The Good News Hospital in Mandritsara, Madagascar, began in 1993 when a small group of missionaries and Malagasy Christians moved to this remote town, in a largely unevangelised area of northern Madagascar.
The location was suggested by the Malagasy government health department, because of the large rural population and minimal government facilities. But, in the providence of God, it was also a very needy area spiritually.
During the past 20 years, the hospital has developed with medical, surgical and maternity facilities, X-ray, laboratory, and an eye department. A community health team has established work in over 20 villages, in an area over half the size of Wales, giving vaccinations, health education, doing water and sanitation projects and more.
All these activities have been opportunities for gospel proclamation and Bible teaching.
A Christian primary and lower secondary school has been established, with over 300 children. A nursing training school has graduated 20 nurses and a further 14 are currently training as nurses or midwives.
A gospel radio station has been established, beaming Christian programmes into the district all day for seven days a week. The local Bible Baptist church has grown from a dozen members to over 150.
The Sunday school, which takes place before the Sunday morning service, draws over 400 — from small children through to adults — and Sunday school lessons in Malagasy with pictures, covering the whole Bible story, have been written.
There is a three-year programme for younger children and 240 lessons for older children to adults. A holiday Bible club is held in a different village each year. As the Word has gone out from Mandritsara, the Lord has brought small churches or cell groups into being in over 60 villages of the district.
A six-year Bible training programme has been developed for the leaders of these village churches. 30-40 men are currently receiving one month’s residential Bible training, twice a year, to equip them for being village pastors.
This is all the work of God, but he has graciously used a mission hospital to be the catalyst for it all. Why then might a mission hospital be an effective tool? It can be an effective base for these reasons:
1) It provides opportunity for service for national Christians.
Christian doctors, nurses, administrative staff, teachers and others have come from other parts of the country as local missionaries, working in the hospital and also serving in the local church.
2) You don’t have to leave the mission hospital to find people needing the gospel.
People of all backgrounds and all ages get sick, making the hospital a meeting place where the gospel can be shared. And, in hospital, people have time to listen as they lie in bed, wait in out-patients, or accompany sick relatives.
This does not mean that workers do not go out at all from the hospital. Many mission hospitals have a community health programme reaching out into villages near and far. The hospital and community health work complement and back each other up.
3) People in hospital are facing life’s harsh realities: weakness, incapacity, an uncertain future, the possibility of death.
Here is a crucial time for them to be presented with the Word of Life.
4) People in hospital are not just being talked at.
Gospel proclamation is essential, but they are also observing Christians at work. Many have never had close contact with Christian people, but in a mission hospital they can see real Christianity in action.
5) A medically based work can give credibility and authenticity with the authorities.
It is clear to thinking people that such a work does good to the locality and in the nation as a whole.
So what key features should be borne in mind? A mission hospital is a work of God. The evil one will do all in his power to oppose it, as he does in opposing all God’s work. The hospital workers need to pray together and trust in God together.
Evangelism too must be kept as the priority. Jesus, his cross and resurrection, must be preached. Leaders must be carefully chosen with this in mind and should encourage one another in this respect.
Only Christian staff should be employed. Even if there is a shortage of doctors or senior personnel, the temptation to employ non-Christians must be resisted at all costs (see Ezra 4:1-3).
Preach the gospel every day, and do it in the centre of activities (the ward, waiting area, etc.). Evangelism should not be confined to a separate chapel building. Chapel can give the impression that our spiritual lives are somehow separate from our everyday lives.
Have Bibles and literature available. At the Mandritsara hospital we have written a series of tracts for different situations (see article on page 17). Gospel texts are on the walls, and Bibles are available to patients.
Work hard! The work will be hard! Remember Paul’s words: ‘I will very gladly spend and be spent for you’ (2 Corinthians 12:15), and, ‘We worked night and day’ (1 Thessalonians 2:9). Mission hospital work is 24/7.
Go forward in faith. Beware of the ‘business’ model. Put more effort into prayer than fund-raising or recruitment. Do not be discouraged by scoffers or the timid. Remember Nehemiah.
You can learn more about the Good News Hospital Mandritsara atwww.mandritsara.org.uk