Thursday, 10 April 2008

The Band-Aid Effect

What does it really mean to be healthy?

As we stand at the brink of ministry, questions like these plague us, and it leaves us wondering, who is it that we should be helping and how?

There is a village high upon the mountain top,
It is a village deep with tradition,
Men spend their days hunting deer and swine in the dense forests,
Women tend to the rows of potatoes and carrots all the while keeping a watchful eye on their children,
As their mothers and fathers did before them, so do the people of this village.

Perched atop the steep cliffs,
The village stands alone, and solitude is treasured,

Solitude proves a burden however, when the men of the village need to trade.

The only neighbouring village is five kilometers from the base of mountain,

The steep trail down the mountain had claimed many lives,
One miscalculated step near the edge and men would plummet hundreds of metres to the base.

Men would be carted, dead or alive, to the neighbouring village along rocky narrow roads, on the back of donkey carts to the medical facility there.

Trading was mared with death...tradition...
Until one day,

A minister from another country had heard of this village, and he was determined to help.
After a long journey and a challenging hike, he sat down with village leaders.

It was unanimous, the village needed an ambulance at the base of the mountain.
The donkey cart was just too slow to transport the wounded to the hospital in time, many men died in transit.

And so it was,
The minister went back to his church, and through his congregation, they raised the funds and, as promised, he returned to purchase an ambulance and train a driver.

The ambulance worked beautifully and it wasn't long before the shortened trip had saved a life, then two.
And the minister left knowing he had made a difference.

Until one day...
On a routine trip to the hospital, the ambulance caught a corner going slightly too fast,
It turned over, snapping the axle and damaging the engine in the wreak,
The ambulance was out of commission,

Word spread back to the minister and he returned to the country and fateful village,

The villagers demanded for him to fix the ambulance, but he was a clever man,
He knew it was likely for this mishap to happen again and it would only a short time before he was back here again with the same problem.

He knew it would be more cost effective to build a clinic at the base of the mountain rather than continuously paying for maintenance of the ambulance.

It was time to cut his losses and push forward.

He proposed the idea of the clinic to the elders of the village and immediately he was praised for his thinking.
The clinic was to be built, local labour, local staffing, a total solution!

Not more than a couple months later, again with the funding of his church back home, the minister saw the completion of the clinic.
And again, the results were promising,
The doctor saved many lives, only feet from the site of the accident,

But again the winds of change swept in,
The clinic filled to full capacity during the raining season, and the doctor had his hands full,
There was not another medical professional to be found to lessen the burden and no one was willing to be trained.

The excitement and the joy of helping soon fled as the surge of people continued, and the passion drained from the doctors heart.
It was time for him to move on, and with that, he packed his bags and moved along.

Again word spread to the minister about the misfortune, but this time there was nothing he could do,
His congregation was growing, and while they were still very much interested in missions, the twice unlucky village was no longer at their hearts.
The minister reluctantly hung up the phone, and severed the ties.

Years passed and the village continued to face the same problems,
The remnants of the wreaked ambulance and forsaken medical clinic served to mock the villagers and harden their hearts.

And then the day came when two more travelers passed through the mountain top community,
The cold stares and the shut door, tempted them to ask one friendly man, "Why are we shunned?"

The story was told of the minister and his "solutions" and the travelers were intrigued,
They asked to meet with the village leaders to hear the full story.

After much discussion the solution seemed simple,
Find the root cause and tackle it from there using the resources available.

"What is the real problem..?" The travelers asked.
"We don't have any near by medical services to help us when we're injured," was the response.
Still the travelers pushed, "But why do you need the medical care?"
"We mountain is steep and the trail is treacherous, many a man falls to his death."
"Right, but why is it you fall to the base of the mountain?" Further pushing the subject
"Nothing obstructs us, the tree grow on at the top of the mountain," the villagers replied, nearing a solution

Finally one leader stood up excitedly, giddy with a possible solution, "We move some trees to block the narrow curve of the path!"

I took only a little time until the villagers agreed that a fence, rather than a row of trees, was the correct solution.
And with the instruction of the travelers, trees were chopped down, and the fence was built.

The villagers gather and stood with pride and a new sense of confidence infront of their new fence,
And as time went on, the fence proved to be an effective, natural, internal, cost efficient means of prevention.

It's a simple story,
It's the story of our times,
It's the story of modern ministry,

We need a change,

Relief is a method for times of crisis, but ultimately we should focus our attentions on development.

Development with the idea that one day, we, the outsiders, will have to leave, and the responsibility of the community will fall on the hands of that it serves.

Money, food supplies, blankets, clothes, etc. all have their time and place, but if a community continuous diets on these alone, without working to build an infastructure, it will breed dependance.

So what does it look like to build a sustainable community?
What is a healthy community and who are we to judge?

Health is not just a physical state, it is emotional, and it's spiritual as well.

It's four tier.

A healthy relationship with God, with self, with neighbour and with environment

If someone is lacking in one area, can we truly call them healthy?
If a community is lacking in one or more area, can we truly call it healthy?

Grace, Peace and Blessings,
In His Name,

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