Photo: Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance
providing health care in Pakistan
When Jesus had come down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and there was a leper who came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” He stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (Matthew 8:1-3)
We stepped out of our large four-wheel drive trucks into the swamp-like humidity under the blazing Pakistani sun. We’d been driving for hours across unmarked, winding, bumpy dirt roads to reach this remote community. Unsure what to expect, we walked toward a mobile health center created by Community World Service Asia, Week of Compassion’s partner in Pakistan. As we approached, we were enthusiastically greeted by the smiling faces of community leaders who were bringing us floral arrangements, a typical greeting for honored guests in this Hindu community in the Muslim-majority country of Pakistan. Like others we would encounter on our visit, these individuals belong to the untouchable caste and are isolated and looked down upon by others in society.
At least a hundred people were there to receive the healthcare and support to which they otherwise wouldn’t have access. Quality of life impact seminars on reproductive health, hand sanitation, feminine hygiene, and other health issues were well-attended. These learning sessions have been greatly improving people’s lives; such basic health education is not available from any other source. Week of Compassion’s partners on the ground who have been collaborating with religious leaders to make the training possible.
At the same event, patients could receive care from physicians in this remote village far from doctors where it is both difficult and expensive for people to get the care that they need. At this clinic, patients can see a doctor and receive medicine from a mobile medical team that works with incredible speed and care. Two doctors are each able to see 80-100 people per 3-hour clinic session. So far, this mobile facility has served more than 150,000 people who otherwise would not have had access to such medical attention!
This extremely impoverished community was deeply affected by the severe flooding in Pakistan last year. It is common to think solely about the structural damage and destruction brought about by natural disasters: floods destroy crops and livelihoods, hospitals and schools, and they cost people and livestock their lives. Easier to overlook is the day-to-day aftermath for survivors and the ongoing negative impact on quality of life. This village had not only suffered tremendous loss of life and property because of the flooding, but the water is now causing health problems for the entire community. Most of the people at the health clinic were seeking care for skin diseases that directly resulted from the stagnant water in their village. Disasters like this have lasting impacts that do not ease up when the rain stops.
Jesus is shown as a prolific healer throughout the Gospels, and we can often find him bringing comfort to those afflicted with skin ailments. Jesus goes to places where no one else goes and he sits in the midst of suffering that no one else can bear. In the verses from Matthew, Jesus encounters someone with leprosy—a literal ‘untouchable’ in Jesus’s day—and breaks social norms by not only comforting this person but also declaring, “Be made clean!” We may not be able to perform that type of miracle, but we can be guided by the love and compassion of Christ to perform modern healing through the gifts of medicine and care.
‘When Week of Compassion is there, the whole church is there!’ The whole church is present in the midst of this suffering. Even in remote villages like this one in Pakistan, which most Disciples will never see in person, the loving hand of Christ is extended through Week of Compassion. The ministry of this church’s disaster relief, refugee resettlement, and sustainable development mission fund ensures that all Disciples are present with those who suffer in such horrific circumstances, bringing transformation and hope beyond measure.
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