Medical Missions

What Is the History of Christian Medical Missions?

Christian medical missions is probably older than can be documented, but the first that was chronicled was in the 1800s.

“It began with Peter Parker, an American physician, in 1834,” MedSend tells us. “Parker was the first modern-day full-time medical missionary to China and was one of the very few foreigners to get invited inland. Foreigners were not allowed to mingle with Chinese people. In 1835 Parker opened a hospital in Canton. More than 2000 Chinese patients were treated in the first year alone. Parker then went to the University of Edinburgh and shared how missionaries could get into China: through healthcare. This started a movement. Edinburgh became a hotbed of modern global healthcare missions. Groups like Sudan Inland Mission (today’s Serving in Mission) sprang up to use healthcare professionals to access previously unreached areas. In 1841, a group of doctors formed the Edinburgh Medical Missionary Society to send medical aid into the world.”[1]

So began a long and evolving way to fulfill God’s desire that we serve the “least of these.” Medical Missions writes of the history, “Consider this: before 1850, there were fewer than fifteen medical missionaries. The average life expectancy for missionaries in Africa in that day was eight years. Oftentimes, medical missionaries started because missionaries were taught basic medical needs. Around the 1890’s to early 1900’s university campuses began to head overseas as missionaries.”[2]

Today, thousands of medical missions, mostly short-term, are sent yearly to places like Africa and South Asia where most of the world’s poor live. The poor in these countries cannot afford health care, and even if they could, they may have to travel long distances to get it.

This is one of the reasons why we created our Medical Ministry. By bringing medical camps to these places, we can offer free health care to those in desperate need. One small ailment that is easily treatable in the West might become a full-blown medical disaster for someone who cannot visit a doctor. If that person can no longer work or go to school because of sickness, their ability to stop the spiral of poverty is severely limited if not destroyed.

Give today to GFA’s Medical Ministry. GFA workers and volunteers will lovingly bring medical attention, medical advice and much-needed medicine to thousands of people in the areas they serve. In 2019, nearly 1,300 medical camps were set up by GFA, serving hundreds each and making significant differences in the lives of the precious souls they treated. Won’t you help support this effort?

Learn more about GFA’s Medical Missions programs

[1] “The History of Healthcare Missions.” MedSend. Accessed July 16, 2023.
[2] “Medical missions: what it is and the history behind the movement.,” Medical Missions, September 11, 2020,