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Dr. Gil Odendaal
Dr. Gil Odendaal

Odendaal challenges students to look at justice with sense of “vujà dé”

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (March 11, 2014)—“We have to rethink how we do missions,” Dr. Gil Odendaal said. “It has to be a seamless integration of the physical and the spiritual."

Odendaal, vice president of integral mission for World Relief, was the featured speaker March 10 at CBU’s College of Allied Health Distinguished Lecture Series. His topic was “Healthcare is a justice issue: From ideology to practice and the changing role of the church.”

Odendaal told an audience of CBU students that they should be concerned about what they did with their lives globally.

“Disaster relief has become an industry,” he said, pointing to reports about ineffective funding. “As a graduate of CBU, I hope you know that your intervention will be worth more than intervention by a secular organization. We are not interested in giving crumbs to the poor but giving them a place at the table.”

Odendaal said he grew up in South Africa and learned prejudice in a culture of apartheid.

“My skin was the right color,” he said, “but I had to get out of the country to realize that apartheid was not just an evil system, it was sin. The attitude Jesus had must be in us.”

He encouraged students to look at justice in the world with a sense of vujà dé instead of déjà vu. Vujà dé, he said, is the ability to look at something familiar like you’ve never seen it before.

“Thousands die weekly, millions die yearly for unnecessary causes because of inequity in healthcare,” he said. “When you provide medicine, you don’t do it so you can present the gospel. You do it because that’s what Christ would have done.”

Odendaal said he lost a granddaughter to an illness that she should have survived in a country with good medical care.

“In your own life, do you truly believe that healthcare is a basic right for people everywhere?” he said. “Should the quality of healthcare be based on where someone lives? Should someone in a city have better medical care than someone living in a rural area?”

Odendaal recounted the biblical story of the paralytic in Luke 5, when a group of friends took a paralyzed man to Jesus. He said they did so because they wanted to make a difference in the man’s life, but they had to work together.

“Justice is tough and tiresome,” he said. “Pour yourself out for those who need it most.”