Thursday, January 31, 2013

What is a Mission Hospital?

What is a Mission Hospital?

These days, it has become politically incorrect to ask such questions! The fashionable response these days is to say that a mission hospital is any hospital in which a Christian doctor works.  And, indeed, there is a lot of truth in that statement.

A Christian doctor can work in any place God has called him to. If he is in the centre of God’s will for his life, and accomplishing the mission that God has given him, he will be a God-ambassador, and a missionary in the sphere in which God has placed him.

Today, however, I am asking a different question. What happens when an entire hospital wants to be a mission hospital? Does God have a mission for a hospital?  Is there a God-mission in which an entire hospital can participate?

Over the years, it has been my privilege to work (for varying lengths of time) in about 10 such “mission hospitals” scattered over 5 states in North and North East India. In addition, I have visited, I think, at least another 10 mission hospitals scattered over North and South India.

You could say that mission hospitals have always held a fascination for me, especially as I have watched, studied and learnt from the way they function, and reflected about the purposes they accomplish in various parts of India.

Recently, I have been thinking again about the question, “What is a Mission Hospital?”  I have dusted off an old PowerPoint presentation I made in 2007, and re-written it as a blog post. I find that writing often helps me clarify and focus my own thoughts and opinions. This is a work in progress as I seek clarity and personal direction. Please feel free to comment and respond. As we discuss, perhaps, more clarity may emerge

I think this may be part of a series of mission-hospital related posts to come....let’s see how long the creative juices keep flowing!

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
(Bilbo Baggins in The Lord Of The Rings by JRR Tolkien) 

What Is a Mission Hospital?

A hospital that claims to be a mission hospital is making a very powerful statement: It acknowledges that God has a plan for a region, and claims to be a part of God’s mission and to be collectively trying to accomplish God’s purposes in its region.

That is HUGE!

As I see it, God might have three purposes for a Mission Hospital. He would want it to:
1. Seek His Kingdom Mt 6:33
2. Serve the poor and marginalized Is 58:5-7, Is 1:17, James 2:1-9, 15-16, Job 34:19, Luke 3:11
3. Glorify His Name by running on the basis of principles put forward in His Word 1 Cor 10:31, Col 1:10, 1 Pet 4:10-11

Understanding God’s purposes is crucial if we are to fulfil them.
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don’t much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn’t matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you’re sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
(Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Chapter 6)

1.      A Mission Hospital must be Seeking God’s Kingdom. (“Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”)
This means that a mission hospital would not just be finding its vocation and purpose in treating the sick and working on the prevention of sickness. The focus of the hospital would be on seeking God’s kingdom.
The hospital would support and participate in the extension of God’s Kingdom, not just through evangelism, outreach and discipleship, but, equally importantly, through promoting Kingdom values like, for example, social justice and equality (across the sexes, castes, economic statuses). For example, a mission hospital would actively work against bonded labour and slavery, exploitation of the poor and the ‘lower castes’ and tribals and women. A mission hospital would speak up for those who do not have a voice. A mission hospital would get involved in these issues, because it has a higher definition of “Wholistic Health”.
Some mission hospitals may, additionally, also have a specialised role in a specific area. For example, a training institution seeking to be a mission hospital would seek to establish God’s kingdom by advocating in its spheres of influence (and passing on to its students) Christian values and paradigms of compassionate, ethical and competent care.

2.      A Mission Hospital must seek especially to serve the poor and marginalized. (“Let the oppressed go free”)

The priorities of a mission hospital would be radically different from the usual priorities in planning Health Care.

In a mission hospital, policy decisions would always be taken with the poor in mind. This is because God seems to have a preferential option for the poor.

The rich and poor would both be treated with dignity and get the same quality of care –the same amount of time in the OPD, same attention, respect, explanations, and reassurances. No patient would be sent away because of financial reasons. Treatment protocols would be poor friendly; diagnosis would be based on history and clinical examination, avoiding unnecessary investigations, and unnecessary and unnecessarily expensive drugs. Pharmacies would be poor friendly, stocking low cost, generic medicines rather than expensive brands. Specific strategies to help the poor may vary from hospital to hospital, but it would be clear to all looking on that the poor are the focus of the hospital.

Since there are so few serving the poor, a mission hospital would not be threatened by nursing homes, corporate hospitals and medical colleges. Its target population and priorities are very different!

3. A Mission Hospital would seek to glorify His Name by running on the basis of principles put forward in His Word. (“That in all things God may be glorified”)

For example, the finances of a mission hospital would be clean and transparent. There would be ethical policies in place regarding, for example, cuts, bribes, referrals, private practice, etc
The hospital would work on the paradigm that Christian employees of the hospital are also equal members together of Christ’s body, the Church! All levels of staff would be encouraged, as fellow-children of the Father, and fellow-heirs of the promise, to share in the vision and participate in the mission of the hospital. Hospital policies would promote this equality among the staff. For example, all staff would be free to express opinions, communicate with the administration and have fellowship together with them. The hospital would function as a team, and not as a one-man show.

The hospital and staff would be actively involved with the local church. There would be a clear understanding that the hospital is only a part of God’s body, fulfilling only a part of God’s mission in a place.

The leadership of the hospital would be in the hands of servant-leaders who are genuinely fired-up with a passion for seeing God’s Kingdom come, and have a genuine care and concern for the ones under them. They would continuously ask their target population and staff members, “How may we serve you better?”

Wow! Does this sound really idealistic and unrealistic?! Is it possible to run such a hospital in this day and age?

Let me venture to speculate on ways in which hospitals that start off with noble intentions to be mission hospitals lose their way.

Mission hospitals lose their way
1.      When the emphasis shifts from seeking God’s purposes for the hospital to following man’s ideas. 
2.      When the hospital begins to imitate others, rationalising bad decisions saying, ‘Everybody does this!’, instead of finding God’s will, and leading the way.
3.      When the emphasis becomes survival and the hospital spends its energy reacting to the urgent needs that keep popping up. (‘We need to “somehow keep this hospital running”’)
4.      When the emphasis becomes “Healing” instead of “Seeking God’s Kingdom”
5.      When the emphasis shifts from serving the poor.
Let me suggest what might happen when a hospital begins to really seek to be a “Mission Hospital”
Matthew 6 : 33 (paraphrased for the mission hospital)
When a mission hospital seeks to fulfil God’s purpose for it, and begins to seek God’s Kingdom first, it will be flooded with poor patients in the OPDs. Wards will be full and staffed with committed people, and the community it serves will be transformed. Every resource it needs to serve God’s purposes will be added on.
Luke 6 :38 (paraphrased for the mission hospital)
As it gives to the poor, it will receive all that it needs: good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Let’s keep talking......

Possibly related posts from the past:


  1. In this 'Martha' culture, it's very heartening to even see (a 'Mary' perspective) someone STOP and ponder the very 'basis'. Back to the basics, sure is the need of the hour!
    To me the very word 'Missions' seems daunting enough to grapple with...having moved out of the 'Mission hospital' into 'Missions' the questions have only become larger and louder!
    It's interesting to observe that "Missions" and "Mission Hospital" seem to be going on track as long as they are 'new' and 'small'.
    Wonder why?
    Worth wondering!

  2. Thank you so much for illuminating us and provoking creatively to think and act at this new era for Mission Hospital and Christian Helath Care

  3. I am glad that you have made an effort to correct the mistaken notion that 'church-run hospitals' are by default 'mission hospitals'!Only hospitals that align to Christ's mission and values qualify to be included in this category. In that case they would mostly be counter-culture- in the priorities,patient care, leadership style,care of staff, financial systems etc! Can we explore this further and see models emerging in our country that can truly be called 'MISSION'?

  4. Pradeep, old man, you have the theory down to a T. From what I have seen from my 'vast' experience of mission hospitals is that there are many who work their whole lives seeking to live by this 'mission'. But practically, in a mission hospital, it is rather difficult. I am sure that those working in mission hospitals will say the same. Either the world pulls too much as we grow larger, or the 'mission' becomes so strong that it turns into self-righteousness that confuses us. I see both these extremes in myself too, whenever I think I am a 'mission' doctor. Sorry to be so negative!! I still have hope that the Christian church can recapture health care from the corporates, though it requires a depth of humility and nearness to God that even saints will struggle with. The evil around us and within us is so strong that we are sucked in without realising it. Will there be a model that Dr. Manoj is calling for? I hope and pray so, but I feel a little disillusioned......

  5. Hey! Just realised you were quoting Bilbo Baggins.... Going the John Eldredge way, eh?!!!

  6. Thanks,Pradeep, for very clear and thought-provoking statements, daring to go beyond the traditional. I do believe this is the very essence of what it means to be salt & Light. It is VERY much possible -- as much as the possibility of me thinking of myself as a follower of Christ! Just need the right fellowship, so it is not individuals struggling alone, but a team with the depth of vision and the boldness to carry it out -- not hesitating to spend down to the last penny in the bank where needed, willing to accept correction from any quarter, getting a 'feel' of the community and responding ---- the potential is endless!
    And it is the responsibility of the church at large to back this to the hilt.

  7. Hi Pradeep,

    I think I had read this sometime back and am reading it again as I felt the urge to read about missions....and thank you writing , it is thought provoking.
    Guys bear with me am not a great writer and you can always disagree with my comments.
    The concept of a mission hospital has always been very confusing to me for various reasons.
    I agree with what Arpit has written and it happens to most who work in missions[ atleast it did with me]
    I also agree with the kingdom values and glorifying God ... but however serving the poor is not always what defines a mission hospital as many others do the same.

    If points 1 and 3 are missed out then the true mission hospital values are lost[ I mean a christian mission hospital] and these are the most challenging things to do in the place you work/live.

    My personal experience over the years... what I have learnt from working in CMC, St.Johns, Scudder memorial Hospital, UK..... I was never fully happy with any place because I had not found what God has designed me for? which race to run? Since I started to look at this [ wish I had started much earlier] life has become more confusing at times but however I am sure am not far from that.. and I will find it.
    Let me try and give an example about running the race-
    Do you guys watch Grand Prix [ Indian /any GP]- the cars there are powerful and expensive and use loads of fuel and need an expert driver to run it.

    On the other hand take any expensive car or the car you like to drive... maybe a simple alto or swift or maybe a VW Sedan...

    Both are cars but try driving your family in a race car on the road or try racing in your sedan on those GP tracks and see if you can win.... so basically everyone is designed to run a specific race and not everyone's race is mine. If I run the race what God has designed me for ..... I know I will win in the end... lets pray we find that race track that is designed for each one of us.......... any comments are welcome.
    Deepak Paul Mithran.

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  10. Dear Pradeep,
    Can you keep developing the article?
    Sam Sidharth

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