If, like me, you returned from a summer break to bulging in-trays, looming deadlines and a host of competing personal and professional pressures let me encourage you through what God is doing amongst Christian doctors worldwide.
This summer our own family holiday was sandwiched between two ICMDA (International Christian Medical and Dental Association) conferences (see page 7) that were quite literally ‘glimpses of heaven’. And it’s experiences like this that keep us going and remind us that all our struggles are worth it.
When we feel imprisoned by our many responsibilities it’s good to remember that the book of Revelation came to the Apostle John while he was imprisoned literally on the Island of Patmos, both to encourage and prepare God’s people for coming challenges:
After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb… And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ (Revelation 7:9,10)
I was reminded of John’s ‘glimpse of heaven’ through seeing Christian doctors and medical students of diverse languages and cultures all praising God, enjoying fellowship, praying and hearing God’s word together.
First up was In the Steps of the Great Physician, the West African Congress in Abuja, Nigeria in late July, attended by 200 doctors from Nigeria, Ghana and the francophone countries of Benin, Niger, Cameroon, Togo and Senegal. Next was the European Conference in Krelingen, Germany on the theme Who Cares? attended by over 600 from 50 countries. It is hard to think of countries in Eurasia that were not represented – Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan perhaps – but there were delegations from such places as Tadjikistan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Moldova, Latvia, Armenia and Albania. Each conference was preceded by one for students and juniors (100 attended in West Africa and 250 in Germany).
These two conferences were just two of five ICMDA regional conferences this year – those in Southern Africa and East Africa have already taken place and Asia Pacific happens at the end of October.
Everywhere the story is the same – doctors and medical students are coming to Christ, getting together and forming national bodies. There are now 55 national movements affiliated to ICMDA and we are in contact with Christian doctors in over 50 other countries. One of the newest members is Albania. Eralda Turkeshi, who attended the 1996 European Conference as a student is now helping to lead a 60-strong movement in her country – most have come to Christ in the last five years.
The plenary addresses at Krelingen were amongst the best I have ever heard at an ICMDA gathering with Chris Steyn (Netherlands) and Klaus Teschner (Germany) giving the Bible addresses and John Patrick (Canada), John Wyatt (UK) and Pablo Martinez (Spain) sharing the other addresses at both conferences. There was also a choice of over 20 seminar topics. I led one myself on ‘building a Christian Medical Movement’ which was attended by leaders of groups from over 30 countries. It was humbling to learn of all that God is doing through people with so little in the way of resources. CMF UK is the only national movement in Eurasia at present with any staff (we have 22); everywhere else it is volunteers who carry the load.
It was a pleasure at both conferences to give away (or sell at knockdown prices) a huge number of CMF books and resources to doctors who as yet have little on Christian medical issues in their own language: surely an encouragement for us to be doing more for our more needy brothers and sisters.
Let me pass on to all of you the thanks of ICMDA to members of CMF UK for the gift of £12,000 towards conference bursaries and expenses – and for the book gifts funded through individual donations – and let me encourage you to more good works as we labour together sharing Christ’s spiritual and material blessings.
CMF General Secretary