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Who Was The Very First In Medical Missions?


The early history of international medical missions is punctuated by one person inspiring another. Dr. John Thomas (1757-1801) was a British ship doctor with the for-profit East India Company working in southern Asia. But in 1787 he left the company to remain in Bangladesh, where he learned the language and ministered to the sick who came to him for help. It was Thomas who later recruited William Cary – one of history’s most influential church planters – to India.


In 1866 the first American physician, John Scudder, arrived to work in Sri Lanka & India. His granddaughter, Ida Scudder, caught a similar vision and later founded Vellore Christian Medical College in India, 1900. Today, VCMC is one of the most respected and influential Health Centers in Asia.


Peter Parker, pictured here, was the first American physician in China. Arriving in 1834, he developed a program to train Chinese medical students resulting in the first modern hospital in the nation the future. Parker later motivated Dr. John Abercrombie to establish the Edinburgh Medical Mission Society. By 1915, EMMS operated 54 mission hospitals in China, India, Malawi, and Israel.


Thomas, Scudder and Parker were the first in international medical ministries. Understanding the pattern of their influence should cause us to ask ourselves, “Who inspires me?” and “Whom do I inspire?” The future of medical missions depends on such pivotal questions.

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