The purpose of a team is invariably found in aspirational vision or mission statements, which give definition and direction. Teams have purpose, reasons for their existence, or goals to which individual members contribute their skills and strengths.

Pat Macmillan in The Performance Factor defines a team defined as:

“a group of people committed to a common purpose who choose to cooperate in order to achieve exceptional results” 1

The common purpose of an EMAS Canada team is Christ-likeness.

Dr. Winnie Siu MD, former EMAS board member emphasized the difference between being a “Christian organization” and “Christ-like people united by a common purpose.” The former adopts as its blueprint a world religion which has a wide spectrum of contextualized expressions exposing EMAS to becoming a copy of the copies.

Christ-likeness, on the other hand, is an aspiration to know and therefore become like Jesus Christ. Being a Christian organization can mean relying on sometimes stale and fading secondary sources, while Christ-likeness goes directly to the primary source, the Original and Originator.

Dr. Siu, helped realign our vision with our timeless Guiding Principle: Christ-likeness, also stated in our Mission statement: “To heal, teach and serve those in need in a Christ-like manner”.

In April 2002, the EMAS Canada newsletter reiterated that, “we endeavour to obey Christ” … and… “we attempt to follow his example of compassion and healing towards suffering and disease and embrace his concern for the whole person.”

This collective aspiration of adopting and adapting to the character of Christ is a distinctive that EMAS Canada has preserved for 70 years, but is not unique to the organization; as far back as 1949 Dr. Paul Roberts, Dr. Robert Stephens, and the late Dr. Robert Foster, while at the University of Toronto, aspired to be like the Christ and apply their medical training to the service of others by following the teachings of Christ. They pioneered healthcare services in Ecuador, Congo and Angola; hospitals that exist to this day. EMAS was an early partner in their endeavours, both Dr. Roberts and Dr. Stephens served leading roles in EMAS laying foundations for what the mission has become and achieved.

The Compassion of Christ

That a major international humanitarian aid agency was started by a man who believed God’s heart could be broken by human suffering speaks profoundly of the compassion of Christ. Bob Pierce, Founder of World Vision said, “Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God” after seeing the desperate needs of the malnourished children, dying for lack of basic food and healthcare.

Jesus openly identified with the needs of the sick. His responsiveness was marked by compassion (Matthew 9:35-38, Mark 2:9-12, and John 9:6-7). God expressed His concern over people’s suffering under political oppression and slavery (Exodus 3:7) and Jesus expressed his concern over the physical hunger of those that had been following him for three days with little to eat (Matthew 15:29-38). In both cases God relied on His followers to transform His compassion into action.

To have empathy, and align with God over the needs of people, is the ultimate agreement with God’s concern for them. This too is the relentless pursuit of every EMAS team.

The compassion of Christ was not limited to healing the sick, He cared for the whole person. (Matthew 14:13-21) He showed His sensitivity to their needs beyond the physical. The reaction of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery illustrates His sense of justice and high moral values: compassion towards the woman and unwillingness to compromise on moral issues, He cared that she was treated fairly and that she not continue an immoral lifestyle.

To remain holistic and in tune with Christ’s concern for the whole person our teams include non-medical members who bring skills and gifts that help meet the needs that are outside the competence of healthcare professionals.

It was Jesus Christ who gave us the Samaritan Principle on which both legal and moral codes have been based. His parable taught of compassion coming from an unlikely source, challenged religious biases and snobbery, while teaching us to be generous even towards people who may not like us.

In these blogs we will explore various ways in which EMAS Canada teams pursue our purpose-first intent: Christ-likeness, and how this one goal gives us a special operational effectiveness.

1Macmillan, Pat. (2001) The Performance Factor, B & H Publishing Group, p 29

All Scripture references are taken from the New International Version (NIV)

A physician and surgeon in his native Kenya, Peter has a passion for Christ-centred healthcare and has a wealth of experience both hosting and sending short-term mission teams.


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