Mark 5:21-34: Hope For Healing
A few years ago, I traveled to Uganda through a CBF FL sponsored event, called Trips That Make A Difference. These trips introduce people to the important work being done by our field personnel. The purpose of these trips is to use missions as an on-ramp into our CBF family.
One of our CBF Field personnel that we spent time within Uganda was Karen Alford. Karen has relocated to Togo and continues to do amazing work there using her medical expertise.
But at this time, Karen was doing significant work in one of Uganda’s vast refugee resettlements, Nakivale (pronounced Naki Valley). One of her primary areas of responsibility was tending to the fistula clinic within Nakivale. Through her work, she introduced us to 3 refugee women who were recipients of successful obstetric fistula surgeries. The first older woman we met lived with her condition for approximately 30 years. As we were traveling from one village to another, my colleague, Ray Johnson, asked the question to the group, “Do you think the women in Mark’s gospel may have been a victim of this condition?”
Like this woman in Mark’s gospel, who was bleeding for 12 years, the woman we met had been bleeding for 30 years.
Women and girls who suffer from obstetric fistulas have been described as our modern-day lepers. Obstetric fistula is a horrific childbirth injury, that leaves women incontinent. It is caused by long, unrelieved obstructed labor – unavailable timely medical attention. Tragically, 93% of obstetric fistula survivors give birth to a stillborn baby. Women with obstetric fistulas live with a constant stream of leaking urine and, sometimes, feces.
These women and girls are often ostracized from their communities and rejected by their husbands, as they endure countless losses in this new life they’ve been given.
First, they lose the child during the labor and delivery process.
Second, they lose their families as they are often left or divorced by their husbands, who usually take the children with him. Third, they lose their communities as they are now seen as outcasts. Finally, many of them lose their will to live. Many of these women don’t eat or drink and suffer from malnutrition and dehydration due to their condition.
On Karen’s team there was a person assigned to locating these abandoned women. This person’s full time job is to drive from village to village asking questions and talking with people to try to locate these women shunned from.
As they mourn from shame, being shunned, homelessness, and no chances of employment, they exist without family, friends, and without hope. Catherine Hamlin, known as the person who lived to give women their life back, together with her husband co-founded Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia says this about these women, “They bear their sorrows in silent shame. Their miseries, untreated are lonely and lifelong…”
It is only through the help and love of people like Karen Alford and others across the world who are determined to heal these women. Karen restores people’s health which then allows them to restore their hope in Jesus.
Alone, these women and their faith in healing don’t exist. It is the people who rally around them, who give them strength, and who help them to heal both their bodies and spirits and who give them hope and a new life.
How is Jesus asking you, me and our faith communities to remove barriers such as good health care to impoverished people?
How is Jesus asking you to rally around someone in your life who is an outcast? Perhaps it’s a neighbor, a colleague or even a relative? How can you be the bread of life to someone in need of hope? I’ve been using this quote a lot lately from Martin Luther King Jr. “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.” Amen
Devotion By: Tammy Snyder, BWIM Florida state leader and associate pastor, Bayshore Baptist Church, Tampa, Florida.