Tag Archives: Vijay Anand Ismavel

St. Andrew’s Kirk Chennai – Bicentenary Sermon on Medical Missions

4 Apr

When I did my undergraduate medical studies in Madras (present-day Chennai) in the early 1980s, I had the privilege of attending the St. Andrew’s Church (The Kirk). There, I met Pastor David Singh with whom I had many long talks over several years. He was one of my early mentors and introduced me to community health work at the church’s community health program at Thirupalaivanam village. Many years later (in 2007), Ann and me met him again in Richmond, Virginia where he was pastoring a church. This resulted in him visiting us in Makunda and to several years of partnership between his church and organization in the USA with our hospital – yearly staff and student retreats as well as financial support to the expansion of the hospital’s work in obstetrics and paediatrics.

The St. Andrew’s Church (fondly called the Kirk) was built by Scottish missionaries and has a rich legacy over 200 years. Its building and architecture are unique and many great men and women were associated with it over the two centuries of its existence. A brief account of its work has been presented as a documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=780_668IGG0 – further details of the church and its ministry can be found on its website: https://www.thekirk.in/index.php

As part of the Bicentenary Celebrations of the church, March 2021 was dedicated as “Healing Month” with sermons centered around the healing ministry of the church. Ann and me were privileged to be invited to sing/speak at the morning service (with the theme verse John 15:16) on the 14th of March 2021. I used this opportunity to talk about my association with the church, share a personal testimony and challenge healthcare professionals and the church to missionary service. Ann and me thank the pastor and the church committee for inviting us to speak at this great church on “Medical Missions – Journeys in Faith”.

Mission hospitals were established by the church in remote and needy parts of the world where they transformed healthcare, bringing life and healing to numerous poor people who had no other options. Unfortunately, a large number are sick today and many have closed. We need a new impetus to healing sick hospitals and starting new ones in areas of need. May God place this vital burden on the hearts of church elders and the congregation so that the medical ministry of the church is a blessing to many. May young men and women in our churches today consider medical missionary work as a part of their career when God puts them into healthcare courses.

This video is made by the media team of the church and starts with organ prelude, worship led by my college junior Dr. Anita Chelliah and welcome by the Pastor, Rev. Isaac Johnson with announcements and introduction at 24:27 by the Secretary of the church and my school classmate, Mr. Dulip Singh. A short documentary on the “Healing Ministry in Chennai” is shown from 32:20 and my sermon starts at 52:47 with Ann singing the song, “His Eye is on the Sparrow” at 1:43:50. This is followed by intercessory prayer and the closing part of the program. You may listen to the entire program or parts of it by clicking on the link below:

Chat with Eby

8 Mar

In this post, I wish to introduce my blog-readers to Dr. Eby Daniel, a physician working at the Christian Fellowship Hospital at Rajnandgaon in the Chattisgarh state of India. He has started a podcast with each episode containing an interview with someone working in Christian missions and has called it “Chat with Eby”. There are also other playlists containing Christian meditations, Mission hospital videos etc. – you can see all of them on his YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC9BiQMPpSkgIl2ecTtXJ8fg

I had the privilege of being interviewed by him in his latest podcast, responding to thought-provoking questions that are relevant to young medical (and other) people considering a career in missions.

In this interview, questions have been raised on several topics on which I have written earlier (references in brackets to earlier blog-posts and external links) including finding God’s will for our lives (1,2), early days at Makunda (3), strategic planning(4), the “Makunda Model” and poor-centric strategies (5,6), preventing “Mission Drift” (7), my experience with leprosy (8) and myocardial infarction (9), biodiversity documentation (10,11), choosing a life partner (12), excelling in studies (13) and concluding remarks on decisions relating to missions (14).

I hope that you will like listening to Eby’s channel and his interviews with other people – I’m sure that you will (like me) subscribe to his channel too. Please click on the video link after the following references to listen to this podcast containing Eby’s latest Chat – with me.

References:

  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2017/09/13/obeying-a-call-to-medical-missions-a-testimony/
  2. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/
  3. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2018/05/12/early-days-at-makunda/
  4. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/03/medical-missionary-work-strategic-planning-and-stock-taking/
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342551561_The_Makunda_Model_An_Observational_Study_of_High_Quality_Accessible_Healthcare_in_Low-Resource_Settings
  6. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/19/medical-missionary-work-poor-centric-strategies/
  7. https://www.peterkgreer.com/mission-drift/
  8. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2019/01/30/a-wrestle-with-leprosy/
  9. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2011/11/01/an-encounter-with-a-myocardial-infarction/
  10. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/04/29/all-things-bright-and-beautiful/
  11. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/05/27/all-creatures-great-and-small/
  12. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2012/05/22/wisely-choosing-a-life-partner-for-an-aspiring-medical-missionary/
  13. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2012/04/15/excellence-in-studies-for-an-aspiring-medical-missionary/
  14. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/23/suggestions-for-medical-missionary-work/

Suggestions for Medical Missionary Work

23 Feb

Christian mission hospitals should be God’s institutions of healing in a world of suffering. They have the potential to ‘close the gap’ in access to healthcare and provide high quality accessible services in the most remote and needy parts of the world to those who need them the most – the poor and marginalized.

In 1993, my wife Ann and me moved to a remote part of Assam in northeast India. We were led by verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11-13 for me and Isaiah 6:8 for Ann) to what God wanted us to do with our lives. Over the following 27 years, God took us by our hands and provided us with all the encouragement, strength and wisdom required to transform a closed-down hospital to a thriving institution bringing healing and transformation to many surrounding communities. (1) We were not alone, God brought many committed staff to join us over the years to make this possible.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at six sessions on “Medical Missions” at the (virtual) South Asian regional conference of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association in November 2020. I am not an expert on medical missions but spoke from our experience in walking with God and witnessing a great transformation take place in our hospital.

The six talks can be viewed here along with a seventh talk given at the Annual Conference of the Allied Health Professionals section of the Christian Medical Association of India. Each link opens a blog-post with a short description of the content of the video that follows:

  1. An introduction to medical missionary work, its promise and the attitudes that are important to be successful: https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/01/31/medical-missionary-work-introduction-attitudes-and-promise/
  2. Strategic Planning for a mission hospital (for pioneering work as well as for existing hospitals) and stock-taking to finetune future plans: https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/03/medical-missionary-work-strategic-planning-and-stock-taking/
  3. Leadership in our hospitals, management/governance structure, recruitment and retention as well as succession planning for mission hospitals: https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/07/medical-missionary-work-leadership-and-human-resource-management/
  4. Nurturing and motivating students and staff so that they may be well prepared and work to their full potential in medical missions: https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/18/medical-missions-nurturing-and-motivating-students-and-staff/
  5. Sustainable trategies to make good quality healthcare accessible to the poor and marginalized: https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/19/medical-missionary-work-poor-centric-strategies/
  6. Other work that can be done in mission hospitals and concluding thoughts: https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/22/medical-missionary-work-non-medical-work-and-concluding-thoughts/
  7. Medical missionary work for the allied health professional – our technicians, pharmacists and other hospital support staff: https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2021/02/02/medical-missionary-work-for-the-allied-health-professional/

These talks are based on my experience of nearly 40 years in medical mission hospitals and medical college campuses. I hope that some of them may be applicable to every situation. May God be the source of all wisdom, strength and encouragement to the listeners to these messages and help us to plan our God-given work wisely.

Medical Missionary Work – Non-medical Work and Concluding Thoughts

22 Feb

Christian mission hospitals should be God’s institutions of healing in a world of suffering. They have the potential to ‘close the gap’ in access to healthcare and provide high quality accessible services in the most remote and needy parts of the world to those who need them the most – the poor and marginalized.

In 1993, my wife Ann and me moved to a remote part of Assam in northeast India. We were led by verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11-13 for me and Isaiah 6:8 for Ann) to what God wanted us to do with our lives. Over the following 27 years, God took us by our hands and provided us with all the encouragement, strength and wisdom required to transform a closed-down hospital to a thriving institution bringing healing and transformation to many surrounding communities. (1) We were not alone, God brought many committed staff to join us over the years to make this possible.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at six sessions on “Medical Missions” at the (virtual) South Asian regional conference of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association in November 2020. I am not an expert on medical missions but spoke from our experience in walking with God and witnessing a great transformation take place in our hospital.

Besides running hospitals, our societies and trusts often run schools and colleges as well as nursing and paramedical training programs or have the right to start schools and colleges, this is a good option to consider as there are many benefits. Our founding documents may allow us to carry out many other activities as well.

We can run community health and development programs that benefit local communities either on our own or in partnership with other agencies. A lot of information can also be gained by community observations and this can be used to make our services more accessible to our target communities.

Telling others about the impact of God’s presence in our lives is important, especially when it is this spirit that has motivated us to our lives of service. Our motivation to talk about our personal experience as Christians is due to the peace, contentment and purpose in life that it has brought us and the desire to share this with others. We must however be aware of the changing rules of our nations and know that it is not by spending our material resources into this effort that we are able to talk about the life-changing experience of accepting Christ into our lives but by people experiencing a personal touch from Him. If we can simply live lives trusting and obeying God, opportunities for people to experience such a touch will come simply because God’s spirit lives in us and He will communicate His love for people through our lives.

Some hospitals have significant land and other assets which can be developed, not only for the institution itself but for surrounding communities. Research work can also be done on biodiversity documentation and environmental work, especially when many of our hospitals are located in remote areas where little work has been done over the years. Each hospital will have its own local opportunities which it should exploit.

We should also explore training opportunities to disseminate our learnings, these could be informal or formal and in partnership with other like-minded agencies.

Our hospitals are also good sites for research that is relevant to the low-resource settings in which we function. It is certainly a challenge to engage in research activities when we are hard-pressed for time in our busy hospitals but when situations improve and opportunities come, we should take them. Our learnings should be published so that they can benefit others too.

We should count the costs of missionary work – health issues, concerns about our families – parents and children, fear and security related issues, financial concerns, worldly disgrace – these are temporary trivial inconveniences that we should be willing to face in exchange for things that money cannot buy – contentment in this world and riches in heaven.

Medical missionary life is full of uncertainty and constant challenges but God will be by our side, strengthening and encouraging us and giving us the wisdom needed to take the right decisions.

We should work together to formulate plans to help sick hospitals recover and new ones started in areas of need. I have mentioned the TIRS project which could bring to attention of funders and volunteers the good work being done in remote low-resource settings by our mission hospitals.(2,3)

I close with some concluding thoughts. I hope that this series of talks were useful to those who have listened and there are some learnings that could be applied to different situations. May God bless us all.

References:

  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/
  2. https://transformationalimpact.org/report.pdf
  3. https://transformationalimpact.org/index.html

Please click on the link below to watch the concluding talk:

Medical Missionary Work – Poor-centric Strategies

19 Feb

Christian mission hospitals should be God’s institutions of healing in a world of suffering. They have the potential to ‘close the gap’ in access to healthcare and provide high quality accessible services in the most remote and needy parts of the world to those who need them the most – the poor and marginalized.

In 1993, my wife Ann and me moved to a remote part of Assam in northeast India. We were led by verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11-13 for me and Isaiah 6:8 for Ann) to what God wanted us to do with our lives. Over the following 27 years, God took us by our hands and provided us with all the encouragement, strength and wisdom required to transform a closed-down hospital to a thriving institution bringing healing and transformation to many surrounding communities. (1) We were not alone, God brought many committed staff to join us over the years to make this possible.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at six sessions on “Medical Missions” at the (virtual) South Asian regional conference of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association in November 2020. I am not an expert on medical missions but spoke from our experience in walking with God and witnessing a great transformation take place in our hospital.

If the poor are our target population, we must enter into their world and look at healthcare options from their perspective. We must understand the social and economic conditions that drive their health-seeking behavior. When poor people come to our hospitals, should develop protocols that recognize their financial vulnerability reliably and offer them subsidy or charity before they sell vital assets. A good understanding of this ‘world of the poor’ will lead to practices and protocols which tell them that ‘this hospital is for people like us’. This will lead to large volumes of patients coming to the hospital, high capacity utilization of services resulting in further lowering of costs and transformational impact in their communities.

Pro-poor strategies are sustainable and grounded on well-established principles. We must understand the market forces that affect healthcare locally and leverage them to the advantage of the poor. Quality can be ensured without losing cost-effectiveness or sustainability. In places where healthcare indices are poor, good practices can improve them significantly without much investment due to increased volumes of excluded people beginning to access quality affordable healthcare.

We have described successful innovations which make poor-centric strategies work with our experience over the past 27 years at Makunda but there are reasons why others hesitate to adopt them. Makunda was able to overcome the initial inertia and make changes and this can happen only if we understand the reasons why people do not want to change and address them.

We should make well-thought business plans and finetune them till they are just right. If external support is needed, we should choose the right partners to work with who do not compromise on our mission and values. Many mission hospitals were established by the founders in remote locations but over many decades find themselves now in the center of towns that have grown around them facing competition from many other private and government healthcare providers. A sound business plan should also take this situation into consideration and design a strategy that will enable the work to thrive inspite of external competition.

In the question-and-answer session at the end of the talk, the questions have not been recorded in the video. They are:

  • What can we do if our staff can’t manage with our low salaries? – it is a sacrifice that staff have to bear with the only assurance that God would take care of them.
  • You mentioned that you identify poor people by how little they eat, won’t rich people do the same to get charity?
  • How can we prevent ourselves from being cheated into giving charity?
  • What are some other successful models in healthcare for the poor?
  • What can be done if we don’t have sufficient long-term staff?
  • How can we handle corruption and demands for bribes?
  • If I am interested in mission work, where can I join?

References:

  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/
  2. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342551561_The_Makunda_Model_An_Observational_Study_of_High_Quality_Accessible_Healthcare_in_Low-Resource_Settings

Medical Missionary Work – Nurturing and Motivating Students and Staff

18 Feb

Christian mission hospitals should be God’s institutions of healing in a world of suffering. They have the potential to ‘close the gap’ in access to healthcare and provide high quality accessible services in the most remote and needy parts of the world to those who need them the most – the poor and marginalized.

In 1993, my wife Ann and me moved to a remote part of Assam in northeast India. We were led by verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11-13 for me and Isaiah 6:8 for Ann) to what God wanted us to do with our lives. Over the following 27 years, God took us by our hands and provided us with all the encouragement, strength and wisdom required to transform a closed-down hospital to a thriving institution bringing healing and transformation to many surrounding communities. (1) We were not alone, God brought many committed staff to join us over the years to make this possible.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at six sessions on “Medical Missions” at the (virtual) South Asian regional conference of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association in November 2020. I am not an expert on medical missions but spoke from our experience in walking with God and witnessing a great transformation take place in our hospital.

The video starts with a short clinical illustration to show why we need to have all our faculties focused on our work lest we miss a vital observation (a point discussed in the previous day’s question and answer session).

Where will our staff come from? – this is a burning question facing most mission hospital leaders. We cannot wait for people to apply for jobs in our hospital, we need to get involved in the lives of medical, nursing and paramedical students in their colleges. Only then will we have sufficient numbers of high-quality committed staff joining us. From experience 33 years earlier to the present, I talk about suggestions on how this can be done. A slip of the tongue at 6.30 – in the illustration, I meant “my mother” not “my wife”!

Mission minded students start their missionary work as students in colleges, I have mentioned several observations on how good practices lead to transformational impact in college fellowships.

What about staff who join our hospitals today? How can we engage with them so that they live and work to their full God-given potential? How do we retain committed staff in our institutions? How can we make our hospitals professionally challenging places for our staff – where they feel that their skills and knowledge are being fully utilized?

How can we provide a pleasant and fulfilling life on campus to our staff? I close the session with a story that illustrates how God can surmount the greatest obstacles and provide us with the staff we need.

  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/

Medical Missionary Work – Leadership and Human Resource Management

7 Feb

Christian mission hospitals should be God’s institutions of healing in a world of suffering. They have the potential to ‘close the gap’ in access to healthcare and provide high quality accessible services in the most remote and needy parts of the world to those who need them the most – the poor and marginalized.

In 1993, my wife Ann and me moved to a remote part of Assam in northeast India. We were led by verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11-13 for me and Isaiah 6:8 for Ann) to what God wanted us to do with our lives. Over the following 27 years, God took us by our hands and provided us with all the encouragement, strength and wisdom required to transform a closed-down hospital to a thriving institution bringing healing and transformation to many surrounding communities. (1) We were not alone, God brought many committed staff to join us over the years to make this possible.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at six sessions on “Medical Missions” at the (virtual) South Asian regional conference of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association in November 2020. I am not an expert on medical missions but spoke from our experience in walking with God and witnessing a great transformation take place in our hospital.

The video (link below) starts with a few comments on questions raised by participants in the previous day’s session (this can be skipped by starting the video at 04.30). The first comment is on cost vs benefit of different healthcare interventions.  I have explained the expenditure against population covered using 3 slides – maybe difficult to understand without the background discussion! This is followed by a few points on Christian private practice and marriage before the talk on leadership and human resource management.

In this third session, we will look at leadership in mission hospitals – please skip to 04.30 on the video.  In this talk, I have spoken about ‘Title’ and ‘Towel’ leaders, management/governance structure, suggestions for recruitment and retention of staff and succession planning.

I have made a few references in the session – on marriage (2), online course on governance in health (3)

  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/
  2. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2012/05/22/wisely-choosing-a-life-partner-for-an-aspiring-medical-missionary/
  3. https://www.globalhealthlearning.org/course/governance-and-health-101

In the question and answer session at the end, only the answers have been put into the video. The questions were:

  1. Should I consider Government service or a corporate hospital as a place of work if God is calling me there?
  2. How important is Quiet Time?
  3. Who were your mentors?
  4. What is the place of Urban Medical Missions?

Medical Missionary Work – Strategic Planning and Stock-taking

3 Feb

Christian mission hospitals should be God’s institutions of healing in a world of suffering. They have the potential to ‘close the gap’ in access to healthcare and provide high quality accessible services in the most remote and needy parts of the world to those who need them the most – the poor and marginalized.

In 1993, my wife Ann and me moved to a remote part of Assam in northeast India. We were led by verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11-13 for me and Isaiah 6:8 for Ann) to what God wanted us to do with our lives. Over the following 27 years, God took us by our hands and provided us with all the encouragement, strength and wisdom required to transform a closed-down hospital to a thriving institution bringing healing and transformation to many surrounding communities. (1) We were not alone, God brought many committed staff to join us over the years to make this possible.

I was privileged to be invited to speak at six sessions on “Medical Missions” at the (virtual) South Asian regional conference of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association in November 2020. I am not an expert on medical missions but spoke from our experience in walking with God and witnessing a great transformation take place in our hospital.

In this second session, we will look at areas of medical mission work that are not taught in medical college. How do we take stock of the situation in our hospitals and make wise plans for the future?

At the end of the session, I have answered questions from the group. Unfortunately, the recording does not include the questions (only the answers). The questions are:

  1. How do we manage burnout in our staff? – sometimes we really are physically exhausted beyond out capacity but often there are other reasons.
  2. How do we manage differences in opinion with other senior officers of the institution? – we can’t win arguments, but we need to win hearts.
  3. What can we do if there are irreconcilable differences with our partners? – we can list out our differences and give time for change, sometimes we may need to break the partnership.
  4. What do you do when workloads become too much to bear? – God will give strength from above – through verses, songs, people…
  5. Do we need to be serious about our work at all times, can we entertain ourselves too? – it is a tremendous responsibility to treat patients, their lives are in our hands and we cannot afford to be careless.
  6. When can we stop learning? – Never!
  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/

Medical Missionary Work – for the Allied Health Professional

2 Feb

Allied Health Professionals (pharmacists, laboratory and other technicians, optometrists, neurophysiologists etc.) are often the unheard and unseen background support system of our mission hospitals. I thank the Christian Medical Association of India for inviting me to speak to them at their 2020 Annual Conference for Allied Health Professionals. I have spoken from our experience at the Makunda Christian Leprosy and General Hospital over 27 years – a testament to God’s blessings and the hard work of numerous co-workers (1). I hope that this video is an encouragement to allied health professionals (and students) in Christian mission hospitals all over the world. May God bless them and make them a blessing to many. I apologize for short segments of the recording that are inaudible (it was recorded over the internet).

  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/

Medical Missionary Work – Introduction, Attitudes and Promise

31 Jan

Christian mission hospitals should be God’s institutions of healing in a world of suffering. They have the potential to ‘close the gap’ in access to healthcare and provide high quality accessible services in the most remote and needy parts of the world to those who need them the most – the poor and marginalized.

In 1993, my wife Ann and me moved to a remote part of Assam in northeast India. We were led by verses in the Bible (Jeremiah 29:11-13 for me and Isaiah 6:8 for Ann) to what God wanted us to do with our lives. Over the following 27 years, God took us by our hands and provided us with all the encouragement, strength and wisdom required to transform a closed-down hospital to a thriving institution bringing healing and transformation to many surrounding communities. (1) We were not alone, God brought many committed staff  to join us over the years – without them this transformation would not have been possible.

I was privileged to be invited to speak on the theme “Medical Missions” at the (virtual) South Asian regional conference of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association in November 2020. I am not an expert on medical missions but spoke from our experience in walking with God and witnessing a great transformation take place in our hospital as well as from observations on medical missions over many years.

The first session is here – I have given a short testimony, an introduction to medical missions and suggest several important attitudes to cultivate to be fruitful in God’s service:

  1. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2020/09/30/a-journey-of-faith/
  2. https://the-sparrowsnest.net/2014/04/28/attitudes-to-cultivate-for-the-aspiring-medical-missionary/