I saw Jesus today. I was on my way over to the main campus to bring back some meds we didn’t use. I walked into the pharmacy and there, kneeling on the floor washing and bandaging a man’s fungal feet, was Rachel. I tried to look away before seeing any nastiness, but realized quickly the washing and dirty work had already been done. If Rachel held distaste for her task her face did not belie it. Instead, she calmly wound gauze between toes filled with healing cream and went on with conversation as if being knee-bent on a gritty tile floor holding a stranger’s rotting toes was nothing out of the ordinary.
A few weeks ago it might have been different. A few weeks ago during a conversation about nursing at COTP the same young woman had worried eyes as she admitted feeling inadequate and unsure about how to be useful with a limited skill set. Rachel graduated from nursing school just months ago, and instead of settling into a predictable 3-11 shift in OB or serving up tidy med cups at the nursing home, she said yes to an adventure outside her comfort zone. Before any nurse friends out there get too upset, I know there are more difficult aspects of nursing care than “predictable shifts” and “med cups”, but those things fall within the expected course after graduation. Starting a volunteer position in a 3rd world country with no real job description, and an expectation to work outside your skill set, is not. Few nurses in the States ever have the expectation of having to diagnose and treat Typhoid, be the only help for a woman laboring to birth a baby in the back of a speeding pick-up, stitch up a motorcycle accident victim brought to the front gate, or tell a woman and her children she is likely dying of cancer and there is nothing we can do to help. Our nurses do these kinds of things because they are there and are the only hope in those moments, but those are not moments they were trained for.
It was not really what she had come for — this foot care thing. She had come with more experienced nurses, with more experienced supervision, with hopes of structured med routines and baby care, and safety, but as often happens in life, plans did not go as expected and she found herself with more responsibility than she was up for. She didn’t know if she could handle it.
And then Jesus stopped by. He scooped up a big ‘ole ladle of grace with an extra pinch of peace and slopped it all over her soul – spirit food if ever there was any! And she gobbled it up, because in this land of poverty — of hungry eyes and too thin arms, where the rawness of the poor presses in so closely, she was hungry.
I talked with her a few days ago when she was overseeing blood draws and setting up meds for our baby house kids and asked how she was doing. The more experienced nurse she had come with had to leave unexpectedly to be bedside of someone she loved who was nearing death, and the supervisor she had hoped to work under was gone on a visit stateside. Plan A had slipped away like a piece of paper, snatched by the wind and tossed just out of reach.
She said she was surprisingly calm. She thought it was grace. And I think so, too. The kind of grace that covers you when you don’t know much about babies and are not even sure you adore them, but have to care for a crying one all night. Its the kind of grace that allows you to float over personal inadequacies when in reality you should be drowning. The grace that carries a heavy special need boy all over Milot Hospital in search of x-rays and answers, long after your arms ache from fatigue and your back tightens with the strain. Or the kind of grace that fills a heart with joy for service even with a stranger’s stinky feet.
Rachel is reminding me again about allowing God to work when we don’t have it all together. Don’t get me wrong; she’s a competent nurse and her confidence adds to her beauty, but we don’t always feel like we have it all together and God doesn’t need us to. I am trying to remember he chooses to use us in our brokenness because that is where his glory shines. He doesn’t need me to be prepped and polished; he needs me to be teachable. He might even use me if I’m not, by his grace.
As I leave the pharmacy, I know Rachel has no idea how God has used her moment of service to teach me how to be used. She just joyfully serving in the moment he has given her. And as I walk back out into the bright Haitian sun I pray,
“God, thank you for bringing me to this place, with these people, to help teach my heart to trust yours! Ready me to be used even when I don’t think I have what it takes, keep my spirit soft, and let me see service in simple moments of caring for those you love.” Amen.