Conference planning

What seems impossible for man is possible for God!

Typically major conferences take a full year or more in advance to prepare. Usually, speakers are booked way ahead of time as well as the conference location and all of the logistics. So how was it possible for 400 students of the medical professions to gather with 31 speakers on the grounds of a state medical university in Ukraine with much less preparation time?

Imagine you are a foreign medical student studying in a foreign nation and you approach the dean of your medical school for help. You state that you are arranging a conference for foreign students who will be traveling from all over Ukraine to attend.

The dean asks, “How many students?” “Not more than 400,” you reply.

He then asks, “What will be the theme?” “Purpose Driven Medicine. Our speakers will talk about the role of faith and spirituality in the practice of medicine.”

“So, this is going to be a religious conference?” You respond, “No, but good medicine involves care of every aspect of a patient. This involves physical, emotional as well as spiritual.”

The discussion continues, “Where will the speakers come from?” “Our speakers will come from Europe (England, Norway, Serbia, Scotland, Netherlands, and Moldova), America and Ukraine.”

“Right,” the dean of the medical school is probably thinking. “How can a foreign student studying in Ukraine accomplish this in just two months?” However this is exactly what happened.

Christian students attending the Ternopil State Medical University approached their dean and secured permission to hold this conference at a government-owned university facility. This is believed to be the first Christian medical conference held in conjunction with a government school on their grounds.

The students handled registration, transportation issues, music and worship, food and accommodations. Jim, along with Rostyslav Semikov of the Christian Medical Association of Ukraine, acted as co-mentors to the organizing group.

Our faith grew as we watched God draw together representatives from over sixteen different ministries, several of them visiting Ukraine for the first time. He used the relationship developed over the past 10 years with Bob Snyder, former missionary to Hungary and founder of International Health Services and the International Saline Partnership, enabling UMO to link with other worldwide medical groups to access their medical expertise with a Christian perspective.

Over twenty years ago, Dr. Ted Kuhn visited our home church in Maryland and spoke of his experience as a medical missionary. This talk ignited a spark in Jim towards medical missions. How exciting to have Ted’s wife Sharon, representing the medical division of Mission to the World, at this conference. MTW missionary Dr. Wiley Smith accompanied her on this venture and we look forward to future collaboration with this group.

About six years ago, Jim received a call in Ukraine from Minnesota from a pastor who worked with a pastor in Ternopil. The Ternopil pastor’s newborn son was ill, and his American friend was trying to find help for the child. Jim and the Ukrainian pastor have stayed in touch over the years, and he even helped organize an International Saline seminar in 2009 in Ternopil. Now he helped to organize local pastors in Ternopil to prayerfully support this conference.

There is a special story behind each of those who participated in making this weekend possible. Some of these stories will be shared in future blog posts.

May we all give thanks and praise for the great things our God has done.