"'For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me'...And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'" Matthew 25:35-36,40
How does God work to save a man from taking his own life? How can a clinic team and two pastors reach a man in his darkest hour? God alone can be the explanation.
This week, I traveled with a group of pre-med and medical students to El Paso on a mission trip. What was our goal? Well, I soon found myself learning more about our exact role throughout this trip. In one of my first patient encounters, I went about gathering the history, followed by a physical exam. As a medical student, this is a skill that I'm developing. I want to find and fix the problem, I thought to myself.
As I went back to see the patient with one of the team doctors, I realized that I had forgotten something - I had failed to ask anything about the patient's spiritual well-being. As we talked with the patient, my team physician saw to it that this was quickly remedied. As the trip progressed, I continued to observe how vital and central a role this played in our care for patients.
We could diagnose high blood pressure or counsel the patient on diabetes, and we could even give some medications to help with the specific malady. However, my team wouldn't be there next month when the prescription runs out, nor would we be there to examine the patient. So, while we really desired to help to set patients on a path to better health by teaching them to manage their diseases, we also were there to care for them spiritually.
Did they know who Jesus is? Did they attend a church? Would they like a Bible to take home? These were questions that needed to be asked as well! With this in mind, I will recount one of the most impactful stories of the trip for me.
On our final day of work, we set up our clinic at a local church, "Palabra Viva," in El Paso. As we drove up, a giant sign advertising a "Free Medical Clinic" welcomed us.
I introduced myself to the pastor and his assistant, and we got to work setting up our gear and then seeing patients. During the afternoon, I walked into the check-in room, where I saw the pastor, his assistant and one other man earnestly praying and talking. It was evident to me that it was an emotional moment, as they leaned in on their chairs, hands on the one man's shoulder.
I paused to ponder the situation, wondering what could be the reason, before continuing on with the clinic tasks at hand. As the afternoon morphed into evening, we began to wind down the clinic, though working later than we had expected. I began talking to the pastor's assistant in one of the rooms upstairs. I complimented him on the church's facilities, thanking him for graciously opening their building to us.
He then began to discuss this earlier encounter, and I perked up, remembering that I wanted the conclusion to this mystery.
"We were talking with this guy, who came in to the clinic as he was driving by," he said. "The man saw the sign. He couldn't exactly explain why, but he said that he felt a pull or urge to stop and come in. He was on his way to his friend's house to pick up a gun to shoot himself later today or tomorrow - family issues. But we were able to talk to him and pray for him - and talk him out of it."
My eyes began to fill...how? How is this possible? We were only a small medical mission team, working in a makeshift setup.
"That's...that's so wonderful to hear," I stammered. I just couldn't put my head around it.
"He said he wants to come back to the church this Sunday!"
At this point,my tears were evident to those in the room, and I attempted to explain my emotional state. "Praise God," I remarked, wiping a tear away. I didn't have adequate words to express what I was feeling.
The fight for a man's life was raging on that day as we worked at Palabra Viva, and God had seen fit to use a group of seven people from Dallas, two pastors, a small church and a sign advertising our presence.
That blessed sign. God used that blessed sign to save that man from death. God was drawing...pulling him into the church, so that he could talk to the pastors. He provided Light in this man's darkest moment. But how? It all seemed so improbable to me.
But yet, it happened. God had reached down His finger, and He gently guided this man into His church, His home. I'm reminded of when Christ speaks to His disciples about the rich young ruler and salvation: "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible" ( Mark 10:27b).
For with God all things are possible!
Friends, this is the God we serve: an omnipotent, omniscient God. The only One who can bring people together at a preordained time and at a preordained place ... to serve as His tools - His hands - to change the course of a man's life. This is the same God who sent His only Son to die on the cross for our sins, before rising on the third day!
I am overwhelmed. Soli Deo Gloria!
"Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen." Revelation 7:12
Christian Berry, a student at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, served on a mission trip to El Paso over spring break.