I worked at Good Samaritan Health Center recently, the medical clinic serving the poor in our county. It opens for business at 8:30AM and on the first day of the month it conducts its open enrollment. Fifty new patients are accepted for treatment on that day. I was told to expect both a busy and a heartbreaking day.
When I arrived at 8:15 the parking lot was jammed full and there were already 109 people standing in line in the rain with still more hopefuls arriving. I stood at the entrance to the parking lot turning away cars, explaining there were already more people in line than we could accommodate, yet many parked elsewhere, walked to the clinic and got in line anyway, hoping someone ahead of them would not qualify for services. A few looked at the line, quickly did the math, and then I watched their hearts sink as they backed out of the parking lot and drive off. One woman began to cry when I explained there wouldn’t be another new patient enrollment until May 1st.
Later in the day I learned one man had arrived at 3:00AM to claim a choice spot at the front of the line, and he waited more than five hours shivering beneath an umbrella before his wife arrived with their sick toddler. She took his place in line just as the doors were opened. They were able to get an appointment.
The small lobby of the clinic was packed with anxious, rain-soaked people of all ages and ethnicities, each hoping and praying for one of the coveted slots that were available this month. When fifty people qualified and were enrolled, those who had remained in line groaned with disappointment and slowly turned around to go home. Person number 51 nearly fainted, her disappointment so great, yet we could not accommodate her. There is only one physician at Good Samaritan and he can take care of only so many people at a time. Once you are enrolled, you continue to receive care until you are well. Dr. Varghese has seen over 3,000 patient visits already this year.
God has called us to serve. What I saw yesterday at Good Samaritan Health Center is being replayed in its own version in a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, safe house for exploited children, after-school program for refugees, elder care center or some other ministry near you. All these ministries are getting by with too little to serve the needs of so many, and the needs to be met are increasing all the time.
Do you hear God’s call for you to use your gifts to care for and serve those in lesser circumstances than you? If you are truly listening, you will hear Him.