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The Light of Life Magazine
A ministry of Christian writing




March 2009
MISSION - FUEL ITS FLAME!


George Varghese

In our desire to keep our mission hospitals functional and financially viable, we seem to be moving away from what used to be The Call. When I was a medical student, there were many meetings emphasising the fact that God calls people to mission and we were challenged to respond to this call. There was much talk about the cost of discipleship and the need to trust God for our lives. Now things are changing. It is more about management techniques, professionalism, and carrot and stick approach. If we look at our institutions, which used to be places of witnessing because of the staff that had a sense of Calling, the emphasis is moving towards efficiency, productivity and contribution to the financial state. Instead of servants, we now have masters and professionals whose interests are with numbers and data and colorful statistics. Have we moved away from being called to those who come for all other reasons except this sense of call? Even if someone had this call, it soon fades away in the mission field. Todayís mission field can be a killing field too. Trust and family feelings are replaced by impersonal attitudes. There seems to be a deep dissatisfaction all around. Many put up with this due to personal reasons. For many, there are no other alternatives at the moment. The management is happy as long as the wheel is moving. A good number of staff stays in the mission for their childrenís sake. They have the right connections and know when to make the move. They put up with difficulties because they see tomorrow. Trust in God is replaced by what can be achieved through personal contacts. Survival is their priority!

The Trend

Many of our institutions have become like the government machinery. A business attitude has replaced the ever-willing desire and readiness to help people and be of help to others in need. That natural basic fellow-feeling has disappeared. Loving the neighbours may mean, in this context, loving fellow workers. Now, some people matter more than others. Empathy is a rare action. We employ professionals to assess the empathy level that needs to be exercised. We are afraid of being taken advantage of; so we are taught to be cautious in all our dealings. No one can be trusted. We are not really better than the world around. Where has the love and care gone?

Are we not a people of a counter culture where values are taken from Jesus of Nazareth?

When we talk of mission and going to difficult places, we talk of hardship. In every part of our country, there are people from other parts working cross-culturally and making a living. There are shop-keepers, teachers, tailors, barbers and all sorts of people living and working in the most isolated countryside. What about the government employees? They too go wherever they are sent. What is their motivation? They get better paid. So, it is money! But we profess to believe in a great God!! So, why the reluctance and all the fuss about serving Him in isolated places? We are not motivated enough and not convinced about Godís call. Yes, we have other alternatives. This is the reality. Other things assume priority. We are educated and taught to think. Our families have expectations. We need to make our future happen. The broad way is welcoming. This world is good enough. Why take the risk?

The Mission Hospital

What about our place of work? High tech curative medicine is very glamorous. If we look at all the various advertisements in magazines for mission hospitals, they all want super specialists. They are needed to make money. We do not give much value for those who prevent morbidity and mortality through health education. A cardiac surgeon who can do a by-pass has greater value and needs greater capital investment and worshipped as an irreplaceable god. Yet a family physician that prevents many heart attacks by helping people to change their life-styles, do not get the needed recognition. Both curative and preventive systems need equal remuneration and acknowledgement in the mission setup. In our trend to keep pace with medical care outside, we have lost the things that have value. Ordinary simple doctors can contribute much to give basic good quality care to a majority of our patients; so why donít we value them? Why donít we nurture them? Where is our team spirit gone?

We need each other to create an atmosphere of caring around us.

Bureaucracy

We have many management gurus who bring in their secular thoughts and we embrace them happily. Some of these thoughts are useful, but they need to be redeemed. We do not take time to look at these through Jesusí mind and His teachings. There is a place for better management of resources. We also need good training to be efficient in what we do. This is vital. Good care includes good quality care. What is the end or goal of our activities? So much of our time is taken by paper and computer work. What are we doing with all this data? Is it really helping us to become better people for the Call? Are we becoming more Christ-like in our dealings and relationships? Are we making the mission set up an attractive and welcoming place or a repulsive place? We have mechanisms to do appraisal of employees, but what about the employees appraising the employer? Are we scared to ask for this?

The Training Institutions

What about our training institutions? They also seem to have lost their priority to train people for mission. Many of the graduates are caught up in their pursuit for academic excellence and greater status in society; they become misfits or over-qualified for mission. Our academic institutions have a poor opinion about those who work in the mission as if they are providing second-class care! It is possible to give excellent medical care without the sophistication of super-specialties. They indirectly discourage enthusiastic young people by devaluing mission. Many people find life without the best and the latest in the medical world. Is it possible for our academic institutions to show compassion to the mission?

And Us

Why are we not able to motivate committed and efficient people for the mission? There are many short-term people available. Is it just for a taste of missionóto get a good feeling? But why is long term not an option? Why are we not able to attract young people to difficult places? Is it lack of awareness? Is it pressure from home? Is it the poor report of the missionís way of functioning? How many enthusiastic people have vowed not to go back to the mission because of their bitter experiences and poor relationship with the management? How many young doctors are put down and humiliated by seniors in the mission field for personal reasons, thus destroying their spirits forever?

Many ĎChristianí doctors have no personal faith in the Gospel. Many believing people have such high expectations about mission, and the reality shocks them. Is it not because they never met the risen Lord? They have not found the pearl of great price? Are we diluting the Call of the Master in our desperation to get staff for the work? Where has the spirit of adventure gone? Many sponsoring agencies have poor screening methods to select candidates, thus weakening the quality of candidates for mission. Church politics and favouritism play a major role; later, various role models at the training place influence them either way.

Have we developed a condescending attitude towards the poor in our work place and see them as a nuisance? Our desire to be professional may be moving us away from being professionals in servanthood. Ultimately it is a matter of faith. It is the same old scheme of the devil. We have been programmed to believe that God cannot be trusted. We need to be smart and feel secure and our children should have a good future. God jargon is a good cover up among our circle of friends. A lot of our institutions will survive till their appointed time; then they will become just a memory.

The Way Forward

What is the way forward? We can continue the way we are and pat each otherís backs.

We can move with the times and become business enterprises. We have much of the world and enough of the religious outlook to make us uncomfortable with the business model. Many are not good enough to run businesses. We are misfits in the business world.

We can also reassess and re-evaluate our motives. This takes a lot of honesty and soul searching. It needs humility and an attitude of forgiveness to start afresh. We need help to look at ourselves and at what we are doing. Are we really needed? Are we keeping our institutions alive for our own survival? Do we have a future and an identity apart from these structures? Team spirit and the joy of working together need to be given priority and strengthened through modelling.

We Can Change

The Church is losing its saltiness and its institutions are losing its light. Can we honestly sit together and listen to each other? Can self-promotion and controlling attitudes be replaced by true humility and compassion? Can we become more than just professionals and more humane? Can we catch ďThe Mission Spirití again? Where does God Fit in with our plans? Or how do we fit in with His plans? Even though I focussed on mission institutions, especially the ones that are involved in health care, I feel the need of the hour is for individuals to have a mission in their lives. Many people have no focus in life. They are drifting. We need to think about creating Health Care Teams (HCT) as an alternative to institutional set ups and encouraging them to become viable small groups in needy places in our country. The support group can organise ongoing help in terms of training and CME. Bigger institutions can adopt these HCTs and provide their surplus equipment to start the work. We need to share our resources as an expression of our solidarity with HCT to bring good care to needy people. There need to be networking and good-will to make this happen.

Think And Pray

It is important to take time to think about the gifts and opportunities God has given to each one. We do not have to be in a traditional mission setup to be doing Godís will. The question is, what do I want to do and how does it fit in with what I believe to be Godís Call, and to have the conviction and the courage to go on with His mission. We hear many voices and we no longer hear God clearly. Even if we hear, we soon numb it with Ďreasonableí excuses. The thorny ground is very real. Our hearts may lose the sensitivity to the gentle whisper of The Spirit. In the loudness of the world around us, how can we discern the voice of the one calling for labourers? Has God stopped speaking? No! God has not stopped speaking. It is for us to attune ourselves to His voice, to pray for revival and for vision, to join others who have similar dreams, to be agents for change in Jesusí style.

Donít Drop The Baton

I am coming to the end of my race. As I look back, I realise that I too have made many mistakes in my life and in the mission field. There were situations in which I could have been much more gracious. I could have given more time to people around and tried to understand them. I could have been more kind and gone the extra mile to help. I could have redeemed a failing brother. I could have listened to others and made better decisions. I could have avoided much heartache, if only I had put aside my selfishness. I avoided people who challenged my style of functioning and saw them as enemies and made a mental note to get them outside my circle. Many times I was afraid of losing control. I thought my ways were better and had the final answer. I spent too much time judging, thus forgot to love them. I have learnt the hard way, through experience and prayer. But to please God, I have tried to love and serve Him. Both Sheila and I share this common vision. I thank God for her.

Sheila and I graduated from CMC, Ludhiana. We have worked together in Lady Willingdon Hospital, Manali for 30 years. I thank God for the wonderful team of staff who joined us and our two beautiful daughters who have grown up with us here. We have become part of the social community of Kulu Valley. We could not have asked for more.

In this fallen world, some things may not change. Our own sinfulness adds to the way we function and dysfunction. To manage institutions in Christís name, we need much wisdom, humility and grace. We need to value people more than money and material. We who profess to know a real God need to take Him seriously and look at His ways of doing things and handling people.

I do not have all the answers. But something in me tells me that we all need to change. We need to start somewhere. I think the place to start is Hearing God again. This also means a willingness to obey and take the narrow way. ďDo whatever He tells youí was Maryís suggestion to people around. There is no better word for Mission too.

No turning back.




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