Interview or Intervene?
The key to following the Lord’s leading
By Michael Johnson, Missionary, Out of Nazareth (Pennsylvania)
Michael and Kay Johnson followed the Lord’s leading to move from a significant ministry to the least of these in Kenya to the impoverished in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Many may view this change in ministry as risky. Critics and analysts alike will tell you that it is harder for a missionary to raise partners in stateside ministries, but the Johnsons don’t answer to others’ evaluations. They followed the call of the Lord, and this is where their journey is taking them….
He answered without hesitation: “I wash up with a bucket of water that someone brings to our house.”
He looked no older than 9 years of age. He was standing at the clinic door surrounded by his friends and was polite and very clear in his request, “We don’t have water at home. Could I have a bottle of your water, please?”
My wife, Kay, could not believe what she was hearing. “What do you mean, you don’t have any water?” she asked. “What do you drink? How do you wash?”
“I told you,” he repeated, “someone brings water to our house in a bucket. That is how we clean ourselves and get our water to cook.”
As Kay told me this story, we asked ourselves, “Have we left Kenya?”
We have been in Philadelphia for four years since our return from Kenya. We thought we had left the challenges of serving the underdeveloped, impoverished, malnourished, and resource poor. This boy standing at the door and staring at the bottles of water on our shelf tells us a different story.
The distance of 8,000 miles separates us from the culture of a tribal group, but not the culture of poverty.
Why don’t people have access to healthcare? The reasons are many and complex. However, we don’t have the luxury of interviewing. We must intervene. Miriam Medical Clinics is Christ’s work in Philadelphia to people who stare through the glass window separating them from the plenty, while living in poverty. The lack of resources starts with fear and ignorance of an ever-increasingly complex maze of healthcare options or finding help from an overburdened social service safety net.
Poverty looks like this: a mother working two part-time jobs, living in an apartment that has been condemned by the city. She is afraid to alert the city because the rent is so cheap and she doesn’t want to have to live on the streets again with her three children when the city inspectors come. Someone has rigged up electricity and gas for the coming winter and hopefully she can continue to get water from her neighbors. If the illegal faulty wiring and loose-fitting gas pipes hold, they can make it through the winter. If they get caught, they face fines. If they are not careful, they could perish in a fiery explosion.
Mom has already spent time in jail for not paying the truancy fines because of the kids missing school. The kids lived with their grandmother during those six weeks, and the mother thinks her teenage daughter was molested while she was away. The daughter missed even more school and contracted a sexually transmitted disease.
Her son is the child looking for water right now. When she shows up and tells us the whole story, we are certain we are in the right place.
“Just give my son a bottle of water so we can go.”
“Miss, would you care to see our social worker?” Kay asked. “I am sure she can help get your water turned on and deal with the landlord.”
Now she really opens up. “Would you do that for me? I don’t know how to deal with all of these forms and phone calls. I really do know I should get my medicines, and did I tell you about my blood pressure?”
“Yes, we can do that for you. It seems for sure that you are being cheated. This is especially true because you have shown us the inspector’s letter saying the building is condemned.”
I offered to check her blood pressure while I’m at it. It occurred to me that it is difficult to treat asthma for the households where kerosene heaters will be used, and we dare not talk about personal hygiene until we get the water turned back on.
Seeing the doctor is only part of the solution for the people we serve. Our social worker is on hand to help get electricity and gas restored so the kids don’t have to sit around the stove as the weather gets cold. She will deal with the city license and inspection to find safe, affordable housing.
We have determined that it makes as little sense in Kenya as it does here to tell someone to take this medicine on a full stomach, or drink a full glass of water afterward, if neither is available. Our calling is to serve, not determine who is deserving.
At the end of the day, as they say in Kenya, we got her water turned on. Now we can address her health: diabetes, hypertension, and probable electrolyte imbalance caused by her diuretic.
We intervene, then interview. We do so in Christ’s name. We care because He cares. Miriam Medical Clinics is ready to help. We invite you to join with us.
GIVE: Help Miriam Medical Clinics provide patient care in Christ’s name. The clinic needs at least $80,000 for electronic medical records software and retrofitting and outfitting the building. Give online or send a check payable to World Gospel Mission with account #35262 on the memo line, to:
World Gospel Mission
P.O. Box 948
Marion, IN 46952-0948
P.O. Box 948
Marion, IN 46952-0948