By Dr. Scott Bevans
We have spent the better part of this week seeing children at the Safe Haven School and the adults at the lay pastor training. Picture the momentary pause before clinic starts when we gather in a circle and bow our heads. Our ages vary greatly. Some are dressed in scrubs, others in slacks, others in T-shirts. Our prayer is brief, but sincere. We pray for Christ to be with us. We pray for the Holy Spirit to work through us. We pray that our compassion that transcends language barriers. We pray to “do no harm” and, even more, that we will do great good for these people on behalf of a God who loves and cares for them.
Today at the midpoint in clinic I asked people the range of thoughts and emotions they experienced that morning and not surprisingly the answers were a mix of nearly every human emotion. “Excitement- for our work, our chance to help these people and then seeing their response.” “Sorrow- seeing those underdeveloped 12 year old kids that look like they are 6.” “Admiration- seeing these kids going to the doctor by themselves, seeing their independence and sense of responsibility”. “Amazed by their patience and gratefulness- they are just happy to get seen, no complaining about waiting a long time.” “I can see the desperation for any help.”
The word that summarizes my thoughts and feelings is “Humility.” I am humbled. Humbled by the many diagnostic challenges. Humbled by how selflessly our team works. Anita working tirelessly as our pharmacist, broadly and incessantly smiling at our patients as she provides them medication. Our new UK Tear Fund interns who have quickly become our partners, smiling as they take vital signs during intake. They fill the gaps in activity by performing height and weight exams on the 1st and 2nd graders so we can track their growth progress. I am humbled by the dedication of the Khmer physician who works with us (Dr. Dan)-knowing that he could earn a far higher wage in any of the neighboring countries, but he has chosen to stay here to serve Christ and these people. I am humbled by Sokhoeun- our Physician’s Assistant who translates for me, and treats children and adults alike with great patience and compassion. I am humbled knowing as we are at Safe Haven, knowing that Dr. Maurie-Lynn and the rest of the medical team is back at the Destiny Cafe seeing the women from the brothels who have been forced into one of the darkest occupations known to man. They are all truly battling in the trenches. I am humbled by their compassion for these women.
But most of all, I am humbled by how these children and adults pursue God.
Maslow’s hierarchy talks about the levels of our needs- where we focus our attention, time and effort. The lowest level is that our physiologic needs- our need for food, water and nourishment. Once that need is met, human tendency is to strive to create a safe environment. Then comes our need- our desire for love & belonging; then our need for esteem. Finally, is the level Maslow calls “self-actualization”- to understand our place in this world, our purpose in broader humanity. I think a good deal about that hierarchy lying in bed at night. These people, even these children, have turned that triangle on it’s head. They often have in-adequate nutrition. Think of the 5 year old who has a raging fever. Ear drums bulging, coughing up thick infected sputum. We ask how long he’s had this sickness… he feebly tells us: “weeks”. Many of these people have multiple physiologic reminders of their illnesses (diarrhea, abdominal pain, elevated heart rate or respiratory rates). Yet they ignore all of those indicators of their fallen-state and walk to school, or to pastor training. They have flipped Maslow’s hierarchy on its head, relying on strength from a gracious God to do so. It puts my self-reliance to shame. I am so slow to reach out to God for strength, sustenance and my most basic needs.
I remember my morning prayer. It now includes another important phrase: Lord Jesus, let me be more like those we serve this week- totally reliant on you and your strength.
We covet your prayers, and thank God for you every day…
Ephesians 1: 15-20
Dr. Scott Bevans