THERE ARE TIMES IN LIFE WHEN GOD TAKES INDEPENDENT ACTS OF GOOD and combines them into something that changes the world. We humans are sometimes allowed to experience these firsthand. This past year those of us at San Joaquin Community Hospital (SJCH), a member of Adventist Health, saw God turn our local mission into a global shockwave.
This story begins in Bakersfield, California, an agricultural and petroleum center located about 100 miles north of Los Angeles. In the past two years SJCH has changed the landscape of local health care in Bakersfield by bringing needed services to the community, such as a chest pain center, stroke center, and burn center. Simultaneously, the leadership team launched a culture-shift to help employees intentionally focus on caring for patients and each other just as they would for members of their own families. Think of it as the Golden Rule acted out in every encounter.
For us, sacred work extends past caring for the people inside our walls. As a Christian hospital, our mission is to share God’s love with our entire community. Often we express that commitment through donations to a local nonprofit organization, or by organizing volunteer efforts among our staff. In early 2010, however, it meant ridding the community of an eyesore.
For years an adult bookstore has been in close proximity to SJCH. And for years, hospital officials have been looking for an opportunity to shut it down. As our CEO, Bob Beehler, so eloquently noted: “That store basically goes against everything we are trying to do here.” Earlier this year we had a chance to buy the property. So we did. To satisfy the terms of the previous owner’s lease, the store would officially close in the summer. That meant the hospital received a monthly rent check for about six months.
Around the same time, the devastating earthquake you’ve undoubtedly heard so much about hit Haiti. If you had a chance to read my feature in Adventist World (November 2010), you already know that SJCH and its employees raised more than $70,000 to aid ADRA’s relief work. Months later ADRA invited a group of us to visit the country to see many of the projects our contribution had helped fund. For the four of us who went it was a heart-wrenching experience I simply cannot adequately describe.
For our team, one of the most difficult aspects of the trip was, naturally, seeing the state of the Adventist hospital in Port-au-Prince. During our tour of the facility Beehler asked the administrator of the Haiti hospital about its greatest need. Without hesitation the administrator explained that it desperately needed funds to hire a full-time pediatrician. Currently, the hospital had a pediatrician on-site only once or twice a month. The cost to provide a pediatrician to the hospital for a year was $24,000.
Upon arriving home our executive team made the decision to figure out a way we could meet that need. Our CFO (or as we say, the guy in charge of the money), Brent Soper, was tasked with finding the funds. After a few days of research with accounting, he had a recollection.
That money we received as rent from the bookstore had been deposited each month into a separate account so it wouldn’t get mixed with regular operating costs. When Soper checked the balance of the account, there was exactly—you guessed it—$24,000.
We sent the check to Haiti just a few days ago.
We often talk about how God turns bad circumstances into something ultimately redeeming. That power is real; I’ve experienced it in my own life.
If God can use the bad, just think what He can do with the good. Of course He can use it to directly improve lives in the moment. But even more so, He can combine it with something totally unrelated to create an unquantifiable impact that can alter the course of thousands of lives.
With our God the story never ends.
Jimmy Phillips ([email protected]) writes from Bakersfield, California, where he is marketing and communications coordinator for San Joaquin Community Hospital. This article was published November 25, 2010.