The history of the Center for the Study of Health in Mission is in part a short one but in part is an idea that has been peripherally on the minds of many who are involved in the complex work of health related missions for a very long time. God has always had the health of His people as a foremost concern. His Son of course exemplifies the approach we all wish we could more closely emulate. He and His disciples went about their work of preaching and healing without any dichotomy to their approach of announcing the coming of God’s kingdom to earth.
The history of “medical” missions is a long and storied one filled with much success but also dotted with failures as a dualistic view of caring for the world’s poor seeped into the approaches used to “heal” the sick. But recent thinking has begun to shift towards a more holistic approach to ministry and many are thinking more critically about the approach used in their health related missions work.
The annual Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, has been a center for sharing ideas and hearing about what others are doing around the world. During the 2006 conference Greg Seager and Mike Soderling had a converation that sparked some serious thinking about the state of short term medical missions and the potential for doing good that was going unrealized. While Greg was working with Mercy Ships they had come up with 10 questions that every short term medical team should be asking themselves.
Next year during a similar health conference on the west coast started by Dr Peter Yorgin and inspird by the GMHC, similar discussions took place between Mike Soderling and Dr Yorgin. Also contributing to the establishment of the idea for this center was the work of Jenny Collins and the team at Standards of Excellence (SOE). Jenny greatly enhanced our understanding of the issues surrounding the use and abuse that can happen from what has become a tsunami of short term “missions” teams going all over the globe. In further discussions with many others it was apparent that rather than continue complaining about this state of affairs something should be done to help those doing health related mission activities do them with excellence. A core group was formed which included Drs Yorgin and Soderling as well as Grace Tazellar from NCF, Dr Dan O’Neill a Family Practice specialist from Connecticut, and Dr Arnold Gorske a retired Family Practioner from California.
The initial thrust was to compile a set of “Best Practices” for short term health related missions but the vision grew as it became apparent that something even more involved was being sought after by many. The idea for “The Center for the Study of Health in Mission” was discussed with many well respected health related mission experts during a special meeting during the 2009 Global Missions Health Conference in Louisville, Kentucky and all were in agreement that such a center would be a valuable resource to anyone doing health related mission work. Since then the core group mentioned above has been developing this center to serve the global church so that together we can deepen our understanding of health and the churches role in health and healing.