Written by Sara Kandiah, Global Support Officer, The Leprosy Mission International Office.
I recently attended the 7th global meeting in Manila, the Philippines, of Micah Global, an international Christian community of organisations and individuals committed to integral mission. During the meeting, The Leprosy Mission and American Leprosy Missions jointly ran a thematic workshop focusing on integral mission and community health.
We had gathered an international team of practitioners (pictured above) from a range of community health backgrounds and our workshop included presentations, sharing of case studies, question and answer sessions and discussion groups. It was amazing to see how diverse the delegates were that showed up to our sessions and to hear their views each day on the questions we asked.
Some reflections from our international presenters:
“This is my first time to be in the Micah Global meeting and I enjoyed listening to the many speakers; many of them were challenging, hearing those which are a lot wider than what our normal leprosy world would share.”
Dr Zaw Moe Aung, Country Director, The Leprosy Mission Myanmar
“The presentations from diverse backgrounds during our community health workshop brought wider understanding on various issues. I was reminded that when every door is closed, God’s door is open. God can use multiple ways to bring not only physical health but a complete restoration”.
Chiranjivi Sharma, Programmes Coordinator, The Leprosy Mission Nepal
What happened during our workshop?
By the end of the week, delegates who attended gained a greater understanding around some of the barriers faced by the millions of people who remain highly stigmatised because of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) and disability, limiting their access to local community health services. We also identified the unique contribution of the church as a key building block of a sustainable community health model. It was agreed that the church has an opportunity to ‘pull off its roof’ and follow Jesus’ example by raising awareness and responding holistically to people suffering from stigma and discrimination due to marginalising conditions such as leprosy. As was shared by one of the workshop delegates: ‘The Church is a sleeping giant waiting to be awakened for the health of the nations’. A wonderful inspiring response and vision to the challenge of responding to the health needs present within our own communities.
On the final day of the global meeting our group had the opportunity to share some of the lessons learned with the main plenary. Here are some of the learning points that we shared:
‘Health is bigger than just physical and includes social and wellbeing; it’s integral.’
‘Jesus prioritised people with disability and neglected tropical diseases and we should too.’
‘The church has a crucial role in raising health awareness and fighting stigma and discrimination.’
‘Inclusivity is contagious!’
There were commitments made by everyone who attended our integral mission and community health workshop to not only to continue the discussions and share the learning with their organisations back home but to intentionally build relationships with their local churches to help put integral mission into practice within their community health initiatives.