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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Jul 29, 2012.

By Jean Denton
Catholic News Service

July 29, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle B. Readings:

1) 2 Kings 4:42-44

Psalm 145:10-11, 15-18

2) Ephesians 4:1-6

Gospel: John 6:1-15

Teresa Gardner and Paula Hill are highly regarded, well-educated nurse practitioners. But when they open their mouths to speak, they sound, for all the world, like hillbillies. That's probably because they are.

Born and bred in Coeburn, Va., deep in the Appalachian Mountains, the lifelong friends, after completing their nursing degrees and professional training, both chose to return home to tend to the health needs of their community.

It is a place of natural beauty where poverty abounds.

Supported by a team of volunteer physicians, Teresa and Paula serve as lead staff of the Health Wagon, a nonprofit mobile unit that provides free medical services to indigent patients across four rural counties.

The day I visited them, amid a steady stream of patients in a converted recreational vehicle, I was struck by their endearing mountain twang. But it hardly hid their knowledge and enthusiasm about their practice, particularly treatment and prevention of health problems endemic to coal country: high blood pressure, diabetes and pulmonary diseases.

Most noticeable, however, was their interest in each individual they treated. They related specific instances of homes without heat, jobs lost, disability, children going hungry, bills piling up. "When people come to us they are hurting so bad," Paula said. "The stories go on and on, but God sends us a lot of people to care for them."

Visiting the Health Wagon is seeing a replay of this weekend's Gospel, Jesus feeding the multitudes. Jesus saw people coming to him in great need and insisted that they be cared for. He trusted God would provide generously for them through whatever offerings were made, however meager, and God did.

So it goes in Appalachia. Teresa and Paula share Jesus' compassion for those who come to them. They freely offer their gifts, undaunted by the size of the task.

Despite enormous need and the clinic's tight budget, Teresa said, "I'd never do anything else."

From this ministry in the cramped spaces of an RV has grown an outpouring of gifts from the community to its neediest members, with financial contributions and scores of volunteer physicians, nurses and specialists offering time and expertise. Last year they provided services to 2,600 people.

"God has blessed us," Teresa said. "It's like the loaves and fishes -- he has multiplied our efforts phenomenally."


What needs do you see around you that move your heart with compassion? What gifts can you bring to help address the needs?


"The eyes of all look hopefully to you. ... You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing."

- Psalm 145:15-16


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