By Dafne T. Moretta ’11
My husband and I flew to Colombia to help Venezuelan refugees in August 2018. Venezuela has been in a downward spiral for years with political unrest, hyperinflation, power outages, and profound food and medicine shortages. The country is facing the biggest health care crisis in its 199-year history.
We would be working with Venezuelan physicians and dentists in the border city of Cucuta. This city boasts a population of more than 750,000 Colombians and approximately 200,000 Venezuelan refugees. Immediately, the stories of the Venezuelan medical practitioners captivated me. Their struggles to provide care with no medications, no diagnostic equipment, no electricity, and seemingly, no hope, gave me an uncomfortable wake-up call.
But it wasn’t until I started listening to patients’ stories that I fully realized the evil that surrounded these people and their deep need of restoration. I met a female patient in her 30s on the last day of clinic. She had persistent and severe lower back pain that was impossible to control without medication, which she didn’t have. When I inquired about the etiology of her pain, the story she shared tore me to pieces. Her husband had been killed in anti-government protests in Venezuela and she fled to Colombia with three small children in search of a new life. She described the struggle to survive in Colombia, doing any work available. But cleaning homes was not enough to feed her family. Her overwhelming physical and emotional pain was palpable. A cousin offered to help her get into a “lucrative business” in Bogotá. She trusted the superficial description and took a bus to Bogotá with other women, her hopes high. It wasn’t long before she discovered that she had been brought to work as a prostitute. Expressing regrets and tears, she bravely attempted to finish her story, but I could barely understand her. I placed my hand on her shoulder as she sobbed in silence. I had nothing to say either.
Finally, she answered my question, “As I was escaping from that horrific scene, I ran, and fell, and ran again, and fell again. I ran all night until I found the Red Cross office the following morning.” From Bogotá, she was sent back to Cucuta with no money, no food, and an impressive bruise on her lower back and leg. I examined her in silence. Her tears continued to flow, and so did mine. I gave her an IV anti-inflammatory. It was all I had. We also gave her food, clothes, money, and introduced her to the church family hosting the clinic. They really embraced her. I prayed with her, or at least I tried. My thoughts seemed so much more eloquent than my words. She thanked me and left.
Every time I think about this woman, I yearn for a healing that neither I nor any other physician, but One, can provide. That physician once said, “Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace,” Luke 8:48 (KJV). Making one whole is not merely a cure; it is the act of healing sin, the deep-rooted, deadly sin that is impossible to cleanse by human power (Desire of Ages 266.1); it is truly the want of this world. Healing, cleansing, and wholeness, are nothing but the restoration of God’s image in men. Jesus Himself came to restore us back to God (1 Peter 3:18). So, “the very essence of the gospel is indeed restoration, and the Savior would have us bid the sick, the hopeless, and the afflicted take hold upon His strength.” (Desire of Ages 824.5). “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed,” Isaiah 53:5 (KJV).