'As you have done unto the least of these …'

July 10, 2014 

What a refreshing news item: Here was a health care story that had nothing to do with politics or profit, but rather with people of faith and humanitarian conviction coming together to help fellow human beings in need.

The crowded meeting hall of people on hand Wednesday to celebrate the merger of Good Shepherd Healthcare and MercyMed of Columbus had something well worth celebrating -- the joining of forces by two faith-based organizations devoted to the task of doing good.

Steve Noblett, director of the Christian Community Health Fellowship, noted the cooperative and collaborative spirit of the two Columbus services, and praised "your sensitivity to the Lord, your sensitivity to the poor, and your concern for your marginalized neighbors" before the official dedication of what will now be MercyMed of Mission Columbus.

This will be a mission of both health care and spiritual support. MercyMed founder Dr. Grant Scarborough expressed his belief that "everybody is created in the image of God," and promised that "no matter if you're a drug addict or you're struggling with prostitution or whatever, I'm going to give the best health care in the city."

That's an ambitious pledge. Scarborough estimated that MercyMed has seen some 10,000 patients in about a year and a half since its founding, and one in five people in the greater Columbus area has no medical coverage of any kind. That should come as no surprise, given the extreme poverty prevalent in southwest Georgia and much of east Alabama, but it makes for a potentially enormous demand. The Rev. Jimmy Blanton of the Columbus Baptist Association estimated that the new mission will eventually serve 7,000 patients a year. The Association has operated Mission Columbus for 11 years, with the help of doctors and other health care professionals who give of their time and skills. "These doctors were really giving their all to us," Blanton said, "but we just believe this is a much better deal because we were not professionals … and Grant is."

Patients will be asked to pay only what they can afford. This time, the familiar disclaimer is true: It really isn't about money.

Not here, not now

It wouldn't raise an eyebrow in the south of France or along Italy's Amalfi coast, or even in California. But this is Georgia.

And no matter how many people sign a petition saying they want a nude beach on Tybee Island, it's hard to imagine an elected official who wants any kind of political future giving it the OK.

As of Tuesday, 861 people had signed a petition asking for a section of beach where they can lawfully bask in the altogether. Tybee Island Mayor Jason Buelterman told the Associated Press there's "no chance" of a birthday suit beach on his watch.

Now he needs to lock down at least 862 votes for his next election.

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