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Healthcare Mission & Sustainable Development Goals

Published 25 Jun 2016

This anniversary year is not just about looking back but also about looking at what we do today, and what we should be doing in the future. What should a modern healthcare mission be doing?

The face of global healthcare mission has changed extensively over the last 175 years. The most notable change is a move away from the traditional role of organisations such as the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society in sending doctors and nurses. Today, more organisations lean towards working in partnership with local healthcare professionals, encouraging and equipping them to help their own communities. Programmes like the Student Elective Bursary scheme, provide an excellent opportunity for mutual learning and building partnerships.

We recognise that EMMS International is not alone in the work that it does. There are many governments and NGOs (faith-based or otherwise) committed to improving the health of the world’s poorest people. So, what makes Christian healthcare mission distinctive?

Last year, governments, institutions and development agencies took stock to see if they met the ambitious targets set for the Millennium Development Goals.

Even with many collective successes to celebrate, including halving the rate of under-5 deaths worldwide, we still can’t rest on our laurels. To that end, the United Nations have agreed to the next phase of targets, the Sustainable Development Goals.

Once again, these goals are ambitious, and so they should be to tackle the inequalities of our world.

How then, as a Christian healthcare mission, should these goals guide and encourage us?

A move from sending doctors towards equipping and encouraging local healthcare workers is a move towards sustainability. But our goal is bigger than that.

All of our partners are working to achieve Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. But our goal is bigger than that.

The Duncan Hospital is empowering girls and women by protecting mothers and teaching that every child is a gift, regardless of their gender. A move towards meeting Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. But our goal is bigger than that.

Effective, holistic palliative care stops families pushing themselves further into poverty and contributes to Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms. But our goal is bigger than that.

The Sustainable Goals are ambitious but the goal we are called toward is higher still: “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”. Jesus gave everything in love, even his life. Ultimately, our work is only truly sustainable when it is done in service of God and not another goal. So we continue to make our focus loving God and loving one another as Christ loved us.

This article was originally published in the Spring/Summer 2016 edition of the Healing Hand. The publication can be found here