As Stubborn as Stone

Our office will be observing Ebon Liberation Day this weekend with the Marshallese community in Sacramento, California. In light of this, Executive Vice President Jacque Spence thought she'd share a story from Ebon Atoll.

In the early days of Canvasback, when we were delivering medical care to isolated islands and atolls in Micronesia via our catamaran, we encountered one patient who flatly refused to accept our help.

This was on Ebon Atoll, Marshall Islands. The man showed acute symptoms of Hansen's disease. He had large lesions across the back, mangled toes, and fingers twisted and misshapen.

The treatment or this was relatively simple: keep clean, and take a regimen of pills. But this patient didn't want to do that. For some reason, he didn't want to take our doctor's medicine or advice.

We were at a loss. How could we reach this patient? How could we change his mind? A simple cure could address this severe disease. Why wouldn't he take it?

I turned to Jamie.

"Can you work with him? Is there anything you can do?"

The captain of the ship, the head of the mission, grabbed a children's storybook of Bible stories and sat down under a tree with our obstinate patient. He opened the book and read aloud, reciting these stories we know so well, tales of miracles and salvation, of trouble and joy.

After a while, our troublesome patient lifted his hands in surrender.

"Okay, okay. I'll do what you ask," he sighed.

Who knows what changed his mind? Was it something in the stories? Did he simply tire of our persistence? Was he touched by the Holy Spirit?

We treated him, and we were glad to know he would be okay. More than the authoritative word of a doctor, the act of friendship and sharing stories swayed a stubborn heart. I'm sure all of us can recall a time we've stubbornly refused to do something, even if that thing turned out to be beneficial, or inconsequential.

Although we haven't visited Ebon in a long while, we continue to work alongside the Marshall Islands Ministry of Health to deliver life-changing care. We look forward to speaking with some folks from Ebon this weekend. Who knows who we'll end up seeing?

If you're interested in delivering life-changing medical care—or any other beneficial service—to any of the Micronesian islands, fill out our volunteer interest form. You can also donate here.