Tim Freeman
M. S. Thirumalai

Missionary Training To Be Relevant to the Current Situation

Missionary training loses its focus if it is not relevant to meet the current challenges. Along with theological, biblical and communication aspects that form the core of missionary training, the training needs to look beyond and address the issues that confront the world. The question of infant mortality is one such issue. Often infant mortality is viewed only as a health problem. But this issue is not merely a health issue.

Infant mortality at birth is an issue that needs some urgent focus in the training of missionaries. How can the missionary help reduce infant mortality in groups to which she or he is called upon to give the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

God is the Source of All Life

God is the source of all life. He breathed into our nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7), and “in Him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4). Our God is the living God, as depicted in Deuteronomy 5:26; Psalm 84:2; Matthew 26:63; Romans 9:26 and other verses. Psalms 34:12, 36:9, and Proverbs 10:11 clearly indicate that to love and be in the fear of God is to live.

In Romans 6:23 we read that Christ is the source and mediator of life. That Christ is life is identified in Galatians 2:20, Philippians 1:21 and Colossians 3:3-4. God is the giver and sustainer of life.

If we love Christ, then it goes without saying that we do everything to preserve and sustain life. Because of this we need to take a close look at infant mortality and see how best our missionary education can help reduce infant mortality and ultimately eliminate it.

What is Infant Mortality?

In general terms, according to the norms followed in the documents of the United Nations, infant mortality occurs when an infant dies under a year since birth.

Infant mortality rate is measured usually in terms of deaths per 1000 births.

Terrible Incidence of Infant Mortality in Certain Countries

Countries in which more than one hundred infants from out of 1000 infants born face infant mortality are as follows, according to the statistics released by the United Nations: Sierra Leone (160 deaths per 1000 births), Afghanistan (150), Liberia (132), Angola (131), Mali (128), Chad (119), Ivory Coast (116), Somalia (116), Congo (113), Guinea-Bissau (112), Rwanda (112), Niger (110), Nigeria (109), Burkina Faso (104), Guinea (102). For details, please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_infant_mortality_rate_(2005)

There is nothing sanctum sanctorum about the number one-hundred used here as a benchmark. It simply shows the high wastage of human life given by our Father as gift to all of us. In India 55 infants out of 1000 births die within one year.

Some Theological Issues and Excessive Infant Mortality Rate

Most nations that have a very high rate of infant mortality are also nations in which there is either forced or voluntary mutilation of female genital organ (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/44459.php). While Islamic texts make it obligatory for males to have circumcision, the practice of female genital mutilation seems to have the sanction of tradition and consequent theology, from the grip of which these nations and the communities could not extricate themselves.

Why Is It So?

Why is it so? This is one question that every missionary under training needs to raise and tries to answer.

Infant death at birth also is alarmingly high in many nations. The rationale for and contours of appropriate mid-wife or childbirth practices need to be taught to our students under missionary training, boldly and openly. While a very few daring missionaries may opt to get trained in this area, all must be given information and exposure as to how best one could help avoid infant mortality.

Most Tender Opportunity

Time of childbirth is a very intimate moment and a very significant milestone in the life of the members of any family. Help in educating how one could avoid infant mortality brings the missionary candidate closer to the family with counsel. Here is an opportunity to show the love of God and who He is.

Incorporating Information in Missionary Training

Raise the following questions in the missionary training program:

  1. How do we help reduce and ultimately eliminate child mortality?
  2. Is it through the teaching of right theology?
  3. Is it through emphasis on the need to preserve life as life is the gift of God?
  4. Is it through arguments from within the Islamic practices that speak against genital mutilation?
  5. Is it through the advocacy of strong legislation against such practices?
  6. Is it through awareness campaigns?
  7. Is it through a proper elucidation of Biblical theology against such practices and seeking forgiveness by those who came to Christ recently?
  8. Is it through constant prayers against such practices in women’s meetings?

Many more ways are open to every imaginative missionary trainee and practitioner.


Tim Freeman
Bethany International
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite A
Bloomington, MN 55438
M. S. Thirumalai
Bethany International
6820 Auto Club Road, Suite A
Bloomington, MN 55438

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