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Jibla hospital strategy aiming to reach remote Yemeni peoples

JIBLA, Yemen (BP)–An icon of Southern Baptist mission outreach is transforming itself for a new era of ministry and witness.

Since 1967, the 77-bed Jibla Baptist Hospital in Yemen has ministered to as many as 40,000 people a year at its 22-acre site near the city of Ibb. Founded by Southern Baptists James and June Young of Ruston, La.,
the hospital has given hundreds of Southern Baptists and other internationals the opportunity to help Yemenis experience God’s love firsthand.

Now a dramatic step into a new level of ministry is being planned, said Gerry Volkart, an associate director of International Mission Board work in North Africa and the Middle East.

“The Youngs set a sterling example for all of us when they went to a place where people were not receiving medical help or a clear witness and established a hospital that could share God’s love with people in both deed and word,” Volkart said. “Now we want to follow that same pattern and transform the work so it multiplies the love of Christ to
the peoples of Yemen.”

A country of more than 16 million people set on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen is a ruggedly mountainous country bedeviled with conflicts between the government and tribal groups demanding schools, electricity and other services in poor tribal areas.

Tribesmen frequently resort to kidnapping foreigners to press their demands. With one of the world’s highest birth rates, the country’s population has exploded in recent years, but endemic poverty and the rugged terrain prevent access to health care — as well as the message of the love of Christ — for most Yemenis.

Now God is stirring the hearts of missions strategists to re-evaluate medical ministry in Yemen, Volkart said.

A team recently conducted a survey of Yemeni towns and villages to assess what townspeople see as their greatest medical needs. They identified an urgent need for health care that can go to the multitudes of people for whom the trip to a hospital is very difficult.

Regional leadership is consulting with individuals and groups in the United States and other countries to interpret data from the survey, Volkart said. A task force will study the data — as well as the findings of other studies conducted in the past two years — and make
recommendations about the future of health care ministries in Yemen.

“Southern Baptist leadership wants to avoid duplicating services provided by other medical facilities, sharpen the focus on multiplying the gospel and be the best stewards of the resources Southern Baptists give them,” Volkart said. “Any decision about the future of medical ministries in Yemen will be based on the region’s vision for facilitating a church-planting movement among all the people groups of Northern Africa and the Middle East.”

Any transition would follow the pattern of the board’s “New Directions” strategy, which calls for marshaling the resources necessary to take the message of the love of God to people who have little or no access to it.

“While a decision about the future of the hospital itself has not been finalized,” she said, “it seems likely that reaching Yemeni people in remote areas could require decentralizing the medical ministries.

“This is a transition time,” she said. “We’re beginning a process and we don’t quite know where it will take us or how long it will take to get there.

“Southern Baptists continue to fund the ongoing services of the hospital and they need to continue to pray and provide resources through such avenues as the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for international missions,” Volkart said.

“The medical work in Yemen is just one of many examples of how Southern Baptists are touching the world through prayers and sacrificial commitment to honor Christ among the nations.”

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  • Mark Kelly