Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Not I...

I've been listening to this guy who heads an organization that serves the poor in Kenya afflicted with a sand flea that lives in the skin and reproduces at an astounding rate. He knows the bible like no-one I have ever met. And he often opines as he films the work of his organization.

I tell you, treating infants with bugs taking over their feet, knees, hands, and "sitters" is heartbreaking. Just as it is to see those who've had the for years and have rotting skin beneath which more sand fleas are feasting away. You even see where nails, toes, and even fingers have been eaten! So, much of the time he is silent.

But when he speaks, I learn things. Things about Africa. Things about the bible. And things about one person living out faith as he and his organization pursues "love in action."

Why am I telling you this? Lately, I have been thinking deeply about how he constantly talks about being blessed and receiving grace.

You see, he believes that God has appointed him and each of his volunteers/staff to do the work (the love in action) they do in the lives of those they encounter. Because of that, he and his staff are blessed. And, because of that, he and his staff receive the grace they need to the work (the love in action) given to them by God. Likewise, those who are being treated are receiving the grace of God as well.

To me, this is an interesting way of speaking about the vocation of neighbor, about how all the good works we do are done by God through us, and about the Holy Spirit enables us to do that work.

To him, loving in action cannot be done without grace. For it is only by and with and through the grace of God that they can work the hours and days they do in the conditions they encounter and on people who are often silent or writhing or so foul-smelling that not even vapor rub in the nose helps much.

In primitive conditions, they use scalpels to cut out the sand fleas and debride the thick, crusted, and/or rotten skin to promote healing. They clean people and homes, often spreading cow dung laced with a flea deterrent on the floors of the latter. They burn infested bedding and clothing and try to get replacements. They teach hygiene and social skills. They repeatedly serve the people unable to stop re-infestations. And they do all this work, now, after an attack that nearly destroyed the organization and permanently ruined its reputation. He is either the devil or a living saint ... only he always talks about how people, as sinners, are full of crap and so is he.

I have been thinking about how others tell me how great I am for volunteering in hospice or how special I am, for only special people can do that work. In this guy's view, it is because of God anointing me as the one to do the work and then being given His grace so that I could do it. That is because God wants to bestow His grace upon those whom I visit in hospice. To me, THIS MAKES SO MUCH SENSE!

I have had two people call me a living angel. I am no angel! Theologically speaking or figuratively. I am just me. And, I truly believe, I am not special. It does not take a special person to be a hospice volunteer. It only takes someone willing. Because it is not the person doing the work of tending to the dying. It is God. His grace enables the volunteer so that His grace can be bestowed upon the one who is dying.

I haven't mentioned this to my dear friend Mary, who teaches me so very much about Jesus, the sweet, sweet Gospel, and theology. Especially since vocation is her speciality. I figure she might eventually read this and then she might correct me. I do want to know what is theologically correct. But, for now, I am reveling in the confirmation, if you will, that it is not I who compels me to walk into that hospital room or that nursing home room, even when I am feeling most wretched, but God. I am no more special than any of His Created. And that is a good thing.

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