Jesus, The Same Today ...
Have you ever wondered what life would be like if there were no emergency services? No firefighters, no paramedics, no police? What if there were no mental health professionals, little or no medical treatment for emergencies? What if you were taken to a hospital but they didn’t know how to treat you? Take a few minutes to imagine what such a life would be like, and then you will understand more why a missionary would get involved in social or medical ministries like our Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO) rather than in the more traditional church planting.
Yesterday was one of those crazy days where many things went wrong and people died. Even with our growing SEVO rescues, there are still many limitations to its services, and a day like yesterday shows how badly those services need further development and expansion.
Early in the morning, one of my neighbors, for some unknown reason, “ran mad.” In other words, she just went berserk, and all day long, she terrorized the village, shouting, attacking and beating people, adults and children alike. She’d never behaved like this before, but no one took time to figure her out when they were fleeing from her! One of my neighbors and her children were attacked, so the mother released their fierce watchdog, figuring the dog would attack this woman and scare her off. Instead, the woman scared the dog! My neighbors and their dog fled at top speed over to MY house, knowing that my German Shepherd was even more fierce than their dog, and she would chase this woman off. Sure enough, even in her maddened state, the woman remembered my dog and did not enter my property, so my neighbors found safety.
In the evening, after stories of this woman’s attacks filtered in all day, I asked what had happened to her. There are no mental health services in rural areas, and they’re extremely limited in the urban centers. The police won’t come out to the village unless you pay them a bribe, and if they came, they’d only lock her in jail. Apparently some villagers beat the woman senseless, in order to subdue and stop her…
Yesterday another “mad man,” a mentally ill man who lives in the garbage heaps in Luweero, hit a child over the head, and killed the child. The surrounding people were about to kill the man when the police intervened and rescued him, taking him to the prison. The man was so wild that he was attacking the other prisoners, so the prison officials merely turned him loose, back into the community. What will happen is sooner or later, the man will be likely killed by the community for his violent behavior.
In the swamp near my village yesterday, a handicapped child was looking for fish in the water. He quite often caught fish and brought them home. But this time he suffered an epileptic seizure, fell into the water and drowned with no one to help. People fear the epileptics and will not go near them when they’re convulsing. I have seen heavy traffic on a city street carefully driving around a woman convulsing in the middle of the street, avoiding hitting her, but no one attending her.
One of my village friends, a widow raising a large family of mostly orphaned grandkids, had her cow stolen yesterday. This cow had been given to her by an organization which helps women like her by giving livestock to help alleviate poverty. The cow was soon found but was impounded by local authorities, “legal thieves,” who demanded money of this widow to release her cow back to her possession. I gave her the money to redeem her cow, as without it, she still would‘ve lost her cow. Meantime, the thief was caught, and when she got over to the other village to get her cow, the crowd had the thief tied up, had gasoline and matches, and were getting ready to torch the guy (a common way of dealing with thieves -- permanently!). He was screaming for mercy, and because my friend is a Christian, she told them she could not consent to burning this man. So he was hauled off to prison, not a great place to go, but better than the alternative at hand…
One of our SEVO men recently found a person suffering an epileptic seizure in his town. People ran from the victim in fear. So Fred drew a curious crowd when he calmly approached the convulsing person, checked his airway, positioned him so he’d be unlikely to choke, and stayed with him til he was conscious again. Then Fred was able to do some teaching to the bystanders, to help eradicate some of the fear of epileptics, who are believed to be in the grips of demonic spirits when they are having seizures.
A young woman who had suffered from epilepsy for 4 years came to our village church, New Life Center Church about 2 months ago. She’d averaged at least 3 seizures a week and had had to drop out of school. She had horrible burn scars on her legs from falling into fire. She could fall anywhere, in a latrine, in water, anywhere; she did not know what her condition was, only that she would “fall down,” out of her control. We prayed for her and she was healed. She’s not had a seizure for 2 months now.
In the Bible, epileptics were brought to Jesus for healing, parents crying out to Him in their distress for their child, “Lord, have mercy on my son…he has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water … (Matt. 17:15) “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed of a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and become rigid …” (Mark 9:17,18) Jesus asked the boy‘s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered, “It has often thrown him into the fire or the water to kill him, but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help him.” (Mark 9:21,22) And Jesus healed them.
Like the woman in my village, the Bible also describes violent people: “They were so violent no one could pass that way.” (Matthew 8:28b) “This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him any more, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.” (Mark 5:3-5)
In John 8 the woman caught in adultery was about to be stoned, but because of Jesus, she was set free and told to sin no more. I think the man who got prison time for stealing a cow instead of being burned to death might also think twice before stealing again, as this adulterous woman probably also lived a more chaste life after facing the stones. His life was saved by the grace of a Christian, as all these other examples were also saved by encountering the living Jesus.
SEVO also has this opportunity for its members who are believers in Jesus, to not only rescue people in dire straights, but to offer them redemption spiritually as well. As we minister to needy people from a holistic perspective, we can show them Jesus, as He once showed Himself to the same kinds of people!