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Reconciliation through healing: mind, body and soul

By Laura Kyte
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  • I was only fourteen when I decided I was going to become a medical missionary. In my fourth year of medical school, when it was time to decide where to spend my elective term, I assumed I would be going to Africa – back then I thought all missionaries went to Africa.

    However, I ended up doing my medical elective term at a hospital in South Asia, where I began to understand that people’s health is more than physical, and that it is bound to their poverty, education level, status, economic means, gender and religious beliefs. I first understood that being healthy is not as straightforward as I had previously thought. We are complex beings; our emotions, hidden or conscious, have a powerful effect on our wellbeing and our perception of the world, and the way we impact others. In short, I had begun to understand the value of wholism.

    As I began to consider the type of medicine I wanted to be involved in, it was very clear that, even though I enjoyed hands-on healing, my future lay in primary health care, community medicine, teaching and training. I didn’t want to restrict myself to being only a doctor; I wanted to share the message of Christ myself, and to teach from the Word of God.

    The path to wholism

    When I applied to become an Interserve Partner, I was willing to go where I was most needed. That turned out to be Central Asia, where the church had grown exponentially but leaders were young in years and young in faith. I would be serving there as a General Practitioner training other GPs.

    My first year there was spent learning the language, but I also attended community development training. Initially I was one of two doctors available to meet the villagers’ needs: we would see patients in the morning, then move on to teaching local health workers how to prevent and treat common problems. However, I came to realise that as long as there was a doctor available, people wouldn’t bother to learn how to prevent the problems themselves. I therefore decided to focus my attention on training and coordinating our community development workers, enabling them people to identify needs and problem-solve. Our lessons covered many topics, such as physical health, income generation, agriculture, emotional issues and moral values like honesty and forgiveness.

    Sometimes we were able to incorporate stories from the Bible in our teaching. One very powerful lesson on forgiveness was taught by using the story of the prodigal son, but adapting it to ‘the prodigal daughter-in-law’. The relationship with the most strain was the one between the wife and her husband’s mother. Wives go to live with their husband’s family, and the wife has to do the bidding of the family matriarch – her mother-in-law. Most women are not free from this until they become mothers-in-law themselves. We saw many people recognise the destructiveness of unforgiveness after this lesson, and many were willing to do the homework we set them, which was to forgive someone!

    Reconciliation brings harmony

    Most of the communities we worked with knew we were followers of Jesus, and through years of interaction they developed a more positive understanding of Christianity. We do this work not as a means to evangelise or plant churches, but because it is good in itself and demonstrates the love of Jesus to broken people. In many places around the world, however, the natural consequence of such wholistic community development is that, over time, churches are planted.

    When there is harmony between people and God (the spiritual dimension), among people (the social dimension), within the person (the emotional dimension) and between people and their environment (the physical dimension), we have wholistic health. Illness is a breakdown of these relationships. As Christians we work to reveal the reconciliation that Jesus achieved through His death on the cross. He is Lord of all and has reconciled all things in heaven and earth to Himself (see Colossians 1:15-20). If He is Lord of all, He is Lord of every aspect of this world and of our lives. That’s wholism.

    Lyn is a former Regional Director for East Asia and South Pacific.

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