The Empty Bed (Joe)

4 May

This meditation is an attempt to uncover the mood of the Resurrection stories.  It was taken from my reflections as a mission volunteer at Galmi Hospital in Niger. 
This bed, and others like it, provide rest and shelter for the many patients who find their way to this far flung corner of the Sahalian country of Niger.  Throughout this ward, expect to encounter mothers cradling weeping children, wearing their concern on the brow.  Don’t be surprised to see stoic men segregated in a corner unsure of how to react to being cared for. Spend enough time around a hospital like Galmi SIM and you will become acquainted with this scene: an empty bed. As doctors and chaplains, whether we spend our time examining, counseling or praying for the sick, its seldom known what the outcome for our patients will be.  We become fond of  “Sai Gobe” or “See you tomorrow” but quite often we do not know what tomorrow will bring. This empty bed either means someone has gone back to their home in health or that they have passed away from this life.

While the empty beds remind us that there is so much here beyond our control; like the weather, the daily power outtages, and the overwhelming material poverty, it also reminds us that as Christians we are swept up in a story and a mission beyond ourselves. This hospital and all those who serve in it, are part and parcel of God’s encounter with the sick. As well, it’s a chance for those of us who serve to also encounter God in the lives of those we help. Beyond bandaging wounds and preventing illness, this hospital is a place to experience the presence of God in Christ, our Risen Lord. When we remember as Paul said that ‘it is no longer I that live, but Christ that live in me’, we realize how much a privilege it is that God includes us in outreach to others. On our own, we learn their is much we cannot do here, we have limited and finite power to cure illnesses of the body as well as deficiencies of the Nigerien health care system. But through God’s infinite possibilities, we can be instruments of blessing as we nurse, comfort, and interact with our patients.
The key for us is to recognize when our own demands for definite results or particular responses from those we serve become a distraction from encountering God. Too often we are impatient and sense failure if a bodily or religious outcome is not as we would like. All the while we forget that God’s perfect love does not require perfect circumstances. Instead of perfection, it is our faithfulness in ministering to the body, mind and soul, that speaks volumes about God’s closeness in Christ, and God’s ability to introduce healing at all times.

Only the practice of perfect love allows us to say to the sick child and their family, “Sai Gobe” (See you tomorrow), knowing that in Christ Jesus, God has the power to create a new day and a new situation, whether it be through empty beds, or empty tombs.

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