As an IMA World Health member, the UCC gets to be part of multiple layers of partnerships with Christian Health Associations and with innovative public health projects that accent the strengths of faith communities in arenas of health and healing. In this meeting, I experienced a model of accompaniment in which IMA World Health works behind-the-scenes to encourage the ACHAP in its emerging role as a visible face and audible voice of advocacy in international public health arenas; even as the ACHAP relationships among individual Christian Health Associations strengthen advocacy with national scope. I valued listening to passionate leaders explore together the living characteristics that define a medical facility as “Christian,” including access to quality health care for the poorest of the poor; flexibility for innovation; care for the whole person–body, mind and spirit–as well as care in the community.
I witnessed participants in the IMA-led pre-conference event address sexual and gender-based violence for the first time as a public health issue, generating new ideas by exploring together contextual Bible study, personal testimonies through the global We Will Speak Out coalition, and the presentation of Ushindi, a holistic model of care for survivors of SGBV implemented by IMA World Health in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was inspired by movements throughout the continent to bring together Christian congregations and medical facilities for mutual influence in addressing the stigma of HIV/AIDS that still affects prevention and treatment and in public health emergencies such as the recent Ebola crisis.