Healthcare Missions: Past, Present, and Future

EMQ » July–September 2023 » Volume 59 Issue 4

Thailand: A group, including Uncle Riap, works together to compose Thai worship songs. Photo courtesy of Neil Thompson. 

Summary: Healthcare missions has a long history in Christianity, which continues to grow and develop. But how did it begin, how has it changed, and where is it going?

By Neil Thompson

Mr. Riap Sukgasem (เรียบสุขเกสม), affectionately known as “Uncle Riap,” grew up in the fertile rice plains of Central Thailand early last century. He was a respected skipper of a river freighter that plied the river back and forth to Bangkok. But as he neared mid-life, he noticed some numb spots on his arm, then he had trouble picking up the water glass and other objects, due to the clawing of his fingers.

Next, his feet became numb and developed huge ulcers. To get out of the public eye, he became a teacher in a local Buddhist temple. The monks were sympathetic, but could not help his disease, which they called “angel’s droppings” (Thai slang for leprosy). Uncle Riap felt hopeless. There were no hospitals or clinics in the area. How could he find help?

Through the development of medical mission – medical professionals serve people like Uncle Riap in cross-cultural settings around the world. This ministry has a long history in Christianity, which continues to grow and develop.

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