Monday, July 23, 2012
“Love your neighbor as yourself.”
For most of my life I believed that it was my job to take care of others. I didn’t believe that I was worth being taken care of and that everyone else deserved love and care except me. I had no concept of the fact that I deserved love and care too. I was driven with thoughts that I must love and care for others, completely disregarding myself in the process. After acting on that belief for a whole summer of ministry, I was emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted.
Then, I was reminded of one of the greatest commandments, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I was missing the very important second part, “as yourself.” In the process of loving my neighbors
I had forgotten to love myself. I believed in the love and care of Jesus for everyone except for myself.
My self-worth was so far gone that I believed no one would want to care for me. I believed that I was lower than everyone else around me. Through the last year, I have learned the importance or self-care and spiritual disciplines that go along with that. I still believe my life is one of service, it just looks different now, and it is healthier and sustainable
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
The first few weeks were a mix of exhaustion and stress as I battled to harness a reasonable medical repertoire in Spanish; spending bursts of time flying through 15-30 physicals in 2-3 hours at schools and orphanages; squeezing into short trufis (taxis), hunched over for an hour to avoid slamming my head on the roof with every little bump; stopping by the lab during lunch to get my blood drawn a few times a week as my calcium and thyroid levels were fluctuating rather abnormally. It was all a bit overwhelming. But then as my place began to solidify and I knew what my day held, it all became rather familiar and comforting. The fright of having to take a trufi into Quiacollo to grab something dissipated. The working through a physical with a 5-year-old boy in Spanish became easier and I needn’t fear that I would miss something from misunderstanding or inability to hear over the yells of his peers in the background. Life there had become regular and routine.
From the beginning I had known that this was meant to be an experience that would change me. My only hope was that I would help some people along the path of my perspective altering journey. But I knew when I arrived that if I wanted to get anything out of this experience; it was my responsibility to search it out. I had several encounters that made me appreciate my life as it was, cancer and all, but by the end of my time in Cochabamba I realized that it was not one adorable orphan that I spent a day with, or a dying man and his family gathered in a tiny hospital room that made an impact, but all the collective encounters and experiences I had had. The surprise on a man’s face as I walked along the street, the tallest and whitest person around for miles. The smiles and soft-spoken words of the Quechua mothers as I told them that their son merely had a viral URI and to not worry. All the people that I only interacted with for a few minutes, but seemed so appreciative of my time and efforts. I realized that I didn’t want to be some novelty to them; I just wanted to be there in the background, helping them get through colds, rashes, mundane everyday burdens. I wanted to be just another staple in their life that they could come to for the simplest things.
I would have been proud to have helped someone through much bigger issues, to be a hero. But I was happy to have filled my role as a supporting player, always there in the shadows ready to lend a hand through any difficulties, big or small. Just someone to listen to their troubles and stresses, clean up their scrapes and send them back into the day with a smile. Because when it comes down to it, those are the type of people that have really changed my life for the better.
Jessica is a volunteer who served for five weeks at our hospital in Bolivia. Pleaes pray with us for Jessica during this time and for complete healing from her thyroid cancer.
Friday, June 8, 2012
“What’s your name?”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Breanna. Do you live here?”
“Do you like living here?”
“Sometimes yes, sometimes no.”
“Do you ever want to live somewhere else?”
“There are homes you could live in.”
“Because of this.”
She waved a bottle of glue that she had been holding up to her nose throughout the conversation. Everyone who lives in the plaza has the same plastic bottle, permanently pressed up to their face. Clefa.(glue) To the world, they are simply drug addicts. They sniff. They stab. They rape. Yes, they act like animals. Because society treats them like animals. Growing to know these people, I understand now that they don’t sniff to get high, they sniff to survive. The clefa numbs hunger, cold, pain. It’s an escape from the reality that is living on the streets. We continued to talk, and after a while, she took her foot out from underneath her and showed it to me. “Doctor, something’s wrong with my toe.” Her big toe was huge, black, and smelled rank. I took her to see a real doctor and assisted in slicing open and draining her toe on a urine soaked park bench.
Since I first met Monica, I’ve seen her almost every week. Every week, we’d talk, she’d show me her festering foot, and we’d do the same procedure. Slice, drain, bandage. Every week, it was the same. Then one day Monica pulled me over to a secluded tree, and pulled off her shoe. Her toe smelled foul, and looked like it was dying. I told her she would have to go to the hospital or lose her toe. After much debating, she finally agreed.
We hopped in a Trufi to begin the hour-long trip to the hospital, passengers staring unashamedly at Monica as she curled up with her glue held up to her nose.
“Monica, can I have the glue for the afternoon? I’ll give it back when we leave the hospital.”
“Can I have it for an hour?”
“Can I have it for half an hour?”
Monica continues to sniff. Five minutes later, she pulls the bottle away from her nose and stares at it. Then, she slides open the Trufi window, and without hesitating, throws it onto the road. Immediately, she looks at me, horrified at what she had just done. I burst out laughing. ”You don’t need it. I’m proud of you.” Although I knew that as soon as we returned to the plaza, she would more than likely find a new bottle, it was a good moment.
I haven’t seen Monica since our excursion to the hospital. I don’t know if that was her last sniff of glue, or if she’s somewhere on the streets now, a new bottle in hand. I don’t know if she took her antibiotics, or traded them in for clefa. I don’t know when I will see her next, or if I ever will.
When that bottle of glue hit the pavement, I could have cried, I was so happy. It’s not physically addictive. Monica doesn’t need it. It’s a crutch. Something she knows might make it feel a little better, soften reality a little. Yes, it’s awful. But when it comes down to it, we all have our crutches. Some might not be as tangible as a bottle of glue, but it’s our human nature to turn to anything but the One who made us, to make us feel safe, secure, happy. Monica will probably struggle with glue for the rest of her life. Her battle is worn on her sleeve, visible for everyone to see. But the rest of us are all fighting something too. Some of us are just better at hiding it.
Although it makes me angry when I see toddlers living on the street because of the decisions their parents have made, I can’t judge anyone in the plaza for relying on glue to get through. That’s not my right. Yes, it’s not fair. But our God’s not fair. If God was fair, nobody would make it into his graces. As flawed humans, a holy, fair God couldn’t be with us. But God is just, and God has grace. And because of this grace, we not only receive the privilege of serving God, but also the right to call Him friend. Servant and friend. It makes no sense. But that's grace.
Friday, April 13, 2012
I visited Hospitals of Hope with a group of Young Professions of Wichita (YPW) volunteers to learn about their Clinic In A Can program, and see what we could do to help. As the first segment in YPW’s Community Relations “Volunteers in Training” program, I was excited to see our program take action. Community Relations formed “Volunteers in Training” (VIT) to increase YPW’s awareness of volunteer opportunities at local nonprofits in the community.
Hospitals of Hope is well known in the international medical community for its passion for providing basic medical care to countries in need. Their latest initiative is an innovative, self-contained medical clinic, which they’ve branded as “Clinic In A Can”. Clinic In A Can was born as a way to provide medical care in a sanitary hospital environment in the most impoverished countries around the world. The clinic has also served as a disaster response mobilized care unit. I had no idea what to expect of this product, but it only took a few minutes for me to see what all the buzz was about.
After a quick introduction of the nonprofit by Tricia Erickson, Communications and Volunteer Coordinator for Hospitals of Hope, she led us into a large warehouse, where four 40-foot shipping containers, in different stages of renovation, were housed. Looking down the line, at one end sat an old rusty shipping container, as you would imagine an old shipping container that has seen years of use in the elements. At the other end of the line sat a very modern looking renovated structure. We could not believe the transformation an old shipping container could make with just 22 days of renovations. Tricia toured us through the Clinic In A Can, showing us two exam rooms, and a laboratory that looked like the inside of my doctor’s office. We learned that two Clinic In A Cans were built in two weeks and shipped to Haiti following the earthquake in January 2010.
Following our tour, Tricia led us to the second part of the VIT experience – where we do some work! Tricia explained that the Clinic In A Can is outfitted with as many donated medical supplies as possible. And sorting, organizing and inventorying those supplies
is quite a challenge. Tricia showed us tables loaded with miscellaneous medical supplies – some labeled, and some not. We sorted, identified and logged as many supplies as we could on an inventory sheet that would later be loaded into an inventory system. In addition to organizing the medical supply inventory, Tricia explained they have many other areas of need in which YPW’s could fulfill, including the day to day operations of the business, marketing consultation and more.
Thank you to the great group from Young Professionals of Wichita who came out to learn more about our Clinic In A Can program and help us on our mission of providing accessible medical care to all!
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
The meaning of Carnival and Lent hadn’t sunk in more than the discomfort of a wet t-shirt…until Shelly and I worked 24 hours in the Hospital Tuesday morning through Wednesday 8am. The first 16 hours of our shift were tranquilo, in which we began dreaming of a full night’s sleep. By 11:30pm we laid our heads down excited for the sweet dreams ahead, only to be awoken at 12:10am to a screaming little boy named Jose, being carried into the ER by his intoxicated father who had been driving. His father left to gather his “woman” and other two sons who had suffered the same accident. With three little boys in tears of pain, nothing inside of me wanted to treat and care for the father of this family.
Before we had found beds for this family, another young man came in with a stab wound in need of surgery and more blood. After a financial conversation among the friends of this youth, we had to turn him away due to our inability to begin treating without sufficient blood. Next, an unresponsive man and his intoxicated family come through our doors hoping we could help. He had a 1-inch deep and 4-inch long gash alongside his left eye, in which we were able to witness over an hour of suturing. As the last string was being tied, another man with blood gushing out of his head comes rushing in, then an hour later leaves without wanting the further/necessary treatment of surgery, or to pay…and so the night continues.
From the first 10 minutes of Lent (Wednesday 12:10am) until the last second of shift-change the next morning, I was overwhelmed with a sense of despair for the broken family relationships, beat-up bodies, and endless pain our world seemed to be suffering that night. Lent had truly begun, and the reality of a world without Jesus had now sunk in.
Friday, February 10, 2012
For the last month and a half , the volunteers have been going to the Plaza San Sebastian, a plaza that most people avoid, because it is where the glue sniffers live. Somewhere around 30 people, ranging from early teens to early 30s, I would guess, live in this square in Cochabamba, Bolivia, continuously holding a bottle of glue to their noses, occasionally washing car windows to earn money to buy food and alcohol. The reason that the oldest people there are in their late 20s or early 30s isn't that they manage to escape the life by then; it´s that you don't have a very long lifespan in the plaza.
So, once a week, the volunteers have been going to the plaza to bring food, clean wounds, and try to build relationships with the people living there. I don't make it every week, but I did this last Friday.
There are always fresh wounds to treat when we go to San Sebastian. Most of the people who live there have obvious knife scars on their faces, mostly inflicted by each other. Many of them have horizontal scars covering their forearms, almost certainly self-inflicted. We're pretty sure that two of the girls, in their early teens, are pregnant, and there are some small children, age 2 and under, living with their parents in the square. I can only imagine the kind of brain damage glue does to a fetus.
When we went this last week, a young man limped up to us, assisted by another kid. One of the girls started explaining that he had pus in his leg, and that a doctor had taken it out previously using a syringe. When we rolled up his pants leg we saw that his left thigh was horribly swollen. We kept asking questions, and they told us that he'd been in the public hospital for a month in the infectology ward and that he´d just come back earlier that week. The street kids asked us to take out a syringe and drain the pus, like the doctors had before. I wasn't sure that was a good idea. If they hadn't fixed it after a month in the hospital, it didn't seem like something we could do much about, and I was afraid that doing anything might make it worse, introducing even more infection.
I consulted with Faith and Amanda, the volunteers with the most medical experience, and they agreed with me. Even if we didn't make the infection itself worse, he could still lose his leg or even his life simply by not getting further treatment. What he needed was to go back to the hospital. I knelt by the young man and explained to him that he needed to go to the hospital, that we couldn't fix the problem and might make it worse. ¨No, I don´t want to go to the hospital,¨ he told me, his words slurred by the glue and alcohol.
I tried again to explain, telling him, ¨If you don't go to the hospital, you might lose your leg, and you might even die.¨ He wouldn't go. As we discussed what to do next, he staggered to his feet and hobbled away. When I approached him again later, he immediately started repeating, ¨I won't go to the hospital, I won't go to the hospital.¨ There was nothing more we could do.
Since he wouldn't let us help him, we moved on to other patients. The nurses and interns who came along focused on cleaning wounds, while the rest of the volunteers and I talked with the others. One man approached us and introduced himself as Wilians. I started asking Wilians about his family. He told me that his mother had died in 2004 and that he had 7 younger brothers and sisters living in orphanages. I asked about his father, and he said that his father was a drunk. He started telling me what he believed about God, that God watches over us, and that everything happens for a reason.
I agreed with him, and then, in a moment of courage, I told him, ¨Yes, and God wants something better for you. He doesn't want you to be living in this plaza. He doesn't want you to be sniffing this glue,¨ I said, tapping the bottle he held in his hand. ¨It's damaging your body and your soul.¨ To my surprise, he threw his bottle of glue on the ground.
We kept talking, and I asked him if I could pray for him. I put my hand on his shoulder and we bowed our heads as I asked God to protect Wilians and to help him to leave his life in the plaza, to start to live the life that God had planned for him. When we finished, Wilians asked me to continue to pray for him, and to pray for his brothers and sisters. I promised I would pray for them.
¨You have the same heart as my mother,¨ he told me. ¨You will always be in my heart, like a mother.¨ I promised him I´d come back soon.
I don´t know what Wilians did when I left the plaza. He may have picked the glue bottle back up as soon as my back was turned. Even if he held out longer, I suspect that he didn't last long. But perhaps it was a start. Many of those who live in the plaza are there by choice, preferring to forget reality rather than to face it. I'm praying that Wilians will choose to face reality, in all its ugliness, and begin to make something beautiful.
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
It’s February. As I sit here writing this, I can see snow flurries blowing past my window making it seem like summer has quite a ways to go before it gets here. But believe it or not, summer is just four months away. For some of you summer means a break from the dreaded torture called school, for others of you it means a time for a vacation, and yet for others of it may not mean much because you can’t think of what you want to do with your summer.
Well, I have great news for all of you. How about taking a mission trip to Bolivia!
If you have ever thought about going on a mission trip, or said someday you would, or maybe you haven’t even given it much thought, this summer is a great time to do it!
Some really great reasons to go on a mission trip with Hospitals of Hope to Bolivia include
1. You gain a variety of medical experience in a hospital
2. You experience giving medical care in a foreign country
3. You have a part in giving underprivileged children free check ups
4. You get to help heal physical bodies, and also share the Gospel
5. You learn about a different culture
6. You get to put that Spanish to practice!
7. You get to share Christ’s love with the people of Bolivia
8. Your friends and family get to be blessed by partnering with you on this adventure
9. You get to have an awesome summer!
10. You get to take home a life changing experience you will never forget.
I know it may seem crazy to be thinking about summer plans already, but now is a great time to start planning. It will give you time to get your passport and visa paperwork in line, raise support, learn about Bolivia, and time for God to start preparing you to be used by Him. But, I also know that some of you still sure about the whole idea. I get that. That is why next week I am giving you plenty of reason of why not to go on a mission trip as Part 2 of our On a Mission series.
But if you are thinking this is something for you, check out more about our Bolivian missions here!