A man visits the doctor and complains about his stomach. “every time I eat spicy food, I have incredible pain”. The doctor says “Don’t eat spicy food”.
Another man visits the doctor and complains about a fungus on his skin. The doctor says “you must take a shower every day and then put on this cream.”
Another man visits the doctor and complains about a persistent cough. The doctor tells him “take cough medicine”. The man replies, “I can’t afford it”. The doctor then says “take a teaspoon of honey with a few drops of lemon”. The man replies, “I can’t afford honey”.
Poverty limits your menu, your hygiene, and even the availability of simple home remedies.
Today we have been working in Tel Aviv, Israel with Sudanese refugees. These people have fled from their war-torn country to seek refuge in the land of milk and honey. However, Israel is not very welcoming. There is no welfare system, social services or support for illegal aliens. The socialized healthcare system turns a blind eye to foreigners without a visa.
- How is a man supposed to eat better food when he has no options but what he finds on the streets?
- How is he supposed to remain healthy if he cannot take a shower or has no access to basic hygiene?
- How is he supposed to take care of himself and keep from being a burden to society when no one cares about his well-being?
What advice is a doctor to give? If the doctor tells the man to eat better, how is this possible? If the doctor recommends a shower or keeping your wound clean, how can this be accomplished?
The body of Christ needs to acknowledge that the gospel to the poor must include humanitarian aid. We cannot pass out tracks and Bibles to the poor without a meal to ease their hunger pains. On the same topic, humanitarian aid without the gospel is no aid at all. As one of my seminary professors said, “it’s something, but it’s not Christian”.
Service to the poor needs to be contextual. Caregivers need to recognize who they are attempting to care for and respect them enough to do their homework.
This problem isn’t limited to foreign missions. In Dallas we have hospitals who write prescriptions for the homeless who don’t have the means to pay for the medicine. The ER will give a referral to a man to visit a doctor who he will never be able to see because of the lack of transportation. Or my personal favorite, the psych hospital that will kick an addict to the street after one night with a list of rehabilitation centers that they can walk to(which are probably full or won’t take them without insurance).
This isn’t rocket science, it’s poverty. The first world country should make some efforts for its third world citizens.
On a side note (and I’m not trying to get political -but) the US healthcare system has many critics. However any man, woman or child from any country in the world can walk into any hospital in the US and get treated. I work with the homeless and they too complain about our healthcare system. But none of them are denied entrance to an ER. All can get free prescriptions in Dallas if they go to Parkland. All can get free psych meds at Metrocare or Lifenet. All can get good healthcare.
Now I can’t afford my own medications or dental care. Something is wrong, but many things are right. I’m just sayin’…