Sunday, June 19, 2011

More on Martyrs of Joplin

I have written before of those who served at St. John's Hospital in Joplin, Missouri, when the tornado hit.  Today in the Kansas City Star is a new story, based on interviews with staff, patients, and visitors in the hospital who experienced the tornado and its destruction.  It's a powerful story, if a tough read for those of us who have even the smallest clue what they faced.

In the title I have made reference to the "Martyrs of Joplin."  That thought occurred to me as someone who regularly remembers the Martyrs of Memphis, clergy and lay ministers from a variety of faith traditions who stayed in Memphis during years of yellow fever epidemics.  While it is true that we remember by name those who died in the process of giving health care, they were martyrs well before they died.  Remember that "martyr" is based on the Greek word that means "witness," one who gives testimony.  We remember by name some who died; but they were witnessing in their living, in their caring, and it was only capped by death.

So, I think, we can remember those who gave care in Joplin for the care they gave, whether or not they died in the process.  And while I describe those in the hospital as "Martyrs of Joplin," I haven't called them "the Martyrs of Joplin;" because I'm aware that many gave care and provided safety all around Joplin and surrounding towns, and not just at St. John's.

But, as a hospital chaplain I am particularly struck - not to say terrified! -  by the experience of those at St. John's.  So, take some time to read, and as you read remember all the Martyrs of Joplin: those who care for and protected others, most at risk and some at the cost of their own lives.  Whether they intended it or not, they have demonstrated the best that one human can do for another: laying down one's life.

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