by Janelle Goetcheus, MD
The earliest of us in the CCHF community were gripped by several truths that became revelation to us. The first of those was – and is – God’s inexplicable love for all people. The second was an understanding that God shares in our sufferings. When people suffer, God suffers. He identifies with those who suffer and are oppressed in the most intimate of ways. Therefore, when we minister to those who suffer, we minister to God. When we have done unto “the least of these” we have done it unto Him.
Another motivation came from our understanding that God desires justice – impartiality – for all. He is particularly concerned for the poor who are caught in webs of injustice, poverty and unnecessary suffering. He has called us as followers of Christ to stand with those who are poor. We are to share in their sufferings as He does, to speak for those who are voiceless, and to truly be with those who are isolated and ostracized by the world.
We came to see that a way to love God is to love our neighbor. The challenge is to determine how we will define “neighbor”. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus uses an example that defined a neighbor as an outsider, a person who was suffering, who had open physical wounds. CCHF was a community of Christian health workers who felt called to help bind up the wounds of our neighbor – of Jesus.
Since 1985 my husband and I have had the privilege of living in Christ House, a residential community for homeless men with medical needs. There are so many of these precious neighbors who are suffering. So much of their suffering is unnecessary. There are so many early funerals. We had a funeral last week, and there are several men with us now who will die in the next months. As they suffer, we suffer. And Jesus abides with us and sustains us all.
One of the homeless mentally ill men with late stage cancer who died with us recently, began his last day by wanting to talk to his doctor. He wanted to know how his doctor was doing. After they shared, he wanted to shower. Then he laid down in his bed and died.
Another member of our community who died recently, after being cared for by our loving nurses, said he was ready to go home. He died a few hours later.
One truth that is confirmed in us again and again is that in our caring for others – not just providing medical treatment, but really caring – we are often led to meet and know Jesus in deeper ways than we could ever imagine.