Wednesday, February 10, 2016


"Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet."
Luke 8:47

We are back in Papua New Guinea, and the familiar sights and sounds are a comfort as I sometimes find my mind wandering to my family and friends back home.  The tropical mountains around us, the rain and misty clouds rolling down in the valleys, our house and garden, our neighbors.  The nurses and staff who smile warmly when they see me, almost surprised that I am back among them.  The hospital, my HIV patients, the smiles of mothers as I examine their babies every morning.  The crowds of people who wait hours to be seen by one of our doctors, some of them traveling many miles over dangerous roads.

Lucy arrived at Kudjip with a scarf wrapped around her head.  She paid her fees at our business office and joined many others waiting for her visit, her patient record book in her hands and her bilum in her lap.  As she sat there, patients in front of her were called to various rooms, received their care and went to the dispensary for their medicines or to the lab to get further testing.  And each time, she moved a little closer to the row of doctor's offices, keeping her scarf positioned over her as she shuffled down the line.

When I went through residency, I spent two or three nights each month being "volun-told" to our program's domestic medical missions outreach, Good Samaritan.  With only a couple of hours in the evening to work with, young doctors found themselves grappling with crowds of patients, most of whom needed a comforting shoulder and listening ear more than just medicines or lab tests.  During those hours, when I already felt the fatigue of my long hospital hours, I struggled to see how I could minister in the midst of the craziness that bringing medical care entails.  I get so busy and wrapped up with ordering the right tests and giving the right treatment (or in Papua New Guinea - clamping arteries, setting bones and delivering babies) that I forget sometimes what my medicine is supposed to include - a way of ministering God's love to those I see.

But one night, working on the van, I shared with the nurses an idea I felt God give me.  I couldn't "dig in" to every one of my patients.  I might have compassion for, but I couldn't love the crowd.  But I felt in every day that I practiced medicine, I would get one patient to listen to, to cry over, to pray with.  Since then, I've looked for "the one" - the person who wasn't supposed to see any doctor that day except me.  That God put in my path so that we could comfort each other.

As Lucy approached the front of our waiting area, I called her to my room.  She sat down and handed me a book full of doctor's visits at various hospitals around the country.  She had been seen for pelvic pain many times and got no relief from different medicines and treatments.  Her scarf slipped and I noticed a black eye and cut on her lip that had been somewhat hastily sutured the week before.  As we talked I felt sure - she was the one.  Unnoticed, perhaps until this moment, but I couldn't just send her away with pills.

After examining and scanning her, I knew that Lucy had pelvic pain from repeated infections.  As I slowed down to hear her story, she said that her husband had many other women, that she struggled to keep their children going to school and maintain their garden to feed them, that he got violent with her sometimes.  We cried and prayed together - and a very small smile crept to the corners of her mouth as I said, "Amen"

"When I’m bowed down with sorrow I will lift up Your name
and the foxes in the vineyard will not steal my joy"

Then she was gone, and I was calling the next patient waiting to my room, as the crowds all shuffled forward again.

Jesus lived an incredible ministry of touching crowds - feeding thousands and healing all who were oppressed and sick.  But to me, some of the most inspiring moments of his life were the ones in which he slowed down for one in need.  Someone that He would not allow to go unnoticed, but make a radical and personal effort to change them.  Jesus for the one.

A big part of my heart looks at the crowds.  The vast numbers of people needing help.  The people who get just a short time in our hospital compared to their incredible lives happening in villages all around us.  I want to make a difference there and change their country.  

How many people today, in PNG, South Sudan, England, America or around the world are lining up at a doctor's office with real hurt and need.  How can I make an impact there?

I don't know how to change that world, but I am so grateful for the opportunity to touch the one.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. Mark,
    Thank you for your words... words from a caring and thoughtful heart. You challenge me! Thank you for following Jesus and for allowing Him to move through you to touch "the one". In being present to that 'one' you are most certainly impacting the crowd. Blessings!
    Carolyn (Retired RN - former missionary. Greetings to Bill and Marsha!)