In Matthew 12, Jesus’ disciples are reprimanded by the Pharisees for taking grain from the fields to eat on Sabbath, when no work should be done. Jesus’ response is to remind the Pharisees of the prophetic command, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” (in this context sacrifice meaning right procedure in worship according to Jewish law). Good News Clinics (GNC) is a gospel-place. It is where the most broken come for rest and healing when all other doors have closed. Sometimes our patients are simply overwhelmed, alone, and need more than anything an advocate. GNC’s volunteers and staff become the ones to listen, to help them find the resources they need, to walk beside them. We don’t turn people away without a place to go, ever. We help them to find an option if we cannot be one for them–we follow the gospel of people over principle, advocacy over efficiency, because we are a mission of God in the world.
Last week, Ron Stowe, a GNC Eligibility Specialist who volunteers weekly encountered this opportunity to help a very sick cancer patient.
“It was almost ten o’clock when I called the last applicant of the day, who came to GNC to apply for medical care. He was a young man with long hair, a beard, and was shabbily dressed. From a few feet away you could detect his body odor. I welcomed him kindly because at GNC we don’t judge people by appearance.
I introduced myself and escorted the applicant to my desk to start reviewing his application. I asked for his driver license, proof of residency, and proof of income. He told me he was homeless and did not have a telephone. This is not uncommon at GNC.
As I started looking through the application, he started coughing and nearly doubled over in pain. I asked if he was okay. He said that his chest really hurt when he coughed and he slump down in his chair. I asked if he had been to the hospital emergency room to which he replied ‘yes.’ I continued to question him about his hospital visit and found out that he had been diagnosed with cancer that had metastasized to his lungs. The hospital recommended that he come to Good News Clinics or Longstreet Clinic to speak to someone about his cancer.
Knowing his situation, I asked how he intended to pay for treatments at Longstreet Clinic. He said that he thought he might have Medicaid Insurance. After learning this information, I explained that we could not treat patients that had any type of medical insurance.
Tears filled his eyes as he said, “I’m just trying to do what the hospital suggested.” At this point, my eyes also filled with tears and I just knew that I could not turn this patient away – insurance or no insurance. I felt true compassion for him. He was scared to death and desperately needed help. And, I was going to do all possible to find some help for him. I went to talk to Jean Peeples and explained the situation. I told Jean that I was not going to send the patient away. She wholeheartedly agreed and suggested that we go talk to Dr. Butts, GNC’s medical director.
I explained the situation to Dr. Butts and requested his help. He told me to bring the patient to the medical area, so the nurses could check his vital signs and he assured me that he would talk to the patient and review his discharge papers from the hospital.
In my opinion, Good News Clinic operates to help people who have no other place to turn. I felt that if we could not help this person we might as well close the doors because we would not be fulfilling our mission.”
The man was given a place to rest until the shelter opened, a healthy lunch, and most importantly, hope. We helped him navigate his benefits and diagnosis. He has an oncology appointment this Friday.