Published on September 27, 2017 by Sarah Waller  

Samford University’s Center for Faith and Health and Beeson Global Center partnered with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions to host the Medical Missions and the Local Church Conference Sept. 23. 

The conference brought together medical professionals, pastors and church leaders in the community to discuss strategies and motivations behind medical mission work. 

Attendees heard from three speakers who each possess a wealth of experience in the mission field: Danny Wood, senior pastor of Birmingham’s Shades Mountain Baptist Church; Larry Pepper, a doctor and missionary to Tanzania; and Rebekah Naylor, an award-winning surgeon and missionary now practicing in Dallas. 

“This is truth. Health care professionals are unique,” Naylor said. “It is true that any follower of Jesus in any profession can go anywhere and find people whom he can access and share Jesus Christ. We are commanded to do it, but the health care professional can cross more barriers than any other profession.” 

Naylor, who worked in Bangalore, India, with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board (IMB) from 1974 to 2002, shared how in her experience she found that health care can cross any geographic, economic and cultural barrier that exists. 

“But perhaps the most important, we are the only people who in minutes can reach a spiritual conversation,” she said. “We can get there very quickly because of our relationship with the patient.” 

All three speakers spoke on the biblical mandate for missions. In Matthew 9:35-38, the Bible says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’” 

Wood shared how this verse demonstrates the three pillars upon which every mission strategy should be based: evangelism, compassion and justice, and discipleship. 

In Matthew 9, Jesus was “proclaiming the good news of the kingdom” (evangelism), he was “healing every disease and sickness” (compassion and justice) and he was sharing with his disciplines about the harvest (discipleship), Wood said. 

Pepper, who has worked at Kigoma Baptist Hospital in Tanzania with the IMB for 22 years, shared that it is equally important to proclaim the Gospel as well as demonstrate it, and health care opens doors to do this.  

He explained his strategy: Access the unreached, get behind closed doors and have intimate conversations about Jesus, provide compassionate caring, disciple internationally and empower others to do the same. 

“It is a process I am constantly thinking about,” Pepper said. 

In addition to their talks in the morning, Naylor and Pepper spoke specifically to medical professionals during the afternoon breakout sessions. 

“This conference was a great success,” said Michael Hogue, associate dean of Samford’s Center for Faith and Health. “At Samford, we encourage students to seek out God’s calling on their lives, which often comes through missions. With events like this, we are able to share this message with our community.”

Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.