Throughout Jesus’ ministry, He reveals to us the power of touch. He would often touch people on the part that needed healing, like touching the blind man’s eyes or the ear of the high priest’s servant (Matthew 9:27-31; Luke 22:50, 51). Strikingly, Jesus also touched lepers (Matthew 8:2,3). Lepers were notoriously known as unclean, which meant that those within the Jewish culture could not touch them (Leviticus 13 and 14). Not only that, but lepers could not feel touch because the disease affected their nerve endings. This means that after many years of no touch and no feeling, the first touch that the lepers had was that of Jesus. I believe that in all things Jesus serves as our example. In this way he reveals to us the power of a simple touch.
Science also speaks to the power of touch. Various studies demonstrate the influence that touch can have on our well being and emotional health. Scientists have found that people can identify and differentiate touches that have love, gratitude, or compassion (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research).
I was reminded of the importance of the power of touch when visiting a neighbor for dinner one night. Another STM, Karina, and I had been invited to eat at the house of one of our neighbors. This was definitely a test of our Thai language skills, but by the grace of God we were able to understand and talk some. Towards the end of the meal, Yai Ubon realized Karina was a nurse. She had a very sore back and neck from her work and wanted a massage. Although not a typical service of a nurse, Karina gave her one, and it was clear she really appreciated it. At that moment the power of that simple massage struck me. How touch could communicate love and compassion more than our words could. At a subsequent visit for dinner, after we had finished up, Yai Ubon motioned that she would like another massage. This time I took a turn, while Karina finished eating. I was blessed to be able to minister a healing touch.
Medical missionary work can come in many different forms. It can be teaching principles of eating healthy or leading an exercise class; however, I believe another powerful form of medical missionary work is in the power of touch. This is medical missionary work that anyone can do!