Sunday, August 15, 2010

Arriving in Villa Sandino

Up early for breakfast, a wonderful buffet complete with omlete station and fresh fruit juices.  We gathered together for team worship and an overview of the day ahead, which includes setting up the clinic once we arrive in Villa Sandino after the 4+ hour bus ride.  

The GHO bus

I sat in the back of the GHO bus  with Esau, Joe, Fitz, and Chuck Damon.  Esau (who was my accountability partner on the trip) and Fitz came last year, and pointed out some interesting sights along the road.  In the past as the team leaves the city, it has been stopped by armed police who question the drivers about the trip planned - this did not happen to our team.  As we left Manauga, we could see people buring their garbage and waste in the front yard.  The homes are very simple, mostly concrete block with tin roofs and dirt floors.  No glass in the windows, and some many people sitting outside the house because of no work.  The idleness of the people surprises me - unless they are able to live off the land (food crops or livestock), there is really no other way to pass the day.  It is interesting that so many homes have dish tv's - I learned later that the government provides this service to the county. 

Driving by Lake Managua
The trip through the mountains was breathtaking.  The scenery is full of green and luscious vegetation and beautiful white clouds floating along the blue sky.  We see many cows and horses grazing along the side of the road and in areas that have been cleared of forest along the sides of the hills in order to provide more area for the animals to eat.  The roads are rather narrow and wind up and down the rolling landscape, which I would think would cause more caution on the part of the drivers, but does not.  People can be found walking along the side of the road, miles from the nearest town, even when the rain is falling.  We pass an area where recent rainfall has washed the road away, and our bus driver Orlando carefully follows the dirt path that has been temporarily carved into the side of the hill to continue on to our destination.

After driving for a couple of hours we stopped in at a gas station in Juigalpa.  It is set up a lot like the ones here in the states - some pumps by the road and a convenience store with snacks and some prepared foods inside.  Israel, the son of GHO's missionary Rolando, spends the time standing at the register to be sure that we pay and receive the correct change.  It is amazing how inexpensive the items are here - we bought two sodas, a single size bag of oreo-type cookies, and chips for 32 Cordobas, or roughly $1.45US.  There are a lot of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, and other familiar brands.  Before loading onto the bus, we had the opportunity to visit the restrooms in an adjacent building.  There were no lights in the rooms, so we had to leave the doors cracked a bit to see what we were doing in there.  The toilet paper provided there was quickly used up, so Lena joined some of the team in getting more rolls from luggage on the bus.

After we started again, we continued to talk amongst ourselves and share some of the treats that we purchased, while some caught up on sleep.  We watched as people washed their laundry in the rivers flowing with brown water, and some girls balancing baskets on their heads crossing the bridges.

Girls in Juigalpa - notice the brown water in the river

We continue on to the town of Santo Tomas, where our team is split up into three different hotels.  Lena and I are staying at the Hotel Campo Seco, the furthest one out, and after we get our luggage, we settle into the room.  The hotel is run by a family, and they have a cafe area accessable to the street where folks can stop and take a rest.  We are very relieved to find an air condioner, and even a small frige (that was stacked full with beer, wine coolers, gatorade, and sodas - we left the drinks, and used the fridge to get our filtered water cold at night).  Minimally furnished, the cozy  and warm room has a bed, chair and lamp stand, we find a small bathroom with some sort of heating device for the water.  It will be a few tries  before we figure out how to use the "widow-maker."  We sorted through the luggage (the TSA left a nice note detailing that our green bag was searched to maintain the safety of US flights) to take out our clothes and find the goodies we will need for the clinic.

We were able to have some downtime before the team's truck was back to bring us to lunch at the Hotel Aleman, which was about five  minutes to the east of our hotel..  I stayed with the last group to go, and foiund myself riding in the back of a white pickup truck with Mike B and Amy - so cool, even though Mike was trying to help the wind knock my Red Sox hat off the whole time!  haha  Arriving into town, we passed the Hotel Seville and then pulled into the parking lot for the Hotel Aleman.  We crossed the road and walked to the second floor of the Restaurant Aleman for our first of many meals here (we ate berakfast downstairs and dinner upstairs each day here, while making our sandwiches for lunch before our breakfast was over). 

Look west from Santo Tomas
Here our team was introduced to the local interprators that would be our lifeline throughout the week, working with those on our team to allow us to communicate with the people we would encounter in Villa Sandino.  The team was broken down into small armys to set up the clinic, and I learned before we left for the clinic that I would be blessed with a wonderful young lady named Alejandra working in the pharmacy.  She is a fifth year pharmacy student, who I later learned was taking a week off from school in order to work in the clinic.  After prayer over the whole team, we boarded the bus to travel the 20 minutes or so to Villa Sandino.

Arriving in Villa Sandino was almost like a scene from an old western movie - we could see people and movement, but most of the villagers did not smile or reach out to us.  GHO has a vision to reach out to all areas of Nicaragua, and this is the first medical mission to this town, so we must have seemed like a circus as we drove to the town's recreation center that was transformed into our clinic for the week.  Once inside the locked gates of the center we passed the triage area to the immediate right and optomitry station to the left, sepatated in the middle of the room by chairs in our waiting area.  To the right along the buildings wall were 10 consultation areas for the doctors to examen the patients, and at the far end of the room were bathrooms on each side of a stage, and around the corner to the left was "la Farmacia," right next to the womens exam area.
Doglegged shape room - 5 tables deep and 3 more on back wall.

Here I met my other translator, Erick, who has been helping GHO and other medical mission teams in the pharmacy for a while.  He is very friendly and was a great help throughout the week to find extra help when we need it.  Our main team was eager to get started, but I have to admit a total feeling of being overwhelmed.  The medicine was neatly laid out, but I soon realized that to be most efficient I would need to reorganize the supplies by drug use/category.  Lloyd had mentioned that we were working in the best stocked pharmacy in Nicaragua for the week, and the key now was to get started with prepacking medicine to help keep waiting times down.  Liz, Julianne, Alejandra, Sam, Anna, Kelsey, Bruce, and Christian were quickly given their assignments as counters, using the counting trays, spatulas and even tongue depressors to get the medicine into the baggies.  Ron and Darrell, two pharmacists I had contact with before the trip, both stressed prepacking and printing of labels to match the formulary, so the stickers were flying!

Praise the Lord for Lloyd, who gathered a bunch of people (including Sandy) to pour out 2 gallons of Benadryl liquid and cough syrup in the main room.  I transitioned Alejandra to verifying the baggies as Erick continued to get people involved.  It was like a revolving door of helpers as Cindy, Roxanne, Jay, and Joe came in to provide relief for some of the others.  The nurses in triage took the worm medicine in order to dose people as they came into the clinic, taking a big dispensing function off from us in the pharmacy.

During the afternoon the power went out as a storm rolled in.  We kept working until the light of the day faded and it was time for church.  I was still working to reorganize the tables, and I was so blessed to have Anna and Sam take the lead on listing the inventory of medicine on each table so I could take the puzzle pieces to the hotel room and come up with game plan for how to set up on Monday morning.

Who needs electricity when we have the Holy Spirit?
The Lighthouse Church was a two streets down from the clinic site, and we walked through the start of a magnificent thunder storm that was rolling into town.  I met with Lena, who had joined a group on a prayer walk through the town (she remembers that the people there were not happy that the gringos were there).  The guys worked to get a generator functional as the pews were getting filled with people inside and the thunder and lighting from the heavy storm boomed outside.    It was amazing to witness the spirit of God falling on the church with the vigor of the storm outside;  we had fun signing songs and hearing a message from Lloyd imploring men to be faithful to their wives as well as the Word from Pastor Chuck and a local pastor.  The people of the town started to receive us as their own, and Lena and I had fun playing with a family and their young kids during the service, which ran from 6:30 to 8pm. Our GHO team played some choruses before the local praise group rocked the house with some awesome Latin-fused praise music.  They had an electronic drum set that two little kids were running - it was great!

We boarded the buses in the rain and headed back to the restaurant in Santo Tomas.  I talked with the Reddy family, who joined our group from Ohio during the day.  The evening GHO team meeting was called off because it was so late, and after getting back to the hotel Lena and I showered and sorted through all of our luggage.  The anticipation of the week to come and the great blessings that God would provide to us and use us for there were met with the exhaustion, and we quickly fell asleep before the first day of clinic.

Thoughts for the day ...

  • Only Roxanne was missing luggage - we prayed and God answered by allowing Rolando's wife to find it within the next few days.  In true spirit of the early church recorded in Acts, team members shared our things with others so that we were all prepared to be used greatly for God's purpose there.
  • It is impossible to know where God can lead you if you are willing to follow. This may include riding on the back of a pickup truck in Nicaragua.  Beyond my wildest dreams!

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Don't Be Like Mike

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Thankful that God has granted me a second chance (quite a few, actually) through my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love the Lord, my family, and enjoy endless laps of swimming and circles on a motorcycle. Follow Jesus.