The Work of Christmas

by Howard Thurman
Graphics by Heather Peck


When the star in the sky is gone,

When the Kings and Princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flocks,

The work of Christmas begins.

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry

To release the prisoner,

To teach the nations,

To bring Christ to all,

To make music in the heart.

Sheila Fowler is 43. She has short brown hair, a soft, girlish voice and three grandchildren. What she does not have is teeth, or a way to pay for dentures. But Fowler is stoic; she jokes that she’s got tough gums, adding that she can even eat pretzels if she sucks on them for a bit.

Fowler has made the hourlong journey from her home in Cleveland, Va., to the small town of Wise to take advantage of a huge annual medical and dental expedition set up by Remote Area Medical, a nonprofit organization that provides basic medical and dental care to people in the world’s most inaccessible regions. This year, more than 1,800 volunteer doctors, dentists, nurses and assistants descended on the small town near the Kentucky border, setting up enormous field-hospital-style tents in which they saw roughly 2,500 patients over the course of two and a half days in late July. The Wise operation is coordinated locally by a team of nurses with the Health Wagon, a tiny health-care outreach program.

By the end of the weekend, the medical team, had extracted 3,857 painfully decayed teeth, administered 156 mammograms, screened hundreds of people for diabetes and heart disease, and given out 1,003 pairs of eyeglasses. About 30 people, chosen by lottery, were fitted for free dentures. Hundreds of people were turned away by volunteers who headed off cars at the main intersection when the clinic reached capacity.

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I really like this once a year free clinic but I am sure that as disciples of Christ we can do better.  We spend hundreds of dollars and lots of time on mission trips overseas and in South America.  I am not suggesting that we stop these trips but I would like to challenge the church to spend some quality time here at home. Jesus introduced himeself to many of the first century communities through healing someone. What an awesome way to introduce Christ to the marginalized and poor in every state of the Union. In every state there is at least one community where a free clinic is needed. In every state there are at least 50 churches that can collaboratively provide a free clinic. The poorest of the poor, those limited by transportation and cultural isolated populations can experience a benefit. 

We are called to follow the lead of Jesus

18“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
      to preach good news to the poor.
   He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
      and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed,
    19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Universal healthcare would be nice but with or without universal healthcare the church can do better at meeting the healthcare needs of the poor here in the United States.  As disciples we have a responsibility to find a way to bring healing to all of God’s people.

Sounding Alarm About Disease
In Charles County, Where Men Are Dying From Prostate Cancer At Startling Rates, a Campaign Aims to Educate Those At Risk

By Lisa Rein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 27, 2008; C01

The preacher’s words took flight in a small Pentecostal sanctuary in Southern Maryland, where men are dying needlessly of a treatable disease.

“Your body is special to God!” Bishop James M. Briscoe declaimed to 45 Sunday worshipers in the pews above the weathered linoleum floor of Free Gospel Church of Bryans Road. “God has not designed this thing for you to die prematurely! Some of you would rather not go to doctors. They would rather be in the darkness about their health. But the scripture doesn’t say that.”

So began a public health campaign to educate, examine and treat the men of Charles County as prostate cancer becomes a disease that is striking and killing them at an alarming rate.

Men, black and white, in Southern Maryland’s largest county have the highest prostate cancer diagnosis and death rates in the state, and significantly above the national average. Local rates are climbing even as cases level off nationwide.

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