The people of Italy are suffering greatly under the strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical staff and caregivers are struggling to meet the needs of their patients.
But for one doctor and his colleagues, it’s been the turning point that’s brought them to Christ.
“Never in my darkest nightmares did I imagine that I would have seen and lived through what has been happening here in our hospital for the last three weeks,” wrote Julian Urban, a 38-year-old doctor in the city of Lombardy, Italy.
Dr. Urban has seen firsthand the sobering truth of the coronavirus pandemic. In his home city of Lombardy alone, the death toll has repeatedly reached the hundreds each day.
Italy was one of the first countries affected by the spread of the coronavirus. Over 80,000 citizens have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 8,000 have died since the first case was discovered in the Lombardy region.
The outbreak spiked suddenly in early March, leaving hospitals and medical staff scrambling to care for the infected and dying. And some Italians believe the pandemic is still in its early stages.
“And the nightmare only grows; the river becomes bigger and bigger,” continued Dr. Urban. “At the beginning only a few arrived, then dozens, and then hundreds.”
As more and more Italian citizens flock to medical centers around the country, doctors like Urban are forced to ration medical care and make painful choices about who survives—and who doesn’t.
“Now we are no longer doctors,” Urban said. “We have become more sorters who decide who should live and who must be sent home to die, even if they are people who have paid Italian taxes for their whole life.”
The suffering has been an eye-opening experience for Urban and many of the other doctors in Italy.
“Up until two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were atheists,” Urban confessed. “This was normal because we are doctors and we have learned that science proves that God does not exist.”
“I always laughed at my parents when they went to church,” the doctor added. He had never considered faith a valid response to the suffering in the world.
But things changed for Urban and many of his colleagues in Lombardy when a pastor with COVID-19 landed in their hospital.
“A 75-year-old pastor came to us for medical help,” Urban remembered. “He had grave respiratory problems, but he had a Bible with him and it impressed us that he was reading the Bible to the people who were dying and holding their hands.”
Even in his own suffering, the pastor was doing his best to minister to those around him and lead them to Christ. He soon turned his efforts to the doctors, who were worn down beyond their deepest nightmares.
“We were all tired, discouraged doctors, psychologically and physically spent, and so we found that we were listening to him,” Urban said.
“Now we must admit: as human beings we have reached our limits, there is nothing more we can do, and more people are dying every single day. And we are exhausted.”
Urban and his colleagues, like many medical professionals around the world, had nothing left to lean on.
“We realized that we have reached the limits of what man can do,” the doctor wrote. It was in this moment that God began to work in their hearts and lives.
“We need God,” Urban realized, “and we have begun to ask for his help, when we have a few moments free.”
The light of Christ has begun to transform the Lombardy hospital despite the continued onslaught of coronavirus.
“We speak among ourselves and we cannot believe that we who were fierce atheists are now seeking for interior peace by asking the Lord to help us to resist so that we can take care of the sick.”
The Italian pastor who led the doctors to Christ has passed away, but his legacy lives on as Urban and his colleagues continue their work with renewed hope.
“Despite the fact that…we are all exhausted and feel destroyed, [the pastor] succeeded…to bring us a PEACE that we no longer hoped to find,” Urban concluded.
Pray for Urban, his colleagues, and medical workers around the world. May God move mightily in their lives to lead them closer to Him!