The Burden of My Heart Pt 2
A Message from MedSend President and CEO, Rick Allen
I experienced a transformative moment sitting in a conference room at the Southeast Christian Church, in Louisville, Kentucky. I was attending a session at the Global Mission Healthcare Conference (GMHC) in 2018. The GMHC has been generously sponsored by Southeast Christian Church for many years and is the most important annual gathering of the healthcare mission community. The conference is highly encouraging for the several thousand healthcare professionals, the majority young, who converge to consider how they might find a place in healthcare missions.
It was in one of those sessions, as it was wrapping up, that I spoke to the individual sitting next to me. I do not remember what we talked about, but it led us to grab a sofa in the lobby to get to know each other. That is how I first met Dr. Jim Ritchie.
JIM RITCHIE, MD
At that time Jim was a missionary physician serving in Kenya. Like myself, I found out he was a second career professional. His first career had been serving for 25 years in the US Navy as a physician. He had trained in emergency medicine and those skills were put to use during two tours in Afghanistan during the war, once at the very beginning and once during “The Surge”. He experienced the mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges of delivering healthcare in a war zone.
After returning to the U.S., Jim was compelled to study what is referred to as “moral injury”. It can be as debilitating as PTSD but was not well understood. Unlike PTSD there were no diagnostic and treatment models available. Jim became an expert in the field and was asked to present his findings at the Pentagon.
When Jim retired from the military he felt called to missionary service. He and his family moved to a hospital in Kenya and once there, he noticed that many of his fellow healthcare missionaries were exhibiting symptoms of PTSD and moral injury.
Ultimately, Jim recognized within himself the behaviors and challenges of what he had become an expert at identifying in others– PTSD and moral injury. He decided to move his family back to the US and seek help.
When I heard of this, I recalled our conversation at the GMHC and immediately reached out.
I had spent the last several years looking to determine how MedSend might use its resources and relationships to improve the length of time a healthcare missionary served in the field and help make the time serving our Lord an enriching and fulfilling experience. I had long ago concluded that we needed to address the burnout we were seeing. Jim put a name to it: “moral injury”.
Our grant recipients are people in their twenties and thirties who experience trauma as missionaries that will remain with them the rest of their lives, and nothing was being done about it. I knew too much to allow this to continue to happen. I asked Jim if he would join MedSend to help define and implement a plan. In 2021 he agreed. Today Jim heads up the MedSend Longevity Project*.
THE BIRTH OF THE LONGEVITY PROJECT
Jim and I spent time considering what model would be most effective. We immediately committed to not building out a service model within MedSend, but to use the highly competent organizations we already had relationships with to deliver the services.
We concluded a self-care model where the missionary can select the type and level of care they need at any given time would be best. Further we decided that a model where the missionary paid a nominal sum to participate would serve them well. The model would offer a one-year grant that would expire if not used. This encourages the missionary to use the grant every year for self-care.
For several years MedSend has been offering options to improve the healthcare missionaries experience. We partnered with CMDA (Christian Medical & Dental Associations®) to train coaches, who were past healthcare missionaries, so they could come alongside new missionaries. We were sending new grant recipients to a CMDA created weeklong pre-field course. In addition, we created a retreat in partnership with our member care/mental health partners that was specific to healthcare missionaries and the experiences they face.
We have taken these and other service and care offerings and bundled them to create the MedSend Longevity Project. We will be launching the program in early 2023.
On behalf of the entire MedSend team we pray that you, and those you love, will be blessed throughout 2023.
Healthcare remains the only form of access as a Christian witness in many countries.
Your gift helps activate the movement of God's people to the field. Will you join us in ensuring that eager Christ-following health professionals are able to serve the Lord through global healthcare missions.
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