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The Mission Team
The Mission Team
Clinic in Pantasma
Clinic in Pantasma
Dentist Dr Lee at work
Dentist Dr. Lee at work
Way to the mountains
On the roads to the mountains

 

From June 20th to July 4th, Jenny Gebhardt, daughter of one of our parishioners, acted as medical director for a medical mission to several remote villages in Nicaragua. The mission team included three doctors, two dentists, three nurses, one self-taught optometrist and a large group of other volunteers who all took part in several projects, including construction projects and children’s ministry.  What follows is a report by Dr. Gebhardt of some of the experiences she had serving in those rural and poverty-stricken villages in the mountains of Nicaragua.
     
 
     

 

"The team I travelled with in Nicaragua was a group of Americans from Georgia, Kentucky and Arizona. There was also a group of Nicaraguan translators, bus drivers and cooks to help with the logistics of the team.  In total, we were about 35 people. After a couple of days of orientation and planning  at the base camp in Tipitapa (near Managua), we set out with two old yellow school buses, which are the preferred mode of public transportation in Nicaragua. One bus was filled with our gear and equipments, while the team travelled in the other bus.  We headed north from Managua for an entire day, stopping for a break near Jinotega, and finally reaching our quarters in the mountain village of Pantasma in the evening.

Over the next two days, we conducted clinics with a dispensary in two church buildings located in Pantasma.  We also had a team member with optometry training with us, who ran an eyeglasses station. When the clinic started at 8:00 AM, hundreds of people were already standing there waiting for us to start. Some patients came with their entire family, so the confusion inside the clinic was often as bad as outside. The dentists worked in one corner of the church, extracting teeth and doing minor oral surgery.  Most of the patients we saw complained of pain, asthma, respiratory infections, stomach pains, urinary tract infections and skin conditions.  We were able to treat most of the infections with standard antibiotics and anti-parasitics.  All the patients requested vitamins to supplement their standard diet of rice and beans.  Malnutrition is a severe problem in the rural parts of Nicaragua, while cooking over open fires inside houses and burning refuse causes respiratory problems in entire families. We worked until the sun went down or until the power went out (a common occurrence everywhere in Nicaragua). Then, we packed up our supplies into the bus and retired for the night. I continued to make house calls for a few patients by lantern-light for a few hours before calling it a night.


After conducting the two clinics in Pantasma, we moved on to Santa Ana, an even more remote village, where we conducted our third clinic. In three days, the medical staff saw ca. 850 patients, while hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses were fitted.


During the clinics, the team assigned to construction projects built several wooden tables to be used in the churches, as well as constructing a set of concrete steps for one of the churches in Pantasma. Up to that point, the parishioners had been obliged to slip and slide down a muddy embankment to get in and out of church, usually wading through a large puddle at the bottom.


The teams assigned to the children’s ministry organized activities and games around stories from the Bible and the group also had fun doing face painting and making balloon animals.


In all the places we went, we were received with great joy and gratitude for our efforts in coming there. Even those patients we were unable to help were grateful to be prayed for and to feel that someone cares about them.


On the final active day of our mission, we visited a large prison in Managua with ca. 2,500 inmates. For a whole day, we saw prisoners and prescribed medications for everything from tonsillitis to gout. We left many medications there for the prisoners. As the staff at the prison is also underpaid, we saw many of the guards, as well. 


The poverty of Nicaragua’s people stands out even to the most unpractised eye: the houses often have only a dirt floor, livestock, dogs, and vermin live side by side with humans, the air is filled with fumes from burning garbage and the people often look very malnourished.  Young children are often covered with scabies or rashes and play in the dirt around the house of their family, where three generations often live together in two rooms. Despite all of this, the people are very hospitable and friendly.  They do their best to make one feel welcome, and their faith in God’s care for them is so profound, it allows them to endure great hardship with equanimity.


The mission of MEFEL has grown over the years and the network of MEFEL pastors runs many churches throughout rural Nicaragua.  By using this network and by fostering connections with foreign mission societies, the mission has been able to build up community outreach programs, which not only support the spiritual growth of communities but also serve as a network to pool resources for larger projects benefiting many communities. However, MEFEL is a purely Nicaraguan organization with little or no financial resources to draw on. It relies heavily on foreign support and funds brought into the mission by mission groups coming to Nicaragua with medications and funds."

           
I enjoyed working with our Nicaraguan friends and colleagues and will certainly do so again in the future. Anyone with an interest in getting involved in or supporting these Nicaraguan missions should feel free to contact me at jgebhar@yahoo.de
Jenny Gebhardt
 
 
 

 

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last update: 7/14/07