Dear Christian Healthcare Ministries: Don’t Waste This Crisis!
Christian healthcare ministries are facing many of the same challenges that other organizations around the world are facing in 2020: We weren’t expecting this. How can we possibly do x, y, or z virtually? Our budget did not include COVID!
Dr. Peter Saunders is the CEO of the International Christian Medical and Dental Association. Based in the UK, he leads an organization that exists to start and strengthen Christian national and dental movements. A key part of their work is to train leaders and encourage national meetings and conferences. They hold regional training events, conferences, and congresses. In-person fellowship and events were always a core part of their operations. Like any other organization, they have been forced by the COVID-19 pandemic to change their way of doing things.
Dr. Saunders offers an interesting perspective on the situation. He’s working to find other ways to foster connections, share the gospel, and prepare for a different kind of future. He recently shared some of his experiences and insights during an interview with Mike Chupp, CEO of the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA).
The Initial Shock
International travel is a big part of the job when you’re directing a global organization. Last year, Dr. Saunders traveled to 18 countries, meeting with Christian doctors and dentists. Many trips had already been planned for 2020, but, by springtime, a slew of them had been suddenly cancelled.
As he spoke with leaders from other Christian healthcare ministries around the world, Dr. Saunders heard many different reports about the local impact of COVID-19. He said he realized “It’s like we’re all in the same storm, but we’re all in different boats.” It struck him that, even in this time of globalization, every nation state seemed to be attacking the problem in its own way.
“It’s the same disease,” he said, “but different in every country.” Different measures were yielding different results. Still, everyone was still facing the same basic question: What do we do now?
Regroup and Adapt
The only thing that could be done was to retool the plan.
After an initial re-evaluation period, Dr. Saunders said, “We decided…that we would try to use the crisis of COVID as a real opportunity to…gear up in a different way.”
Saunders’ team began by creating a COVID-19 information page, an internet portal to the best COVID resources, both Christian and medical. They also created a blog and invited people from all around the world to write posts on COVID-related issues.
Soon after, they started putting together bi-weekly bulletins of important information for busy doctors. Then, they launched a twice-weekly webinar series on critical care in COVID patients. A distance learning program was next; students could sign up for online classes in Family Medicine.
Conferences that were scheduled to be held in person were changed to virtual formats. A conference in the UK that was supposed to have 360 attendees in person was moved online; after the switch, over 700 people were able to attend. “It was wonderful,” Dr. Saunders said. “People were finding different ways to meet.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has sped up the development of many of these different programs, Dr. Saunders said. “It’s encouraging us to work in all these different ways. And, it’s almost like God is saying, ‘Well, don’t waste this crisis, but use it to prepare and get ready for the future…'”
One of the silver linings that Dr. Saunders has seen already is an increased number of people exploring the church. Pre-COVID, only about 6% of people in the UK went to church on Sundays. But, “Twenty-five percent have dipped into some kind of Christian church service since lockdown began,” he said. “We’re just praying that God will use this opportunity… of people asking lots of big questions about life and death and eternal purpose and meaning…. It is an opportunity for the Gospel, I think.”
He called out the technology that is available as another part of God’s amazing providence. “If this pandemic had come twenty years ago, we wouldn’t have been ready for it. We wouldn’t have had the technology to make use of it,” he said. “It’s creating wonderful connections between churches and between Christians in countries all around the world.”
“Maybe this is not the last crisis of this kind that we’re going to face,”said Dr. Saunders. ” I think it is a wonderful time of opportunity. We really need to grasp it and not waste the crisis that God, of course, is sovereign over.”
Thank you, Dr. Saunders, for sharing both your wisdom and your leadership with Christian healthcare ministries around the world!
MedSend looks forward to hosting Dr. Saunders ( virtually, of course!) at our upcoming Healthcare Missions Leadership Summit. (an invitation-only event)
“…In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33
Healthcare remains the only form of access as a Christian witness in many countries.
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