Five questions about being a missionary doctor

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Have you ever thought about being a missionary doctor? If you have, odds are good you’ve quickly jumped from thinking about being a missionary doctor to asking these common questions. 

In this post, I want to give you details on the role of the missionary doctor. I’ll cover four of the most common questions from what a missionary doctor is, what a missionary doctor does, we’ll look at some missionary doctors who are currently serving, I’ll cover how missionary doctors make a living, and what’s often required to become a missionary doctor. 

Question 1: What is a missionary doctor? 

According to Reach Beyond, a Global Missions Health Conference exhibitor, a missionary doctor is:

  • Someone who has earned their medical degree and can practice medicine. 
  • The ability and desire to live and work overseas
  • Sensitivity to cross-cultural issues
  • A willingness to work with local partners
  • A tolerance for uncertainty
  • Imagination to see and explore opportunities that may arise
  • A desire to mentor and coach other medical professionals
  • The ability and desire to raise missionary support and/or be self-funded
  • A commitment to serving long-term in the mission field
  • A willingness to learn the local language

Question 2: What does a missionary doctor look like?

Missionary doctors can look very different. You might find them living anywhere in the world. They may live and work anywhere from a jungle clinic to a state-of-the-art facility in the middle east. The missionary doctor may be a male or female and from any country. In short, if you have the skills, education, and experience—you can be a missionary doctor!

Question 3: Who are some missionaries currently serving?

There are many missionary doctors serving all over the globe. I’ve highlighted a few of them below. 

Dr. Tim and Kathy Rice: You can read about Dr. Tim Rice and Nurse educator Kathy Rice about their hospital and service in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Tim is the medical director of Vanga Evangelical Hospital and continues to serve as a doctor on the faculty of the School of Medicine at Saint Louis University. Kathy directs the nursing school as a registered nurse and educator. The Rice's aim to train the next generation of Congolese doctors, nurses, and health administrators in Christ-centered, whole-person care, empowering them to use the limited resources available to restore life and health across the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Dr. Jon Yoder: Dr. Jon Yoder is the resident doctor at a hospital in Mattru Jong, Sierra Leone. 

The hospital belongs to the national church of Sierra Leone which is a United Brethren global mission. Sierra Leone lies on the west side of Africa on the Atlantic Ocean. The average life expectancy is 45 years old. It is most known to Americans for the tragic war in the 1990s, blood diamonds, and most recently for the now resolved Ebola crisis. Every person has his or her story of how they survived during these tragic times. Many people fled the country and some went into hiding. However, Sierra Leone is now at peace and well.

You can read more about Sierra Leone and Dr. Yoder.

Kiersten Hutchinson: Kiersten Hutchinson has served at Karanda for the past 18 years, not as a missionary doctor, but as a physician assistant with TEAM. She describes her journey from short-term trips, to reluctance and doubt, to full-time missionary work.

In addition to stories of missionary doctors, I wanted to point out Karanda Mission Hospital: Karanda Mission Hospital was established in 1961 to meet the needs of mission stations in the Zambezi River valley which were established as churches and then, as the abundant health care challenges were seen, small dispensaries/clinics were developed along with churches and finally schools. To help the clinics, the hospital was built. Karanda is in a remote area of Northern Zimbabwe nearest to Mount Darwin. Its location is approximately 124 miles from Harare, the Capital of Zimbabwe.

Question 4: How do missionary doctors earn a living?

Missionary doctors may earn a living in a variety of ways. For example, some doctors are paid by the hospitals they are working for. Others may have to raise all of their own support from friends, family, or sending organizations. Most will do a combination of support raising and salary from the hospital in which they serve. Additionally, some mission organizations will do their own fundraising, and doctors may only have to cover a portion of their living expenses. There are many variations to earning a living and you can find something that works for you and your needs. 

Question 5: What is required to become a missionary?

In most cases, becoming a missionary means you’ll have to meet some basic qualifications, such as age, education, experience, and/or faith-based requirements. Next, you’ll want to reach out to members of your community about mission work and about how you can do some independent research of your own. After finding the right fit, it's all about completing the application process, any training involved and continuing to point to God with your skills, experience, and life.

I hope this post has been helpful for you in answering some of the most common questions surrounding becoming a missionary doctor. 

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