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“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

—Matthew 4:19

In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus begins to preach in Galilee and calls his first disciples. The fishermen, Peter and Andrew, James and John, dropped everything to follow him. They left behind their nets, boats, and livelihoods to make Jesus their priority.

How does God call us today? What work is Jesus asking us to do today? How do we respond? It is not always easy to do what Jesus wants us to do. To respond generously to this invitation, we must learn to trust in him and embrace what he wants for us.

The Mother of Mercy Hospital is in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, an area with a long history of conflict. Apart from ruthless violence, the country has suffered from a lack of food, safe water, and healthcare. CMMB volunteer Dr. José Garcia was stationed there for four months and returned a changed man. He recently shared his story with us.

cmmb volunteer dr jose in sudan

CMMB Volunteer Dr. José Garcia spent 4 months at the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Sudan.

I was conscious that there would be challenges in Sudan, but I thought to myself, “I’ll adapt.” At the beginning when I first arrived, it was so hard. I wasn’t sleeping well, I was crying–not because of the workload—it was seeing how the people there lived, especially when you are so privileged coming from the developed world.

It’s not that they lack things like tablets and the internet, it’s even more basic things. They have to walk for kilometers to get water. Most of my patients in the medical ward were diagnosed with a parasite that develops in still water. When I asked them where they got their water, they would say the river. But the river is dry, so they would dig a hole for water. That water they drink, it’s brown. People would tell us that during the time of the bombings there was nothing to eat except for leaves. Or dry seeds. This was very hard for me to understand. I was amazed at the way they cope with all the challenges. It’s surprising.

It’s about what goes on in your mind, in your heart. I saw what my fellow humans were feeling, what they were experiencing. A had a woman come into my consultation, her sister had died of cancer and left behind a baby, less than a year old, whom she was caring for. When I examined the baby I found he was malnourished and had pneumonia. I told her he had to be admitted for at least a week. Her expression changed as she was faced with a difficult choice: “If I stay with this baby in this hospital, who will take care of my own baby at home?” These are decisions that nobody should have to make. Luckily, we were able to find another patient, a mother, to care for the baby for a couple of days until the sister could come back.

What I saw in Sudan is humanity. Seeing mothers taking care of another’s baby, people from other tribes helping each other. Seeing human beings compassionate and sensitive to the suffering of others. That was what carried me through, especially in the last month. I wasn’t even praying or journaling or taking time off. CMMB volunteer Dr. Jim Peck and I were just pushing forward to see all the patients we had to see, to help as much as we could, even though we were all tired.

cmmb volunteer dr jim peck in sudan

CMMB volunteer Dr. Jim Peck (far right) was one of the senior doctors that served alongside Dr. José.

Jim would say, “You know Jose, we’re all pushing forward here, that’s what we do.” And I realized he was right. All of us, the volunteers, the staff, my patients—that’s what we do, just pushing forward to see another day. —Dr. José

dr jose and dr jim peck with dr tom in sudan

From left to right: Dr. Tom Catena, Dr. Jim Peck, and Dr. José consult with a patient.

Dr. José and volunteers like him are ‘fishers of men’ by the example they give to us. By their selfless service to others under the most challenging conditions, they inspire us to move closer to who God wants us to be. May we too find strength and courage in our hearts to respond when Jesus calls.

In grace and peace,

CMMB/Healthier Lives Worldwide

*Parts of this article were inspired by Loyola Press Sunday Connection.

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