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"Buenos dias!!" As people filtered into the outdoor classroom, Betty's greeting radiated warmth like the tropical sunshine. Some visitors only smiled in response, while others began a lively conversation. Many had traveled long, hard miles from remote Dominican villages seeking medical attention from our team of volunteer health workers. After a small group had settled themselves on the wobbly benches, Betty began to speak.

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"While you are waiting for the medicine the doctors prescribed for you, I have something for you that is more valuable than medicine," she told them. The medication you get today will eventually run out. I am here to teach you how to protect and improve your own health. What you learn here you can teach others. We have information about your physical and spiritual health."


What followed was a dialogue, a dynamic interchange between her and these beautiful, respectful people. She integrated basic hygiene, health topics and spiritual truths into the message. Finally, she prayed for them and invited them to receive Christ. Afterward, she distributed medication, patients returned to their homes and the team returned to the base camp in an old, yellow bus.


Although I was merely a volunteer, Betty seemed convinced that I could function as a member of the health education team during my two-week stay. She eased me gently into participating in the program. The first day, I observed seasoned health educators, as they talked about basic things like boiling water and hand washing. Each session would conclude with an invitation to pray and an opportunity to receive Christ. By the end of the day, I tried a short informational presentation myself. Whenever I got tongue-tied one of the team was always nearby to assist or rescue me.


As the process became more familiar, I felt eager to take on the spiritual portion of the presentation, as well. I began to look for illustrations that would convey spiritual truths to the listeners. I carefully watched other team members interact with the group, making mental notes of things I thought worked well. Each presenter passionately sought to convey God's love; however, some were more effective than others. I studied those who moved with relaxed confidence so I could be more like them when it was my turn to speak. It wasn't long before I felt capable of sharing with good results. I looked forward to the opportunity to demonstrate my skill in communicating spiritual truth. I was sure I had what it takes.


The opportunity came soon. We were a smaller group that day, and I was thrilled to be working with the two most effective team members, excited to learn from the best. The team was running smoothly, and my self-confidence soared. When it was time for me to speak, I gave the health information with ease, but my mind went blank as I began to introduce the Christian message. I couldn't think of a Scripture verse in English or Spanish. Sweating, I fumbled with rough paraphrases and couldn't find the words to pray. My desperate look brought Betty or Juan Carlos to the rescue.


A few days later, we continued to pour out our hearts to the people seated in our waiting room. During one presentation, as I tried desperately to make a point, I looked around the room for assistance. Neither Betty nor Juan Carlos was around. Panic gave way to realizing that I would have to do this on my own.


The group listened graciously and patiently, as I mangled the Spanish language and the Scripture verses. They were polite and attentive but, it was clear that my words were not touching their hearts. Their expectant, eager faces showed no response to the message. I knew they would receive their medicine and return home virtually unchanged. For them to come so near to the Fountain of Living Water and leave without taking a drink broke my heart. Clearly the eagerness was present, and the Fountain was there. Although I had seen others bring people to drink, I was unable to be God's vessel through which the Living Water could flow.


As the team packed up to return to our camp, I struggled to hold back my tears. I had been silently criticizing other people for their ineffectiveness and today had seen my own. During the two days I had shared the gospel, no one had accepted Christ. The finger I had used to blame others now pointed back at me. Anguish filled my heart. I didn't want to be an obstacle preventing someone from meeting Christ. That evening, as I began to cry out to the Lord, I felt as if my years of being a Christian had been squandered. Tearfully, I begged, "I've wasted a lot of time, but here I am, Lord. I can't do this without you. I can't watch these people leave without knowing you. Here I am, Lord; please use me."


The next morning, the team was busy setting up the makeshift clinic. Suddenly, there was a lull in the activity all around us. I grabbed Betty's arm. "We need to pray before we start today," I told her. We walked to a quiet spot in the shade. The cool of the morning was already giving way to tropical heat.


I was trying not to cry as the words, "I can't do this," tumbled out. Betty's brows arched in silent query. "I can't bear to watch people so open and eager walk away without receiving from the Lord." Hot, desperate tears welled up and spilled out amid sobs. The weight of my incompetence pressed on my chest, making it hard to breathe. "If the only thing I give these people is what comes from me, then I should leave now, because it isn't enough."


Betty closed her eyes as if savoring something delicious. A smile broke over her face and she nodded, "Mmmm. Let's pray."


I don't know if the earth shook, but the self-sufficiency and complacency inside of my heart definitely quaked, rumbled and broke. We pleaded for the power and presence of the Almighty; we asked God to move unhindered through us to touch the hearts of the people that would come to us that day. Tears of anguish gave way to tears of joy and release. A great sense of anticipation filled me. With no time to linger, we prepared for the onslaught of people who waited to be seen.


The routine was already embedded in my mind. With each town and each group, the topics and the teaching techniques would vary, as the Holy Spirit inspired each team member. On this day we set up in the corner of a small church, with our table of materials facing rough wooden benches. An occasional breeze carried warmth into the cool, damp room. We waited until several people had shuffled in; then Betty began chatting with them. Though shy at first, people gradually responded to questions and before long were eager to participate. Halfway through the health talk, Betty was called to another area for an emergency. "You take over," she ordered, her tone of voice conveying it wasn't a suggestion.


I had no choice. Silently, I prayed for inspiration and the ability to communicate. As we talked about boiling water and placing it into a clean container, the words spilled out. "Our hearts are containers for the Water of Life," I told them. "We need cleansing before we can be filled." We talked about the cleansing process of repentance and how we should accept the sacrificial Lamb, who gave his life for our sins. Then came the part of the presentation that was most difficult for me: leading the prayer in Spanish. Again, I asked the Spirit for help.


I can't remember now what I prayed. What I do recall is that when I asked if some wanted to invite Jesus into their hearts, a young man leaped to his feet and came to the front beside me. Tears streamed down his face. Then a woman came, then two more. With closed eyes, I began to thank the Lord. When I looked up, seven people were standing together, weeping, smiling and praying. I gave Bibles and hugs to each new believer and made arrangements for local believers to contact them.


Medications arrived and were distributed. Finally, when the room emptied, I began to tremble. Betty and I prayerfully thanked God. Then the revelation flooded me-salvation belongs to our God!! He alone is able to change the human heart and give new life. But, amazingly, he allows ordinary, imperfect people like me to participate with him to bring the news of that salvation to other people.