By Onie Mision-Reed, MTS, BCC
This year, Lourdes Health Network in Pasco, WA, celebrates its 95th birthday – 95 years of extending the healing ministry of Jesus to all, especially the poor and vulnerable. This is our mission. It is what sustains and impels us to give ourselves, our talents, our skills, the prime hours of our days and years to this loving service.
But who is Jesus and what is his healing ministry? Jesus (before Christianity) was an ordinary man, a carpenter, a member of a worshipping community who made a difference in the life of those considered nobodies in his time – the poor, the sick, outcasts, widows, orphans and strangers, tax collectors, the undesirables in his time. We can imagine how the marginalized people felt when Jesus cared for them, ate with them, and identified himself as one of them. Although he was radically critical of his society, Jesus was never judgmental. Those regarded as sinners he considered as sick and lost. And so, he healed and gathered them from the periphery of society to the center of God’s love.
Who are the nobodies and undesirables in our time? Can we bring ourselves to feel one with people who do not look like us or touch those whose smell is unbearable? Can we empathize with those who are broken and lost, listen without judgment to those who drink too much or take drugs, patiently attend to those who appear superficial, foolish or neurotic? Can we learn to have some sympathy and understanding for those who do wrong? For those of us who work in healthcare, we know that we cannot romanticize the work we do. It is stark reality.
I remember a homeless man we treated and cared for at the hospital. I later saw him outside a grocery store and he called me “Chaplain” and shared that he had found a job. I congratulated him, and encouraged him to “keep it going!” One day, I saw him back at the hospital to bring gifts to nurses who took care of him. God’s compassion was shown this man and he recognized his dignity and found hope.
Our work calls us beyond our comfort zones, to make sacrifices beyond our imaginings, to make difficult decisions that can affect our name or reputation. We know we cannot do this just for the money. If it were so, we would have chosen a different place to work or changed professions entirely. And when we give our best with dedication, sincerity and compassion and care for people as Jesus did or as we would our loved ones, it transforms us – our lives, our personhood.
Time and again, from the prophets to Jesus, the only mandate we hear is “take care of the poor, the orphans, widows, sick, strangers among you. God hears the cry of the poor (Psalm 34) and is gracious to those who respond to give them the care they deserve as children of God.
All these many years later, we are still here and flourishing! May God continue to fire us with love as God did our healthcare ancestors, as we faithfully follow their call to care for our “dear neighbor.”
Onie Mision-Reed is chaplain and director of pastoral care for the Lourdes Health Network is Pasco, WA.