The Poor Will Always Be With Us. So Will Church Health.

For the last few days, I have been asked a hundred times, “How will the Trump election affect the work of Church Health?” or “What if Trump dismantles Obamacare?”

My answer is the same as it was before the election. The outcome of the election has little to do with the mission of Church Health. Our mission has always been to reclaim the Church’s biblical commitment to care for our bodies and our spirits. For nearly 30 years, we’ve cared for working uninsured people and their families. What the federal government does is of little consequence to what people of faith are called to do in order to be faithful to God.

Of course, it’s never that simple. If 20 million people who currently receive health insurance through the ACA were to suddenly lose coverage, that would be a disaster for the nation and for us in Memphis. But it’s my opinion that that will not happen any time soon. President-elect Trump’s stated goal is to repeal and replace Obamacare, but clarity on how and when that might happen has not yet been provided.

A long time ago, I gave up worrying about what the impact decisions in Washington might be for our work. Under President Bill Clinton, people worried there would be no need for the work we did once “HillaryCare” took effect. I hope you can understand my point.

What I know is that the gospels call us to care for the poor when they are sick. I feel that same call has been spoken through every world religion, and even those who don’t subscribe to a particular organized system of faith believe that everyone deserves quality healthcare.

In just over two months, Church Health is moving everything we do to Crosstown Concourse. We will dramatically increase our capacity to care for people who fall through the gaps of America’s healthcare system. Those gaps could widen in the future, but if they do, Church Health will be here to provide the same quality of care you would want your mother to receive.

On that I am certain.

Our job is to continue to talk with people of faith to help them see that caring for the health needs of the poor is a path to draw closer to God. That is our fundamental mission –  not the mission of the federal government. Therefore, whatever President-elect Trump does or doesn’t do will have little impact on the work we have undertaken for the last 30 years.

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us, and for that reason Church Heath will always stay the course we’re on and serve those who are forgotten. Make no mistake: this work is hard, and it requires intense, concerted effort. But the outcome, when successful, is truly sweet.

I will pray every day that President-elect Trump works to care for the poor during his administration. We will work with anyone who desires to stand with us on that journey.

But no matter what, our mission is unchanged and we are ready for the task ahead.

On Victories on the Field and in the Clinic

wrigley_field_400_foot_signI’ve been to many baseball games at Wrigley Field to see the Chicago Cubs play. The first time was in 1977. It was at the beginning of the season, a late-April game. I was of course looking forward to seeing the Cubs play, but my real excitement was finally visiting the sacred space that is Wrigley Field and seeing the famous ivy that covers the outfield wall.

My experience was not what I imagined it would be, though. It can be very cold in Chicago in April, and I almost froze to death as I sat in the stands. There were very few fans at the game – this was back when the Cubs were routinely terrible. But still, there was the ivy.

More disappointment. When I looked to the outfield wall, there was nothing but bare sticks totally absent of green. It was ugly, not beautiful as I imagined. How did I not know that the Wrigley Field ivy was deciduous? The leaves fall off in the late fall and do not return until the spring warms up.

I have always remembered that game and my disappointment, but I suspect every Cub fan will remember last night’s extra inning 7th game win of the World Series with a great deal more fondness. Last night, the Cub’s 108-year history of failure came to an end.

There is something to persevering when all seems hopeless.

This is indeed what makes me love my work at Church Health where we serve those who otherwise would be excluded from receiving the healthcare they deserve because of factors beyond their control. Every day I see people who year after year face insurmountable odds that life has put before them. Just this week in the clinic, we saw an Albanian woman who came to Memphis for an arranged marriage only to find her new husband was abusive. We saw a five-year-old boy whose eye turns out whose mother didn’t know where else to find help.

This is our daily work. It may seem futile, but it is not.

The Chicago Cubs have won the World Series because they spent millions of dollars assembling a superior team and they play in a wonderful city at what is arguably the best ball park in the world. They were always bound to win eventually. But it is not so of many of the people we seek to serve at Church Health. You could even argue that the chances of them “winning” are very small. They will always be talking about the inability to have the life God intended for them. But then, they find Church Health and their lives change. Our lives, too, are changed every day because of the richness we feel from being involved in their lives.

It is not the World Series, but it is in some ways better. The joy they have in having their health restored lasts longer than the fleeting moments of a sports victory.

My brother lives in Chicago and I’m sure he will be there as the Cubs march down Michigan Avenue celebrating their win. I will smile for those who feel a sense of happiness in their victory. But I will most likely be in the clinic when the parade happens.

And that next person whose life we help change will give me true joy in knowing that the power of a healthy life is even better than a game-seven, extra-inning win.