You Better Belize It! Part 1

February 18, 1990 – Belize (Central America)

Last October, Dr Pete and Judy and I decided to sign up for a two week medical mission trip to the tiny English speaking country of Belize, formerly British Honduras. It is located on the Caribbean Sea just south of Mexico bordered by Guatemala on the west and south. February is not the rainy season there, so we’re hoping our bus doesn’t get stuck in the mud like it did in Honduras! And we’re hoping to communicate with the patients in English in the clinics without an interpreter.

Map of Belize - a tiny English speaking country in Central America

Map of Belize – a tiny English speaking country in Central America

1a Belize

Our Eastern Airlines plane was delayed, so we arrived a day late in Belize City. It took me 8 hours to fly there from the Midwest through Miami. It was great to leave the snow behind and step off the plane into 90 degree heat! The mission leader, Larry, who also led the Honduras mission in 1989, met us at the airport. It took two hours for Dr Pete to get his surgical equipment through customs. The airline lost my checked luggage again, like when I went to Honduras, but this time my carry on bag was well packed! I brought enough dried food for 2 weeks, 3 pairs of scrubs, toiletries, swim suit, my blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, and gospels of John to hand out.

Took 2 hours to go through customs with Dr Pete's surgical equipment. My suitcase was lost for a week...

Took 2 hours to go through customs with Dr Pete’s surgical equipment. My suitcase was lost for a week…

Larry drove us to the capital city of Belmopan where we had a delicious dinner at a Chinese restaurant. It seemed strange to be eating Chinese our first meal in British Belize, but apparently there are Chinese restaurants all over the world. Judy and I said goodbye to Dr. Pete since he will be doing surgery for the entire two weeks in the city hospital of Belmopan while Judy and I work with the medical and dental teams in the villages.

We piled into the small Datsun pickup truck and drove on dark paved and dirt roads, passing some citrus processing plants. We came upon a stranded high school bus with 57 teens sleeping in the middle of the road for the night while they waited for a clutch to be brought to them from Dangriga. We took one, Berta, one of the chaperones with us and arrived in Dangriga at midnight. As I bid her goodbye, I gave her a gospel tract to read.

Judy and I tiptoed into a two story house by flashlight, trying not to awaken the other women on the mission team who were already asleep. We found two empty mattresses on the floor, tried to clean up a little in the barely working bathroom, and thanked God as we stretched out on the floor.

The next morning, I awoke as the sun streamed into our room through dusty windows. I noticed some dark blobs on the ceiling as I gazed up. I put on my glasses and gasped as the blobs came into focus–Tarantulas on the ceiling as big as the palm of my hand! I nudged Judy and pointed, and she gasped also. I silently prayed and thanked the Lord that I didn’t know I was sleeping under tarantulas all night. I got up and went to the bathroom which I could see better in the light now. The water trickled out of the faucet, enough to wash my face. I brushed my teeth with my bottled water. Then I looked at the bathtub and saw worms crawling out of the drain. I gagged and left the bathroom. No shower for me today! A sponge bath will do. I asked the Lord to help me be flexible and adjust to all these tropical creatures in Belize.

Tarantulas as big as my palm were over my bed all night!

Tarantulas as big as my palm were over my bed all night!

After putting on my scrubs, Judy and I walked with the other women a few blocks to breakfast where we met the men on the medical and dental teams. Judy and I and two other women spoke privately with Larry about the tarantulas and barely working bathroom. While we work in the clinic today, Larry said he would try to find other accommodations.  Apparently this house has been vacant for awhile and no one had time to clean it before we came.

We enjoyed our 7 a.m. breakfast at Pastor Chester’s home under a big tent. Because the church is too small to support him and his family, he works several jobs. His wife has a small restaurant and made us fabulous fresh bread! I also had instant oatmeal that I brought with me. I’m praying I can tolerate the food here better than I did in Honduras in 1989. I had to take antibiotics for a month for an intestinal infection after I returned from Honduras, so that is why I’m being cautious.

Fabulous meals were prepared for us by the Pastor's wife who owned a restaurant.

Fabulous meals were prepared for us by the Pastor’s wife who owned a restaurant.

Judy and I introduced ourselves to the rest of the team. I was assigned to Team I and Judy will be on Team II. A separate bus will take us to a different village daily so we can give more people medical care and the gospel. There are a large number of retired people on the teams and about half are from Canada. There are some young people from the Mennonite Church who will share the gospel with the patients. I will be the triage nurse again which I enjoyed doing in Honduras.

We boarded the bus and bumped along until we arrived at Silk Grass Village. For some reason, they didn’t know we were coming, so the residents helped us set up the clinic in the community building. The people are very friendly and speak British English, so I’m having a little trouble understanding their accent. I found two children who would like to be pen pals with my Bible Club children back home, so that was fun! A kind lady made stew for us for lunch which we ate in her kitchen. Their homes are built on stilts and have shuttered windows without screens. The mosquitoes are plentiful and biting! We saw about 50 patients in the clinic today, so it was quiet compared to the clinics in Honduras. But I guess that isn’t too bad, considering they didn’t know we were coming!

Our first clinic was held in Silk Grass Village Community Center

Our first clinic was held in Silk Grass Village Community Center

7 Pam checks boys temp

I check a boy’s temperature.

Dinner back in Dangriga under the tent was excellent with chicken and rice, and broccoli cheese soup. Larry was able to find another place for us ladies to stay at a small hotel in town. It’s a simple place above a bar and restaurant with a co-ed bathroom down the hall from our room. Judy and I fell into bed at 10 p.m. What a long day!

Reflection

Next post, I will continue to tell you about our other clinic days. My flexibility was tested to the limit in this rather rough start to this mission trip between the delayed plane, lost luggage, and difficult sleeping quarters. It seems like adjusting to frequent change is a way of life. The one constant is the Lord Jesus Christ.

These verses in Hebrews 13:5-6, 8 have comforted and encouraged me so many times:

Let your manner of life be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me….  Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.

From what I have read, Belize has made good progress in their infrastructure since I was there in 1990. It has now become a popular retirement place for expats because of its warm location on the Caribbean Sea and being an English speaking nation.

 

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Oasis in the Swiss Alps – Part 2

Wengen, Switzerland – August, 1989

105 Joanie

Joanie Yoder

On a crystal clear bright blue sky day, I took the train up to 11000 feet to the Jungfrau mountain with Joanie Yoder, one of the tour leaders. She and her husband started a drug and alcohol rehab center for men in England called Yeldall Manor.She told us some amazing stories of men receiving Christ as their personal Savior and being delivered from addiction to alcohol or drugs and having transformed lives. After her husband died of cancer, she felt led to minister to other widows so she speaks to ladies’ groups all over Great Britain and the USA.

99 dogsled in August

Dog sledding and skiing in August!

112 Japanese lady ice

Japanese ice sculpture in the ice palace.

On top of the mountain, they had skiing and dog sledding, but I just watched. I had a hard time staying warm and got lightheaded and dizzy from the altitude, so we went to the cafe and had hot chocolate. Then we went inside the ice palace where they had these incredible ice carvings. Rather than take the train, we decided to hike back down the mountain to Wengen which was fun. We made frequent stops along the way to enjoy the beauty and share what God has been teaching us over the years. The fellowship was so rich combined with the spectacular alpine beauty. Thank You, Lord, for such a wonderful day of refreshment!

Bluest sky I ever saw on top of the Jungfrau.

Bluest sky I ever saw on top of the Jungfrau.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills. From whence cometh my help? My help cometh from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121:2

On our one rainy day, a couple invited me to go with them to Lucerne. Friends of theirs, a retired German pastor and his wife, also joined us. Pastor Will speaks excellent English, has a great sense of humor, and really loves the Lord. When he was a teen, he was forced to live in a Nazi youth camp during World War 2 and moved from country to country every year during the war. But God’s ways are higher than man’s ways, and he received Christ as his Savior during a secret Salvation Army meeting! Talk about God plucking him out of the pit! A year later, many of his friends were killed in an air raid, but he was spared when he jumped in a hole he had just dug. Now he smuggles Bibles into eastern Europe. He said Russia and Hungary are wide open, but Romania is suffering terribly. He showed me photos of a crowded Baptist church in Russia and let me take a photo of his photo to show the folks back home.

Standing room only inside packed Russian church in 1989.

Standing room only inside packed Russian church in 1989.

After dinner, we all meet again for a time of fellowship, speakers, and singing. One evening, they asked me to share my testimony and tell of some opportunities I have had to share the gospel over the years. Another evening, we watched a wonderful film made in the Swiss alps called “Treasure of the Snow” by Patricia St. John about forgiveness. (See my recent post on the life of Patricia St. John, RN)

On Sunday, one of the men who also speaks some German, went with me to the Protestant church in town to worship. I was disappointed in the cold formal worship service. I could understand the German prayer and hymns, but not the sermon. We then returned to the hotel for the English worship service led by Peter Letchford for the tour group. I was so blessed by his continuing message on the gates of Jerusalem. We had a delicious midday dinner in the hotel dining room and then strolled around the village and rested the remainder of the day.

Hotel dessert buffet was delicious!

Hotel dessert buffet was delicious!

It’s fun to speak German again, but I’m rusty. My German has come in handy a few times when I’ve been with the different groups on the day trips, but many Swiss speak excellent English. I think they are required to learn German, French, Italian, and English when they attend the public schools. Their fluency in many languages puts most Americans to shame.

Another day I  enjoyed visiting Ballenberg, a Swiss open air museum village with houses from previous centuries. It was fascinating to watch a man make a huge vat of Swiss cheese over the fire, and a woodcarver make an intricate horse. Our picnic in the woods with other single ladies in the tour group was delightful.

61 making Swiss cheese

Making Swiss cheese over the fire.

62 woodcarver

The woodcarver makes a horse.

Hiking through the lush green valley beside the river to Trummelbach Falls another day was delightful. We paused to watch the farmers rake freshly cut hay by hand who reminded me of the Amish back home.

Trummelbach Falls flow inside a mountain.

Trummelbach Falls flow inside a mountain.

On the last day, I visited a real castle on Lake Thun. I had fun pretending I was a damsel in distress hanging out the castle window, but no prince charming showed up….:) The boat ride back on the lake was a relaxing way to end my wonderful two weeks in the Swiss Alps.

Castle on Lake Thun

Castle on Lake Thun

A damsel in distress?

A damsel in distress?

After breakfast the next morning, we all boarded the train back to the Zurich airport. I could not hold back my tears when I said goodbye to everyone before we boarded the plane. I know I will probably not see most of these dear brothers and sisters until we are worshiping God together in heaven. I am so glad that goodbye is not forever for fellow believers.

Reflections

I had the joy of meeting Joanie Yoder again the next year when she was in the Midwest USA for a visit. I googled Yeldall Manor and was thrilled to see it looks like the Christian rehab center is still going strong! God so wonderfully answered my prayer to let me meet other Christian single ladies.

In a recent prayer letter from missionaries in Romania, they reported wide open doors to share the gospel in high school assemblies with hundreds of young people who are hungry to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. It will be wonderful to learn in heaven how God used the Bibles Pastor Will smuggled to them for so many years when they did not have freedom to worship.

I heard on Christian radio that over 7000 Christians were killed for their faith in 2015. How we need to pray for persecuted believers around the world to be strong in Him. May we all keep “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

Listen for the trumpet of the rapture! Perhaps today Christ will come for His own!

(I Thessalonians 4:13-18)

 

Oasis in the Swiss Alps – Part 1

August, 1989 – Wengen, Switzerland

A couple months ago, I asked the Lord to help me meet other Christians for fellowship, especially other single women. I am now 34 years old and the only single lady attending the small Bible church where I worship, so it has become quite lonely. I heard about a Christian tour group and reviewed their catalog. The trip to Switzerland for two weeks in August led by a British group called the Hildenborough Ministries sounded delightful, so I signed up. It seems hard to believe that after 11 years, God has let me return to Switzerland which I passed through on the train on my way to France in 1978.

I flew from JFK to Zurich with the group where we were met by the tour leaders who escorted us on a chartered bus to Lauterbrunen. From there, we took the train up the mountain to the charming alpine village of Wengen at 4500 feet elevation. We walked several blocks from the station up a steep hill to the Jungfraublick (translation: View of Jungfrau Mountain) which is a Christian hostel. The hotel employees are such precious Christians who really love the Lord. There are no motor vehicles allowed in the village which makes it very clean and quiet. The overflowing beautiful flower boxes are mesmerizing!

Charming village of Wengen where I stayed for two weeks.

Charming village of Wengen where I stayed for two weeks.

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Spectacular flower boxes everywhere!

I feel so pampered in my private room with a cozy feather-bed and breathtaking mountain views from my balcony. There are 35 people in the group from all over the USA of varying ages. Peter and Dorothy Letchford are the leaders with assistance from their daughter, Anne, who is married to Pastor Jeff. Peter was a missionary in Zambia for 21 years before he married Dorothy, who is a nurse also! A single lady, Elizabeth, and a widow, Joanie, are also involved in the ministry and are assisting. The Letchfords’ son, Steven, and his wife and adorable 8 month old daughter are also here. Steven is a pediatrician and Anne is a dietician so we have all enjoyed talking “shop” on occasion.

Elizabeth, Peter, and Joanie were our wonderful tour guides.

Elizabeth, Peter, and Joanie were our wonderful tour guides.

We all gather in the dining room for breakfast and dinner which are included with the tour. Then Peter teaches the Bible for 45 minutes, and we sing a few hymns together while Peter accompanies us on the hotel’s grand piano which is tremendous. I have learned several new hymns. One of my favorites is called “As the deer panteth for the water, so my soul longeth after Thee” based on Psalm 42:1  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARF2xXeFs54 Peter is teaching us about the ten gates in Jerusalem in Nehemiah 3 which God used Nehemiah to rebuild. It is good to be taking a closer look at this wonderful little Old Testament book and learning how they built the gates and wall despite so many obstacles.

The fellowship has been so rich at meal time and during the various day trips. After the Bible lesson, they offer three choices for day trips and one of the leaders goes with each group. Or one can stay at the hotel or take their own private hike if they feel like some solitude. We each bought a Swiss rail pass for 2 weeks which is also good on buses and boats on the lakes as well the trains. We pay extra for a cable car straight up into the mountains. After getting to the top, the views are spectacular. They have wonderful paths along the ridge with red benches when you feel like resting and just absorbing the beauty. The Swiss are so neat and clean. The comical mountain goats climb right up on the house roof to sleep! The Jersey cows with their klinkly bells remind me of Heidi. One day, I heard a lady play the Alpen horn and it really echoed through the mountains. I feel like singing songs from the Sound of Music when I hike along the mountain tops! I was thrilled when I saw real Edelweiss growing in the alpine garden near Schynegge Plata.

My new "pet goat"!

My new “pet goat”!

One of the many cows grazing in the meadows. Love those cow bells!

One of the many cows grazing in the meadows. Love those cow bells!

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Lady plays the Alpen horn which echoes across the mountains.

Edelweiss growing in the Alpine garden

Edelweiss growing in the Alpine garden

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork. Psalm 19:1

I met an Italian couple on the train two days in a row and was chatting with them, so gave them a gospel tract the second day. Peter laughs at the difference between the English and Americans. He says the English won’t talk to anyone until they’re introduced, but the Americans are always talking to strangers on trains and have a much more interesting time!

Reflection

It was so kind of the Lord to give me this wonderful time of relaxation and fellowship with other believers in one of the most beautiful spots in the world when I was so lonely. There were a number of single women on the trip who were a blessing and encouragement to me. I still exchange Christmas cards yearly with one of them! I was able to meet Joanie again the following year near my home in the Midwest. Switzerland is still my favorite country of the 26 countries I have visited over the years!

Little did I dream that I would ever get to visit Jerusalem in 2013 and view the old city with a portion of the wall still standing. Although neither Nehemiah’s gates nor the temple are standing today, I could picture them laboring fervently rebuilding the gates and wall. I recently discovered a wonderful series of messages on Nehemiah by Dr John Whitcomb at the Bible Institute of Bible Broadcasting Network. You can sign in free as a student and then search in the Book studies.

http://www.bbnradio.org/wcm4/bbnbienglish/home/tabid/257/default.aspx

Golden Gate in Jerusalem which Christ rode through on Palm Sunday

Golden Gate in Jerusalem which Christ rode through on Palm Sunday

 

 

Thank You, Readers!

January 5, 2015

Dear Readers,

Word Press just sent me my annual report on this blog, so I thought I would share some of it with you. I started this blog in November, 2013 with the prayer that I could encourage Christian nurses through sharing my nursing career which began in 1977. God has been very kind and gracious to me over the years in carrying me through many tough places in my career and giving me opportunities to share the gospel with a number of my patients and colleagues over the years. My theme verse is Hebrews 12:2, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” As I keep my eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ while resting in Him, I have found that His grace IS sufficient day by day! I pray you will also discover how wonderful the Lord Jesus Christ is, receive Him as your Savior, and grow in His grace.

Since the blog began, there have been 5334 visitors from 101 countries. This still amazes me! I look forward to meeting you in heaven at the throne. I wonder how those of us who are nurses will serve Him in eternity since there will be no sickness in heaven? Whatever it is, we know it will be marvelous! One year closer to heaven. The best is yet to come…..

In August, the Lord took my dear sister, Marsha Swinehart, RN home to heaven to be with Him. (See Tribute to Marsha Swinehart) She made more comments on my blog than anyone else has, and I have to admit I miss her very much. But I do not wish her back. She is much better off than you or me right now worshiping and serving the Lord with no hindrances.

Here are where the greatest number of my readers live:

2014: USA, Brazil, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Philippines, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Colombia.

2015: USA, Brazil, Canada, Philippines, Germany, United Kingdom, Italy, India, Mexico, Australia.

May God bless and strengthen you this oncoming year. Please let me know how I can pray for you at pamela.aprn@gmail.com

flowers

Thank You!!!