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ss nucleus - autumn 2006,  ICMDA world congress: health and hope

ICMDA world congress: health and hope

Eleanor Romaine returns from kangaroo land

Every tribe, every tongue, every nation sings hallelujah' was the chorus of the theme song for the four-yearly ICMDA Students' and Junior Graduates' World Congress. It was highly appropriate as 500 students and junior graduates of medicine and dentistry were gathered in Australia, from over 50 nations, all worshipping the same God, on 7-11 July.

Who are ICMDA?

ICMDA is the International Christian Medical and Dental Association. It unites 56 national member movements supporting Christian doctors, dentists, and medical and dental students around the world, including CMF in the UK. Regional and world conferences are held by ICMDA to enrich and encourage the national bodies and to aid the formation of new national organisations (see

Students and junior graduates

The first five days of the conference was for students and junior graduates. This took place in the beautiful setting of Merroo Christian Conference Centre, situated in the foothills of the Blue Mountains near Sydney. It offered an escape from city life, beautiful scenery and uniquely Aussie gum trees and kangaroos! There we considered how we, as Christian medics and dentists can impact our world for Christ.

Jonathan Lamb taught from 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 each morning – encouraging us to make an impact for Christ in the areas to which we have been called. By considering what Paul had to say, we learned about the costs of Christian service. We were reminded of the certain hope we have for the future and the motivating factors for Christian service. In 2 Corinthians 5:10-21 Paul sets out the motivations for his ministry: firstly responding to Christ's love, secondly having responsibility to Jesus our judge and thirdly being sent by Christ to implore others to be reconciled to him.

Dr Solomon Aryeety, a Ghanaian missionary in Mali, spoke to us each day. He challenged us to be followers of Christ, with the same priority as him – mission. Solomon's passionate heart for Jesus and the testimony of God's work in his own life were edifying to all of us.

Every afternoon we were spoilt for choice with a wide range of seminars. Topics included medical ethics, evangelism, mission, refugee health and alternative medicine. We also had the chance to hear from men and women who have followed Christ in medicine. We heard of how their integrated faith had amazing impact. For example, Professor Graeme Clark shared how he grew closer to God by trusting in him while creating the 'Bionic Ear'.

The small mentor groups that met daily gave us time to consolidate and discuss what we were learning. These enabled us to form close friendships with students from different countries. In addition to the main sessions, there were plenty of opportunities to meet people from around the globe. It was awesome to be united with so many students in a common purpose. We were able to share with each other the joys and struggles of being Christian medics in each of our nations, and to pray together. The Australians entertained us one night with an Aussie bush dance, and the following night the rest of us were able to share parts of our own culture with everyone else at the international night. Highlights included singing from Africa and the Maori Haka from New Zealand.

By the end of the five days we were moved to stand up and be counted, to be available to be used by God. We were confident that we are valuable to him despite our weaknesses and that we are people who in his strength and by his grace can make an impact for him in our world.

Main congress

From Merroo, most of us went on to be part of over 800 doctors and dentists from over 80 countries who congregated at the XIII ICMDA World Congress held at Sydney's Darling Harbour. The theme of the congress was 'Health and Hope': health because of our professional commitment and hope because of our hope in Christ. We considered these in relation to our own lives, our relationships with others and in the context of world problems such as injustice and uncertainty. CB Samuel, from India, taught each day, helping us to see our role as 'Healers and Hope-givers'. Through lectures and seminars, a wide variety of topics pertinent to Christian medics in 2006 were addressed. There were opportunities to reflect on our place in global mission and to apply the Bible to our daily lives as healthcare professionals. With rapid developments in medicine throwing up a range of ethical issues, it was helpful to have time to consider them from a biblical perspective with help from physicians working in the field. As well as developing a Christian response to these ethical situations, we learned how to communicate them effectively and in a relevant and meaningful way to the world around us.

Hearing of what is happening around the world gave us insight into how big God is. At the same time hearing personal testimonies of God's work in individual delegates' lives reminded us that he cares about us as individuals.

I left feeling more equipped to live out my faith daily, and I gained a small glimpse of heaven; one day every tribe and nation will be worshipping the Lord together.

'I will be exalted among the nations'

It was a remarkable and moving experience. They had come from all over the globe, from Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Solomon Islands, Russia, South Korea and pretty well everywhere in between. Many had stories to tell - of prolonged struggles to get a visa, nightmarish journeys and financial difficulties. But somehow they had managed to make it. And together we discovered a tangible sense of unity, of common purpose – despite all the differences of culture, background, language and history, despite the centuries of conflict, hatred, misunderstanding and bloodshed that had scarred our planet - we were one people, drawn from many nations but united in a desire to worship Christ and serve him.

As I joined in the worship sessions with 500 voices singing to the Lord Jesus, I thought of the missionary pioneers who had sacrificed their lives for the worldwide church. I thought of Henry Martyn labouring to learn more than 15 languages so that he could translate the Scriptures, spending months in dangerous sea and land voyages to Asia and beyond, dying at the age of 31, exhausted and broken. I thought of William Carey who gave everything he had to travel to India, devoting his life to the establishment of an indigenous Christian church. I thought of Gladys Aylward, the little woman, ravaged by tropical diseases and physical abuse, suffering alone in China. I thought of the thousands and thousands of unknown missionary martyrs who sacrificed their lives to take the good news of Jesus Christ to lands that had never known it.

Those pioneer missionaries were motivated by a vision, a dream, of a worldwide church in which people from every nation and tongue would gather together in unity. They sacrificed their lives in faith and hope that this vision would become a reality. But their eyes never saw it.

Now, almost for the first time in world history, our eyes are privileged to see what they never saw. Because of their labours, their sacrifice, and their vision, the worldwide church has become a living reality, a tangible demonstration of God's power in a cynical age.

I came away from Merroo inspired, humbled and challenged. We live in remarkable times. Each one of us needs to live in the reality that we are members of a worldwide church – we are part of the people being called from every nation, called together to serve the living Lord. May the Holy Spirit inspire and motivate us to become international followers of an international God.

John Wyatt is professor of neonatal paediatrics at University College London

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