Saturday, February 23, 2013

Goodness and Mercy

There is isn't much on television that really gets to me emotionally anymore, which probably puts me in the category of a crusty old cynic. An episode of Sixty Minutes caught me off guard on Sunday, with its piece on the organization called Mercy Ships International.

 A hospital ship called Africa Mercy travels along a thousand mile stretch of African coast, putting in at various ports. There are ninety nurses and fifteen doctors aboard , none of whom are paid by the Mercy Ships organization. They work out sponsorship with various groups at home, wherever that might be. Those sponsoring groups include churches, and it turns out that many of the medical staff are Christians, although this isn't emphasized in the Sixty Minutes piece. Some of them come with the notion of offering their skills for weeks or months, and have stayed for years.

This group really is merciful, performing hundreds of surgeries on destitute and shunned patients who have been afflicted with everything from cleft palates to disfiguring facial tumours. Even though these tumours are benign they have a huge impact on those who live with them. Not only can they block sight and affect breathing and eating, they are seen as signs of evil spirits.

The medical team removes the tumours and does reconstructive surgery. Sometimes several surgeries are required over a period of years. The compassion of the doctors and nurses, the relationships built, the lives changed all got to me. I was moved to tears and it spoke to me of religion at its best. The goal is not to proselytize but to heal, and while prayer is offered for those who desire it, there is no expectation. It made me think of stories in the gospels of Jesus' healing ministry and his deep compassion.

In a world where it is easy to be cyncial about religion and when we hear so much bad news this was such a good story.

Did anyone else see this piece? Isn't it encouraging to know that people choose to make this commitment motivated by the gospel?


IanD said...

That's the first I've heard of it, but what an excellent, noble venture. Wow.

Sarah said...

I must search for this and watch it. I wish these stories were in the forefront of the news, rather that the "non-news" we are inundated with. Uplifting, soul searching, true to life stories. The world is so much larger than cable news networks.

Hmm...didn't you say it was on Sixty Minutes...perhaps a good thing?!