INDIA (BP) — The smell of cooking okra wafts out to the streets, greeting the colorfully dressed women and children streaming into the backyard where a free medical clinic is being conducted.
Fresh-cut flowers decorate the pharmacy table in one corner. Woven mats and plastic chairs cover the rest of the dirt yard. Prostitutes and curious neighbors in one of India’s slums sit in any available space and stare at three visiting American nurses.
Unfazed by the chaos of running children, introductions and moving chairs, Dora Sidgewick* grabs a blood pressure cuff and starts doing what nurses do — gathering vital signs and evaluating patients.
“This will give us something to do so they’re not just staring at us,” Sidgewick, an 11-time medical mission trip veteran, says with a determined smile.
Sidgewick, Alice Demsky and Sienna Mortenson were spending a week in India, loving women and children affected by prostitution by providing free basic health care that most in this crowd could not afford otherwise.
Ajunta Gupta, a new believer and former fly prostitute, opened her home so friends in prostitution could receive care. A “fly prostitute” doesn’t live in the brothels and often looks like any other woman, typically a middle-class housewife or student who sells her body to earn money, often to pay the rent and feed her children.
Gupta is hoping the free medical care would give the prostitutes an opportunity to hear about Jesus. Most of her friends still work in her former profession.
The volunteer nurses, meanwhile, want to see these prostitutes as Jesus sees them.
“Jesus … hung out with the sinners and went to where they were and that is what we have to do: Go to where the people are that don’t know Christ,” Sidgewick, a labor and delivery nurse and member of First Baptist Church in Monticello, Ark., says.
As the women sit in the backyard, waiting their turn with the nurses, a local pastor shares about the purpose of life. He tells the women they should believe in Jesus because only Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins. The pastor says he is going to pray for the women.
“Before they could pray, I interrupted him, because I wanted them to know why we were praying,” Sidgewick later recounts. “So that was when I shared where we were from, why we were there and basically gave a short testimony about my life in Christ, how I came to know Christ and the difference He had made in my life.”
Mortenson doesn’t miss a beat and adds her story to the mix. Through an interpreter, the nurse educator from First Baptist Church in Norfolk, Va., shares the Gospel. Two of the ladies later put their faith in Jesus.
“My prayer before the trip was for God to prepare their hearts for the Gospel and that is what He did,” Mortonsen says.
Although the nurses only provide basic exams, their goal is to share Jesus’ love with everyone they touch.
“We have not done fancy things like surgeries or curing illnesses,” says Demsky, a member of Hillmon Grove Baptist Church in Cameron, N.C., “but we have touched people and each time that I would listen to someone’s heart or listen to their lungs or touch their neck, I would ask God to bless this person and think about what a difference it would make if Jesus was in their lives.”
Sidgewick, who has participated in medical clinics in eight different countries, says that no matter where she goes, people are the same.
“The greatest need I can see is the need for Jesus Christ,” Sidgewick says. “There are always people who need Jesus everywhere you go.”
Mortenson likens the church to a hospital in meeting this need.
“Who needs the hospital more than those that are broken or brokenhearted? We can’t just give them a Band-Aid, though,” Mortenson says. “We have to fix the heart, and only Jesus can do that.”
*Name changed. Torie Speicher is a writer based in Southeast Asia. This article originally appeared on www.asiastories.com.
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