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Cloud of Witnesses

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders….and run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…”
Hebrews 12:1

We arrived this morning to the village of Quesada in Jutiapa with sadness knowing it was our final clinic day. As our bus pulled up, the line of people was snaking down the street and around the corner. Many of these people had begun their day long before most of the world was even awake, just to walk the many miles or ride a bus for hours, in order to make their appointment at our clinic. Overwhelmed with love for these people, there’s no room in the heart for sadness, only gratitude. Glancing back at the line, I swear it had suddenly transformed into a great cloud of witnesses.

We then piled off the bus and rushed to get to our posts, but suddenly halted at what we saw. There under the awnings were dozens of our Guatemalan volunteers, huddled together, eyes shut and hands raised, praying for the day ahead. They have given up this week to cook, clean, coordinate, translate, assist and so much more. When I looked at them gathered again, they looked strangely like a great cloud of witnesses.

I first met Armando at least a decade ago. When he was a young father, he was told he had cancer. He was not expected to live. He told God that if He saved him, he would give the rest of his life to serve others. Because of Faith in Practice, he was able to have what would amount to 5 major surgeries, a blessing very few in Guatemala ever receive. But cutting out the cancer left a gaping hole in his face. For 2 years he received chemotherapy and then the painful process began to reconstruct his face. As he recovered, he had only that one desire- to thank God by serving others. That’s how Armando began to volunteer with Faith in Practice. The patient became a leader. For the past 15 years, in his clinics alone, FIP has seen more than 33,000 patients. He now serves in the role of country coordinator and travels the whole state looking for patients who desperately seek the medical help a Faith in Practice Village or Surgery team can offer. When the people he invites ask if he’s really telling the truth, his reply is, “Look at my face! I am the mirror of what can be done!” When I look into Armando’s mirror, what I see clearly is a great cloud of witnesses.

This past Tuesday was All Saints Day. Lee in his reflection wrote, “This is a time for remembering all the “saints”- living and dead- who surround us as a great cloud of witnesses.” As we remembered those persons who have shaped our lives, we went around the circle sharing their names. I was filled with such gratitude as I spoke out “Jan, Bob, Carl and Clara”, my parents who truly were saint like in how they lived out their faith and passed it on to so many! But All Saints Day is also about celebrating the living. Late in the day Phil rushed in to find me so I could meet two women in their 90’s, happy patients who were now on their way out of the clinic. One was named “Expectacion” (Expectation). It didn’t take too long to realize why she was named that or to find her because she had stopped to give a blessing to Lee. Now Lee is our pastor, he is the one who has been giving a blessing to others this week. I noticed as she wheeled away, footprints on Lee as that great cloud of witnesses had been in his presence.

Dear Lord, give us joyful and thankful hearts in our memories of all your saints as we serve this day and every day. May their faith inspire our response; their steadfastness our resolve; their love deepen our desire to serve you with hope and compassion, until your full reign of love and justice comes. Amen
Prayer by Reverend Lee Ramsey

For all the Saints (words William How; Music, Ralph Vaughn Williams)

For all the saints who from their labors rest, who thee by faith before the world confessed, thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest. Alleluia! Alleluia

Oh, blest communion, fellowship divine! We feebly struggle, they in glory shine; Yet all are one in thee, for all are thine. Alleluia! Alleluia

From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl streams in the countless host, singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Alleluia! Alleluia

Julie Eberly

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