What I wrote here really happened, and after my time in the DR, I believe more than ever that the presence of Jesus Christ is powerful and does make a tangible difference. That is hope we need to hold onto and share! So... here we go:
“We’ve been to other Free Clinics, but there’s just something different about this one.”I was talking with a Spanish-speaking couple, thanking them for their patience. We had been a bit behind all day, but both the volunteers working the clinic, as well as the patients, had been pleasant… and patient! (I know, I know, terrible pun!)
This week marks one-month in my new position as Office Manager at the Free Clinic. It’s been a whirlwind and it seems each day I learn just how much I still have to learn! It definitely keeps me humble! It is a lot to get my arms around, but I feel so blessed to be there.One of my favorite parts of the job is getting to speak Spanish on a daily basis. I haven’t got the medical vocabulary to help out in the examining rooms, but I love talking with the patients checking in, answering questions, helping make follow ups, and calling them to remind them of appointments.
Fun story: A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a sweet patient who I knew was from the Dominican Republic. He had never met me, and I didn’t mention that I'd just lived there. After a couple of minutes of chatting, he looked at me and said, “Dominicana?”
I guess after 3 years, I adopted the accent! I do have to remember that not everyone uses “un chin”. That has confused both patients and our interpreters!
So, this week I was thanking this couple. They both said, "No, No, No, we need to thank you. We always receive such kind attention here." The husband then said, "Dios te bendiga", which means, God bless you. This is the way our family and friends in Mata de Platano always greet each other. Hearing it again made me stop and say, "Yes, God is good".Something ‘clicked’ and suddenly they were sharing their story, including the fact that they had moved from Miami, then to another city in Virginia, and now they were in Harrisonburg, planting a church.
They again mentioned how much they appreciated the way they were treated at the Free Clinic. "The other one was very good, but something here is different."
Because I knew they were believers, I felt comfortable sharing that many of the people who work and volunteer for the Clinic are Christians. “Oh”, they both said, “that’s the difference! We said to each other that there was a different spirit here.”
Now, to be clear, the Free Clinic is not a Christian organization. Anyone of any religion can be a patient or can work as a volunteer. We don’t proselytize or hand out tracts. Every person involved is a professional. The quality of care is as high as one would receive anywhere.But, there is an attitude of love and service… a Christ-likeness, which permeates the place. There is something different. You feel it. Volunteers and staff committed to serving those who the world would rather not see. Retirees, college students, medical professionals, many who work full-time jobs and then still give us their expertise.
I feel at home there, even after such a short time. Knowing that so many who give their time are also my brothers and sisters in Christ is an added bonus. It is that different spirit, or really, Holy Spirit difference!, that others sense.
My prayer is that it leads some to ask Why?, and possibly open up conversations which will not only improve physical health, but may have eternal impact, too.
And, it helps me to remember that I am still a ‘missionary’. The Great Commission is not limited to those who go ‘over there’. That’s too narrow. My responsibility to share the love and hope of Jesus didn’t end when I landed at JFK. It will continue “‘til He returns or calls me home”.