In a world of medical advances and government health programs, Baptist hospitals continue to be essential to the Great Commission and Jesus’ command to love God and love others.
The International Mission Board recently had a conversation with Tom Hicks, the IMB’s new director of global healthcare strategies, during the International Baptist Hospital Consortium in Southeast Asia. This is the first year the IMB has facilitated this meeting.
The IMB continues to seek ways to utilize healthcare strategies to facilitate gospel access, leading to gospel belief and church planting. Baptist hospitals around the world continue to be places of physical and spiritual healing. We discussed this, the significance of the consortium, the necessity of this meeting and more.
While the hospital names are withheld for security reasons, the seven participating hospitals are located around the globe — spanning the Americas, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Asian Pacific Rim and South Asia. One of the more well-known hospitals is Bangalore Baptist Hospital in India, which was founded by Hicks’ predecessor, Dr. Rebekah Naylor, a retired missionary surgeon.
IMB: You’ve spent the better part of your week at the International Baptist Hospital Consortium. Could you tell us more about it?
Hicks: In the 1940s and 1950s, Southern Baptists established numerous hospitals worldwide. In the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, we transitioned them to national leadership. Just as the missionary task requires an exit strategy, our goal was to equip national leaders to carry on the work. We didn’t intend to run these hospitals indefinitely.
In some cases, we’ve stayed actively involved in the work and support of the hospitals. This consortium provides an opportunity for us to re-engage with all the hospitals, fostering collaboration and mutual support among them.
IMB: It appears that this consortium aims to network these hospitals. How can they support each other, and what’s the IMB’s role in this initiative?
Hicks: All seven hospitals represented here face similar challenges. Despite diverse cultures and varying governmental constraints, they share a common mission to be both missional and sustainable. In healthcare, sustainability means being innovative and expanding services and personnel, just as other hospitals do. These hospitals create gospel access where it’s scarce, and when they collaborate, they can identify problems, anticipate challenges and share solutions.
Our role is to equip, encourage and facilitate connections. This meeting was made possible through the Rebekah Naylor Preach and Heal Fund. Al Stubblefield, a renowned expert on Baptist hospitals (see “The Baptist Health Care Journey to Excellence“), serves as the keynote speaker, and we’re here to learn alongside hospital leadership, cross-fertilize ideas, address challenges and share wisdom for the future.
IMB: None of these hospitals are in remote areas. They are all in urban areas with access to health care. Why is it crucial for Southern Baptists to have these hospitals, and what sets them apart?
Hicks: First and foremost, most of these hospitals are in countries hostile to the gospel. Their mere presence provides a legitimate platform for believers to work, save lives and address the world’s greatest problem — spiritual lostness.
Most of these hospitals have chaplaincy programs. Chaplains work directly with patients and share the gospel during their hospital stay. This gospel presence extends beyond the hospital, as patients are connected to local churches, where they receive continued support and guidance.
The gospel presence doesn’t just stop with the patients, though. Many of these hospitals are affiliated with nursing schools, where students are not only trained in medicine but also in cross-cultural work, integrating sharing their faith with healthcare services.
IMB: Do you have any examples of why patients are choosing these hospitals over government-funded facilities?
Hicks: This week, we’ve heard from hospital administrators who have answered this question. Patients choose these hospitals because they know they will be truly cared for, regardless of their economic or social status. The patients genuinely feel valued, and the hospitals remain relevant by expressing the love of Christ in every aspect of their work.
IMB: It’s clear that these hospitals are doing gospel work. How can Southern Baptists support the work their hospitals are doing?
Hicks: Southern Baptists can support their hospitals by praying, giving and going.
Pray: Pray for creativity and wisdom in hospital leadership as they strive to be innovative and sustainable. Pray for the well-being of health care workers, who, like their counterparts in the United States, face long hours and challenging work. Pray for their continued spiritual strength to be a light in communities where spiritual need is often great.
Go: Consider participating in short-term trips as healthcare missionaries. Check the IMB’s healthcare missions page for opportunities.