August of 1920. Typhoid fever had broken out in a small area, which had recently been incorporated into the city limits of Atlanta, but to which city services had not yet been extended. Four people died due to typhoid germs found in the water.
The deaths and conditions garnered headlines in Atlanta for several days and was talked about by the city fathers, but nothing was done. On the following Saturday, the city authorities met, discussed it, but did nothing. However, at the same meeting $15,000 was voted to pave the street in front of the house of a leading Atlanta politician.
This was too much for Rev. Dr. Len Broughton, the pastor of Atlanta’s Baptist Tabernacle. He called up two officials from the city meeting and said, “I’d like for you two to be in my church tomorrow.”
With that he spelled out the situation in the city. “I want to show you the word of God.” For 50 minutes he opened up the scriptures about water, about life, about the need to act in compassion. Before he was through, the two men from city hall were trying to hide behind the people in front of them. The next morning before 10 a.m., the money to address the typhoid outbreak was voted by the city authorities and in 36 hours, the epidemic was stopped.
Rev. Dr. Broughton himself had been wounded; before Rev. Dr. Len Broughton was a pastor, he was a medical doctor. He was a doctor who contracted typhoid fever in Reidsville, N.C. During his long, fragile recovery he felt the call to ministry. He left his practice for the pulpit. He came to Atlanta. When he heard of the typhoid deaths due to such a preventable cause he was heartbroken in to action.
And his action didn’t end there – his church started a neighborhood clinic called the Tabernacle Infirmary. You may know that name – this clinic was the beginning of the Georgia Baptist Hospital, what is today the Atlanta Medical Center – 460 beds and more than 700 physicians, a Level I trauma center, a Level III neonatal unit, and it supports air ambulance service via heliport.
Border children refugees, Ebola virus, hunger, war, persecution, exploitation, poverty, senseless violence. The daily experience of millions of us offers up the opportunity for our hearts to be broken and for a hunger towards justice to move in and for the irrational and abundant love of Christ to begin to germinate. Who could have calculated what weeping for Atlanta in Jesus name would come to mean?
Not only does the Lord concern himself with great and noble things, but equally with small and simple things…the smallest thing will not be forgotten. Julian of Norwich