On Feb. 21, one of my heroes died. Dr. Paul Farmer was a highly skilled physician, an esteemed professor at Harvard Medical School and a globally renowned humanitarian. In 1987, he founded Partners in Health, a medical mission that gave “preferential treatment to the poor” around the world.
Farmer believed that no one should lack basic health care because they were too poor. Beginning in Cange, a small, rural village in central Haiti, he launched Partners in Health. It was a labor of love for Farmer. To finance his medical mission, he lived out of his car in Boston a few months out of the year, while earning his professor’s salary at Harvard Med and saving every penny to fund his clinic in Cange. Then he would head off for Haiti, months at a time, eager to provide medicine and care to the sick and dying.
In his book, “Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World,” author Tracy Kidder gives an eyewitness account of Farmer’s passionate and sacrificial service to the poorest people in the poorest nation in the hemisphere. There was no limit to what Farmer would give or give up to treat those who were in need. But, it was never enough. No matter how much he gave, there was always more that was needed. In one evening of exhaustion and exasperation, Farmer turned his anger toward God. Scolding God for abandoning these people, his accusations of divine malfeasance were blistering and visceral. Finally, a religious woman who was with Farmer interrupted him. She said that in Haiti they had a saying: “God gives, but God does not share.” Farmer was puzzled by the meaning of her saying, so she explained. It means that the world is plenty full of food and work and medicine to care for all of its suffering people. God has given more than enough to supply their needs. The problem is that all this overabundance has fallen into the hands of many who are not very good at sharing. And so, the needs go on and on. “God gives, but God does not share.” It is up to us to share.
Today, there is horrific suffering, just as bad as Farmer encountered in Haiti. We see it on the news every night as the awful scenes from Ukraine are flashed into our living rooms. Ukrainians whose homes have been destroyed are freezing in makeshift shelters and in the streets. Families are going hungry. Medicine is impossible to get, and danger rains down on the innocent. We watch these scenes, and we are moved to pity these unfortunate souls. But, pity is not what these people need; they need for us to share, so the weight of their misery might be lifted — even just a little.
Toward that end, let me invite you to share. I am leading a collection for Ukrainian relief that will go directly to helping with the basic needs of refugees who have fled Ukraine. Malkhaz Songulashvili is a longtime pastor, social activist and humanitarian activist in the Republic of Georgia. He has hosted numerous Mercer On Mission programs with Dr. Chris Grant, professor of political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and has spoken on several occasions at Mercer while visiting the United States. He is currently leading efforts to feed and house refugees who are coming to Georgia from Ukraine and, yes, also from Russia. This collection is being made in partnership with First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, which is collecting the donations and transferring them to Mercer, which is wiring them directly to Malkhaz for direct assistance to the refugees.
If you would like to share in this relief effort, you can make checks payable to First Baptist Church of Christ for Ukrainian relief. I will be happy to collect checks in my office in Newton Chapel and see to it that they are appropriately processed. If you prefer to give online, you may follow this link: fbcxmacon.org.
God gives, but God does not share; it is up to us to share. It is the lesson that my hero, Paul Farmer, learned and lived by. May it be our learning and life as well.