The Reader Writes


Dear Rev. Kuiper:

May I write to you in regard to some statements of Rev. Peter De Jong in the Nov. 1960 TORCH AND TRUMPET regarding expenditure of money for foreign mission work (see p. I6)? I shall not discuss mission principles with Rev. De Jong. However, he is not a practicing physician nor has he practiced medicine in the tropics, much less in Nigeria. So I do not think that he can prescribe what is good for Christian medical work in Nigeria. I appreciate his problem. He objects to the use of $200,000 for the construction of a new Christian Hospital (at Choko, to replace the old Mkar Hospital). The Hospital does not have much to do with the question of indigenous principles of missions. Such a sum is indeed beyond the means of the Christians here. They ARE paying their pastors’ and evangelists’ salaries now. quite in keeping with these principles.

First, let me say that the Nigerians and we mission doctors and nurses deeply appreciate what the Christians of the U.S.A. and Canada have done in making possible the building of Takum Christian Hospital. The $150,000 spent there is a grand gift and has made possible a real demonstration of the love of Christ and his people for men’s bodies and souls.

Yet we also need a good hospital in this area (Mkar-Gboko) to replace the one in which we arc now working. Can you imagine a hospital with a scanty water supply, no sanitary facilities, old buildings needing constant and costly repairs and extensive alterations to. comply with the minimum government requirements, which will be enforced for the first time in 1964? Also, the terrain is unsuitable for streamlining the strung-out buildings on the old site. Besides all this. we have a nurses’ and midwifery school and cannot teach proper patient care in these surroundings. Really, must we mission doctors and nurses always “make-do” with the worst while you Christian brothers and sisters in the U.S.A. and Canada have every convenience and most luxuries? And must the Nigerian sick folk who come to our hospital at Mkar suffer extra or die from Jack of care because we do not have the proper facilities to care for them? We’re not asking for anything luxurious—only what is absolutely needed to do decent work. This letter would become far too long if I should explain in detail all the reasons for a new hospital. But no one in the U.S.A. can judge this issue without being well acquainted with the local situation. I feel that this is a question in which the church must get its guidance from doctors who are here on the mission field in Nigeria and have some experience in hospital planning in the tropics. And we have such men here, of whom Dr. John Vroon has the greatest experience.

I hope that you and your readers will sympathetically consider in your prayers and gifts the physical and spiritual outreach of the Christian medical work in Nigeria, including the construction of a new hospital at Gboko.

Most sincerely,

Herman H. Gray, M.D., Medical Superintendent, Mkar Christian Hospital


No one will dispute Dr. Gray’s superior knowledge of the practice of medicine or of Nigeria. The reader may recall that my article. to which he objects, was concerned not with whether or not we build another hospital in Nigeria, but with the biblical principles that should guide our churches’ missionary program. It seems that, in the growing complexity of our missionary efforts, those principles are often being overlooked. The result can be both expensive and destructive to real missionary witness. Our foreign mission board is constantly being confronted by the ever-increasing “needs” of each mission field and arguments why each of these should be paid for out of the inexhaustible American pocket-book, but far too little thought often seems to be given to what the long-term results will be when we give in to most of these demands. It is not only a few board members who fear this tendency. One of our Nigeria missionaries in a recent report cautioned the board, “We must be constantly vigilant in resisting the inevitable trend, in every mission as well as our own, towards smothering self-help in the young churches.”

Since Dr. Gray focuses our attention on the proposed $200,000 hospital project, let us observe that no one is saying that we should condemn people in Nigeria to disease and death by heartlessly ignoring their physical need. Our concern is with how we can best help them. It seems obvious, even at this distance, that there is more than one way of trying to meet their need. For the suggestion that there might be another, better way to meet the Nigeria health need, that ought to be considered before we build a second big new hospital there. I am indebted to no one less than Dr. Gray himself. In his report of last August he informed us, “In May Prof. Dr. Zuidema was here for a week. He stayed in our house and came to the hospital each day. His advice on many things—clinical cases, mission medical work in its broad aspects—was stimulating. He made the point that it is better to have several small institutions which the local Christians can take over than to have a fancy, mammoth one that will be beyond them financially and administratively.” (Italics are mine.) This policy, recommended by Dr. Zuidema, is the one preferred by a number of other mission organizations and is the one promoted by Medco, the program made famous by the late Dr. Thomas Dooley. Has this possible alternative been explored by our missionaries? If it has, we in the board and in the church have not heard about it.


Peter De Jong