A Simple HealingBy Frank Spangler
2009 Cambodia Mission Trip
February 3, 2009
Over the last couple of days I have had my Western worldview challenged. As a third- generation Adventist who has spent many years studying the doctrinal belief system and the historical development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I am quite familiar with the emphasis the young church placed on healthful living and the use of simple natural treatments for sickness and disease. Most Adventists are aware of the eight laws of health laid down by the "pioneers" of the Church: Exercise, Sunshine, Fresh Air, Rest, Temperance, Proper use of water inside and out , Proper Nutrition, and trust in Divine power. Many members endeavor to follow the principles outlined by these health guidelines, especially when they start to feel sick. But now that over 120 years have passed since these principles were outlined, and science and medicine have advanced beyond what could possibly have been imagined, one might wonder to what extent we should follow the proscribed treatments that went along with this health-reform movement of the 1880’s. Books on Adventist history are ripe with fascinating stories of the early health-reform movement and the establishment of rural Sanitariums where people from the city could come find respite from their stressful lives, learn the eight laws of health and receive simple natural treatments for their illnesses. In addition to eight tall glasses of pure water a day, many inventive external uses of water were used to stimulate the circulation of the blood and promote the body’s natural immune system. This, combined with a simple diet and the prayer of faith for healing, was the primary approach used to treat the sick.
Those who know me will testify that I am not a big fan of the pharmaceutical industry or doctors who freely proscribe. I only visit my doctor if I feel that I am close to death’s door, and about the only way that you would find me in a hospital bed is if I was unconscious. However, even with these reservations, I have to admit that I have a certain respect for the overall advancement that we have made in science and medical treatment over the last 120 years and am inclined to believe that at least some of the methods developed have got to offer new solutions that go beyond water treatments! Can 1880's philosophy on health and disease have much relevance today? If a child is close to death from pneumonia , are we comfortable with hot fomentations, cold compresses and a prayer, or do we need to get them into the hospital? If someone has appendicitis, do we not rush them to the ER?
What if you live in the jungle, many days walk to the nearest hospital , with no money to pay for the treatment once you arrive? What if you are training medical missionaries to go work and live in these remote communities? Do 1880 methods and trust in Divine Power start to sound good again?
This is the dilemma faced by ASAP as it trains young people to go out into the remote villages to work with people suffering from a variety of sickness and disease. People in poor countries have come to put a lot of faith in Western medicine and will often sell their possessions, rice fields and sometimes their children to seek surgery, drugs or some other treatment at the hospitals in the city, in an attempt to get well. Often all they need is some simple health education, a change in diet, sanitation, pure water, and the use of simple natural treatments along with an introduction to the healing power of their Creator.
Meet Yohan. He was one of the students that had come to the training seminar. For the last ten years he has been working in a remote village in Burma as a teacher, for a stipend of only $30/month. The plan was for him to gain the confidence of the children and parents and eventually introduce them to Christianity. Last year he was invited to become a Church Planter, sponsored by ASAP. Over the last year his efforts have been blessed and he has had a number of baptisms!
Just prior to coming to the training seminar, Yohan became ill with severe abdominal pain. He went to the hospital where he received a number of tests, with no conclusive results. They gave him some medicine for the pain and told him to come back in two weeks for more tests. While the drugs masked the pain enough for him to come to the seminar, they could not resolve the cause. By the third day of training, he was in so much pain that he could no longer concentrate on the lessons.
Dr. Mary Ann examined him and decided to demonstrate simple home treatments on him, as a way to show the students how effective they can be. A hot foot bath was prepared and a cold cloth was applied to his head and face. Then, using a paste made from charcoal, a poultice was applied around his abdomen, to draw out and absorb the toxins that were giving him the pain. This was followed by prayer for healing and the anointing of oil, as instructed in scripture.
Within 30 minutes his pain subsided and by the next morning it was gone! Yohan was back taking notes, happy and thankful to be alive! A walking, smiling, enthusiastic answer to prayer and a strong testimony for the use of simple, natural treatments.
So what was at work here? Does charcoal really have the ability to cure serious illnesses? Is the black paste an equivalent to Jesus’ use of clay to heal? Is it God’s way to have people co-operate with Him in the healing process? Or was it the prayer and anointing of oil that was the source of the miraculous recovery for Yohan?
Dr. Mary Ann says, from her many years of experience in using these methods on countless patients, that it is a combination of everything that brings the healing. It is the faith of the patient, the attendees, the power of God, the simple treatments, the anointing of oil, that all work together to heal. The use of simple substances such as charcoal and oil, rather than surgery and drugs, ensures that all glory goes to the Creator! The process strengthens faith in God rather then doctors or human means.
The experience of answered prayer, especially as it related to the healing of one of God’s workers in Myanmar, a member of our team, brought a sense of closeness to the group. We all rejoiced that Yohan was feeling great and praised God for the evidence of His personal concern with our lives. Some of the more skeptical in our group were certainly given opportunity to reconsider the importance and value of the health message of our fathers, and the mighty power of prayer!
To read about a mission trip attendee's first Sabbath in Cambodia, click here.
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