Margaret and I began our ministry in the Philippines in 1970 on the small island of Mindoro. As new missionaries, we were discouraged. With no savings, and no income for three months, we struggled to learn a new language and a new culture.
Early one morning during a typhoon, Margaret shook me awake, groaning in pain. Flipping through our medical book, I suspected acute appendicitis. But how could I find a doctor at this time of night?
Perhaps the neighbours could help. I woke them at 2.00am and they told me of a Christian Filipino doctor who had a small mission clinic about 15 kilometres away. When they let me borrow their scooter, I wrapped Margaret up and put her on the back.
I drove slowly in the pouring rain, trying to miss the potholes in the muddy dirt road. About 4.00am I knocked on the doctor’s door. Even though Filipinos are friendly and hospitable, I was nervous about the reception we might receive at that hour.
A small man in his nightclothes opened the door. He smiled graciously and asked, ‘May I help you?’
‘Doctor,’ I said, ‘my wife seems to be seriously ill. Can you please help?’
After examining Margaret, the doctor announced that he needed to operate for appendicitis right away. We laid her on a table, and I held a lantern while he gave her a spinal shot and performed an appendectomy.
The doctor wanted to watch Margaret closely in case of infection, so we cleared a space and set up a bed in his storeroom. For five days, this little doctor and his assistants cared for Margaret. They even fed us, as we were penniless.
While Margaret rested and slept, I helped at the clinic by cutting grass, sorting medical supplies, helping with record keeping, sharing the Word of God, and caring for patients.
How can I pay?
When it was time to leave, we were embarrassed over our lack of funds. ‘Doctor’, I said, ‘you have saved my wife’s life and we are so grateful’. Joking, I added, ‘I have no money to pay now, but I can give you my watch, my wedding ring, and the gold fillings in my teeth. But seriously, how can I pay you?’
This loving, gracious man took my hands in his, looked up at this tall new missionary and said, ‘Brother, there is no charge. The Lord brought you to my country to serve my people in the name of Christ, so I can serve you. There is no charge, brother, no charge!’
Margaret and I left that little out-of-the-way clinic no longer discouraged but with a renewed love for Christ, for his work and for the people he had called us to serve.
Through the kindness, graciousness and compassion of this little man from Mindoro, we have been able to continue in ministry for 35 years.
Recently, I preached on Colossians 3:1-14 to 2,400 people at a church in Metro Manila. As I spoke about the ‘garment’ of kindness that we should put on, I told the above story. I then said, ‘It has been 35 years since I have seen that doctor — until this morning. Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce Dr Romeo Santiago, the godly little doctor from Mindoro!’
Dr Santiago was sitting near the front. His daughters had heard that I was speaking that morning and had brought him from a Manila hospital where he was being treated for various ailments.
When the doctor struggled to his feet with the help of a cane, the church erupted spontaneously in thunderous applause. The congregation wept and continued to applaud. The church pastors shook his hands and people embraced him, thanking him again and again.
It was a wonderful outpouring of praise to God for this doctor’s faithful Christian life. In the gracious and sovereign will of God, Dr Santiago’s example encouraged over 2,000 people in their Christian walk that day.
Dear friend, you may never be so honoured. You may not have even ten people applaud your name. But you will never know what impact may be made — to God’s glory and the prosperity of the gospel — by your simple acts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, forgiveness, forbearance and love.
Because of the kindness of Dr Santiago, Margaret and I were encouraged to remain in the ministry. You, too, can reach out to others with simple acts of kindness in Jesus’ name and for his glory.
Who knows? Perhaps 15, 25, or 35 years from now someone will say, ‘Remember when you helped me? Your kindness so encouraged me in my walk with God that I have served him for many years. Thank you so much. To God be the glory’