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In the Name of Jesus

By Tracie Perrin, Apr 2, 2014
This is Francesca. The first time I saw her-while serving on a MTW medical team in the Philippines-she was moving quickly toward me with an escort on each side. They brought her in a plastic lawn chair, the white kind used for family reunions, and sat her down. With a smile on her face and a twinkle in her eye, I knew we were in for a treat, and she did not disappoint. 

Francesca sat crookedly and slightly bent over in the chair with her middle-school-aged granddaughter behind her. She is only in her 40s, but the two strokes she had about a year ago have aged her quite a bit. With slurred speech she explained her medical history and handed a piece of paper to Cornelia, the occupational therapist. I was Cornelia's helper on that day of clinic. 

In the Name of Jesus, Rise Up and Walk!
I sat eager to hear Francesca's story and learn. We found out that the first stroke was mild, but since the second stroke about a year ago, Francesca has not walked or even stood up. Cornelia evaluated her, then stretched her leg muscles and prepared her for standing. It caught me off guard. I thought it was too late for all that, but Cornelia knew. Holding Francesca around the waist and bracing her knees with her own, Cornelia gently lifted her to a standing position. Francesca giggled softly and her smile widened even more than before. I braced one of her feet so we huddled together, slightly hugging, our faces aglow with this small miracle. 

Francesca tires quickly and was eased back into her chair. A few more stretches and we tried again. She was a little stronger, the balance a tad better this time. I noticed the difference. She stood a little longer and sat. Again, Cornelia stretched and pressed Francesca's legs to awaken the nerves. This time Francesca took on more of her weight and pushed hard. Somewhere between a whisper and a song I heard Francesca sweetly say, "In the name of Jesus, walk!" Cornelia repeated it a little louder. "In the name of Jesus, walk!"

From Lameness to Delight
Tears filled our eyes like a flash flood as the significance of those unexpected words hit us. Cornelia and I had a flashback to our first night in the Philippines. We spent it worshipping with our brothers and sisters at Lighthouse Presbyterian. Pastor Marlon announced the theme for the medical clinic, "In the Name of Jesus, Rise Up and Walk!" I remember being slightly startled when he said it so exuberantly, and now here I was standing with the lame woman who was laughing out the same verse as she was making her first attempts to overcome her lameness. Her laugh was maybe a bit like Sarai's, "How can it be Lord?" Or maybe it was just from the pure delight of standing-a posture we repeat a hundred times a day (sometimes begrudgingly) that if taken from us would be sorely missed.

Cornelia gave instructions for the granddaughter to help with Francesca's exercises and standing. It is unlikely that Francesca will walk normally again, though who's to say what Jesus might do. But standing to transfer and weight bearing will add to the quality of her life as well as keep her bones stronger. This small step toward independence was a huge encouragement to her, and she to us with her tenacity and overflowing joy. I didn't want her to leave, but the chairs were filled with patients waiting. They whisked her away as quickly as she had come. Me, calling after them to be careful.

At Risk for Another Stroke 
I wish this story ended here, but it doesn't. During the exam, Cornelia asked Francesca if her blood pressure was under control. She explained how important it was to keep it down with two strokes under her belt-not a lot of margin left. Francesca nodded in agreement. Cornelia referred her to a doctor for further evaluation. Just to make sure. The news was hard to hear. A few minutes later, he mouthed the numbers, "190 over..."

I averted my eyes to distract myself with a new patient. Francesca waited in the pharmacy line still full of hope. Her blood pressure medicine being counted out by loving hands. A month's worth if she takes it correctly, a couple if she spreads it out. I gave her one more hug and made my way back to the therapy station. "In the name of Jesus," sinking deeper and constraining me because what I really want to do is to keep walking. I want to find someone to make it right, because I don't want Francesca to suffer or struggle anymore. Enough! 

But the person I want is already there. He is with her and for her and knows her every need better than I ever could. I feel like Dorothy repeating, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home!" Because this is not our home!

Food or Medicine? The Hard Reality
I try to make sense out of her choices. Where she lives, survival means eating, not getting the newest gadget that we might long for even die for in the U.S. And as high blood pressure is silently destroying her body over time, the hunger pangs in her stomach clearly draw attention to the right now. Which would you pick-food or medicine? She is forced to choose between the hard and still harder, while we can be overwhelmed choosing between better and best. What is the purpose for this apparent imbalance? The effects of the Fall-oppression, disease, and despair-are not equally paired with beauty, abundance, and freedom in this world. However, God's kingdom and His redemptive work leaves no stone unturned! "As far as the curse is found" still rings true to my ears.

The Holy Spirit gives comfort with these words:
"For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always being given over to death for Jesus' sea, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you." 2 Corinthians 4:6-12 
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Pray for Francesca and others like her who receive medical care through MTW clinics. Pray that the care they receive would strengthen their faith in Christ.

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