Most of us have probably heard the story of the man who was walking along the beach after a storm had washed up thousands of starfish. Left in the sun, the starfish were doomed. A bit further down the beach, the man spotted a young boy throwing the starfish back into the ocean one by one. The man approached the boy and remarked, “There’s so many here. You’re not going to make a difference.”
The boy bent over, picked up another starfish, and turned to the man. “It makes a difference to this one.” And he flung the starfish back into the sea.
When our YWAM Ships Kona medical team embarked on nine days of medical outreach to the citizens of Kimbe, Papua New Guinea, we wanted to make a difference. Generous donors in the U.S. and Canada had sent a shipping container carrying boxes of medicines specific to tropical ailments and diseases, along with the standard medications, boxes of reader glasses, bandages, vitamins, antibiotics, and wound care supplies. We took some of these supplies, along with our tents and off we went.
In the crush of the needs facing us we encountered infections and diseases that are easily preventable through good hygiene, proper nutrition, and other precautions. That could have been the frustrating part. We would cleanse and bandage wounds, sores, and hand out medicines knowing that the conditions that created the need would not change – sometimes because the people had no means to change them.
The exciting part, however, was coming up with a diagnosis and a solution for conditions that could be cured once and for all. Nason, a boy of about ten or eleven years of age had contracted yaws, a tropical disease common to children. He was cured with one injection. Another patient had an old rugby injury on his head that had never healed properly and had become infected. Our medical team performed surgery on the spot, under the shade of the primary health care tent.
Beyond the doctors, nurses, and medicines, our community engagement team entertained the crowds of kids, sang songs with them, taught Scripture verses or read to them from a Bible story book. Registration and the media team prayed with people as they waited in line to be seen. Our optometry table handed out reader glasses to ease the strain on eyes weakened at an early age due to hours of hard labor in the blazing, tropical sun.
As I prayed for some of them, a thought hovered in the back of my mind. “Oh well, they are going to see the nurse or the doctor and that person will fix whatever is wrong with them. Prayer is just another part of what we have to offer.”
However, when a condition proved beyond our available resources or when we had to turn people away due to time constraints, we tended to say that prayer was “all we have to offer.” Only then did we find our intercession becoming intentional as we pressed in with all our hearts. Our medicines had failed, so now we only have Jesus left.
One particular day, we begged God to miraculously heal Nathan, a young man partially deaf from birth. I prayed for a sweet, elderly woman who’d walked from her home but arrived after we had closed down registration for the day. I could “at least” pray for her and so I asked the Lord to remove any pain she had and to restore the shriveled eye behind the sunken eyelid. But nothing changed after prayer.
I and a team member also prayed for Enoch, who had dealt from severe back pain ever since an injury he’d suffered from lifting heavy pipes. I so wanted to see a miracle. I wasn’t asking God to prove Himself; I just wanted to experience the glory of God and see His kingdom come into someone’s life in a tangible way.
But again, nothing happened.
It can be hard to understand why the Lord doesn’t just heal everyone we pray for. During His time on this earth Jesus seemed to heal all those who came to Him. He even defied snooty, self-righteous religious leaders who considered their unbending religious tradition of greater value than human life and forbade the “work” of healing to be done on the Sabbath.
One of our outreach leaders pointed out that too often, we try to fit the Lord and His work into our Western style “get it done yesterday” microwave mentality. We rightly believe God is loving and caring and can do the impossible. So we expect Him to be a efficient, highly productive God to whom we hand our “honey-do” list. He then restores everyone we pray for without making us wait too long. But sometimes, healing is a process.
I remember someone else saying that sometimes, the healing of the heart is more important to Him than that of the body for transformation begins from within.
Yet in life in general and maybe even on our mission trips, do we sometimes relegate Jesus to the place of just another team member, our “go-to” guy whose job it is to dispense miracles when all other options have failed?
Instead, we need daily reminders that He is the reason for and the center of it all. He is Lord and Master of every interaction with every person we meet during our lives and during our outreaches. He is the One in whose presence we must reverently and prayerfully prepare for any ministry. Whether we are administering medicine and bandages, or playing ball with a child, or helping an individual find the right reader glasses, He is the “go to” person from the beginning. His love, His wisdom, His power, are our greatest, first, and unlimited resource. When we let Him totally take the lead, we can trust Him to do whatever He desires, even if we seem to see no results.
By Cheryl Weber
YWAM Ships Kona Volunteer