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Caring For The Hurting

On May 5th, 1995, I got an emergency call from Evanson Hospital in Laramie, Wyoming, where my sister was in the intensive care unit. The message was to come immediately because her condition was getting worse.

A close friend rushed to be with my family, and we stayed up the whole night. He took me to the airport in the morning. After the death of my sister, when my friend and I reunited, he broke down crying. He said, "I am sorry I didn?t do anything. I didn?t know what to do." At that moment, I realized how much he had done by being present and praying with my family. He had used what he had, the ability to pray.

Years ago, my mother gathered traditional remedies to help minimize my stomach pains because I suffered from chronic stomach pains until I was seventeen years old. With no skills of a medicine woman or medical specialist, my mother mixed plant sap, salt and soot for me. This minimized my pain so I could avoid being taken to the hospital.

All of us have felt helpless when someone needed our help or have been in situations where we you didn?t know what to say or do.

Responding to circumstances like these can be frustrating. Feelings of inadequacy and vulnerability may be intimidating. We may be tempted to ignore or separate ourselves from those who are hurting.

The Bible is full of examples of people separating themselves from the hurting ones. At one time, as Jesus was near Jericho, a blind man along a roadside heard a multitude of people and inquired what was going on. They told him Jesus was passing by. He immediately started shouting for mercy. Those who didn?t know the pain of being blind rebuked him and told him to be silent (Luke 18:35-39).

There is the story of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was possessed by a demon. She pleaded with Jesus to heal her daughter, but his disciples were impatient and wanted the woman to be sent away (Matthew 15:21-28).

However, in all situations, Jesus had compassion for the wounded individuals and healed them, ignoring what other people said. How can we care for those who are the hurting instead of avoiding them?

Genuine compassion is the basis of care. Jesus had compassion. He was touched by the grief of those in physical, emotional and spiritual pain. With compassion, one uses whatever resources are available to alleviate the pain of our loving Heavenly Father?s children.

This compassion arises when we put ourselves in the position of those who are hurting. After all, you could be the one: whose child has died who is going through divorce, whose spouse has been unfaithful, or who is in need of salvation. Life turbulence affects everyone at one time other other. No one plans to be sick or lose a child. People don?t hope to see their children using illegal drugs, nor do they hope to divorce.

These painful experiences could be compared to life with water buffaloes in an African village. They invaded villages without warning, devastating social structures, uprooting the harmonious livelihood of villagers and leaving them feeling insecure and beaten down.

Jesus? exemplary compassion was not judgmental. A judgmental spirit affects our care. We may evaluate how people got into ?their? messes. This practice draws us away from being genuinely compassionate. This attitude may also make us offer opinions that can cause harm instead of healing.

One of the Kamba proverbs says, ?Nzoka ikunawa na muti ula wi kwoko? which means a snake is hit with whatever stick is in one?s hand. Our tendency is to refer those in need to specialists. The late Henri J.M. Nouwen presents the idea that using specialists makes us helpless. We call pastors when someone is sick even before we pray. We look for nutritionists to tell us how much weight to lose. Nouwen tells how the framers of the constitution of the United States responded to Benjamin Franklin?s proposal to open deliberation sessions with prayer. The delegation rejected the proposal on the basis that there was no money to pay a chaplain.

God has given us the ability to be compassionate and use whatever is within our means to ease the pain of those who are suffering.

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