Thursday, March 8, 2012

Visiting the Diocese of South Kerala

Just north of Trivandrum in Kerala, India there is a rural health training centre that serves many of the poorest fishing villages nearby. I arrived there one afternoon recently to visit the facilities and was surprised to find  myself clambering over building materials. Already a facility with 100 beds and a range of departments, this quasi-hospital is about to double in size. The medical staff are overrun with demand and are working hard to meet ever increasing expectations for quality of care.

Such is the vision and energy of the Diocese of South Kerala, that millions of rupees are being invested to upgrade and expand facilities to serve this rising demand. The formula is simple. This rural health training centre provides a standard of care and response to patients that put local government facilities to shame. They do this at a fraction of the price of the more sophisticated private hospitals that compete for business amongst the wealthy.

I asked our colleague, Dr. Bennet Abraham, how expansive were his ambitions? There are 3 diocesan hospitals, including Karakonam with its renowned medical college. It seemed to me that the Diocese was providing health services pitched at just the right point to serve the majority of the poor and rising middle class. In terms of impact, the sky was the limit.

How far should the Church go in fulfilling such a role in its surrounding community? My mind goes back to my visit to St. Luke's Houston, the largest health system in that part of Texas with its world class hospitals and community care projects. Anglicans in this network are not out there simply to fill temporary gaps in service provision. They believe that what they do arises from Christian vocation and is of unique value in their societies at large. In their prayers they see a God who cares for the world outside the Church. They see body and spirit intertwined. They follow the call of Christ the healer.

Our colleagues in different parts of the Anglican Communion face us all with a challenge: the care of the sick and the promotion of wellness is God's business and ours. As it stands, for those who have the vision, there is no ceiling on their ambitions. The sky's the limit...


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