by Will Rogers
Does being a medical missionary mean you have to go overseas? Is serving in the United States any different than just living your normal life in America? In this post, we want to cover all things related to medical mission trips in the USA. I want to give you three areas where you can serve and some options for you to consider as you think about your role. My hope is that you will be encouraged and challenged to serve and use your skills in the US.
Here are several areas where you can serve in medical mission trips in the USA:
#1 Rural hospitals and clinics
For one example, see Dayspring Health Center in Appalachia where GMHC speaker and resource contributor, Geogy Thomas serves. God started to impress upon Geogy the plight of the rural poor and the disparities of the healthcare system in America. That took him to a rural clinic on the Kentucky/Tennessee border.
In 1952, times were tough in rural Appalachian communities due to the closing of many of the local coal mines. Medical services were meager at best. The story of Dayspring began in this setting. The United Mine Workers Association and the American Medical Association worked with local community leaders to address the lack of adequate health care. The first full-time physician began seeing patients in August 1954, charging $2 a visit.
Today, patients are still being seen in this underserved area, where the staff promotes full health—physical, spiritual, mental, and economic—of the communities they serve.
#2 Urban clinics
One example of an urban clinic is Christ Community Health Services, where healthcare staff are filling the physical, spiritual, emotional needs of the underserved, the uninsured, and the homeless in the Memphis, Tennessee region.
Christ Community strategically entered Memphis communities over 25 years ago that had become deficient in resources and services. Many of the neighborhood residents lacked access to healthcare resulting in manageable health issues going untreated and undiagnosed.
Christ Community is standing in the gap, delivering quality healthcare and spiritual healing to those in their community who need it most. When patients enter the doors of Christ Community, they feel the love and hope for their lives and their healing. Patients who enter the doors of Christ Community are treated with dignity and respect, along with spiritual healing and the opportunity to experience God’s love in prayer.
#3 Faith-based clinics
One example is Lawndale Christian Health Center, where the mission is to show and share the love of Jesus by promoting wellness and providing quality, affordable healthcare for an under-resourced community in the Chicago area. The median income in Lawndale is $22,383 and the clinic was started because members of a local church had virtually no access to healthcare in their area.
Members of the church and neighborhood began to hold meetings to discuss ways they could meet the needs of their own community. At the top of their list was a desire to address the lack of affordable, quality healthcare services in North Lawndale and on the West Side of Chicago.
The church was able to buy a building, a small clinic, and a full-size basketball court for the community to enjoy. Today, that dream has expanded to over 100 medical providers across six clinic locations. The organizational values of Lawndale are an extension of the Christian Community Development philosophy, embodied by the “3 R’s”: Relocation, Reconciliation, and Redistribution:
Additional options for service in the USA.
The Center for Disease Control has statistics in infant and maternal mortality by race in the US.
In 2018, infant mortality rates by race and ethnicity were as follows:
The U.S. has an official maternal mortality rate of 17.4 deaths per 100,000 births in 2018. Wide racial and ethnic gaps exist between non-Hispanic black (37.3 deaths per 100,000 live births), non-Hispanic white (14.9), and Hispanic (11.8) women.
Now, according to Healthy People 2020, health disparities, such as infant and maternal mortality, are health differences that are closely linked with social, economic, or environmental disadvantage.
The social determinants of health are conditions in the environments in which people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship, and age that affect a wide range of health. Resources that enhance the quality of life can have a significant influence on population health outcomes.
Examples of these resources include safe and affordable housing, access to education, public safety, availability of healthy foods, local emergency/health services, and environments free of life-threatening toxins. There are many options to serve in the US. Noting the statistics above, the US is in desperate need of loving, compassionate healthcare providers.
Join a community like Christian Community Health Fellowship (CCHF), where about half of the people who make up the CCHF community work in secular settings—community health clinics, universities, residency programs, and so on.
They are there because of a conviction that this is where they are meant to serve Christ’s mission to bring healing and comfort to the poor, and to represent His kingdom in word and deed. The other half of the CCHF community work in faith-based clinics that strive to provide distinctively Christian care. Each clinic has a unique idea about what it means to deliver Christian care, but everyone strives to be authentic to their calling in Christ.
Lastly, for a few more ideas on how you can serve in the U.S., if you are considering a residency program, consider a faith-based program such as In His Image Family Medicine Residency, where they focus on the underserved, Via Christi Family Medicine Residency, where they train doctors to effectively serve the poorest and most underserved people of this world., or Cahaba Family Medicine Residency Program, which has both an urban and rural track.
My hope in reading this post is that you note that being a medical missionary doesn’t mean you have to go overseas. You can serve in medical missions in the USA as well. There are so many needs for your skills and giftings, so consider how God might be calling you to serve in the United States on His mission. The above options and ideas will help you get started in knowing where some of the greatest needs are.