Imagine you are sitting in a waiting room. Maybe you’re there because you have been coughing for two weeks and want to get it checked out. You anxiously wait as people trickle in, coughing, sneezing, babies crying, you discreetly move into your own isolated corner of the room, avoiding as many germs as possible. The phones are ringing off the hook behind the counter, thousands of buttons typing away on the computers,scrub-clad employees speed walking to and fro. You have been there for 30 minutes now and the clock seems to have stopped. You glance at the T.V. to seek distraction only to find Barney on the screen set to entertain the kids. Finally, your name is called and you walk through a door, around a seemingly endless maze of hallways, and into a small room where you sit on a squeaky clean table. Though it’s small, it’s quiet in there and all to yourself. The walls perfectly and neatly arrayed with charts and graphs of the human body, maybe a peaceful sailboat picture, a rack of health magazines. On the other wall, there is a counter with drawers and cabinets, plainly decorated with canisters of tongue depressors, cotton swabs, other sterile instruments, a shiny sink. The room smells of bleach and there is a nice piece of paper or wrapping on anything that is, or will eventually touch you, to ensure you are getting the cleanest of care. I think you get the idea.
Now, imagine you are no longer waiting in a nice big room full of chairs, but on a concrete step, outside, dust blowing, people coughing, sneezing, hacking, hurting. Babies crying, elderly being carried over to sit on a wobbly bench. There is no TV or air-conditioning. Everyone waiting for one person to call each of their names. You probably walked there, hopefully no more than a ten minute hike, but maybe more like thirty. If you are lucky, you may have caught a ride on the back of a truck or had the money to hire an ox cart. You patiently wait, for what could be, multiple hours outside. When your name is finally called, you have exactly one option of a room to go into, other than the labor and delivery room of course. This room does not smell like bleach and there is no paper-covered examination table to sit on. In place of that nice counter with drawers and cabinets, there are two cots covered in papers, books, and boxes of medical supplies. You are seated in an old wooden chair next to the desk. That’s right, the examination room is also the director’s office! The director, an exceptional RN, begins to ask you a series of questions, swiftly scribbling down a hundred words per minute in the paperback notebook that is your chart. He then, writes you a prescription if needed and sends you over to the next room to pick up your medication, if it’s available. You don’t even care that there is no paper over your seat, or that there is no peaceful painting on the wall, or that people are coming in and out of the room while you are answering personal questions. You don’t mind that there is very little lighting in the room or that it smells like dust. You are just happy there is a clinic and that someone cares to help you. And I think you are hopeful that the medicine will in fact cure whatever ailment you came in with.
This summer, one of our medical interns, Hayley and I were invited to volunteer at the clinic. In our time there, we got to experience some pretty eye-opening things. As we sat on the edge of one of those old rickety cots, pushing aside papers and boxes, we saw patient after patient come in and sit in that old wooden chair. We watched as the nurse would wash his hands from a bucket with a spigot on it. We cringed as we observed various minor procedures being performed by the sunlight of the small window. We teared up when the babies came in weak and riddled with malaria. We were fearful when they carried in an older woman on death’s door. We felt so helpless. This was not the medical facility either of us were used to working in. These were not the same type of patients we were used to seeing. These people were desperate and in great need of help! If these conditions don’t motivate one to show the compassion of Christ, I don’t know what will.
Volunteering at the clinic this summer has opened up many different doors to our ministry here at Project Samuel. One being that we have forged a much needed relationship with the clinic workers. Two being that we have gained a sense of respect and relationship with the people in the villages. They see that our intentions are very pure and that we sincerely care. Three, there is an open door of opportunity to minister the love of Christ to countless people that we otherwise may not have been able to reach. It’s so interesting how God moves, how He orchestrates the things we don’t even think to consider. It’s amazing the doors of opportunity He will open in the most unlikely of places, we just have to be willing to walk through them.