Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7
Since 2006, LCMS Mercy Medical teams has provided care for thousands of our brothers and sisters all around the world. We have served in the Dominican Republic, Peru, Malaysia, India, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, and many other countries. Generally, our teams can be classified as one of three types: Clinical, Community Health Education, or Disaster Response.
On a clinical team, seven to fourteen participants set up mobile primary care clinics in local Lutheran schools or churches. During the course of a week, the team will treat several thousand patients. Each team carries a full pharmacy with them, and referrals can be made for cases that are too severe to treat in the field. Often, our clients have not had access to healthcare before; many walk long distances—up to 100 km—to see one of our doctors. Depending on the area in which we are serving, teams may treat malaria, skin infections, HIV, malnutrition, injuries, and a host of other chronic and acute conditions.
Community Health Education teams are generally smaller, with 4-8 participants. The team works with local community leaders to provide education on topics relevant to the community. In the past, we have taught dental hygiene, safe water practices, malaria and tuberculosis prevention, breastfeeding, hand washing, and many other topics requested by our hosts. The goal is to teach individuals so that they are then able to teach others, spreading the knowledge from community to community.
Occasionally, LCMS Mercy Medical teams respond after disasters. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, teams were on the ground in a matter of days, providing desperately needed healthcare to thousands of people injured in the quake. Although it doesn’t happen often, disaster response requires an experienced, dedicated team.
This September, a 16 member team will be travelling to Madagascar, working along side our brothers and sisters in the Malagasy Lutheran Church. I’m very excited that we will be combining clinical care with community health education on this trip. While people are waiting to be treated by a doctor, they will have the opportunity learn about dental and personal hygiene. If all goes well, we hope to continue this model on future trips.
No matter what kind of team we send, whether it is primary care, community health education, disaster response, or a combination of the three, there is another kind of care that we include on all of our trips—spiritual care. Our first priority is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with all those that we serve. Recently, a client came to a clinic that we were hosting in Madagascar. He had visited one of our clinics the year before, covered from head to toe with a serious fungal infection. What a joy it was for our team members to see his recovery! However, it was an ever greater joy to know that after our trip, he and his family had remained in contact with the local Lutheran church, and had been baptized into God’s family!
I thank God for allowing me to be a part of the MMT program, and for allowing me to witness moments such as this. If you would like to take part in a Mercy Medical Team, let me know. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.