Snip, snip, snip. I was sitting there in the village of Phaeton, Haiti one afternoon in December watching Nurse Jacqueline cut sheets of paper into quarters. I knew what each piece of paper represented. Each one would become a prescription form given to a patient after seeing a doctor. We were in the process of converting a school building into a temporary mobile clinic, and we would be treating patients the next day. As Nurse Jacqueline was snipping away, I was seeing a problem develop, or so I thought. She was cutting a lot of paper.
Earlier in the day, we were at our clinic facility in Cap-Haitien preparing for the trip to the village. I saw the supply of medicine Nurse Jacqueline had prepared to take. I took Pastor Oris, our mission founder and clinic director aside for a conversation. Having done this many times before, I could see that there was not enough medicine. There would be hundreds of people waiting for us, but we had a very meager looking supply. If it had been up to me, I would have emptied out our entire pharmacy inventory and taken it with us to Phaeton. It’s not our job to fly in from the United States and tell our clinic staff what to do, though. We’re there to be supportive, and it’s their job to operate the clinic. I told Pastor Oris that we would have to rethink the clinic in Phaeton if that was all the medicine we would be taking. We should plan to do a limited scale clinic, and walk out into the village to find the sickest people and hope to be able to treat them. At most, we should plan to treat 50 patients. Pastor Oris agreed that we should not interfere with the staff, and do the best we could.
Snip, snip, snip. Nurse Jacqueline continued to cut paper. I spoke up, and told her she may as well stop cutting, because we already had too much paper. There was no way we could see that many patients. Nurse Jacqueline smiled at me pleasantly, and continued to snip paper. I tried again, but soon realized I just needed to stop worrying about it.
The next morning, I was sitting with Pastor Karry who is in charge of the local church and school. I told him about the short supply of medicine, and that we had a change of plan. There was no way to see hundreds of people the way we usually do. We would need to go out into the village to find the sickest ones, and plan to treat no more than 50. “Hmmmm…. But, we have all of these people…” he said, his quiet voice trailing off.
Out we went into the village looking for sick people. Our visiting team from the United States walked with our local staff and church volunteers. God did not disappoint. We were led to many who needed physical and spiritual healing. Some could walk to the clinic, and we brought the doctors to those who could not. We filled prescriptions, and a couple of people accepted Christ as Savior. That’s why we went to Haiti, to seek and save those who were lost. All in all, it was a great day. I still wasn’t sure what to do about the next day, though, as we had to be running out of medicine. We already treated at least 50 people.
Early the next morning as it was getting light, I was sitting on a bench outside at the school. I could hear that a crowd had formed at the church, and I knew from experience what was happening. Pastor Karry was handing out clinic tickets to sick people, and there would be a lot of them. Soon he came along and sat next to me. “Pastor Karry” I said, “we just don’t have enough medicine to treat all of those people!” “Hmmmm…” he said with a thoughtful look on his face.
At breakfast I was talking with our team, and a thought came to mind. I remembered the story of Elisha and the widow from II Kings. This was a case where the poor widow was left with a debt, and her two sons were about to be sold into slavery to pay the debt. All she had of any value was a single bottle of oil, but it was not nearly enough. Elisha told the widow to go out into the neighborhood and borrow empty containers. He told her to get as many as she could find. When she had all of the containers, she went into a room, closed the door, and started to pour oil from her single container into all of the ones she borrowed. When she ran out of containers, the oil stopped pouring. She sold the oil and saved her sons.
Snip, snip, snip. Those pieces of paper were like the containers of oil. As we were having breakfast, I explained the situation with the medicine and asked our team to pray with me about the people waiting in the church next door. We prayed that God would multiply the medicine for them just like He multiplied the oil for the widow. There was no way we could meet the need with what we saw in front of us. If those people were to be served, God would have to do something.
The people came to see the doctors and nurses. We operated our makeshift pharmacy and kept filling prescriptions. Next door to the pharmacy we had a prayer room. We were working at a frenzied pace. When we filled a prescription, the patient would go next door for prayer. Team member Vincent was working with some of the church youth in the prayer room. Vincent speaks French, as do some of the church volunteers. There was no English to be heard in the room. It was all French and Creole. God was at work. People kept coming in waves, all day long. Prescriptions were filled, and people were getting saved in the prayer room. As the day went on, it was clear something special was happening. The people kept coming with their little pieces of paper, but somehow, the medicine was not running out. Snip, snip, snip.
When all was said and done, we had seen 220 people at the mobile clinic. More than 10 people put their faith in Christ as Savior. The people of Haiti have much to teach us. Nurse Jacqueline and Pastor Karry had far more faith than I did. They looked at the need and believed God, rather than looking at the resources in hand and limiting God. Later, I was able to tell Nurse Jacqueline about the widow’s oil and our prayer. I thanked her for not letting me limit her faith and preventing God from doing what He loves to do. Snip, snip, snip.
Written by: Dan Merrefield