How Christian Hospitals Must See Past the Bottom Line


Baylor Scott & White Health employees volunteering at the Second Life Resource Center, where medical supplies are prepared for distribution around the world. (Photos: BSWH-FIAI)

Any successful organization, especially a Christian one, must look beyond its own needs and agenda.

When a hospital goes beyond its bottom-line concerns to address "outside" responsibilities, a transformation occurs.

Christian hospitals obviously must operate with outstanding medical and business guidelines. But that's not the whole story. The Christian hospital carries an even greater stewardship than a secular hospital.

In order to thrive in our mission, Christian hospitals must sense a burden and responsibility to address crying public health needs beyond the walls and around the world. Only then will those hospitals find success in their day-by-day internal mission.

Of course, the same reasoning holds true in any local church. Congregations can become inward focused to the point that they fail in service to their community and world. In so doing, they will be signing their own death sentences.

Eight years ago at Baylor Scott & White Health (BSWH), we started "a clearinghouse" of unneeded supplies and equipment.

That brainstorm of our just-retired CEO Joel Allison has mushroomed into Faith in Action Initiatives (FIAI), an office that inspires BSWH's 34,000 employees to join in giving in many creative ways.

Allison knew an ugly secret: Many hospitals tend to throw away valuable equipment and supplies. What he envisioned was a means of eliminating such waste and applying these resources in local and international contexts.

Results from just the last few weeks of this eight-year phenomenon are:

  • Three 40-foot containers of supplies to a Christian organization in Israel (for Palestinians) and Syria (for displaced citizens).
  • A container of medical supplies for a new clinic in Peru.
  • Resourcing more than 50 local free-access clinics and ministries within just one month.

As we began to share massive amounts of supplies, creative results began to transpire. In essence, the birthing of a resource center catalyzed individual stewardship too.

Every employee in the system is encouraged to be part of FIAI in some fashion.

Our employees have contributed more than 7,400 first-aid and toiletry bags to our disaster relief efforts. More than 170 employees volunteered at the Second Life Resource Center, FIAI's medical supplies warehouse, in November.

FIAI provides partial travel scholarships for employees for short-term medical mission trips. More than 400 nurses, physical therapists and others have used these funds to provide healing in more than 45 third-world countries.

They return to BSWH better equipped to serve with more wisdom, a wider worldview and more robust gratitude.

Truly, our greatest resource is not equipment but people.

We decided to begin equipping our employees for the spiritual tasks. FIAI developed DayLight, an electronic daily inspiration piece. We use more than 50 BSWH employees to write, and my goal is to have contributors who range from hospital presidents to blue-collar workers.

Not only do thousands read DayLight, but also hundreds outside our system read it. The same is true for our BSWH 10-week Bible study in print as well as a 10-minute video.

FIAI leads BSWH with Sacred Vocation, a six-week empowerment experience in small facilitation groups. More than 2,000 employees have graduated from this dignity-building effort.

FIAI assists BSWH in Faith Community Health, our new medical outreach, which trains caregivers to come alongside senior citizens who need encouragement and wellness information. They live healthier lives because someone takes the time to assist them.

I believe most would readily understand why all these creative steps in FIAI are of pivotal importance. Any time a disregarded human is addressed with Christ-like actions, everyone wins and the Kingdom will increase.

FIAI helps BSWH, America's fourth largest hospital system, in all the following ways:

  • Providing everything from beds and exam tables to gauze and syringes to struggling clinics and hospitals from Central America to Asia and Africa.
  • Sending out more than $1.5 million of depreciated equipment and supplies in 2016.
  • Martialing our resources to address disaster situations in Japan, Haiti, Liberia, Syria, the Philippines and stateside locations.
  • Using telecommunications to relate to the world of professional healthcare delivery. We might be in Texas, but our scope is global.
  • Shaping opinions about Christians in some of the most volatile parts of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
  • Providing hope for marginalized people who have nowhere else to turn.

Should other Christian hospitals follow suit with their own versions of Faith in Action Initiatives? Most certainly.

But such steps will require courage on the part of administrators to address the bottom-line naysayers. It will demand creativity to pull together resources at hand. And, of course, it requires sheer compassion for the least and the lost.

Remember, there's nothing more comfortable - and deadly - than living within just one's insulated corporate agenda.

As Danny Thomas used to say in his fundraising advocacy for St. Jude Hospital, "Takers eat well, but givers sleep well."

Don Sewell is director of Faith in Action Initiatives at Baylor Scott & White Health. He was named EthicsDaily.com's 2014 Baptist of the Year.

Editor's note: This article is part of a series on missions and local churches / denominational organizations.

Previous articles in the series are:

Sharing the Gospel, Saving Lives in West African Nation

CBF of Georgia Connects Youth to Mission Projects

How Your Church Can Break the Fortress Mentality

Sustaining Ministries Through Indigenous Missionary Support

Cooks on a Mission Shares Love of Christ Through Food

Missouri Baptist Church Meets Medical Needs in Guatemala

Teaching Missions to Kids in Our Self-Centered Culture

Health Professionals Serve Through Short-Term Missions

4 Principals to Ensure Short-Term Missions Succeed

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Tags: Baptist, Baylor Scott and White Health, Don Sewell, Faith in Action Initiatives, Medical Missions, Missions


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