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Abstract

Discussion on the response to the Covid 19 pandemic for a Christian mission hospital from a Biblical perspective.
SHORT COMMUNICATIONS
April 2020. Christian Journal for Global Health, 7(1)
A Biblical Model for a Christian Hospital in India in the time of
COVID-19
Vijay Anand Ismavela
a MS, MCh, Former Director, Makunda Christian Leprosy and General Hospital, Bazaricherra, Assam, India
Today is Palm Sunday, the beginning of the
Christian “Passion Week.” Normally, today,
Christians all over the world would have walked
streets outside their churches with palm fronds,
enacting Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem, leading
on to the train of events that led to His death and
resurrection. Palm Sunday 2020, however, is
different. Churches all over the world are closed.
Most villages, towns, and cities are under various
restrictions from social distancing to
lockdowns. People are on their phones
talking, chatting, and posting on social media.
The discussions are all about one thing the
COVID-19 pandemic. As of today, over 1.2
million people are infected and over 65,000 have
died.2
The Jewish world is about to start their
Passover festival; this year it will also be
celebrated across the world in similar conditions
as Passion Week, from the 8th to the 16th of this
month. We read the story of the Passover in
Exodus 12:12-18. The nation of Israel was in
bondage to the Egyptians. The ruler of the
Egyptians, the Pharaoh, would not let them free;
they were his source of cheap labor. The early
chapters of Exodus talk about this situation, the
story of Moses and God using him to deliver the
Israelites from the clutches of the Egyptians
through 10 plagues. The last plague was the
death of every firstborn in the land. The Israelites
were pre-warned of the impending plague and
were told to anoint their doorposts with blood
from a sacrificial lamb. When the Angel of Death
swept through the land killing the firstborn, he
“passed over” the homes where there was blood
on the doorposts. We too, like the Israelites,
should put our faith in the shed blood of the
Lamb. The world today is gripped by a powerful
pestilence, killing large numbers of people from
even the wealthiest and most powerful of nations;
all their power and wisdom is unable to stop it.
We too have no power over this pestilence, but
like the Israelites, we can put our faith in our God,
who made heaven and earth. He sends His angels
to watch over His people and like the Israelites in
the days of Moses, we too can be at peace and
without fear.
Our mission hospital in Assam, India has
started to approach this crisis situation with a
Biblical model. It comes from the first six
chapters of the book of Nehemiah.
Nehemiah started his story from the city of
Susa, where he heard about the sad predicament
of the people of Judah and the city of Jerusalem.
It is like our situation today, as we hear about the
worsening crisis across the world. He knew that
this situation was due to the unfaithfulness of
God’s people (Neh 1:8), but at that point in time,
the priority was to restore the integrity of the city
and its walls (Neh 2:5). He approached the king
and was given supplies and assistance to
complete this task. He was given authority, in
fact, he was made the governor. He inspected the
city and its walls and took stock of the situation
(Neh 2:12-16). We too should understand and
take stock of the situation. Through electronic
mass media, we can be up to date on what is
happening around the world. We know that this
pandemic originated in China and then rapidly
spread across the world through traveling
28 Ismavel
April 2020. Christian Journal for Global Health, 7(1)
infected people. It is now spreading from person
to person. Each infected person is expected to
spread the disease to two others, if given the
opportunity to interact with uninfected people. If
nothing is done, millions will be infected, and
many will die. Scientists are constantly studying
this disease as it evolves, and we are learning how
to manage the situation and minimize morbidity
and mortality.
Having understood what he was up against,
Nehemiah made elaborate plans. He appointed
key leaders to take responsibilities for rebuilding
different parts of the walls of Jerusalem. When
faced with ridicule by his enemies, he responded
by ignoring them, showing single-minded
determination to complete the task given to him
and by prayer. When there was a threat of
physical violence, he arranged for workers to
continue working with construction materials in
one hand and a weapon in the other (Neh 4:15-
16). We too have the responsibility of treating our
patients while protecting ourselves and others
from getting infected. At our hospital, the local
government has designated us as a non-COVID
emergency hospital. People need a safe place to
go for their deliveries, strokes, and heart attacks,
bowel perforations, and obstructed hernias. In the
future, we may be called upon to work with
COVID patients, too, if government facilities are
overwhelmed. Our hospital has created a task
force that has readied the hospital to tackle this
situation. Separate teams have been formed,
personal protective equipment (PPE) is being
made with what we have, different areas have
been designated for different patients, and
protocols are in place. We, too, are preparing to
fight on two fronts.
In the 5th chapter of the book of Nehemiah,
we see him hearing about the plight of the poor
and needy. Although his task was to repair the
walls, that could not be his only priority. His
target population was suffering, and they were the
focus of the exercise, not the stone walls and
wooden gates. Therefore, he steps in and asks
people to forgive the debts of the poor and give
loans without interest. In this moment of crisis,
let us also consider the people we have been
called to serve. Many of them were already poor
and marginalized, this situation will make them
destitute. They have just become financially
vulnerable and in danger of losing their vital
assets. If we force the poor to pay their bills for
bringing their loved ones to our hospitals and
their children to our schools, we would inflict
greater pain than the virus. Let us think about
how we can be a blessing to the underprivileged
communities we have been called upon to serve.
We may ask, aren’t we running out of money too?
We don’t have enough to pay our bills and
salaries. We must remember that God is no
man’s debtor. The Bible tells us that when we
treat the poor, He will pay their bills and reward
us (Proverbs 19:17).
Later in the 5th chapter, we see Nehemiah
counting the costs of the work entrusted to him.
He finds that resources are short and the task is
great. He decides to set a personal example by
not claiming what is his due as a governor. When
crisis situations arise, we (and our families and
friends) should consider a period of austerity and
sacrifice for the people we are called to serve.
Makunda went through periods of severe crisis in
the past. Each time, bills accumulated, due
amounts were demanded by various people,
salaries were deferred, and many staff donated
from what they had to keep the work going.
Projects had been started which could not be
closed, and staff contributed to enable them to
continue. Today, they are institutions on their
own: the 1200 student Makunda Christian Higher
Secondary School, the School of Nursing, and the
branch hospital at Ambassa in Tripura. To enable
these to become reality, staff were willing to wait
for 14 years for running water and electricity to
29 Ismavel
April 2020. Christian Journal for Global Health, 7(1)
be supplied to their homes. Some staff did not
take their eligible leave so that the hospital did
not have to pay for replacements. Today, we too
have an opportunity to help our institution
continue to serve its target people by giving of our
time, talents, and treasure. We are lending to God
and will be repaid with things that money cannot
buy, peace and contentment in this world and
riches in heaven.
We read in Chapter six that Nehemiah firmly
denied lies from his enemies and finally
completed the task in 52 days. Only then did he
start working on solving the root causes of the
problem, the disobedience of God’s people. We
too need to work hard and diligently to get
through this crisis now. When the threat has
passed, we can study the entire experience and
put in place protocols and practices to help us do
better the next time we face another crisis.
We hear about fear in people facing this
crisis, but we have nothing to fear. In Romans
14:8, Paul writes that whether we live or die, we
are the Lord’s. For Christians, life does not end
with our physical death but continues on forever.
We are God’s ambassadors from the kingdom of
Heaven, temporarily posted to this world. We
will all die one day, but we are at peace. We have
handed over our lives into the hands of our loving
Commanding Officer. We are dispensable, and
He can choose the manner and timing of our
deaths. Our only concern is that during the time
given to us in this world, we live lives that find
approval in His sight by trust and obedience and
to complete the tasks given to us.
Conclusion
The 23rd Psalm is a much-loved chapter in the
Bible. In verse 4 we read, “Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear
no evil, for thy rod and thy staff, they comfort
me.” I remember suffering an acute myocardial
infarction, rolling about in pain on 2008 October
12.3 I felt as if someone was trying to pull the life
out of me, but I was held on because God told me
that He had some more work for me to do before
I go to be with Him. In verse 6, we read, “Surely
goodness and mercy will follow me all the days
of my life and I will live in the house of the Lord
forever.” May we submit our lives to Him as we
face this crisis and be found worthy of this
promise, for this world and the one to come.
References:
1. Makunda Christian Leprosy & General Hospital,
Assam, India. http://www.makunda.in/
2. Channel News Asia. COVID-19 Map. Accessed
4 April 2020. Available from:
https://infographics.channelnewsasia.com/covid-
19/map.html
3. Ismavel VA. An encounter with myocardial
infarction. The Sparrow’s Nest. Blog. 1 Nov
2011. Available from: https://the-
sparrowsnest.net/2011/11/01/an-encounter-with-
a-myocardial-infarction/
Competing Interests: None declared.
Correspondence: Dr. Vijay Ismavel, Assam, India. ivijayanand@yahoo.in
Cite this article as: Ismavel VA. A biblical model for a Christian hospital in India in the time of COVID-19.
Christian Journal for Global Health. April 2020;7(1):27-29. https://doi.org/10.15566/cjgh.v7i1.371
© Author This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,
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An encounter with myocardial infarction. The Sparrow's Nest. Blog. 1
  • V A Ismavel
Ismavel VA. An encounter with myocardial infarction. The Sparrow's Nest. Blog. 1 Nov 2011. Available from: https://thesparrowsnest.net/2011/11/01/an-encounter-witha-myocardial-infarction/