The Least of These
A dirt courtyard floor and a worn thin mat was his resting place. The skin on his feet was cracked and calloused, no doubt from years of wandering shoeless. He wore what they all wore: a faded, patched gown. Why he pulled his mat to that place to sleep, I do not know. Perhaps he didn’t know either. “So alone,” I thought, “isolated in a world of mental illness.” But there he was and here we were, touring the only psychiatric hospital in Nicaragua.
We had been hearing about the deplorable conditions at the hospital and so we went to see for ourselves. The reports had not been exaggerated. A recent fifty percent cut in an already bare-bones budget resulted in the hospital being able to provide each patient with only a make-shift bed or mat to sleep on, an old threadbare gown to wear, and one meal a day of rice and beans. In the entire hospital, there were no sheets, pillows, chairs, soap or any personal hygiene products. The commodes had no toilet seats and few of them flushed; most showers did not work and the clogged drains created large pools of standing, stagnant water.
CONSIDER that it was most evident that the patients, despite these conditions, were being well cared for by a dedicated, professional staff of doctors and nurses, many of whom were volunteering their time. The lack of resources, medicine and supplies made treatment difficult, if not impossible. Many patients were living out their lives lying in fetal positions on mats in some corner of the concrete rooms. And yet, in the midst of all of this, patients would follow us around, most coming up to us wanting to talk and exchange hugs.
Preparing to leave, our only consolation was knowing that a magnificent U.S. Air Force C-5 cargo plane, flown by a dedicated crew of air personnel, would touch down the next day at the airport, filled with the supplies this hospital so desperately needed. It did just that and two days later, two large truckloads of those supplies arrived at the hospital with the promise of better conditions for the people this world easily forgets. Through Matthew 25: Ministries, we are remembering these and the many others often referred to as the “Least of These.”
Rev. Wendell Mettey