For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
Recently, I was telling a group of students about the LCMS Mercy Medical Team program. One of them raised her hand and asked, “Why do you do this? It’s not sharing the gospel. It’s just good works.” That stung a little bit.
I’ve changed my presentation a bit since then. Now, each time I stand before a group, before I bring out the photos and the stories, I pause. And I answer that question. Why are we doing this? What is the reason we ask busy people to spend their money travelling half way around the world?
Short answer? We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19).
Longer answer? We show mercy to our brothers and sisters because God has shown mercy to us. It’s our response to God’s love and grace. With Christ as our example, mercy flows through us and we serve our neighbors. A good explanation of the Theology of Mercy can be found here.
LCMS Mercy Medical Teams very intentionally operate only at the invitation of the local Lutheran church body, and with the approval of the LCMS regional director. We are very fortunate to have our LCMS missionaries and field personnel available to help us structure our work in a way that is helpful and beneficial to our partners.
We provide medical services that are not available through other sources locally. This is very different than, say, painting a building that was just painted last year and will be painted again next year by another group. There are numerous stories of patients who would have died without the intervention of a MMT, many of whom give the glory to our Lord for their healing and our presence.
Short term missionaries turn into career missionaries. Without exception, MMT participants describe their experience as “life-changing,” sharing with me their story of how the trip has strengthened their faith. I know of at least two recent participants who are planning to pursue a career in missions as a result of their participation on a MMT.
Yes, medical missionaries do good works. Our team members do good works. But we are doing it as Christ’s hands and feet, as a response to God’s mercy and grace and forgiveness. It is sharing the gospel by example, and opens a door to let us share Christ’s love in other ways. A terminally ill patient asks to pray with a team member, or a local authority asks why we are in his town. At our clinic, perhaps a family talks to the local pastor and hears about baptism. We don’t know how God will use our presence in the community, but we do know that He uses it abundantly. And thanks be to Him for that!
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7