USA (MNN) — Medical missions. It’s a way for Christians to go into foreign fields to provide much-needed health car. It has also been an open door to share the Gospel literally around the world, especially in closed countries.
While the strategy is a good one, just how good is it?
MedSend is an organization that provides debt relief for missionaries when they go and serve on the field. In other words, they pay their student loans in exchange for missions work overseas. They connect with 73 different mission organizations and have given over $17 million through 500 grants in the last 20 years.
The ministry commissioned a study called Helping Healthcare Missionaries Flourish: Global Health Workers Needs Assessment Report. Doctor Mark Strand, Professor at North Dakota State University, headed up the research project. “They’re concerned about things like attrition, individuals going out and only serving a limited period of time, and also concerned about whether the organizations are accommodating the special needs of the medical missionaries.”
Strand says there was good and bad news in the study. “95% of the missionaries still on the field report that they are seeing lives transformed and seeing the opportunity to use their medicine to have an impact on the Gospel. Interestingly, that was a lower number for those who have left the field.”
Job satisfaction for medical missionaries is also high. “Job satisfaction [for] medical doctors in the U.S., their job satisfaction is going down. Yet, these missionaries who are serving in the field: 93% of them are satisfied with their role.” 85% of people who left the field were satisfied in the work.
Strand says it wasn’t all good news, though. “Of those still on the field, 53% of them said that their role that they are performing is not consistent with what they expected when they came out, and 62% of those who have left the field reported that. And, we believe that that does contribute to those individuals choosing to leave the field.”
Of the training assessment by medical missionaries, mentoring was tops on their list, says Strand. It is important, “especially when they first go out, to put them in a good role and then to mentor them and to support them for the first few years until they can become effective. I think there’s more work that could be done there.”
Only 18% of the respondent sending agencies actually provided mentors. Strand says, “They’re kind of stuck to forge ahead on their own, or maybe with a coworker or two. But they’re not getting the kind of guided apprenticeship type of experience that I think they need when they go into these situations that are very different professionally, emotionally, and spiritually.”
The report also addresses attrition rates and the reasons for leaving the field, the need for medical missionaries, role satisfaction, and the surprising data that suggests some attrition could have been prevented.
For those who might be called to be a medical missionary, Strand suggests the following: “Visit the organization and the sight they’re considering and the organization they’re considering joining: pay attention to whether the vision of the organization seriously incorporates the medical piece into the vision. And, see if they’ll be supported by a mentor.”
If you’d like to request a copy of the report: “Helping Healthcare Missionaries Flourish: Global Health Workers Needs Assessment Report” by Mark A. Strand and Amber Wood, click here to request it.
Listen to the full interview below.