Last week on a medical mission to Eastern North Carolina with the school of nursing, I said healing prayer with hundreds of people. Robeson County Church and Community Center asked us to come and check weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and screen for depression and anxiety. And pray. They had been hit hard by two hurricanes in a row, people were sick and desperate. Faces weathered with deeply entrenched lines, hiding stories of pain and suffering, lit up with unspeakable joy.
“Who is Jesus to you?”
“He is my Father.” “My total.” “My everything.” “My Savior, the one who takes care of me and loves me.” “He is in my heart.” “I couldn’t live without him.” “My Redeemer.”
“What do you want him to do for you today?”
“Well Dr. Burns, my mother just got diagnosed with esophageal cancer. They don’t even want to treat her and I don’t know how I can live without her. Help me to live.”
“My son is in with the wrong crowd, doing awful, terrible things that scare me. I worry about him—killing someone or being killed. I can’t sleep with worrying.”
“I’m exhausted from shepherding my church. Most of them have lost so much in the storms–their concerns are great.”
“What do you need?” I ask.
“Everything but mostly prayer.”
And so, we pray for strength and provision and restoration of spirit and physical needs.
“Caretaking is an addiction too.” I tell him, knowing how true that statement is and how hard I have worked to eliminate ego from my ministry.
“I can’t get up in the mornings. I’m late for work and I’m late for church. I used to get there early, worship before work but now I’m lazy and don’t want to go.”
“Is this lazy or dread? Have you had any losses recently?” I ask.
“Yes, my fiancé and my mother died a few months ago. I’m lonely and discouraged.”
We pray for hope and courage to live life without the ones she loves, asking her not to call herself lazy.
“We lost everything in the first hurricane and had just rebuilt and moved back in when the storm hit again. This time it was worse. We’re living with my daughter and I don’t know if we will ever be back in our house again. But God is good. He created the storms and he can provide provision for another rebuild.”
“I was beat by my angry, alcoholic father. Dr. Burns, he was kind when he wasn’t drinking. But when he drank, he beat mama and if I tried to intervene and usually did, then he hit me too. Once he threw me against the wall and knocked me out and I lay there for hours. When I woke up they were both gone. Mama’s arm was broken and they’d gone to the ER. I wished he would die and then he did. I was so ashamed and guilty.”
“I was raped when I was six. My teacher punished me by placing me in the bathroom by myself and the janitor knew where to look.”
“I saw my daddy die of heroin overdose when I was four. There was a bottle with white stuff and a bottle with red liquid and he put the belt around his arm and pulled it with his teeth. The needle was still sticking out when he passed. I’ll never forget that.”
“Where was Jesus that day? Was he in the room with you and your Daddy?” I asked her, gently, releasing that memory, her confession-each breath lifting her out of fear and into love.
“I’m not sure.”
“Well, let’s invite him now,” I said. “Put your hands together and place you Daddy and the heroin and that moment right in the palm of your hands. “Let Jesus come and show you what he did and what he is still doing.”
“I see them,” she said. “There they are, together, I see Jesus holding Daddy and hugging him. They are so happy and there is this beautiful light. I’ll never forget seeing them there together. Thank you.”
After a visit to a church where eighty homeless people meet on Sundays to worship on a barge, we were with the Episcopal Farm Workers Ministry. Fifty people stood in line for a bag of rice that cost $1.59. I know because when the food truck didn’t come, I grabbed a couple of students and went to the Food Lion, purchasing every bag of beans, meseca, and rice they had. When there wasn’t enough food for the hungry, we prayed for provision—multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
Rape, hate, homelessness, addiction, drugs, death, sickness, fear, domestic violence, behavioral problems in children, hypertension, adultery, diabetes and depression all rained down last week. And we were there with stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, blood sugar monitors and screening tools, touching and diagnosing people. Blessing them with our presence as they blessed us back with theirs.
But it was the Holy Spirit who orchestrated the deep soul healing which fed bodies and returned them to health. It was the Holy Spirit who ushered in hope when it seemed that none could be found. It was the Christ light that took each person who said yes to prayer and established territory for good, rebuking darkness.
And our Creator stood over, watching and applauding, because he knew about starvation, homelessness, sexual violence, addiction and disease before time began and he knows how it will be redeemed.
He didn’t create evil oand chaos but he blesses it for good.
If our mission on earth is to glorify God and serve others then the trip was a success because last week twenty folks from Carolina did both.