Why I’m [Still] A Missionary
It’s 10:48 pm and I just finished rinsing the last of the lice shampoo out of my hair. It’s just a preventative measure this time, but I’m being a little extra careful because a few weeks ago at this time of night I was picking dozens of little eggs off my scalp. Lovely, I know.
I have lice on my mind because earlier today I spent hours with a young girl in fourth grade who has a good number of these little buggers all over her head, but that fact is easy to forget when you catch sight of her adorable smile and inquisitive brown eyes. Her name is Jessa.
We first met Jessa this morning up in a mountain village after attending the community’s annual fiesta Mass. My mission partner Melissa called me over to inspect this little girl’s legs. Her left leg is strangely bent and will not straighten; she walks gingerly with a painful limp. She has two large wounds, one on the outside and the other on the inside of her leg. What happened?
Jessa and her grandfather explained to us that they are only visiting in Camiguin for a few days and tomorrow will return to their home on the mainland. Five days ago at home, Jessa was leading a work horse, pulling it by its rope, when the rock she was standing on slipped and she fell, badly injuring her leg. She suspects it is broken, but they have no money to see the doctor. Jessa and her grandfather both embody the attitude I have seen countless times here among the poor — “We’ll get along somehow. We’ll make it work.” And I understand why; what other choice do they have?
But WE have a choice. We offered them a ride to the hospital, where the pediatrician requested an X-ray for Jessa’s leg. The nurse cleaned her wounds and Melissa purchased antibiotics as well as some soap and shampoo; Jessa appeared as though she had not bathed in a very long time.
“What is your religion?” I asked her. “Are you Catholic? Do you know Jesus Christ?”
“Yes,” she smiled broadly. And so I told her, as I try to do with each of our patients, “Jesus loves you.”
Somehow in Visayan the words come across even more beautifully – “Nahigugma si Hesus kanimo.”
Jessa desperately needs someone to remind her of that fact daily. Her parents are separated, and she lives with her elderly grandfather and one sibling. She clearly has no one to teach her to bathe, no one to pick the lice out of her hair, no one to dress her wounds, and no one to bring her to a health clinic where she could be treated.
During our car ride home, I caught Jessa repeatedly stealing glances my direction, then smiling and shyly looking away. I knew why. Here was a girl encountering love freely given, possibly the only time she has experienced that kind of love from anyone other than her grandfather. I gently rubbed her back and wished for more time to get to know her.
Usually we see our medical cases all the way through, from admittance to discharge, from initial checkup to final followup. But with Jessa it is different because she and her grandfather will leave Camiguin tomorrow and we’ll likely never see them again. They have no cell phone number, no form of contact.
We can only pray that they take our advice with to bring Jessa’s X-ray to the government hospital, where she can receive medical assistance free of charge. If her leg is not fixed now, she may be crippled for the rest of her life.
Job 24:12 says that “the soul of the wounded cries for help.” In this case, I think God did not want our help so much to treat the wounded body as the wounded heart. To let a little girl know she is loved, cared for, valued. To let her grandfather know that there are still people trying to live the Christian life to its fullest, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Yes, Jesus, that is why I became a missionary. To love others as myself out of love for You!