Project Ideas: Local Medical and Legal Missions

One of my more selfish reasons for wanting to host this blog is to draw upon the wisdom of the crowd. In that vein, I would like to lay out my basic plans for a Christian documentary photography project I am undertaking. I would love to get constructive criticism of this plan.


Through this documentary project, I want to answer three basic questions:

1.   Why should a Christian get involved in local medical mission work?

2.  Why should a Christian get involved in local legal mission work?

3.  Compare and contrast medical and legal mission work.

What are Local Medical & Legal Missions?

A local medical mission is any program offering free or reduced cost care for those in need, born out of a love for Christ.  For example, a dentist might offer free care one day each month.  Or a doctor might work in a free Christian clinic 2 days a month.

A local legal mission is basically the same thing, but for lawyers.  Free Christian legal clinics staffed by full time attorneys and volunteers offer counseling to the poor, often for civil matters.  The clinics might partner with local churches to reach out to those in need.


1.   For the first topic, my goal is at least twofold:

(a) During these times when more than 40 million Americans are without health insurance, and folks in Washington are talking about further changes in the health care system, it seems appropriate to focus on caring medically for those in need; and

(b) There are some interesting observations to be made about local mission trips versus overseas.  It’s the difference between sprinting and running a marathon. One is exotic, while the other at first blush appears mundane.  One involves dropping in, while the other requires relationship building.  Both are important, in very different ways.

2.  For the second topic, while most people have heard of medical mission work, comparatively few even know what legal mission work is.  And yet the need has never been greater. With literally millions of people being forced out of their homes through foreclosure and scores of other people who cannot afford even basic legal work such as protecting the assets of an aging father suffering from dementia, there is much legal work to be done.

3.  As to the proposal to compare and contrast the two types of mission work, I learned in high school that if you can compare and contrast the American and French revolutions, you really understand both. I want to seek a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of these mission work topics that would be aided through the comparison.

Story elements

The following are some of the particular elements I want to study.

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Supporting Text

To fill in whatever gaps there might be in the images, in text I could address such topics as:

1.   Give some national statistical context to both the human needs and the available services.

2.  Identify the theological and practical reasons for serving in these missions

3.  Tackle the thorny topic of why more Christians don’t actively support these efforts. Address any specific misconceptions such as the politics of legal aid, and the likelihood that these Christian lawyers will advocate for a welfare society.


While I work in Washington DC, I live in a small town near Indianapolis. So I want to seek opportunities to pursue this in the Indianapolis area.

Through What Media?

I’m a photojournalist at heart, so I plan to focus on still photography. As you can tell from my blogging, I am becoming enamored with multimedia. I will therefore collect audio, but I don’t have the confidence to even attempt video. Also, as a person who focuses on words, I plan to write companion pieces.

Why Me?

That’s a great question, and one I’ve thought a lot about. In all honesty, literally thousands of journalists could do a better job of this.

In the aspirational principles I laid out, I suggest it is very important that we all focus on areas where we are truly equipped to make a difference. So here’s a few of reasons why I decided to take this on, even though others have better journalistic skills than I do.

1.   I am an attorney, and earlier this year I began working a bit at a Christian legal aid clinic. I don’t have much experience, but it has opened my eyes.

2.  As an attorney, I focus on healthcare law. So I have spent the last 25 years studying at least parts of the health care system.

3.  My wife is a nurse who has great experience at the patient level. She’s also quite insightful.

4.  I’m only half kidding when I say it might take an attorney to navigate the consent and privacy issues involved in following patients around.

5.  I can’t explain it, but through prayer over many months, I’ve felt led in this direction. I’m simply trying to be obedient.

What do you think of this skeletal plan? How can I make it better? I’d appreciate any ideas you might be willing to offer.

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