For over 50 years, MBF has been an independent non-profit organization working in partnership with individuals and churches throughout the U.S. to equip Presbyterian partners in developing countries to proclaim the gospel through medical ministry.
Many trustees, staff and volunteers have worked tirelessly since 1963 to proclaim the Gospel through the healing ministry of the Church in developing countries around the world. As you read some of the history and hear familiar stories you will be amazed at how true MBF has remained to its original calling from God. MBF was started as a result of great need and a passion to serve others. More than fifty years later, the need for excellent medical care is as great as it ever was and the unique opportunity to proclaim Jesus Christ through medical mission only grows larger.
Presbyterian missionaries from the U.S., Canada, Scotland, Ireland and other countries have served faithfully in impoverished areas of the world for almost two centuries, spreading the gospel and Christ’s love, and leaving a heritage that will never be fully recorded. In many countries, over a century later the only two organizations that have stood the test of time are Christian hospitals and schools. The 1950’s and early 1960’s presented new challenges for Presbyterian Medical Missions. Church leaders as well as families and medical friends of medical missionaries saw that:
- Mission funding was not matching growing mission needs.
- Churches had many members with medical skills who wanted to use their talents in Christian healing but needed an avenue of service.
- Despite good intentions, non-medical church staff did not understand the needs and could not marshal the support of the medical community.
- Medical advances had made many diseases treatable that were previously hopeless.
- The Church needed to again see that the saving work of Christ involved both the mind and the body. “He sent them out to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal…” Luke 9:2.
In 1962, the Board of World Missions (BWM) of PCUS appointed a committee “relative to medical work, especially the financial support of hospitals” as a result of recommendation of Dr. Paul Crane a missionary at the Presbyterian Medical Center, in Chonju, Korea. The committee conducted its investigation and formally recommended the formation of a foundation dedicated to medical work.
MBF was formally registered in Tennessee on July 3, 1963 as a 501-C-3 Not-for-profit Charity. The Board of World Missions charged the new organization to do the following.
- Educate Presbyterians on the wide medical mission opportunities available.
- Help local congregations select medical mission projects that are appropriate for developing world conditions.
- Build long-term relationships and forge sustaining mission partnerships.
- Provide a professional evaluation of the cost of sustainable medical missions.
- Realize that as new medical mission opportunities surface, a nimble and flexible response team is vital.
The first board meeting was held in November 1963 in Atlanta, GA and Dr. J. K. Fancher of Atlanta was elected the first president. In July 1964, Dr. Cecil Thompson took a one year leave of absence from his position at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, GA to become the first Executive Director. The PCUS in the southern U.S. and the United Presbyterian Church in the north reunited in 1985 to form PC(USA). In 1989, after the reunification, the Presbyterian Medical Mission Fund (PMMF) a very similar organization which had been started by Dr. Burr Lewis in 1972 to serve the northern church, merged with MBF. Initially, MBF’s ministry was focused on Mexico, Korea and Africa, especially the Congo. The merger with PMMF brought an expanded mission field of India and other areas of Asia.
The MBF headquarters was located in Woodville Texas from 1968 until 1992 when it was moved to Houston. A large number of dedicated individuals have served MBF. Board Members, Executive Directors, Regional Directors and office staff, all have worked together in innovative ways. This remarkable organization has been held together for 50 years by the work and prayers of many as it adapted to political and economic changes across the world and changes in the
Presbyterian community at home. Through this sustained effort hospitals have survived, doctors, nurses and technicians have been trained, pain has been relieved, babies born and lives saved. Christ has been preached, demonstrated and understood. With His grace may our future be one of loving perseverance in the tradition of Presbyterian Missions.