Christian Doctors Celebrate God’s Faithfulness at World Medical Mission Conference

October 17, 2017 • United States
General surgeon Greg Alty received the “In the Footsteps of the Great Physician” award.
Each year a World Medical Mission doctor is recognized during Prescription for Renewal for his or her distinguished foreign medical service in the Name of Christ. Dr. Greg Alty, a general surgeon from Lynchburg, Va., was this year's recipient of the “In the Footsteps of the Great Physician” award.

During this year's Prescription for Renewal event, healthcare professionals marked a ministry milestone and committed to ongoing service at mission hospitals.

World Medical Mission’s annual Prescription for Renewal conference radiated with extra praise and thanksgiving this year as the Samaritan’s Purse ministry commemorated the 40th anniversary of its founding.

Participants enjoyed times of worship and fellowship.

Participants enjoyed times of worship and fellowship.

Hundreds of medical professionals—many seasoned missionaries and others interested in first-time service opportunities—gathered at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina, last weekend to celebrate God’s faithfulness and to recommit to the call He has placed on their lives.

“World Medical Mission came about because of two men who were willing to listen to God,” said Ed Morrow, a long-time leader of the program who served as emcee at the October 12-15 conference. “Drs. Lowell and Richard Furman had a burden in their hearts to send doctors to mission hospitals around the world. Since then, the ministry has exploded.”

Only a handful of physicians volunteered to serve with World Medical Mission during its inaugural year. Four decades later, more than 8,100 Christian doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals have served at overseas mission hospitals through the program, Morrow told conference attendees. In addition, over 9,500 spouses and children have accompanied the doctors on these service trips.

Currently World Medical Mission partners with more than 40 hospitals in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to send missionary doctors who bring quality care—and even more importantly the Good News of Jesus Christ—to people who are sick and suffering.

“First Things First”

Alistair Begg, acclaimed Bible teacher, pastor, and host of the radio program Truth for Life, shared powerful messages about Christ’s compassion toward a leper and a paralytic. Begg noted that the priority World Medical Mission doctors place on the wellbeing of their patients’ souls, as well as their physical bodies, is what sets them apart from medical professionals.

Conference speaker Alistair Begg challenged World Medical Mission doctors to continue sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.

Conference speaker Alistair Begg challenged World Medical Mission doctors to continue sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.

“There are physicians from atheist backgrounds, from Muslim backgrounds, from Hindu backgrounds doing similar things that you do. What they can’t do is minister the truth of the risen Christ,” Begg said.

“Jesus put his finger on the leper’s and everyone’s greatest need—namely, forgiveness. He wasn’t disinterested in the leper’s physical condition. He healed him. Nor is Jesus unconcerned about our health or marriages or jobs or security or career,” he said. “But first things first. He wants for us the thing that matters most, and that is for us to be restored to the relationship with God for which He has made us.”

Begg encouraged the gathering of doctors, who have served in challenging areas ranging from the African bush country to a Middle East war zone to North Korea, to hold true to their calling from the Great Physician and proclaim His message of salvation and eternal life wherever they go.

“Jesus wants for us the thing that matters most—to be restored to the relationship with God for which He made us.”

“The tremendous, compelling impact of the ministry that you bring to the world is without question. But do not forget that every aortic valve that you replace will eventually go down into the grave. And from that grave a man or woman will be raised to meet God,” he said. “That is the amazing dimension that is represented in this great ministry. A leper that no one else would touch, was touched by Jesus. But the leper discovered what his real need was. Only the Gospel and only Jesus is able to make that known and bring about a transformation.”

Living Out the Call

Each year a World Medical Mission doctor is recognized at the conference for his or her distinguished foreign medical service in the Name of Christ. Dr. Greg Alty, a general surgeon from Lynchburg, Virginia, was the 2017 recipient of the “In the Footsteps of the Great Physician” award.

General surgeon Greg Alty received the “In the Footsteps of the Great Physician” award.

General surgeon Greg Alty received the “In the Footsteps of the Great Physician” award.

Alty was joined by his wife, Lisa, and son, Isaac, as he walked up to the stage to receive the special honor from World Medical Mission Founder Dr. Richard Furman and Director of Development Becky Williams.

After attending a Prescription for Renewal conference for the first time in 2005, Alty responded to a challenge from a long-term medical missionary in Africa to “try something that you know you can’t do on your own and trust God to use you.” He did so with great trepidation, but served four weeks at Kijabe Hospital in Kenya. He found the experience so rewarding that he returned several months later and brought Isaac, 12 at the time.

Since then, Alty has made eight more trips with World Medical Mission to several African countries and to Haiti. Isaac has accompanied him on four trips, and Alty is delighted that his son is now in his second year of medical school.

“Suppose in 2005 I had decided I couldn’t do mission work yet, or that I would go and serve when I retired?” Alty told the audience. “I am so happy that someone encouraged me and pushed me and gave me the wisdom to cast my nets out into the deep like Jesus told the disciple Peter and see what I catch.”

Dr. Bill Rhodes has served at Kapsowar Hospital in Kenya since 1999.

Dr. Bill Rhodes has served in Kenya since 1999.

Other doctors who addressed the gathering included Dr. Bill Rhodes, a general and plastic surgeon who has remained at Kapsowar Hospital in Kenya since 1999, and Dr. Thomas Dillard, a pediatrician who brought his wife and their six children to Tenwek Hospital for a six-month stint this year.

Dr. Alyssa Pfister, who completed the World Medical Mission Post-Residency Program in 2011 at Tenwek, spoke of the benefits of the experience and how it prepared her for now long-term service at a mission hospital in Burundi. Since the inception of the program in 2004, more than 160 doctors and dentists have participated and a dozen more have been accepted to begin serving next year. Over 80 percent of those who complete the two-year program have returned to the field as full-time medical missionaries.

The optional Missionary Medicine Seminar was held in conjunction with Prescription for Renewal, offering Continuing Medical Education credits to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals. Topics focused on the treatment of diseases and injuries that are common in the developing world.

The conference concluded with a commissioning service Sunday morning led by Dr. David Bruce, the executive assistant to Rev. Billy Graham.

Looking Forward

Dr. Lance Plyler, the new director of World Medical Mission, was introduced at the conference by Ed Morrow, who served in that role for 18 years. Morrow transitioned in July to the position of director of development for mission hospital relationships at World Medical Mission.

The 2018 Prescription for Renewal conference is scheduled for Oct. 11-14 and will feature speakers Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York City, and Joni Eareckson Tada, founder of Joni and Friends International Disability Center. To register, please call 800-950-2092.

Samaritan's Purse staff work hard supporting our missionary doctors.

Samaritan’s Purse staff work hard supporting our missionary doctors.

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