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On Sunday mornings, one of the courtyards outside of the clinic at Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro is full of people milling about. Hundreds of people wait patiently for their names to be called for their turn to be seen by one of the American doctors traveling with Faith in Practice. Children are playing in the courtyard, families are pacing back and forth, and medical staff are rushing to get patients ushered into the clinic as quickly as possible. As the day passes, the number of people in the courtyard dwindles. The staff starts to collect empty chairs to stow them away. The noise level quiets down. It is almost peaceful.

As I rush back to the clinic to help unload supplies from the trunks that were flown over, I see a woman standing on crutches in the middle of the courtyard. Alone. She is visibly crying, and I am compelled to approach her and offer comfort. I softly ask her what’s wrong, and she tries to gather herself. When she is finally able to talk, she tells me that she has just seen an orthopedic surgeon and that he has given her bad news. She was hoping to have surgery to have her hip repaired, but she has an infection and will instead have surgery to remove the hardware and infected tissue. She will have to wait to get a brand-new hip. Vilma was devastated by the news because she had been suffering and in pain for nearly ten years. I asked her if I could hug her, and she embraced me, and I let her sob on my shoulder. I told her there was nothing I could say to make her feel better, but I was confident that God had a plan for her. Things WOULD be okay.

Vilma told me that she has three daughters, and I told her that I would look for her on the day of her surgery to give her a little treat for her girls. This made her crack a smile. I also told her that we would be praying for her. She thanked me, and I left her alone to finish processing the news she had just received.

During one of our morning devotionals, Dr. Mark Woolf asked us to take time to connect with the patients and their families. He read to us from the book of Acts, where Peter says to a beggar asking for alms, “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk.”(Acts 3:1-10) Dr. Woolf then asked us to offer a hug, even a smile, where needed. I shared my experience with Vilma with the team, and Dr. Woolf asked us to pray for her.

Fast forward to Wednesday. As promised, I looked for Vilma before she was admitted. I asked her if she was feeling slightly better, and she said she was. I shared with her that we had prayed for her and gifted her with three plushies for her three daughters. She was so happy and grateful. We hugged, and I told her I would again come look for her after her surgery. She thanked us for all we did for her and asked God to bless us.

These patients endure so much —- physically and emotionally. They often travel long distances to be seen by the doctors here. They carry so much hope and have so much faith. And sometimes, we do not have good news for them. But giving them what we have to give —- a hug, a smile, that small connection —- could reignite that hope; restore their faith.

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