March 9, 2010

Comprehensive Health

Sunday morning we attended the Ywama Baptist Church where Dr. Maung Maung Yin serves as pastor. Prior to entering the sanctuary, we visited the health clinic which is housed in an adjoining building. Founded in 2002, it is a vibrant healing ministry of the church. Open on Sundays and Thursdays, the clinic treats thousands of people who have no other access to health care. In 2009, the clinic served 6527 persons. Ethnically, patients are Bama, Kayin, Chin, Kachin; and by religion they are Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus. The cost for the clinic per visit is approximately one dollar. Doctors and nurses volunteer their time, and pharmaceuticals are donated or purchased at low cost. The primary health issues are related to poor diet: tuberculosis, hypertension, eye problems, and various infections. HIV-AIDS is still on the rise in the country, also. So much care is offered here, and the staff lives by the motto: “we treat and God heals.” I will not look at a dollar in the same way again.

The worship service was full and rich (and long!) It began with the baptism of 28 boys and girls, men and women. A baptismal service is held twice a year—March and October – so the baptistery is busy on those special Sundays. The pastor inquired of each candidate whether they were confessing Jesus Christ as Lord, and after confirming that profession, each was baptized in the three-fold name of God. One dramatic transformation occurred as a young man with very spiky hair was plunged into the water; he emerged with his carefully coiffed hair-do flattened by the grace of baptism. He was a new creation, indeed, joined to the life of Christ and the life of the congregation. Each newly baptized person was presented with a New Testament and welcome to participate in communion that morning. We were blessed to participate with the congregation on the Sunday when the two holy sacraments that Baptists observe were a part of our worship.

And then there was one more Burmese meal in the church hall. Rice and noodles and vegetables in abundance were served—and finally, ice cream! Once again the hospitality of our hosts overwhelmed us in its extravagance, especially given the economic constraints of this congregation.

It struck me that they are providing comprehensive health care—for body and soul. The community ministers to the whole person, and persons are being healed. The ancient image of the church as a hospital for sinful and sick persons is embodied in the good work of the Ywama Baptist Church. Thanks be to God!

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