Missions: Health & Eternity


Part of International Mission Board missionary and nurse practitioner Rachel’s ministry in rural Southeast Asia is educating elementary school girls on their health. These girls are often forced by their families to drop out of school by the sixth grade in order to provide income.

Rachel and her colleague, Anna, missionary and public health specialist, know they have a short time to interact with these girls and they’ve seen how the care they offer leads to conversations about the girls’ God-given value and worth.

The apparent lack of value placed on a girl’s life and education is prevalent, according to Anna and Rachel. Boys are generally allowed to continue their education. While health education is only one facet of what Anna and Rachel do, Rachel is most passionate about this work. She said she loves helping the girls to understand they have worth in God’s eyes.

In Southeast Asia where Anna and Rachel serve, one needn’t look far to find other pressing and untreated problems. Health issues abound from a lack of education about hygiene to conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Anna and Rachel see these pressing physical, emotional, and spiritual needs as an avenue for ministry. They find open doors to deliver the Gospel through community health outreach in rural primary schools.

The two medical missionaries, alongside their team of national believers, have built relationships with the government, allowing them to enter schools and teach basic hygiene. This most often takes the form of a program — equipped with catchy tunes and hand motions — teaching kids how to correctly brush their teeth and wash their hands. Often, they’ll supply proper handwashing stations, and sometimes, they’ll facilitate building suitable bathrooms to improve poor sanitation.

They’ve even started building school mini-libraries, encouraging kids to fall in love with reading. These programs also open doors to distribute Gospel materials. While government restrictions prohibit openly sharing the gospel in large groups, Rachel and Anna have found many ways to share Christ in more intimate settings.

Through relationships with teachers, they can enter teachers’ homes and conduct routine checkups on their family. They say there’s is no better way to “pass time” while taking blood pressure, listening to a heart or lungs, or doing a finger stick to monitor blood sugar than to share the Gospel.

If Anna, Rachel, and the team find more complicated health issues, they help those in rural areas find appropriate care. Anna thinks this is the most exciting part of what they do. “It really makes a difference in their long-term health,” Anna shared. “It’s a wonderful way to go back and visit people for ministry. So every time you get to meet with people you have a great chance to share about the great God that we serve and love and his Son, Jesus.”

Despite the abundance of physical and emotional issues in the area, the only issue with lasting consequence is that of lostness. Animism rules in this Southeast Asian country. Every other religion here is influenced by it, including the other prevalent religion, Buddhism.

But, as the missionaries and national believers help push back the darkness, they believe health strategies can be vital to the missionary task. “We never want to do the healing without the preaching,” Anna said.

This article by Myriah Snyder was published on the IMB website on August 30, 2022, and is reprinted here with IMB’s permission.

Missions is the focus of the upcoming Urbana22 conference and a possible launch pad for students and nurses wanting to serve God internationally.


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