Sharon Thomas is a Registered Nurse who has served as a team leader on many LCMS Mercy Medical Teams. Recently, wrote a devotion about one of her experiences, and I would like to share it with you.
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
One busy March morning in 2013 we were setting up a makeshift medical clinic in Madagascar. The line of patients who were waiting patiently stretched out the door and around the building. The spirits of the volunteers were contagious, but intermixed with excitement and anxiety. This was my 13th medical mission, and my eighth serving as team leader and by now the set-up and prep work was becoming a routine. I had several first timers with me however, and for them it was an extraordinary experience, and they were filled with excitement and anxiety! I had already prepped the team on the type of diseases we would see, and they had the med list available to prescribe and treat, and we were ready to open the clinic! After meeting and praying, the patients came in.
As team leader, I hopped in and out of stations, helping wherever was needed. I worked alongside the providers, and assisted until they were comfortable with the process and then stepped back to meet the patients. Sitting at a table was a mother with her four children. Andrea was examining a child, and she waved me over. Together we looked at this young girl, about 5 years old, and her weight recorded as 14.1 kg (about 31 pounds). I lifted off the layers of clothes she wore, and exposed her emaciated frame of a body. Ribs stuck out through wasted skin. Her sunken eyes drew me in. She was not eating well, and was most likely ravaged by the effects of TB or some other parasitic disease for which we had no way of testing. Her name was Vastiana, and I knew there was very little we could do for her. I brought Dr. Harison over to see her, and we discussed the situation. She had not had any prior medical care, and was one of 7 children. She had been sick for the past couple years, and he confirmed it was most likely TB or chronic parasitic disease. Without hospital care, there was little that could be done, and even hospitalized, the prognosis was very poor. Dr. Harison explained the situation to the mother, and the local pastor joined in the conversation, speaking in Malagasy, to Dr. Harison. Suddenly, Dr. Harison’s face beamed with a magnificent smile, and he turned to me and Andrea. “God has this in His control” he said. “This young girl and her entire family were just baptized this past week, and they know that God will provide for her.”
His words were comforting, in that we knew that her only salvation was her eternal salvation. They were baptized; they were believers in the everlasting promise of God, that through His promises, they will live forever. As much as I wanted to cry over the fact that this child was dying, I rejoiced with the family that they knew the power of salvation through our Savior. They had eaten the “bread”, and they would live forever.
Dear Father, During this busy holiday season, help me to take the time to remember Vastiana, and so many others like her, who will not have presents under the tree, parties to attend, and the “busyness of the season”. Help me to reflect on your promise – Jesus – the living bread, the giver of eternal life. Help me to share this gift with those I meet. Amen.