You Better Belize It! Part 3

Dangriga to Big Creek, Belize – February, 1990

Sunday

We began our second week of this short term medical mission trip by walking from our hotel to the Baptist Church where Pastor R lead the services. We were warmly welcomed by the small congregation and were blessed by their hearty spontaneous hymn singing. Pastor R had a wonderful message from John 6 on Jesus Christ, the bread of life. Then said Jesus unto them, I am the bread of life; he that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst… All that the Father giveth me shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out. John 6:35, 37 How wonderful to know Jesus Christ for all eternity, the only One who can satisfy my deepest longing!

9 Dangriga Baptist Church

Dangriga Baptist Church where we worshiped.

 

After lunch, we packed our bags and met at the public bus station to travel to Big Creek in the southern part of Belize, our headquarters for the second week. The public bus was definitely faster and smoother than the old school bus! The mission director placed six of us women in a very nice home where I am sleeping on two mattresses on the floor. I walked in the bathroom and the mirror fell off the wall and whacked my head hard, almost knocking me out. It was kind of eerie, almost demonic. At dinner in a small restaurant, it was good to be reunited with the other half of our team who went to San Pedro for the weekend.

30 Week 2 at Big Creek

Red dirt roads in Big Creek, Belize

Monday – Trio Bladden Banana Farm

A lady translator from Switzerland has joined us since we will be seeing mainly Spanish migrant workers who work on the banana farm. Most of the bananas turned black because the air temperature recently went below 65 degrees F and ruined this crop. It takes 10 weeks to grow another crop. We are thankful for the rain which has cooled things off, but it turns the red dirt into red mud. It reminds me of the red clay dirt in Georgia, USA.

We saw large Mayan and Honduran families today. Dr. Don saw 10 people in one family- family practice at its best!

33 Trio Bladden banana farm Spanish

Clinic site on the banana farm

36 Clinic Dog sleeps under Dons feet

Village dog sleeps under Dr Don’s feet while he works!

37 Don w dead iguana full of eggs

Dr Don holds dead iguana full of eggs – a real delicacy!

38 Pam w village boy

Pam with a village boy.

I felt sad for one man who went blind from glaucoma. Unfortunately, Dr Don became ill after the clinic and had to skip dinner. The rest of the team had dinner at a little restaurant which is feeding our team all week. I was so thankful there was no loud “boom box” rock music like the night before. There is a bar next door where we ironically hold our Bible devotional time in the morning. Dr Joel surprised us all by wearing a dress shirt and tie to dinner. Quite the comedian! All the doctors have been lots of fun to work with this week. I appreciate their sense of humor mixed with godly humility.

Tuesday – Big Creek

I was sick all night from the shrimp I had for dinner last night, so I had to stay here today. Judy brought me boiling water for hot tea and my instant oatmeal. I am so thankful for the peace and quiet and time to be alone with the Lord and read my Bible. Since I live alone, I feel like I’m on sensory overload here with all the noise and being surrounded by people all the time.

Half way through the day, the toilet turned into a geyser, but I was rather proud of myself for fixing it with a coat hanger. Then I walked over to the store and bought a Coke. I was feeling better by dinner time, so joined the group as they ate dinner and I drank my instant “Cup of Soup”. They said the Spanish village where they worked was much like the day before. Then we went to a lady’s home and watched a few travel videos about Belize. The Belize City zoo looks interesting with all the rescued jungle animals.

Wednesday – Big Creek

This was our final and busiest clinic day with 240 patients! It reminded me of our clinics in Honduras except that I could speak in English as I checked the patient’s blood pressure. It was wonderful to hand them the last of my gospel tracts and gospels of John that I brought with me.

Dr Joel, who is a dermatologist in USA, removed a large mole from a lady’s nose, and excised a cyst off a man’s finger, so that was interesting to watch. We saw a baby with a congenital heart defect we are sending to Miami, Florida for open heart surgery. A man with a staggering gait said he had seen a neurologist in the USA who diagnosed him with degenerative cerebellar disease for which there is no treatment. I helped Dr. Don irrigate our last patient’s ears to remove excessive wax.

Some of the team are flying to the Mayan Tikal ruins in Guatemala tomorrow for $185, but I decided that was not in my budget.

Thursday – Big Creek to Belmopan

Some of us decided to go snorkeling in Palencia and then fly to the capitol city of Belmopan for $35, but it rained again and the surf was too rough. The Tikal group couldn’t fly out either because of the weather, so we all took one last bus ride together to the beautiful YWAM (Youth With a Mission) camp. We took a ferry ride in an old row boat to cross the river and hike up 100 steps to the top of the hill. The camp has lush green tropical foliage with brilliant flowers, very nice outhouses (yeah- no more broken toilets!) and loads of mosquitoes. Poor Judy is covered with bites.

49 Crossing river to YWAM camp

Our ferry boat ride across the river to camp.

Friday – Belmopan

I bid goodbye this morning to Dr Pete and Judy and Dr Don as they flew together to see the Tikal ruins. How I hate goodbyes, but I am glad we will see each other again in heaven.

Five of us who remained decided to take the public bus together to see the Belize national zoo. All the animals are rescued from the jungle and in simple wire cages. The toucan is the national bird. Other animals we saw were parrots, spider monkey, howler monkey, tapir (mountain cow), jaguar, cougar, and snakes. Then we hiked back to the highway and waited in the hot sun for over an hour for the bus to come. I ran out of water and prayed I wouldn’t faint from the heat.

50  Belize zoo Toucan

Toucan at Belize zoo – the national bird.

We were so glad to see the bus which dropped us off at a hotel in town where some of the team were enjoying the pool. The five of us quickly entered the hotel’s AIR CONDITIONED restaurant and ordered hamburgers and limeade for lunch. I think we drank about 5 huge pitchers of limeade which was totally refreshing! I have never appreciated air conditioning so much after being in the tropical heat and humidity for nearly two weeks.

Back at the camp, we all showered and put on our best clothes for our farewell “love feast” the camp staff prepared for us. They decorated the dining hall with palm leaves, flowers, and put place cards with our names at our designated seats like a wedding. After our spaghetti dinner, we sang hymns together led by a guitarist. Then we put on a talent show and laughed until we cried. Dr. Joel juggled, Dr Stew pretended he was “Dr Bump”, Donna and Donna sang their rendition of “Chicago” (their home town), others did a magic show, each team sang a song they wrote about the trip, and Jeanne ended with a beautiful solo of “The Sound of Music”. It was a great way to end the trip.

55 Farewell dinner n talent show

We sing our song at the farewell love feast.

44 Goodbye Belize

Reflection

So ended my second short term medical mission trip. I have decided that God didn’t give me a rugged stomach or body to be very effective in developing tropical countries. Thankfully, I had a week to recover my strength at my parents’ home in Florida before returning to my full time job in dialysis.

I enjoyed attending Dr Pete and Judy’s beautiful wedding on May 11, 1990. They have continued to lead dozens of short term mission trips all over the world. Now that I am nearing retirement myself, I have new admiration for the retired people who volunteered in Belize in 1990! I pray God used the tracts and gospels of John I gave to the patients,  that they received Him as their personal Savior, and so I will meet them in heaven!

For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not there, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11.

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You Better Belize It! – Part 2

Dangriga, Belize – February 1990

On my nice quiet walk along the beach to breakfast this morning, I saw a man cutting grass by hand with a machete, and skinny dogs and horses wandering around loose.

Man cutting grass with a machete by the beach

Man cutting grass with a machete by the beach

After a delicious breakfast with the team, we boarded the old school bus and bumped along for 90 minutes past fragrant orange groves until we arrived in Georgetown. The medical team set up clinic in a cement block church building, and the dentists worked down the road from us. We saw people of African descent in the morning, and Mayan Indians in the afternoon. It was another slow relaxed day without too many patients. I learned much by watching Dr. Don and Dr. Joel examine the patients.

Pam holds beautiful Mayan baby girl.

Pam holds beautiful Mayan baby girl.

Dental clinic under the trees!

Dental clinic under the trees!

I stood on the bus on the way back so the bumps didn’t make my back hurt so much. We stopped for an ice cream break at an enthusiastic Texas missionary lady’s home who begged for a nurse to come work with her.

Dinner under the tent by lantern light was great with fresh fried jewel fish, mashed potatoes, noodles, fresh squeezed orange juice, hot tea, and a warm lemon meringue pie all made by the Pastor’s wife from their local produce. She is a fabulous cook! Judy and I felt uneasy when we became lost walking back in the dark to our hotel.  Loud reggae rock music blares everywhere. There were six men drinking alcohol lining the narrow second floor balcony leering at us that we had to walk past to get to our room. We quickly locked our room door and thanked the Lord for keeping us safe. Judy told me how she was beat to a pulp in her home by a robber about 20 years ago. I told her how I was mugged in 1978 in my home. Then we read our Bible together, prayed together, and went to sleep.

When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee…In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Psalm 53:3, 11

Wednesday – Santa Rosa

Today we held clinic in a one room thatched roof schoolhouse in the beautiful Mayan village of Santa Rosa. The Mayan people are so beautiful and friendly. The ice cold Coke was refreshing on this hot humid day which feels like it’s close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

We set up clinic in the thatch roofed schoolhouse.

We set up clinic in the thatch roofed schoolhouse.

Instructions in the school on how to build a VIP (Very Important Processes) odorless latrine

Instructions in the school on how to build a VIP (Very Important Processes) odorless latrine

School rules: 1. Get to school on time. 2. Strictly no chewing in class. 3. Sharpen pencils into dirtbox. 4. No indecent language in class and around schoolyard. Be neat and clean to class.

School rules: 1. Get to school on time. 2. Strictly no chewing in class. 3. Sharpen pencils into dirtbox. 4. No indecent language in class and around schoolyard. Be neat and clean to class.

We finished early so we walked through the rain forest where I saw a pig pen and numerous chickens roaming freely. I met another pen pal named Teresa for my Bible Clubbers back home. She proudly showed me the bracelet she made with the letters “The Bible” woven into it which I bought from her. She appears to know Christ as her Savior as do many of the people with whom I have shared the gospel, but they don’t seem to have had too much Bible teaching.

Teresa proudly displays her Bible bracelet she wove.

Teresa proudly displays her Bible bracelet she wove.

Our day ended with a fabulous dinner in Dangriga of freshly caught lobster tail with lemon meringue pie. Pastor R is also a lobster fisherman. I can only imagine how much work it took him to catch and clean all those lobsters for us. What a labor of love… At this rate, I don’t think I’ll lose any weight this trip!

Thursday – Hopkins Village

Both teams went to the beautiful large village of Hopkins right on the Caribbean Sea. The people are of African descent (former slaves) who speak Gariffina. Dr Joel wasn’t feeling well, so Dr Don and I worked alone today. After the clinic was finished, we all walked down to Hawaii beach and went wading in the bath water like sea.

Hopkins Village by the Caribbean Sea

Hopkins Village by the Caribbean Sea

After we returned to town, four of us ladies walked to Dangriga Hospital and a nice nurse gave us a tour. It is one story with 30 beds. Only one patient had an intravenous infusing. The maternity ward was interesting with a crib at the end of each mother’s bed and a midwife in attendance to the one patient in labor. There was one small operating room with limited surgical equipment.

Friday – Gale’s Point

After breakfast and a good devotional about the love of Christ by one of the doctors, we rode on the bus to Gale’s Point, right on the beach. We passed a new bridge the US Army and British army were building together. There is no running water in this village, so it is challenging to keep clean.

But God commendeth His love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

At lunch, we met Pastor Gabriel, whose  face reflected the love of Christ! He shared his testimony with us of how he was born in Burma, but contracted smallpox at age 2. His parents left him outside the city wall to die, but missionaries found him, nursed him back to health, and raised him. At the age of 6, he received Christ as his personal Savior. He started medical school, but never finished. He has pastored churches all over the world, is 66 years old, and single. He told how he gave up his sweetheart, family, country, and career for Christ. He had a unique collection of scorpions he has collected and mounted over the years. I was fascinated by his large map of the world on his wall with colored pins where churches are located for which he prays faithfully.

Pastor Gabriel with his scorpion collection

Pastor Gabriel with his scorpion collection

After lunch, I became weak from the heat and had to lie down in the local nurse’s office, so she kindly took over checking blood pressures for me. Dr Joel brought me juice to drink and a basin of cool water so I could sponge down my face and arms. I think I’m getting dehydrated from the heat.

After dinner, Judy and I went to bed early, dreaming of sleeping in on Saturday, our one day to relax. But it was not to be. The hotel reggae band started playing under our bedroom at 10 p.m. and went full blast until 4 a.m. It was so loud that my bed vibrated. Even my pillow wrapped tightly around my bed didn’t block out the blast. I was so relieved when they finally quit.

Dangriga – Saturday

We were going to take a boat ride to one of the islands, but it’s raining and the water is too rough. I walked alone through town and shopped for a few souvenirs on my way to Inn on the beach. Dr Pete took the bus down from Belmopan to visit the team for the weekend. Judy was thrilled to see him as they look forward to their May 11 wedding!

Judy and I were relaxing on the quiet beach when two men came up to us and asked if we wanted to “get high”. We quickly replied “No”, picked up our towels, and walked back to the Inn. We thanked God for His protection once again. We were rather shocked at the boldness of the men.

29 Pretty beach

Beautiful beach where men boldly tried to sell us drugs.

This evening, 15 team members who remained in town for the weekend, dressed up and went to dinner at the Inn. We had fun chatting while we enjoyed a fabulous fresh seafood dinner. The evening concluded with the town people demonstrating their traditional folk dances from Africa in full costumes.

Reflection

So ended my first week of medical missions in Belize. It was a much slower pace and much hotter than Honduras which was my only other mission trip for comparison. It was definitely easier to work in English without a translator. Next post I will conclude with memories of our second week in Big Creek, the southern part of the country.

 

 

 

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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.

 

Honduras Medical Mission – Part 3

Camasca – Thursday, October 29, 1988

Today I woke up at 3 a.m. with a stomach ache. I have been doing well with the food until now. The village dogs howl until 1 a.m. and the chickens start crowing about 3:30 a.m. so I keep waking up early. I never knew a village could be so noisy at night! After the clinic started, I had to run through the crowds to the only toilet a block away. So thankful I made it in time. I thought I would be crushed in the mob waiting to see the doctors outside the village school. It’s a good thing I’m a head taller than most people here. I just kept saying, “Permiso” (excuse me), and the crowd parted for me.

This afternoon, the mission director came up to me in clinic and told me they found my suitcase and he put it in the women’s house! During a break, I went to the house to bring back some more gospels of John to hand out. I gave the rest of them to one of the helpers to hand out tomorrow and next week at another village they are serving.

My lost suitcase amazingly showed up in after one week! It contained 400 gospels of John for the patients.

My lost suitcase amazingly showed up in after one week! It contained 400 gospels of John for the patients.

I am so sad that this is my last day to work with the group who is going to another village Saturday and staying a second week. There is no telephone or telegram to communicate with Dr Pete in the next village. Judy and I don’t even know how we’re getting to the capital city, Tegucigalpa, tomorrow. Short wave radio contact is difficult. The mission director said we will be taken to the next town at 4:30 a.m. where the local doctor will take us with him to Teguc (short version for the capital).

I feel like I have a fever so one of the doctors gave me a new antibiotic to take called Ciprofloxacin to kill the stomach bug I have. I taught Harold, one of the general helpers, how to take a blood pressure. It’s challenging to hear in this noisy crowd, but he was a quick learner.

I gave the devotional tonight after dinner on “Christ, the solid Rock” from 1 Corinthians 10:1-6 and 2 Samuel 22:1-3. I might tremble on the Rock, but the Rock never trembles under me! How wonderful it is to trust and rest in my faithful Savior.

The Lord is MY ROCK, and MY fortress, and MY deliverer. 2 Samuel 22:2

Afterwards, one of the school teachers gave us a brief history of the town of Camasca which was founded in 1746. Currently it has a population of 6000. The average annual salary is 50 Limperas ($25).

Friday – Camasca to Tegucigalpa

Judy and I arose at 3:30 a.m., but the pickup truck arrived at 4 a.m. – 30 minutes early! We were hurrying in the dark and my flashlight batteries were almost out, so I forgot my camera and suitcase wheels. The head lady flagged down our truck and took us to the pharmacy where she had two cups of hot tea and cornbread ready for us. What a treat! We both gave her a big hug of appreciation. The driver took us to the next town, Concepcion, and dropped us off at Dr C’s house at 5 a.m. and then sped off. Dr. C came out and was rather upset with us. He had waited up for us until 10 p.m. and then finally went to bed. Our ride to Teguc came at 2 a.m. so we missed it. I guess there was a communication breakdown somewhere. His car clutch is broken, so he is concerned about driving that far, but finally decided to try it with a friend. We made good time to the next town, La Esperanza, in 3 hours.

Kathy, the wife of the mission director, lives here, but she didn’t know how to get us to Teguc. Someone heard of a school teacher going to Teguc, so she took us out to the bus stop. The “bus” was a little Toyota pickup truck. We threw our stuff in the back and climbed in with 11 locals – 10 men and 1 woman. I sat on my big red suitcase with my other bag at my back and bounced along for 5 hours. The scenery was beautiful and the sun was shining, but my back ached as my skin burned. At the end, a lady climbed in with her little boy and a big bag of oranges she was selling in town. She smiled and asked, “Christiana?” (Christian?) We said “Si” with a big smile. She pointed to herself and smiled and pulled her Bible out of her bag! It was so wonderful how the Lord took care of us.

We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant. Judy and I had a Coke and cookies because that is all we could safely eat with no guarantee of a bathroom. I am so thankful the fever and stomach ache are gone today.

Then the pickup truck dropped us off by the roadside and we waited with the teacher. Behold, a large modern air conditioned bus stopped and picked us up! The soft reclining seat felt like a little taste of heaven! It only took 2 hours on a smooth road to go the rest of the way to Teguc. Then the teacher called us a taxi which took us right to the hotel where Dr Pete was waiting for us. He arrived at 11 a.m. by small plane in 30 minutes from his village. He tried to contact us by shortwave radio to tell us we could also fly out, but couldn’t get through. I’m rather glad though that we came safely in 14 hours by 5 different vehicles, because the Lord showed Judy and me how much He truly cared about us.

Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you. I Peter 5:7

Camasca is near El Salvador. It took us 14 hours to get to Tegucigalpa in 5 different vehicles!

Camasca is near El Salvador. It took us 14 hours to get to Tegucigalpa in 5 different vehicles!

Judy and I walked into our hotel room and were excited to see two real beds and a real shower! I couldn’t find a light in the bathroom, so I took a hot shower by flashlight which was totally refreshing after a week of sponge baths. After we ate dinner, we strolled around the city park. It is hard to witness the poverty everywhere. I am thankful we were out in the country most of the time. When I came back to the hotel, I noticed the light over the bathroom sink, but it took me 5 whole minutes to find the light switch. Judy and I had a good laugh over that one! After a week of sponge baths in the dark, I had forgotten what a light switch looked like. I thanked the Lord for journey mercies, and fell into bed at 8 p.m. totally exhausted.

Tegucigalpa, capitol of Honduras

Tegucigalpa, capitol of Honduras

October 31 – Home

We flew to Miami where I said goodbye to Pete and Judy, and then spent 2 days visiting friends before flying home. The greatest blessings of the trip were becoming friends with Judy and praying and reading the Bible together every day, seeing God answer prayer daily, sharing John 3:16 with over 400 people, seeing the beautiful countryside, having my faith in God increased, and meeting so many godly doctors and nurses.

Reflection

This first medical mission trip certainly expanded my world view in a different way from my previous journeys to Europe, Chile, and China. It is so wonderful to know that God loves each person in this world He created and desires each one to receive Him as Savior so they can enjoy Him for all eternity. How thankful I am for this opportunity God gave me to sow the seed of the gospel in Honduras. I hope I meet some believers from Camasca in heaven who read the gospels of John and received Christ!

Medical Mission Trip to Honduras – Part 2

Honduras, October, 1988-Tuesday

We just finished our first clinic day together as a whole group. The rest of the team arrived in the cattle truck around 5 pm yesterday after standing for 8 hours and bumping along the roads. They looked exhausted. I am so thankful the Lord let me ride in the little pick up truck with the luggage. I’m not sure I could have stood that long.

The women are staying at a former missionary’s home which has three large rooms and a covered patio with fire pit for cooking in the back. I even have a bed with mattress, two clean sheets, and a pillow. The men are staying a block away in another village home and join us for meals on the patio prepared for usby the church women. There is one toilet on the porch and a curtained place to take a sponge bath. The village has running water for three hours in the morning, and electricity for three hours in the afternoon, so we eat by the light of two gas lanterns. When the water isn’t running, we pour a bucket of water down the toilet to flush it. When the water is running, the women collect huge pots of it to supply the team the entire day.

When we woke up this morning in the dark, each woman took turns of dipping a bucket of warm water from the large pot on the fire and then taking a sponge bath be flashlight. By the time the men arrived for breakfast, the sun had risen. We had a precious time in God’s word, sang some choruses together, and then prayed and committed the day to God, asking Him to use us for His glory and honor. I loved learning the new chorus,

This is the day that the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Then we all gathered our medical supplies and walked down the street to the village school. Those of us who worked yesterday afternoon showed them the classrooms and each doctor chose one and was assigned an interpreter.

Anatomy of a cow on the village classroom wall.

Anatomy of a cow on the village classroom wall.

I continued to be the triage nurse and check blood pressures and give out John 3:16 and gospels of John. The crowds outside the school were unbelievable!

The crowds patiently waited outside the school to be seen by a doctor.

The crowds patiently waited outside the school to be seen by a doctor.

They have been waiting for several hours to see us. I did a few ear irrigations. Today, my interpreter was named Tony who is from Belgium. He is teaching 12 and 13 year old children how to teach school. I was shocked when he told me 70% of the people cannot read.

Everyone has intestinal parasites(worms) so the pharmacy people set up a Piperazine table under the tree, so each patient gets a tablespoon of sweet red “Pip” (for short)  before leaving. The pharmacy was incredibly organized with Spanish stick on labels they placed on little zip lock bags with the tablets inside. Ella, a pharmacy technician runs it. She is married to an anesthesiologist who is with Dr Pete doing surgeries in another town in Honduras. This is her sixth time coming to Honduras. On her first trip, she saw the need to become a pharmacy technician, so she went back to school to learn how to do it.

We saw about 200 people today in the clinic and are exhausted. After supper by lantern light and evening devotions, we each quickly fell into bed.

Wednesday

Today I was on my own at the triage table because we were short an interpreter. The doctors decided it wasn’t that helpful for me to gather chief complaint, so I checked each patient’s blood pressure and then told them John 3:16 in Spanish. Quite a few of them said they were Christians. Too bad I only have 10 of my 400 gospels of John since my suitcase is still lost. Amazingly, one lady told me I was beautiful and wanted to hang my picture in her living room. She then invited me to her home for dinner. I felt so honored that she chose to invite me to her home which I enjoyed with one of the interpreters. I wrote down her address and will write to her when I return home.

Mrs. G. who invited me to dinner in her home!

Mrs. G. who invited me to dinner in her home!

I had fun with Gladys, our beautiful friendly Honduran girl who brought the team water and tried to teach me Spanish. I pointed to an object and said “Que?” (what?) and she would tell me the Spanish word. I repeated it several times and she laughed until I said it correctly!

Gladys, our water girl, taught me Spanish. We had fun  together!

Gladys, our water girl, taught me Spanish. We had fun together!

I was feeling a little bit useless this morning because it doesn’t seem like I’m able to do much except check blood pressures. Dr. E. had devotions this morning on Philippians 2 and shared how we are called to serve like Christ even though it is exhausting and repetitious. It was convicting and really helped my attitude.

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of a servant…

Philippians 2:5, 7

At dinner, we reviewed the day and some of the patients we saw. One 25 year old man had had a stroke and was paralyzed, so his family dragged him here to see what we could do to help. Sadly, we could do nothing. Wheelchairs are totally useless here on mud roads with no sidewalks. Another baby had a cleft palate, so we are trying to get the baby to the surgical team to see if they can repair it. There were some with respiratory infections we could treat with antibiotics, and many gynecologic infections they were able to treat. Since the life expectancy is only 40-50 years old, we really didn’t see chronic diseases like high blood pressure or diabetes. There is no obesity here because the people walk everywhere. Their main food staples are rice, corn, beans, and chicken.

Tonight after dinner, the village people put on a cultural program in the town hall for us to show their appreciation which was enjoyed by all. They thanked us for coming to their humble town to help them. The young people did traditional Honduran dances, somewhat like American square dancing. Then a man did a couple pantomimes that were hilarious! One was about chewing gum, and the other was about how to take a bath in Honduras. Then they did a skit about going to the doctor. It was enlightening to see their interpretation of the medical profession.

Reflection

I was definitely out of my comfort zone the entire time I was in Honduras. It was a huge culture shock to me to see the poverty. It was so exhausting to be bombarded by new sights and the sounds of a foreign language all day long. It was also challenging having limited water, electricity, and toilet facilities. It was sad and frustrating that we could do so little to treat some of their medical needs. But hopefully we conveyed the love of Christ in trying to help them and point them to Him so they could have an eternal personal relationship with Him. Next post I will tell how the trip concluded and our harrowing journey to leave the country.

Medical Missions in Honduras – Part I

July, 1988

I attended a Bible study for singles and was blessed by Dr Pete, a Christian surgeon, who spoke about the medical mission trips he has taken over the past few years. The local pastor or missionary always shares the gospel with the patients as they wait to see the doctor, so their spiritual needs are met as well as the physical ones. Pete’s wife died 7 years ago and his children are adults, so he feels the Lord has set him free to do missions. He grew up in the Philippines and was led to the Lord by missionaries there when he was 15 years old.

He is going to Honduras in October for one week and there are openings for nurses and general helpers. I met him for lunch along with a respiratory therapist, Judy, and we also signed up to participate. We are so excited to have this opportunity to share the gospel in another country while helping provide for the local people’s medical needs. I’m brushing up on my Spanish I learned before I went to Chile, and ordered 400 Spanish gospels of John to take with me and give to the clinic patients.

Honduras – October 23, 1988

I just arrived in Honduras after changing planes in Miami, but my suitcase didn’t make the transfer, so all I have is my carry on bag. I put in an extra pair of underwear and an extra blouse, my Bible, blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, a few snacks, and little else. Dr. Paul, our medical director, led our group in devotions this morning before we boarded the old school bus to travel over muddy dirt roads 70 miles through the mountains to the villages where we will hold free clinics. We all sang joyfully, “This is the day that the Lord has made!” He then read,

“Jesus came and spoke unto them,…..Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

He encouraged us to remember Jesus was with us, be flexible, and smile! He then led us in prayer, and we committed the day to the Lord.

We bumped along about 5 miles per hour and enjoyed getting acquainted with one another. I never appreciated the smooth paved roads we have in the USA so much as I did today! At the top of the mountain, our bus started leaning and became stuck in about 12 inches of mud. Everybody got out to help push. We managed to push it out, but the mud was like quicksand and sucked my only pair of shoes (loafers-big mistake) right off my feet! I dove down in the mud and pulled them out. I climbed back on the bus in my stocking feet totally covered in mud.

Honduras bus stuck in the mud! Everyone helped push it out, and I lost my only shoes. 1988We arrived at a boarding school where  I took a cold shower and we slept in bunk beds. It’s about 50 degrees tonight. Someone loaned me a pair of scrubs and clean socks. One of the dentists gave me a toothbrush, and a nurse gave me a pair of ear plugs. She kindly brought a whole bag for us newbies. I found out the countryside is noisy because the dogs bark until 2 a.m. and roosters start crowing at 5 a.m!

I traveled the next day in a small pickup truck with Maurice, who hauled the team’s luggage to the clinic site. We did lots of pantomime since I only know a few words of Spanish and he knows no English. Smiles go a long ways! We stopped half way to visit his friends for a few minutes and they kindly gave us a cup of very strong coffee. I was happy to be able to give them a Spanish gospel of John to read. They thanked me profusely with broad smiles.

Maurice transported the team's luggage and me to the clinic site.

Maurice transported the team’s luggage and me to the clinic site.

Maurice's friends gave us coffee during our break.

Maurice’s friends gave us coffee during our break.

I marveled at the beautiful mountains, a pretty little girl walking alone down the road, and the ox cart loaded with wood.ox cart

Mountains

pretty girlOnly one doctor, another nurse, and I arrived at the clinic. We did not know where the rest of the team was that were standing up in the huge cattle truck bumping along. There was no telephone in the village, so we prayed for safety for them and began the clinic. Lynn, the other nurse, went to set up the pharmacy in a building down the street from us. I began checking blood pressures and triaging the throngs of patient waiting for us at the village school. I shared John 3:16 in Spanish with each patient, and then they went to the waiting area in the courtyard to listen to the village pastor share the gospel until the assistant called them to see Dr. Ed in one of the classrooms. The dental staff set up their clinic down below us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16

Reflection

So began my week in Honduras in the remote mountain village which took one day of air travel and two days of bumpy road travel to reach. When my luggage was lost, it made me realize how little I really needed to survive. The kindness of the team members in giving me some of their clothes to wear was a blessing to me. The spirit of camaraderie while giving the patients the gospel and some basic medical care was  heartwarming.

My interpreter told me some of the Hondurans walked 8 hours to reach the clinic, and had never seen a doctor or pill in their life. The pharmacy staff carefully instructed each patient not to trade their pills on the street for one that was a prettier color!

Next post, I will share more about the clinic days and the patients we saw.

Missionary Nurse to Africa – Part 2

Patients in Africa

My guest blogger, Tracy RN, continues to tell us about her 2 week medical missionary trip to Africa. (See Part 1 also).

On this trip, we were blessed to eat very well. Breakfast usually consisted of American type foods, with the occasional bowl of hot cereal millet (a grain which is often used as bird seed in the USA). The nutritional mainstays for the people were millet, sorghum, and corn. Vegetables and fruits were harder to find during this season, but the missionaries were able to buy some in the capital when we arrived. For lunches on clinic days, the village church ladies would cook a big pot of rice, another pot of beans, and another pot of tasty sauce to go with it. Occasionally the sauce would have tough pieces of chicken in it as well, which I found could be challenging to get off the bone! In place of rice, they also made dough out of corn that resembled a scoop of thick cream of wheat that they also served with sauce.

Pot of rice for lunch with tasty sauce!

Pot of rice for lunch with tasty sauce!

Now I would like to highlight a few of the more seriously ill patients we saw during this trip. In one village, the church had built a small four room clinic next to the church building. The closest government clinics were several miles away, and many did not have the ability to get to them.  I went about my daily tasks of taking blood pressures, pulses, temperatures and weights on the children, and lining people up who were waiting to be seen.

Children in line at play!

Children in line at play!

Africa village

I loved caring for the village children

All of a sudden, I saw a woman being helped through the crowd and into one of the clinic rooms. As we began to examine her, we learned that she had just fainted outside the clinic. We were told that she had been pregnant, but had been bleeding for the last few days. A urine pregnancy test was checked which was positive, but it seemed likely that with all the bleeding, she had lost the baby. Her pulse was too high (over 100), and her blood pressure was too low (in the 80’s). I inserted an intravenous (IV) line and we gave her a liter of saline fluid. She said she felt slightly better, but was still very weak and bleeding. Her pulse remained high and her pressure low (signs of shock).

We knew this lady needed a blood transfusion and most likely a surgical procedure, but we didn’t have the ability to provide this at our clinic. We recommended she go to a hospital, but she didn’t have any means to get there. So, one of our vehicles that was heading back that evening became a makeshift ambulance. We helped the woman into the backseat of the truck and we were off, bumping along dirt roads as we drove to the closest clinic. When  we arrived, we helped the woman out of the truck.

The clinic workers came out and said they could not take the woman because she was too sick. As she was standing there, she fainted again! The clinic worker grabbed another bottle of IV fluid, which we hung from the handle on the ceiling of the truck. We took off again, with the lady lying in the lap of her family member. When we arrived at the town of our destination, we assisted the lady into a taxi for another drive to a bigger clinic where she was able to receive the help she needed in time.

We heard later that she had recovered and was back in her own village again. I was very thankful to hear the news that she had healed physically, and pray that she finds the true spiritual healing that can only come from a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The lady recovered and returned to her village.

The lady recovered and returned to her village.

An unfortunately common sight in these villages is that of malnourished babies. With several issues, including a poor diet, many of the women do not produce enough breast milk to feed their babies. Without breast milk, the baby does not eat at all as they have nothing else to feed them. This is a very sad and very real problem. We saw many babies who were way below the expected weights for their age.  One baby we saw was three months old, yet only weighed 6 pounds! The missionary we work with has been trying to obtain formula for these babies when possible, and providing it to the mothers and following up with them, and thus has been able to help some. However, malnutrition continues to be an ongoing problem.

One last case I will highlight is that of a one year old baby that was brought to one of the clinics. When the mother arrived with the baby, she was very lethargic and gurgling on her own saliva which she was unable to swallow. We did a malaria test which was immediately positive. My brother, the physician on this trip, suspected the baby had cerebral malaria. We immediately began arrangements for the baby to travel to the nearest hospital, and attempted to start an IV in the meantime. The baby’s veins had collapsed and were very difficult to feel, and so, without any ultrasound machine, my brother placed an IV in her femoral vein in her groin. The baby was so sick that she didn’t even move or cry during this procedure.

As I began to give her the IV antimalarial medicine we had brought, I noticed the baby’s mouth begin to twitch followed by more pronounced seizure activity. I pointed it out to my brother, knowing there was nothing we could do about it. There are times when the lack of resources or ability to help in certain situations can be overwhelming when compared with the resources we have in the USA. I couldn’t help but think of the seizing adult patients under my care where I simply rush over to the machine outside the room, grab some IV Ativan, and give it almost immediately. In this case, the seizing baby was taken on the back of a motorcycle to the nearest town that had a larger clinic. I prayed for the baby and wondered if she could possibly survive.

The baby girl with cerebral malaria survived!!!

The baby girl with cerebral malaria survived!!!

Later on that day, to our great joy and surprise, one of our team members passed the mother and baby on the road returning to their village. The baby looked much better, as it seemed the anti-malarial medicine had begun to work! I am so thankful that God chose to save that baby. Life is truly in His hands!

In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of mankind. Job 12:10