The New Mission Field

by Dwight A. Moody


Jesus himself was a famous healer, returning life and health and strength to many who sought his care. Mark the gospel writer sums it up this way: “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed … and Jesus healed many who had various diseases” (1:32f).


These actions have inspired millions to take up medicine as a way to honor God and follow Jesus. Doctors, nurses, professors, researchers, technicians, aids, and administrators of all sorts have heard the call to go into all the world and heal the sick in the name of Jesus.


The doctor as missionary is as old as the gospel itself.


But there is a new version of this divine call.


Public health professional.


If the coronavirus has taught us anything, it is the critical importance of those health professionals that set policy, track statistics, share information, and collaborate with medical specialist around the globe.


Over the last 75 years many universities in the country (and in the world!) have launched schools or programs of public health.


The Council on Education for Public Health was established in 1974. It has granted accreditation to 67 Schools of Public Health (including four right here in Georgia), plus another 127 programs of public health. The vast majority of these are in the United States, but institutions in such places Canada, Taiwan, Mexico, Israel, and Lebanon have also been granted accredited status.


With others in the accrediting pipeline, more than 200 schools in the United States have taken on public health education. These programs annually enroll more than 60,000 students.


That is not one too many!


And who knows how many public health students are in other institutions on other continents around the globe!


Is there a more important, more urgent vocation in the world today?


Think of the epidemics that have happened just in the last two decades: Cholera, Ebola, Malaria, Measles, and MERS. Before that AIDS took 32 million lives. And before that, the Influenza killed up to 100 million over several years last century. And can you believe this: a half a billion people have died of smallpox during its off and on scourge.


Public health professionals do more than manage epidemics. They vaccinate, clean water, distribute medicine, and operate clinics. Much of this is managed by the World Health Organization and its 194 member states.


As the people, tribes, and nations of the world have become increasingly co-mingled, the danger of cross-cultural transmission has increased and the need for international cooperation has accelerated.


There is no greater gospel calling in our country or the world than public medical professionals who, in the name of spirit of Jesus, devote themselves to the case of human health here and around the world. And there is no greater example of that than the humble doctor who has led to faith by a nurse in a North Carolina hospital many years ago.


His name is Francis Collins, and he is he Director of our own National Institutes of Health. He rose to Nobel fame as the inspiration for the Human Genome Project. But he was brought to my attention through his 2006 book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (wherein he recounts the story of his coming to faith while a medical student). He began his journey to significance by earning a PhD from Yale University; he then responded to the call to medicine and received an MD degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


At the center of his professional passion and success is the person of Jesus and the calling of the gospel.


In these days of global pandemic, the altar calls issued from the platforms of social media need to include an invitation to take up the cross and follow Jesus to a school of public health.


It is the mission field of our day.


The voice once heard by Isaiah is still asking that urgent question, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Somebody needs to say, “Here am I. Send me.”


(March 2020)