Friday, August 3, 2018
What a fun, fun, day, because we got to be with the people! Today was the team’s first community medical outreach in La Maria, Soacha, where Darin and I had facilitated a leadership workshop for the Pastor Alvero and his staff the past Sunday. I was hoping we would bump into some familiar faces from the church service. What I didn’t know as we drove past Iglesia Christiana Lugar De Encuentro Con Dios was the back story from much earlier in the morning. The original plan was to setup the medical outreach between two warehouses, but when Diana (CDA medical leader) and her team came earlier to ensure a smooth setup, they were informed by the “community” leaders that they couldn’t have access to the warehouses as they had committed.
Praise God; His will be done. Instead of panicking, the CDA staff walked from house to house, knocking on doors, asking whether families would open their homes for medical and dental teams to set up their equipment and serve the community. Three families (non-Christian) opened their doors, pulled out their living room furniture, and invited the team to use their home to help the people. What a beautiful story of how God works through people, when the devil tries to undermine God’s work.
Our team arrived by bus and congregated on the enclosure basketball court. We did praise and worship to kick-off the day. We were instructed that we were only allowed around the sports court and down the alley road where medical treatment would be underway. While the doctors and nurses saw patients, the government set up a pet vaccination station. Not only where people in line for their needs, people brought their pets. I noticed that many of the cats were on leashes like a dog. How the Colombian people treated their pets was a far cry different than in Central America, where the condition of the dogs broke my heart.
The student hairdressers from the Conviventia vocational school set up their tent and were giving free haircuts. There was a line—especially of kids and older men. We gave everyone a thumbs up—looking good. Later we walked down the street, meeting and talking with the locals. Brigitta was an engaging translator. We recognized many people from the church service. Although I don’t speak Spanish, eye contact, a big smile, and saying, “Hola,” made a meaningful connection.
We thoroughly enjoyed talking with all the locals and learning of their struggles. We heard stories of wives leaving men, who then had to take care of their kids by themselves. Many kids weren’t in school. One boy dropped out of sixth grade and wanted to know how he could get to America to be successful. We talked about having a vision for your life, and I told the story of myself growing up poor and how education was a ticket out. I encouraged him to focus on school, so that he would have options. I believe he was more inspired after our conversation.
The medical/dental staff was overwhelmed with the need, and many people had to be turned away, because only so many patients could be seen by 3 pm. First come, first served was the rule. Everyone was happy to receive free medical treatment, except those
who were getting their teeth pulled. It pained me to see kids being held down, so rotten teeth could be pulled to prevent infection, and yes, they had Novocaine. The dental care team pulled a record number of teeth and many left the chair with pearly whites after their cleaning. A common example seen by the triage team—a woman who had suffered with a urinary infection for 2 years, because she had no resources to pay a doctor. Something so curable with an antibiotic goes untreated every day. So sad that many do not have access to basic medical care.
While the nurses and doctors were treating as many patients as possible, we were learning of Conviventia’s initiative to create a fair-trade connection with local coffee farmers in the area. Dag was leading a pilot program and buying his first 50+ pound batch of honey-roasted beans to sell in Houston area. What a wonderful success story this could be.
As we packed up our equipment and headed home, several messages resonated with me from this day on mission:
- When plans do not work out, do not despair. Trust God. He will open doors. Turning to God gives you an opportunity for Him to show you His miracles.
- People just want to be known and recognized. Make eye contact, smile at strangers, and say a word of welcome.
- I don’t care how broken our medical/dental system is in the United States, you should appreciate it. At least you can walk into an ER and be treated.