Friday, September 27, 2013

Good Medicine: A Cultural Perspective

What is good medical care? 

I recently was encouraged to get some tests done due to a pre-existing issue 12 years ago (angioplasty in 2001).   Since I was going to India, I decided that I would wait until I got over there as it would be much cheaper than in the states.  A friend of mine was a bit irritated with my decision, implying that I was risking my health “on the cheap.”  His belief was that the best care is measured by how much you pay; the old adage “you get what you pay for.”  Spend the money and I will get good care was the implication, go cheap and I will likely regret it in the long term.

After our conversation I thought about my time in Kenya.   Africans have the concept that for medicine to really be good it has to taste really bad.  A story is told of some Ethiopian tribesmen who visited a missionary and told them they had malaria.  This missionary wasn’t a doctor, but 40 years ago they thought all foreigners were so they regularly visited this missionary's home asking for medicine.  Lyle told them men to wait outside and in a few minutes he came back with quinine tablets.  He gave each of them three tablets and told them to chew them real slowly.  If you know anything about quinine tablets, they are excruciating bitter.  These Ethiopians did as the missionary suggested and their faces went into contortions, eyes watering as they gasped for air.  After the ordeal, they went back to their village declaring to their friends that they received the best medicine from missionary that day!

The cost of health care in the U.S. is outrageous.  I would suggest bordering on criminal.  Between the insurance and drug companies, doctors and hospitals, a person’s livelihood is one diagnosis away from financial ruin.  Paying more doesn’t mean its better medical care, anymore than bad tasting medicine is better medicine.  

In the end I had the procedure in India in when of the most famous hospitals in the south.  It cost me a fraction of the cost as in the sates.  True, the facilities looked like a WWII ward and they didn’t provide food, soap or a towel.  But the doctor who did the angiogram on me has preformed over 5,000 over his many years in medicine.  All the doctors were as professional as anyone you would find in the states. 

My wife had a heart attack 15 months ago.  Her cardiologist was fine Hindu doctor from India.  I could have had my test taken in the states and let an Indian in America doctor treat me and pay $20K, but instead let a good Indian doctor in India do the honors for less than $1K.  Good medical care is indeed important, but it’s many times a cultural perspective. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

People Group Studies

No matter how many times I try to explain our ministry it never seems to quite click with so many people.  The reason is because it so different than most teaching/discipling programs that is associated with church or missions.  I could say I teach missions, but that would only tell part of the story.  I could say I teach cross-cultural studies and anthropology, which is true, but what does that mean?

This week I am in Nepal teaching at the Kathmandu Institute of TheologyK(KIT).  It’s an extension campus, not affiliated with any denomination working on accreditation through other academic programs.  The students are already in ministry as pastors or working with Christian organizations.  They are overwhelmingly bi-vocational, working outside jobs for their daily bread.  KIT has a nominal enrollment fee and depends on professors, like myself, to provide their own transportation, accommodations and food.  I don’t usually take these types of assignments but glad I did for this project.

In each teaching assignment, whether it be for a DMin class or a non-formal training venue, I ask my students to find a group of people NOT from their caste, tribe or linguistic group, and do a research project on that people group.  In their paper they are to learn about the people’s religion, customs, history and even economics.  From that research paper they are to come up with a strategy of mission to reach those people.  Because I am with a class between two to three weeks and, because the scarcity of library research, the papers are not very comprehensive.   In spite of the limitations due to time and resources, I still believe this class is significant.

1.   It opens the students to new ideas on who, where and how to do ministry.  Probably 90% or more of my students have never even thought about cross-cultural ministry. 

2.  It gives them insight that they can reach ALL of their community, not just people from their own ethnic background.

Last week I asked them to give me a one-paragraph description of the people group they have chosen to do research on.  Here are some of those groups described the students.

a.     Tharu community – “They are the lower class people and are like slave to upper class people.”
b.     Rauate – “Almost naked people who live in the forest eating herbs and wild animals.
c.      Magar – “Live in western Nepal, say they are Hindus but really animists.”
d.     Sherpa tribe – “Live in the Himalayan, Tibetan Buddhist.”
e.     Chepan – “Tibeto-Burman people numbering about 52,000.  Often characterized as the poorest of the poor.”
f.      Nepali Muslim community.
g.     Madhesi Muslims.
h.     The Chhetri and Brahmin. “They are mostly priests and businessmen.”

Will all of them really do ministry on these groups?  Probably not, but at least by doing research on these people they will be more aware of the community that is around them.  Perhaps God will touch the heart of a few to give their lives to be missionaries to these groups.

As I read the proposed project papers the Lord reminded me, again, why I do what I do.  Many may not understand the purpose of teaching nationals how to cross cultural boundaries to take the Gospel, but I am indeed grateful that he has allowed me to do this unique and vital work.