Thursday, June 5, 2008

Patient Prisoners

Key to the work of God's Kingdom is bringing release to the prisoners.  Today we witnessed such a work. 

It is a sad truth that many who come to the public hospital for medical care end up becoming imprisoned by their caregivers.  Once medical needs have been met and a person is ready to be discharged, if they cannot afford to pay their bill they are detained by the hospital.  These people are known as patient prisoners.  The hospital will keep them in their bed, feeding them enough to keep them alive, but refusing to release them until their bill is paid in full.  

For the past week Claude has been visiting the Prince Charles Hospital, one of three local public hospitals in Bujumbura.  He has been meeting with the chief social worker to learn about patient prisoners in their facility.  What he discovered is that there were 12 men and women currently detained in this hospital, ranging from the age of 17 to 73.  Some had come to the hospital in late 2007 to seek medical care, but upon recovery have been kept on-site because they do not have the money to cover their bill.  Looking at the release dates reveals that some of these men and women could have returned home 4 or 5 months ago – if they could have only paid their bill.  The good news is that today, 12 of them would get to go home due to kindness from someone they never met.  We got to be midwives, mere hands and feet, but what a joy to be a part of such a story. 

Pictured here is Hakizimana.  Tonight, after months of detention for an unpaid bill, she will go home to her 7 year old son.  This is good news, indeed.

I will try to share more later, but you can imagine how emotional the day was.  By the end we saw 12 people go home because God moved on their behalf through others.  Some days God's love is so tangible you cannot fight back tears, and you can only be in awe of such holy moments when prisoners, even patient prisoners, are given their freedom.   


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