So where did hospitals come from anyway?

Many of us have some sort of notion that hospitals are just a natural part of the community; the idea of a hospital must be handed down to us from classical times.  But we we would be wrong.  They were nurtured in an unexpected place.

Among the ancient and pagan Romans, compassion was not well developed.  “Mercy was discouraged, as it only helped those too weak to contribute to society.  In the cramped, unsanitary warrens of the typical Roman city, under the miserable cycle of plagues and famines, the sick found no public institutions dedicated to their care and little in the way of sympathy or help.”  [“A new era in Roman healthcare” Gary Ferngren]

Ferngren goes on to explain while one of Rome’s greatest prides was its cities, they also provided fertile breeding grounds for disease, especially for migrants from the countryside.  No clinics or hospitals existed to provide healing or basic nursing care. Physicians were for the wealthy. In a world of gods who were not known for compassion, the Roman culture did not encourage a felt responsibility to care for the sick and marginalized.

Despite persecution, by the second century Christian churches had sprung up in most of the major cities, and their charity included care for the sick.  By the fourth century bishops in the eastern half of the empire began to establish Christian welfare institutions for the sick and poor, called xenodocheia.  Christian History magazine issue 101, “Healthcare and Hospitals in the mission of the church” details how this ancient movement flourished and eventually birthed the concept of the hospital.

An unexpected place!  Much of the impetus behind hospital ministry, especially to the poor and marginalized, comes from the faith of early Christians.  Is this  a surprise to you?  What can we learn now from their faith and example?  Reply below!

How missionaries are changing medicine

Medical missionaries have been at the forefront of a number of innovations in medicine and public health. Why? Because we are in the most needy places, working on multicultural teams, learning from local people, and get immediate feedback on what works and what does not work. The drawback to all this is that we tend to get absorbed into the work — the workload is beyond what anyone is able to bear; thus we frequently do not have the margin to create and publish. It’s an amazing challenge. Want to help us change the world?

This CT article addresses the topic:

What's all the fuss?

The Ebola outbreak has been a big story, with over 25,000 separate news articles mentioning SIM since we first brought Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol out of Liberia to Emory Hospital. But our aim is not publicity. It is God’s glory that we are after. In the midst of the suffering we have the confidence that our gracious God is at work among the nations, and especially in West Africa. Our missionaries put themselves in harms way, getting close to the people, and but this is the calling they have received from Jesus. Jesus came as God to be with us, alongside us, lead us, save us. We come in His name alongside people, to be with them and point them to Jesus. This is the basis of community transformation. It also reflects Christ’s character. Our aim is not publicity for ourselves. It is not about SIM; it is about what God is doing in the world, showing His good character and grace, rescuing men and women in the midst of their pain.