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An Opportunity for Christian Doctors

CHRIS PARNELL Chairman, Baptist Friends of Jubilee Hospital
Opportunity knocks at the 576 bed Jubilee Community Hospital, Hammanskraal, South Africa, which was a Baptist Mission and is now a government hospital with opportunity for Christian service.

We are short of doctors. We have a Baptist doctor from Zaire and a few doctors from South Africa. We have Muslims and Hindus who have come from the Indian continent and others have come from Europe.

The Baptist Union (BU) employs two chaplains and a Bible lady. They serve a staff of 1,400 and hundreds of thousands of in-patients, out-patients and rural folk at the hospital and its 21 clinics and 8 mobile stops.

Forty years on
It was June 1952. I had only been in South Africa for six months after leaving my London church.

Three men, one the BU treasurer, another a missionary-minded pastor, the third a deacon, had come to my home to discuss something with me. I wondered what.

"We want you to join us in starting a Baptist Mission Hospital", they said "Ridiculous", I thought. What I actually said was something like this: "Hospitals cost lots of money. The BU has only ten thousand members in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Zambia. You already have two mission stations with schools and clinics in rural Zambia, a number of mission schools in South Africa, winter and summer aid programmes, and you are building many churches. Is a mission hospital feasible?"

"There's no hospital in the Hammanskraal area. The nearest is forty miles away" was the reply. "The people there are some of the poorest in the country, the death rate of little children is appalling. The government says that if we will get a small hospital up and running, then they will provide all the running expenses and half the cost of new buildings."

I went out with them to see the area and choose a site. The situation was just as they said. My heart was moved, if not my head.

However, the BU Assembly in the October accepted the hospital with unanimity and enthusiasm as their Jubilee project.

"Could we get help from Britain or America?", I asked. "We'll try", said the treasurer, "but they never help us, we're not one of their mission fields". He was proved right.

What an exciting task we amateurs had in building a hospital where the ground water was undrinkable and many difficulties stood in the way! But, with wonderful answers to prayer work and much hard work and ingenuity, we were at last able to dedicate the hospital in 1955, forty years ago.

Extra interests
A few miles from the hospital we now have a conference centre, sponsored by the Jubilee Baptist Field Committee, where every week Christian groups from many denominations gather.

A few miles further we have the Stinkwater Lethabile Baptist Community Development project led by a Baptist from Zaire who has a degree in Community Development.

This came into being in the eighties, when the heart of a Scottish Baptist doctor at Jubilee was touched by the need of these people who seemed to be the most deprived and overlooked community in the whole area.

The heart of Pretoria Central Baptist Church was also touched and they started the Stinkwater Mission. They got the school right; provided accommodation and help for a clinic from Jubilee; sank boreholes; erected buildings; started teaching vegetable and hen and egg production, sewing and knitting; and they preached Christ. They make up monthly parcels of food for elderly people and run a soup kitchen.

Members of Central do this and more voluntarily. The Central Church's mission receives no help from the government nor any agency, such as the Tear Fund or a missionary society.

Big things ahead
Nearly two years ago Dr Alf Kettles, a South African Baptist doctor, felt the call to Jubilee. He left his lucrative specialist practice and now lives there.

God has given him a vision of a tremendous community project at the heart of this area, with Christ as its centre.

My instinctive reaction could have been similar to my initial reaction when the three wise men came to me in 1952 with the "ridiculous" idea that we should build a hospital, but it's not. I know that with God all things are possible.

We need men and women of Christian faith. This was written for the BAPTIST TIMES. but we are not concerned about denominational affiliation.
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