The New Face of Medical Missions

The missionary physicians of the 21st century will be Africans—and US missions agencies couldn’t be happier.

As the rainy season nears an end in Africa’s Rift Valley, the boys harvesting avocados start falling out of trees. If a boy breaks a bone, he may go to Kibuye Hope, a rural mission hospital in the East African nation of Burundi. There, for the first time in the 73-year history of the hospital, he may receive care from a full-time, permanent missionary surgeon who is Burundian.

That surgeon, Alliance Niyukuri, joined the missionary staff of Kibuye Hope in 2018, moving his family to its residences after he completed his medical training in Gabon. He is one of the first 100 graduates from the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons (PAACS).

“I’m hoping that my presence here can encourage other Burundians and allow me to be a role model to students coming to the mission hospital,” Niyukuri said. “The Lord is [calling] more and more young graduates like me, calling us also to serve in the mission hospitals.”

Niyukuri is part of a long-hoped-for cohort of African missionary doctors serving in their native regions. It is the result of a larger shift in medical missions strategies that many organizations started making a few decades ago to train and empower Africans to practice medicine. The organizations recognized the potential of the Christians in Africa and sought new ways to deal with the continued shortage of doctors.

“The vision in the late 1990s was audacious,” said Mike Chupp, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, a US professional group that sponsors overseas medical missions and partnered with Loma Linda University to start PAACS in 2003. “It was, by 2020, to graduate 100 general surgeons in Africa for Africa.”

This is no small undertaking. It …

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