missionary or doing another vocation yet keenly aware that we are called to live a life of sacrificial service wherever we are and whatever we are called to do. Thank you not only for sharing these challenging words but also living these words as an example of what it truly means to follow Him. We thank the Lord for you Vijay and Ann.

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