Ryan seemed like a rough character, with his scraggly white beard and the heavy winter coat which he wore year-round. I had seen him walk by the center a few times, limping along with his cane. On one occasion he stopped to talk and ask if he could get money to buy some fast food for his mom. Although we couldn’t fulfill his request for cash, he did accept our offer to drive him home.
As time went on, he stopped by sporadically during the week to say hello. Then he came by one Sabbath afternoon. Our Sabbaths typically are spent in worship and Bible study at the center. Afterward, we all stick around for food and fellowship. It was in the midst of our meal that Ryan had poked his head in to greet us this particular Saturday afternoon.
At first he refused our offer to feed him, but then gladly accepted after we assured him it was no trouble. He hobbled over and took a seat in one of our donated sofa chairs. While some of us rushed around in the kitchen, others started pleasant conversation with him. We all came back together to resume our meal, and I could see that a smile had started to grow on Ryan’s face as he heard our laughter and happy conversation. Soon he was laughing right along with us. It was good to see that even the small talk gave him peace.
As his visit came to a close and with a bread donation in his hand, he made his way over to the door with me. I prayed with him for his mother’s health. I asked, “Ryan, is there anything else I can help you with?” His answer surprised me. “Yes. Can I have a hug?” I gladly complied. He sincerely thanked me for all we had done for him.
God has shown me that medical missionary work isn’t just about physical health; it involves the whole person. As we say here at Simplicity: “Building communities that are healthy and whole—mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.” How many of us have been discouraged thinking that we cannot help those in need because of our lack of medical knowledge? You don’t have to be a doctor or medical professional to share a smile. We could provide the best health information, but if we do not show love and have the willingness to share our joy of life in Christ with others, then it amounts to nothing, really. As Proverbs 17:22 (NKJV) says: “A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.”
— Andrew Carroll