Public health

Over the last year I have been able to work alongside a group of Public Health Nurses. Together, we walk around homeless encampments, providing spiritual and physical care. Healing wounds that traumatize the people that we serve. I love the Public Health Nurses! They have come to my dinner church and provided flu shots and Hepatitis vaccinations to the most vulnerable of our city. They lovingly refer people to medically assisted drug treatment and usually have candy. They provide wound care to people with serious, life threating infections. They also get yelled at, accused of being government pawns of big Pharma, sent to infect and profit off the poor.

 Turning a bus stop into a church service/medical clinic is easier than you think. Last week we met Patricia downtown. She is from Arkansas and told us that she has breast cancer and diabetes. “Praise the Lord though, I still haven’t lost any of my hair!” She thanked God that she ran into us and we prayed. When we asked her if she was interested in a flu shot, she was clearly enthusiastic. “Praise the Lord, oh yes I would!” We all lingered and listened to Patricia as she shared deep wisdom from the stories of her life.

We met two women from Florida that thought it was wonderful that we were out serving the Lord. They have both been living on the street for two years and believe God has called them to share the Good News of Jesus to the homeless community. Rhonda asked if she could pray for us. We all held hands and received a blessing from our new friend. I cannot imagine a sweeter prayer ever being uttered.

We had our second church service/medical clinic at the next bus stop. Matthew wanted prayer for permanent housing, his kids, and his addiction. He was excited to get his flu shot and wanted to know if it would be on his backside. I told him that would cost extra. We all laughed, and he rolled up his sleeve. It is an amazing sight to see a man who has survived years of homelessness and incarceration flinch at the first prick of a needle. Matthew shared the fear he had of going to the doctor. He thinks he has AIDS but is to afraid to know for sure. It was a powerful moment of openness and vulnerability. The nurses spoke to him in a way that made me want to go the clinic.

My friend Rebecca was down the street screaming. I first met her at my dinner church where she can be found screaming and drinking Bud Ice. She was happy to see me and gave me three fist bumps. While the nurses were giving a drunk man a flu shot, Rebecca and I hold hands and pray. She is hard to understand but through the yelling I believe she is asking God for freedom from her Meth addiction. Its hard to see our traveling medical prayer circus and not smile.

We walk up the street and notice a man selling prepackaged cuts of meat. No one has ever seen anything like this. Who is buying stolen meat at eleven pm on third and Pike? Next to him is a group of young man acting tough and trying to intimidate us. The leader of their group asks for the nurse’s phone numbers. I ask him if he wants my number too! He asks if I am a preacher. I say yes, and ask him if he wants to pray? All the street credibility in the world can’t resist the presence of God. We pray and I can feel his heart move. He is, for the moment, not full of macho street bravado. Now, he is awkward and uncomfortable, instantly laid bare before his creator, the lover of his soul. He thanks me and then tells his friends to shut up. “The fucking church outreach nurses are here.”

Michael Cox

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