After six years living in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood of West Baltimore, my family and I have moved to South Sudan. My three-year-old daughter keeps asking, “Why did we move?”
“To help the mommies and babies at the hospital,” I say.
She usually replies, “Can I help take care of the mommies and babies, Daddy?”
My daughter doesn’t recognize yet how dangerous childbirth can be without access to safe medical care. She also doesn’t know our old neighborhood in Baltimore was one of the most violent in the city. But she does understand that there’s sorrow in moving across the world—and joy in working together to help people.
We felt called to South Sudan because the hospital here, Bet Eman, is strengthening the health system while working with the local church to proclaim a hope that medicine can’t give. The church helped start the hospital because it recognized how important safe childbirth is to bodies and souls. It’s the same reason, fundamentally, that we were drawn to Sandtown: because of a church committed to holistic ministry.
Holistic is a hot word in many fields these days. In health care, doctors and researchers have realized that prescription drugs and hospitalizations do little to fix the most troublesome health problems. But too often, “holistic medicine” means alternative treatments like acupuncture instead of rethinking health care based on spiritual and physical needs.
Holistic ministry, too, can become just a grab bag of services, not a rethinking of the very nature of ministry. Our church in Baltimore, New Song Community, practices what they preach, though—and they do preach. We loved being part of a racially and economically ...1