Starfish And Refusing To See Patients

On Thursday we held our last weekly medical clinic of 2009 in Armenia Bonito. When we arrive each morning there is always a mountain of people waiting for us. Some tell us that they arrive more than two hours early to make sure they receive our free treatment.

mountains of people at the medical clinicBecause of limited finances, limited medication, limited time and limited staff we usually cap the number of people we see each day at 35. On this Thursday there was an amazing number of people waiting to be seen. We estimate the number to be around 75. This means we refused service to more people than we treated.

This is heart breaking. We have learned to intellectualize and spiritualize this regular occurrence. It is clear that, “at least we are treating 35 people who would not have otherwise been treated”. And, as good Reformed Christians we know that, “we are treating the exact people God wants us to treat on that day”. But, we are still sinful humans, and it hurts to say NO to 40+ needy, hurting poor people.

In reality we know that God is in control. The 35 people we do see all receive personalized prayer, evangelism, professional medical treatment and free medication. So let’s conclude this blog entry with a story that applies – A man was walking along a beach where tens of thousands of starfish had washed up on the shore. He came across a little boy who was calmly picking up the starfish, one by one, and throwing them back in the ocean. The man said to the boy, “What are you doing son?” The boy paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean." "Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled man. The boy replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die." Upon hearing this, the man chuckled and commented, "But, son, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!" At this, the boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it hit the water, he said, "I made a difference to that one!"