I cannot take claim for this blog entry. The clinics full time doctor wrote this for a newsletter two years ago…it all still applys.
Join me for a day in JHC. Together let us walk through the doors of a converted tile factory in a windy downtown suburb into Jubilee Community Church, where the Jubilee Health Centre (JHC) was conceived as a dream God planted in the hearts of its elders years ago. It began here as a nurse met with women of the community, and here it was birthed as a primary care clinic in a bare room in 2006, with a doctor and second nurse in attendance. The infant JHC was raised and nurtured in prayer and faith in Jesus, as God led us step by step, teaching us to walk in His ways. By October 2008 we had grown to include pregnancy crisis counselling and voluntary counselling and testing for HIV. God has blessed this venture and provides for the needs of JHC – through generous givers, South African and other, some income from patients/clients, and our church itself.
Today is Tuesday. We enter the small suit of rooms behind the church receptionist’s desk and are greeted by smiling faces and warm hugs. Hurry! It’s time to gather altogether as a church staff for worship and prayer at the start of a working week. Tomorrow we’ll meet as a JHC team for the same, sometimes with a bit of teaching included, before opening our doors to those seeking our help. This is our daily practice, spending time with Jesus together before we see anyone else. He is our Source, and our First Client.
A line of people has gathered in the small JHC waiting area when we return from prayer. Many are from the local community, living in rundown overcrowded buildings next to factories, under bridges, or on the street. Some have recently been re-housed in tin shacks 20km away. On Tuesdays our morning patients will largely be local women and children, as they gather in the church hall for another program providing them with “time out”, run by one of our elders’ wives. But JHC serves a diverse and widespread population, some from near and some travelling from very far to see us. They range from the destitute and homeless to those having an income of sorts, and include people struggling with substance abuse, ex-prisoners, policemen, factory workers, university students, casual labourers, domestic servants, beggars, refugees…to name a few, from various tribes and nations. God brings each one to us. Our vision is to serve the poor and needy, but also to equip and release God’s children to serve.
Our team today includes a visiting medical student from Peru, a midwife here for a month from England, a nurse from the USA spending the day with us, our Tuesday helpers – a sweet “housewife” fluent in French and full of God’s Spirit, a financial advisor, a physiotherapist and additional counsellor – and our usual doctor, two nurses and counsellor, and part-time administrator. Most are volunteers. What joy there is in daily celebrating diversity here! So many different languages, accents, colours, cultures, smells, mixed with tears and laughter, fill the narrow corridor, where we gingerly step over crawling infants playing with toys from a corner box, carefully avoiding the half-chewed sandwich dropped by a toddler…until we reach the hub of the admin office, where files and patients are sorted. Some have appointments, but many have just arrived hoping to be seen today, or sometime soon.
You may feel somewhat overwhelmed at this point. But relax; the chaos is ordered. You’ll notice team members interspersed among the waiting patients, chatting and maybe helping them fill in a form. Someone is making tea. Two consulting rooms are filled with a nurse or student and volunteer and patient, with possibly a relative in tow. On entering, beaming children run straight to the toy boxes, playing with what they find (the problem is not getting them into these rooms, but rather out of them!). The counselling room is already occupied too, with a “do not disturb” sign on the door. The doctor oscillates between consulting rooms, giving treatment advice, making diagnoses, praying…We have learned the synergistic value of working in team, each patient/client being given time and space to talk, to ask questions, being served professionally and in prayer. God meets each one, tenderly reaching out to touch them as we watch and marvel at the privilege of partnering with Him in this work.
A pregnant Zimbabwean lady weeps as she tells the midwife of how her husband deserted her, and she fled her native country to find work to support herself and unborn child, and perhaps have enough to send back to her ageing parents and little girl in their care. “I need God to help me. I’m frightened. Please pray for me,” she asks. Her shoulders lift as she stands up to go. She knows she is not alone, and will return again soon. A local elderly gentleman, having visited us intermittently for a year for “minor” ailments now invites us for the first time to treat his out-of-control hypertension and diabetes, because “I know you care for me”, he says. He is ready to trust, having experienced the love of God. The counsellor calls on the midwife, and then the doctor, to help with a teenager, brought in by a family friend (a caring church member), who has decided to keep her unborn baby. Her face no longer shadowed by shame, this young woman smiles as she leaves with her mother. Another pregnant refugee arrives for her first antenatal visit. Last month she came for pre-abortion counselling for an unwanted pregnancy…The medical student asks, “Why don’t we see people being healed immediately, in front of our eyes?” We chat about healing and miracles, share testimonies and stir faith. She watches as God visibly touches her next patient, who begins to weep in His embrace. I pray that she will also see the miracles she longs for, that we have tasted but want to see increase. A believer from a nearby informal settlement has come for contraception today. She asks for an HIV test. Her husband doesn’t share her faith or fidelity. We encourage her in her walk of faith and celebrate together the memories of God’s hand in her life (with resultant stories of redemption and reconciliation in her family and beyond). She is a woman set free from much demonic oppression, miraculously healed of a chronic illness (at a previous visit) and a leader in her community. Tears of relief squeeze from her eyes, and ours, at the result of the test. The consultation ends in hugs. Meanwhile outside a Congolese family huddles, their small son visibly dehydrated from gastroenteritis. A nurse has already mixed rehydration fluid, which he sips. Our French-speaking friend has drawn alongside, comforting the parents in a familiar language, becoming their advocate, calling the doctor to treat both parents who are sick too and facilitating dialogue to allay their fears. They stay a couple of hours until their son is clearly out of danger (a referral letter for the children’s hospital in hand, should they need it later).
Lunch comes and goes, a bit late. The day draws to a close. Debriefing begins. Our counsellor tells of a call to a pre-abortion client who told her that at JHC she was reminded who God is, and so decided to keep her baby, despite the circumstances. “Something huge, something big, is happening here,” she says, as she describes her wonder at babies being saved and mothers being grateful. Our visiting nurse is clearly moved by her experience today, saying she has gained a new perspective on life. When asked what she has learned today, the medical student replies, ”…to love my patients.” The midwife reports back from a home visit to a tiny premature baby and her mom, frustrated at the lack of medical progress. We assure her that her care has meant much to this mother and infant, both visibly happy and thriving, as evidence. We explain how we have learned that we minister out of who we are, not what we do…and that we impart what is in our hearts. Love is the greatest truth and ultimate goal. And love always wins. Touch often speaks louder than words. And time taken to be with someone, to listen, means “I value you”. We’ve also learned that the poor aren’t “them” but “us”. Each one of these lessons is beautifully illustrated in this young woman’s care for her patients, and we tell her so. We close by thanking God for a day in His presence, enjoying the work that He has prepared for us to do with Him.
Thank you for joining us today.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.