Pentecost, Toothaches and Much More

Pentecost, Toothaches and Much More June 14, 2014
R3 Contributor
*Peter also blogs at Radical Hospitality

When the day after Pentecost had come, they were gathered all together in one place at Manna House.  And suddenly from down the street there came a sound like the rush of a might big semi-truck flying down Jefferson Avenue, and it filled the entire front porch and house where they were sitting drinking coffee.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout folks from all over the place living in the neighborhood of Claybrook and Jefferson.  And at this sound, the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.  Amazed and astonished they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Memphians?  And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native tongue?  Mississippians, Arkansans, East Tennesseans, and residents of Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Georgians, Alabamians, people from Bucksnort and Nashville, and Chattanooga, and visitors from the Catholic Heart Work Camp—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.”

All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?”  But others sneered and said, “They are filled with beer.”

But Moses, standing with those on the porch, raised his voice, and addressed them.  And it was a long speech and I don’t remember it all, but the gist of it was, “These folks are not drunk.  It’s only8:30am.  No, the prophecies have been fulfilled and the Spirit has come.  Death has been overcome.  Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

O, yes, it was quite a day at Manna House!  Awe came upon everyone.  All who believed were together and shared things, distributing goods to all, as any had need.  Twenty men showered and got a change of clothes.  Another fifty-one (plus a few extras) got “socks and hygiene.”  And everyone who showed up got coffee or water, as they wished.  All that morning they spent much time together, telling stories and jokes, sharing news and views, enjoying each other’s company. 

You ever had a toothache? Not just a little one, but a throbbing, pulsating, make-all–of-life-miserable toothache? One of our guests did this week. I was standing in the living room of Manna House and noticed Leroy looking quite glum. He’s never been the most happy-go-lucky person, but his face this day said, “I’m suffering.”

“How you doing Leroy?”
“Awful. I have a really bad toothache. They gave me a prescription but I’m not going to be able to afford it.”
“Where’d you go for help?”
“The Med.”

The Med, of course, is the Regional Medical Center (which today is trying to rebrand itself as “Regional One Health”). Folks around here know it is the massive public hospital, which along with Methodist Hospital a few blocks away, takes care of most of the poor people in Shelby County and north Mississippi and far eastern Arkansas. Dr. King died there. So did Elvis.
“Can I see your prescription? Maybe Manna House can help.”

The prescription was for two different kinds of antibiotics. And thankfully, we weren’t that busy right then at Manna House. So if I slipped out for a few minutes it wouldn’t create a problem for getting the work of the house done. Ashley said things would be fine.
“Leroy, let’s go get this filled.”

So we hopped in my car and made the short trip to the Med. Of course, nothing is as simple as you’d think it might be when you enter the land of the poor. Leroy had turned in his prescription to get it filled before he came to Manna House. It had been a couple of hours. But after we waited and waited and waited, when it was finally his turn, he found out that the prescription had not been filled. He still needed to be cleared of allergic reactions.
“Nobody told me that when I turned in my prescription.”
“Sir, you need to take another number and see the folks over there. Once they see you about possible allergies it will be about 45 minutes before we’ll get back to you.”

What choice did we have? We waited. Eventually Leroy saw the allergic folks, and then we settled in to wait some more. We talked. First about his tooth. He needs to get it pulled, and he’s hoping to get that done tomorrow. He knows a place. Then he got more reflective.
“I’m suffering so much these days, and I’ve been suffering so long,” Leroy told me, “I just want to die. But then I’d have to face God and that would probably mean more suffering.”
“Why do you say that?”

“I’m not doing well in my life. I’ve never done well. I just can’t get myself together.”

Then Leroy told me some about his family. There was horrible suffering, a sibling who was murdered, illnesses, the struggles to keep jobs, and the struggles to keep a place to live. Leroy’s been homeless a long time. He carries so much grief.
“God loves you Leroy, more that you will ever know. God’s not out to punish you. And when you do die, God will welcome you with better hospitality than any place you’ve ever been.”
“You think so?”

“Yes. You’re one of God’s children, and God loves each of God’s children more powerfully than we can imagine.”

Leroy’s name was called. The prescription was filled and paid for, and we headed out into the labyrinth of hallways at the Med. We went by the old “John Gaston Hospital” sign preserved in one of the halls. John Gaston was the segregated city hospital.
“That’s where I was born,” Leroy said, “Most of it was set aside for blacks.”

Follow Peter on Twitter @petegath

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