Financing the Church Medical Work
Do you remember being taught as a child to include the missionaries, colporteurs, doctors and nurses and still others in your prayers? Many of the mission stories that we heard were about missionary doctors and nurses confronting horrible diseases in their patients or performing surgery under very primitive conditions. Given the general improvement of basic medical conditions around the world, does the Adventist Church still have a role in healthcare? If so, how does the church finance it?
Adventist hospitals and sanitariums around the world had an average daily inpatient census of 15,672 and a total of more than 14,196,000 outpatient visits for that year.
Status of the Healthcare Work
According to the “Annual Statistical Report 2013” (reporting statistics as of the end of 2011), Adventist hospitals and sanitariums around the world had an average daily inpatient census of 15,672 and a total of more than 14,196,000 outpatient visits for that year. This represents a large number of people (especially when considering the entire family of the patient) that have the potential to be exposed to Jesus’ message of healing for body, mind and spirit! In addition, the total number of employees at Adventist healthcare-related facilities was more than 107,000 people worldwide. The growth in number of institutions can be seen in the chart.
Adventist hospitals and clinics are typically considered to be either self-funded or mission-funded. Of the latter type of institution, many were established in locations based on the level of need in the local population rather than places where the local community could afford to pay appropriate fees for their healthcare. Therefore, these institutions rely on varying types of support for their continued operation.
Some of these mission-funded institutions receive outright subsidies from their local mission or union organization in order to carry on their service to humanity in the name of Jesus. Another important type of care may come in the form of medical and dental personnel classified as interdivision missionaries if personnel with the necessary skills are not available locally.
“If ever the Lord has spoken by me, He speaks when I say that the workers engaged in educational lines, in ministerial lines, and in medical-missionary lines must stand as a unit, all laboring under the supervision of God, one helping the other, each blessing each”
The General Conference and division-secretariat personnel recruit and send these church employees to their various assignments around the world. Currently, there are 101 healthcare personnel serving in this capacity. While 38 of these are paid completely from the patient revenue of their institution, 63 are funded primarily from world mission offerings collected by the General Conference (GC Interdivision Personnel Resources & Services, Sept. 22, 2013).
COMPREHENSIVE HEALTH EVANGELISM
From our early days as a Church, we embraced the health message as an important part of our mission. Later on, in 1909 Ellen G. White presented an urgent reminder to the General Conference: “If ever the Lord has spoken by me, He speaks when I say that the workers engaged in educational lines, in ministerial lines, and in medical-missionary lines must stand as a unit, all laboring under the supervision of God, one helping the other, each blessing each” (Testimonies to the Church, Vol.9, p. 169). Although that message was presented more than one hundred years ago, today the General Conference is once again issuing a plea for comprehensive health evangelism in the ministry of the Church as we seek to bring healing to our communities both physically and spiritually. While traditional mission-funded healthcare structures will continue to play a role in the outreach of the church, the call for comprehensive health evangelism will provide new avenues for church members to demonstrate holistic stewardship principles by contributing their time and God-given abilities to less-institutionalized methods.