From Alcoholism to Evangelism: The Impact of Medical Missions

Short-term medical teams operate with local churches to heal communities in Eastern Europe and beyond.

From Message magazine issue "Post-Christian? Missions in the Shadow of Christendom"

“My life changed after the arrival of American doctors.” 

Eugene’s medical concerns were just the beginning of his troubles. Addicted to alcohol and tobacco, he often stayed out drinking late into the night. Each time he failed to return home, his mother would anxiously inquire about his whereabouts. 

When Eugene heard that a team of American doctors would be hosting a one-day clinic near his village in Moldova, he decided to attend. The ABWE medical staff not only treated his illness but shared the gospel with him. Eugene immediately repented of his sins and prayed with the doctor to place his faith in Christ. 

“Everything in my life changed after that,” Eugene recounted. “I became a different person and began to evangelize, began to preach.” 

Eugene’s radical transformation amazed his mother, and she too trusted Christ. 

Eugene’s life changed after hearing the gospel for the first time at an ABWE medical clinic. Photo: Stanley Leary

Opening Closed Doors 

“Healthcare ministry has a tremendous ability to bring contact with people,” said ABWE International Director of Healthcare Ministries Development Jack Sorg, M.D. “Around the world, the problem is closed doors. But with healthcare ministry, we’re able to draw people out of their homes [and] present the gospel in that setting and then follow up with them.” 

For over 25 years, Jack has led short-term medical missions trips throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe—including repeated trips to Moldova. His ministry model centers on assisting local, national-run churches with evangelism and church planting efforts by leveraging the ability of medical teams to make connections and increase credibility within a community. 

“Oftentimes the church ministry—and especially a new church plant—is looked at suspiciously by people in the community,” explained Jack. “But providing a service, even a one-day urgent care clinic, really shows that the church is concerned about them and desires to help and serve them.” 

Vasiliy Kaletnik, a Moldovan church planter, has partnered extensively with ABWE’s Launch Point medical teams to start and develop new church ministries. 

“In the beginning, my mission there was hard,” shared Vasiliy. “When I heard about the medical team, I invited them to Moldova. And by [using the] team, we opened the door for people to get the gospel because we gave medicine free, glasses free, and we reached many people, and we [quickly] planted a church.” 

Although response to the gospel is typically slow in the rural villages of this former Soviet-dominated nation, recent medical trips have witnessed great interest in the gospel. 

The ABWE team serving with Vasiliy in October 2023 conducted a clinic in one church plant consisting of only 11 members. “In the [medical] ministry itself, we saw 11 professions of faith, which essentially would double the size of that church,” said Jack.  

Over the course of the week, the team saw 341 patients in three villages, with an astounding 40 professions of faith. Following the clinics, the local church in each village began the essential work of follow-up and discipleship for the new believers. 

Moldovan national partner Alexander Vicliuc shares the gospel with a patient at a medical clinic. Photo: Stanley Leary

As God continues to open doors for the gospel, Jack highlights the effectiveness of these small but strategic teams of American medical professionals serving in tandem with local believers. Each medical team includes three to six Americans, including at least two doctors and a pharmacist or nurse to dispense prescribed medications. All serve alongside nationals who take patient histories and assist in sharing the gospel.  

“We need more help,” Jack conveyed. “We want to start more of these kinds of teams. There are many opportunities opening to us around the world . . . and for the amount of time and investment, we can have a huge impact.”