Friday, March 19, 2010

A Note from Dave

As I reflect on this past week and our Medical Team's experience in Nicaragua, I keep coming back to one word, "emotions." Last year's mission experience was my first. Everyone told us that we would be changed by the experience. I was open to the idea that we might be changed a little, but had no idea just how deeply the mission would get into my head and into my heart. I still struggle to maintain my composure while recounting some of last year's encounters without shedding a few tears.
It should go without saying that seeing 176 or 187 people in a single day requires a lot of focus, cooperation, and patience all day long on everyone's part. I can not come close to describing how well the team worked together. Several of us (Drs. Mike Smith and John Myers, Nurse Nancy Haegle, Miss Ann Simmons, Andi Wallace, and I) had worked together last year with assistance from Fedelina. This year we were blessed the addition of Dr. Keith Speed who had worked on several missions in Honduras, Dental Hygenist Shannon Richkowski, Nurse Virginia Cabero, Joy Anna Rowell, Charles Stanley, Pamela Rowell, Rafael, Alex, and local teachers and community leaders. We started with a little confusion at times, but thanks to the language skills, versatility, and flexibility of individuals like Virginia, Dr. Smith's ER management experience and guidance, and Joy Anna's quick study of Spanish instructions, the patients moved through the process pretty smoothly.
This year I had the previous year's experience to fall back on, but I was still surprised by the extent the people we met and our mission team moved me. The people we saw were patient and gracious. Everyone on the team gave a tremendous effort each day. Still we struggled with the questions of "What about the ones we did not see or could not help?" and "Who will help them once we have left?" This was tough emotionally. We would have liked to healed or given comfort to all, but clearly in light of the conditions there, this was not possible, for us. As we left each community we celebrated the numbers that God had enabled us to help and prayed that He would extend his care to those we had not seen.
Last year I had a little voice (Andi's) whispering in my ear to continue on the tasks, but remember the mission! This did not sink in so well until reflection on that mission experience afterwards told me that I had missed many opportunities to speak of God and his love. I prayed for opportunities and God's help to make this happen this time. My prayers were answered. Many of the patients I spoke with began a dialogue expressing gratitude for our help and offered a, "God bless you". This was followed with my response that it was our team's desire to serve and to share God's love.
We made a visit again this year to the rehabilitation center. It was a tough, long first day, but at the end I had the opportunity to address the assembled group. I explained that they were in the hearts and prayers of the church congregations we represented. I explained that while we came to provide medical assistance, our primary mission was to share God's love with them.
It was a great week.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More photos

I really am frustrated that I can not figure out how to edit posts. Oh well, will just make another post of photos.

A few photos

A few photos from the last couple of days. Some of the scenery photos were taken from the window of the bus. Sorry about the qua

Attention Missioners

I haven't received reports from many of you. It is not too late. Please send reports and photos to me as soon as possible. Thanks!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Day 4 Medical

It's Thursday day 4 and today we had the oportunity to provide care to the surounding town. Each experiance has been amazing. We saw 187 people ranging in age from 2 months to 86. This town had such respect for the elders and allowed them to enter first, the mothers were very caring for thier young and concerned for thier children's health. I was ammazed to see that all of the children despite their situation were always smiling and laughed at the silly things we would say. Visiting with the people of this town made our departure bittersweet. Working with Dr. Mike and Dr. Keith has been wonderful, they both have such great skill and two different personalities that brought great balance to the team.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 4

Construction Team by Andi Wallace

In 4 days, one little boy stole the hearts of 6 adults. Elizondro, a solemn, hard working 10 year old, has been with us each day. He lives in the community of San Jose where we have been working. Today we saw his house -- a 20x20 wood shack with a dirt floor and sheets to sepearte the rooms. He is the 2nd youngest of 5 brothers and 1 sister and a mother. We didn't ask about a father.

His quiet spirit seems to magically appear out of nowhere, everywhere, working as hard as any of us. His smile was rarely seen but we felt his wanting, or perhaps needing, to be close to us. We spoke Spanish with him and taught him a few English words. When a group of the kids were asked what they wanted to be when they grew up, few of them seemed to have ever thought about the future or even had a role model to emulate. Elizondro said he wanted to be a construction worker. He is such an amazing worker for his age that we figure he could round up the neighborhood kids in a few years and be their local forman!

Sharing the week with Elizandro reminded me of Pastor Mark's story from Nicaragua last year and about how he left this country without being able to tell his young worker friend about Christ in his own language. Mark seemed to agonize over that one lost sheep, just as Christ does for us. With that in mind, I didn't want to have the same experience. Pam just happened to have a coloful, artful children's Bible in Spanish that she offered me. While I didn't talk specifically about Christ, I did ask about his attendance at church (he goes regularly) and mentioned several times that the friends I was working with were from my church.

Today we brought the Bible and an El Paso hat to the site. Right before he had to leave at 11am to go home and change for afternoon school, we gathered around him. We presented him with the Bible and I showed him his name written on the inside, along with the name of our church as the giver. We then gave him several photos Pam made of him, with Jesus Loves You written on the back. One photo was of the entire team, with our names on the back. In English, he said "Thank You." He turned away shyly and we think he was holding back an amount of emotion that couldn't match what we all felt. He left for home as we tried to wipe our eyes and deal with the love we have for this young man and his seemingly hopeless situation. We just wanted to scoop him up and make it all better.

We are not the first team who has felt a strong connection to his quiet spirit. We have to be comforted in the fact that we surely won't be the last team to fall in love with him. And we have to believe that God will allow the new teams to continue to care for this young man just as God gave us that opportunity.

Day 3

Dr. Mike

The line to get into the clinic

Joy Anna in triage

Bathroom necessities

Virginia and a little patient

Day 3 Medical/ Dental by Nancy Haegele
Today we went to San Jose where our construction team was working on a feeding center. It was so neat to see the children and young teens working side by side with our people. The first thing that I noticed sitting up on the hill was an outdoor latrine. (See photo). I did not venture into it as we were warned, so the pack of the shed looked much more appealing. this I see as a number on e problem- the lack of water and hygiene. As I watched on young man enter the outhouse and exit and then continued to go about his day. Many of the people we saw had stomach problems, and I can see why. I pondered with others on the team what a difference it would make if these people could only wash their hands.

We had an extremely busy day on the clinic, but with our great system, we were able to care for 175 people on the medical side. We worked side by side with our dentist John and hygienist Shannon who were extremely busy. They saw 36 patients and extracted 61 teeth. Because of our system, we were all able to float around and help in any area of the clinic where there was a need. What a blessing to have this team.

In San Jose, they have no running water, no electricity, and I am told only holding tanks where people can go and carry water to their homes. The three school houses were filled with children when we arrived. They graciously stopped school in two of them and allowed our teams to set up. Throughout the day, all these children would peek in, laugh, and smile. Many of them were seen by either the doctors or dentist.

The highlight of the day for me, was holding the young children and comforting them as Mike examined and cared for them. Such beautiful children, but mom wouldn't let me take one of the little girls home. I feel that so much is missing by not being able to hold conversations with these children and their parents. Once again this year my goal is to try and learn more Spanish or at least speak what I do know - which is very little.

The latrine

Dr. Keith with a small patient

Dave dispensing meds

Nancy and one of the tiniest patients.

Lyle working on forms.

Jerry working on forms

The local children excavating

Becky and Rick working on a form

the afternoon crew of excavators

Day 3 Construction by Jerry Wallace
Wednesday was a good day in the mountains south east of Matagulpa. The dental medical and construction teams worked together in a remote mountain village on an old coffee plantation building a feeding center and attending to the needs of the village of about 300 people. The construction team fabricated steel forms for footings and columns to complete the center. We were surprised at the progress made by the local children using pick axes, shovels, and wheel barrows to excavate the construction site.

We are all sore, bruised, blistered, and tired, but the smiles and thank yous of the people help to renew our spirit.

The little guy in the photo is Elizando. He is a most industrious little guy who has learned every task that we have worked on since Monday.