The start of the vaccination programme against COVID 19 was a great joy to me, as it was to millions of others. It finally felt like we had some tools at our disposal that would make a huge difference.
My practice was lucky enough to be one of the sites that started vaccination clinics fairly early. On the Saturday before Christmas all the partners at my surgery joined together to give some of the first vaccines to our local population. It felt like a huge privilege, despite the extra time taken to work out clunky new IT systems. Volunteers helped us out, staff from other surgeries gave us helpful pointers, and our patients were incredibly thankful.
At the end of the day, it’s always the patients who make our job amazing, and this was definitely the case when we administered those vaccines. I will forever remember the patient who I gave my first COVID vaccination to, and in particular the look of relief on her face. (Maybe she was just scared of needles and relieved to get it over and done with. I’m choosing to see it differently!) I was able to say to her, “Here’s your first step back towards freedom.”
The stoic humour of British over 80s was also on fine display. One woman asked, with a twinkle in her eye, if she could have a vaccine without a microchip. A gentleman asked me whether it would be ok to drink alcohol following the vaccine as he was planning to have a celebratory beer. When I asked him what beer he was having for the occasion he replied, completely deadpan, “a Corona.”
It’s been great to celebrate the start of this process with people and be part of it. Yet the last few weeks have also been bittersweet and tinged with sadness. In our area we have had several residential homes that had outbreaks of COVID in the last month. There are several homes I am aware of where 10 or more residents have died in a short space of time, having previously managed to keep their environments COVID – free. To get within weeks or days of the vaccine being available and then see that happen is heart-breaking.
This is always the case with medical breakthroughs. There will always be people for whom it came a little too late. It shouldn’t stop us celebrating the achievement, and it definitely doesn’t stop us using it in future. In my area we have now made sure all remaining residential home residents have had the opportunity to be vaccinated. The fear of further mass outbreaks in their environment has been significantly reduced.
The vaccine isn’t 100% effective even to those it’s given to, and some people haven’t had it in time. Yet to me it is still the best news going in medical treatments at the moment. I can’t deny the effect on me of recent events, which have felt devastating, yet my sadness at the deaths of our patients actually makes me more determined than ever to see the vaccine distributed.
There are some parallels to be found in medical work with seeking breakthrough in the spiritual world. Whenever we’re going after something new, we will inevitably be confronted with people for whom it hasn’t helped so far, or stories of people who couldn’t benefit from it in the past. There is a risk that we listen to the voices that say that it hasn’t worked, can’t work or doesn’t work.
How many of you have ever been told not to pray for healing because some people might not get healed and will be disappointed? Or that you can’t share your faith because some people in the past have had negative experiences and been offended? Yet we know of countless testimonies of people who have experienced the miraculous impact of heaven in their lives because we have been willing to be part of stepping out into new things.
We can’t let the dominant force in our thinking be fear, and we need to be pressing forward into new things that bring hope. Just as the nation needs the vaccine to be rolled out, it also needs the kingdom of God to bring light into darkness.
In the coming weeks I’ll be working again at our vaccine clinic as part of a nationwide effort to protect lives and reduce the restrictions we’re currently facing. I’ll also be looking for opportunities to bring the goodness of the kingdom of God, as part of the body of Christ aiming to transform lives and bring freedom.
Whatever your role is, you get to partner with heaven in this great mission we’re on together. Don’t let negative past experiences limit your expectations of what God can do in your future. We acknowledge the pain and sadness that has happened, but we also push on, using the tools we have to bring life. We are part of the worldwide church that is given authority to bless the nations – one patient at a time.
To those of you that have lost patients, family and friends in the current crisis, I pray that you may know God’s comfort and peace. These are very real needs, and we need to recognise that we will all be impacted by what is going on.
I also pray that God continues to give us courage in stepping out in faith, the strength to persevere, and that he enables us to be people who bring hope in all circumstances.
Heaven in Healthcare Team