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Monday, 16 March 2015

God Cares About Sparrows #compassion #Christianity



In February whilst walking the streets of Cubao near my house I saw a large group of homeless people gathered at a petrol station. The extremely dirty and malnourished small children approached me to ask for money and food grabbing my arms as they did so. I stopped briefly to talk to the children and the women with them and looked around to size up the situation. I wanted to return to the location when I had more time. Since then I have been back several times and begun building friendships and sometimes giving food to the large group. Many of the children came to the drop-in at the church on one Thursday evening but the adults didn’t come with them.  On my last visit I met Dina* (19 years.) I was shocked by her appearance as she was severely underweight and looked really ill with dark circles under her eyes. One of the other women informed me that she had been ill for at least a month and couldn’t stop coughing. Despite this they didn’t seem unduly concerned about her, probably because it is just part of life in Manila. It was a Saturday so I bought some medicine and food for Dina and made the others promise that they would allow her to eat it and wouldn’t take it for themselves. Then I arranged to return on the Monday to take her to the Doctor for a check-up. 

On the Monday I first had to go to the Eye-hospital with another lady, Eve* from the drop in. I had been having some good conversations with Eve at the drop in and had given her a Bible but she couldn’t yet read it due to a problem with her eyes. So I accompanied her to the government hospital to try and establish what the problem was. After being given the wrong directions and heading out of town on the wrong jeepney only to have to return to Cubao we finally made it to the hospital. On arrival we were informed that it wasn’t possible to get a check-up and we should return at 7am the next day. I waited for a few seconds in the hope that the nurse would change her mind and apparently that did the trick as she then agreed to admit us as an emergency case. We filled in some forms and then waited …and waited…Eve was called in several times for various checks. Whilst we were waiting I noticed that she was crying and asked her what was wrong. She told me that her mother had gone prematurely blind before she died. She was terrified that the same thing would happen to her. I held back my own emotion as she said that God had sent me to help her. I was humbled by her gratitude and glad that she recognised that it was God that loved and cared for her. The doctor diagnosed cataracts and arranged follow-up checks and eye drops. 

The ridiculousness only began after the procedures had finished and we needed to try and pay the very small bill and obtain a discharge notice. We first had to collect some paperwork from one building, then go to another building to obtain our bill, then stand in a queue of about 30 people to try and pay the bill until we were moved by a guard to yet another building to join a shorter queue also to try and pay the bill. Bill having been paid we had to return to the first building to show that the bill had been paid, then obtain a receipt, then go to another counter to obtain a discharge notice and then allow the security guard to check that we had been discharged before we could leave! I have learnt that getting annoyed with this type of procedure or asking if it’s really necessary doesn’t achieve anything it just makes people less helpful. So we traipsed round the various stages and got there in the end…

Whilst we were waiting at the final stage a very large and clearly ill semi-conscious woman arrived at the entrance to the emergency department in a tricycle as people rushed in all directions trying to work out what to do. Eventually the poor woman was bundled in a rather undignified manner onto a stretcher which appeared as the drama moved inside the doors of the already full hospital. Looking around inside I was appalled at the apparently serious conditions of many of the patients lying on stretchers awaiting attendance. But as my mind began to head down this road, realising that it was futile and likely to end in frustration with nothing being accomplished, I switched my thoughts to the one person that had been helped that day. Bureaucratic procedures now completed we quickly left the hospital to head back to Cubao to get Eve’s prescription and have lunch. Heading into McDonald’s in Cubao I was troubled by an elderly disabled man outside the door who had asked me for money. I bought him some food and returned to chat to him briefly at which point he asked me to pay for his fare to allow him to visit his family members some distance away. I told him that I would return and talk to him on another day and made a mental note of this. 

After leaving Eve I went to collect Dina from the petrol station some distance away to take her to the Doctors as I had promised. Arriving I was really worried about Dina who was very ill and was stopping every few steps to cough all the way to the Clinic. I thought she probably had TB or something similar as I had seen the symptoms before. When we arrived at the clinic I explained that Dina needed a check-up and I explained her symptoms at which point the staff asked me what I wanted them to do. I found this a little strange as I have little medical knowledge and would guess that their judgement would be better than mine in this circumstance. I told them this and that they should do whatever they needed to try and diagnose the problem. Later I was called in to join Dina with the Doctor in consultation. They had thought she was a child due to her size and the Doctor wanted to know how I was connected to her. I explained that I was a missionary and wanted to help her. As usual the doctor seemed more interested in learning about my missionary work/England than in the patient but I have learnt to overlook this as eventually they tend to the important matter.  Dina had some tests and an X-ray. I took her back to the petrol station praying that she would be okay until we got the results the following day. 

The next day I returned to the clinic alone to collect the X-ray results and was met with grave faces. The staff informed me that Dina’s condition was serious and that she should be taken to the hospital straight away as an in-patient. They showed me the X-ray which had a large black abnormality on one side. I took advice and went quickly to find Dina and show her the X-ray.  On breaking the news to Dina and the other women (including her mother) none seemed particularly concerned and it was even difficult to persuade one of them to accompany her to the hospital. I spent a while ensuring that they really understood how serious the situation was and that they were actually going to attend the hospital as I was frustratingly unable to accompany them. I left enough money for the trip and prescription and prayed that they would go…

Reflecting on the events of the day I realised that I was always going to struggle with the apparent lack of concern of some Filipino’s about the circumstances of their relatives/friends. I wondered if they had become hardened by the various calamities they had had to face over the years. I knew that serious illness/death was sadly a regular feature in the lives of many Filipino’s and more so in the lives of those that lived and worked on the street but it was hard at times not to judge this indifference and lack of empathy. I suppose that feeling emotional about a situation doesn’t necessarily achieve anything but the blank looks I received when detailing something which to me was really shocking could be difficult to cope with at times…

 I wondered how God felt about these people and situations but realised I already knew the answer as people are more important than sparrows...