My mission trip has come to an end. We are headed back to the US tomorrow. My heart and mind are full, and my thoughts are scattered.
This last week has been amazing, emotional, stressful, overwhelming, rewarding, difficult, exhausting, and then some. I have so many stories and so much to share that this will be the first of many mission trip posts.
Rough start – traveling nightmare…
The trip started off poorly. Our initial flight plans included 3 layovers, each in a different country. This means that we went through customs in 3 different countries. This is difficult and stressful enough as you have to collect your luggage, go through customs, recheck your bags, and find your next flight all in a foreign language. In addition, one of our flights was delayed 2 hours which caused us to miss a flight (the last of the day).
We were stranded in a foreign country over night. We caught the first flight the very next day to our final destination, but this caused a 13 hour delay for our arrival. After 45 hours of travelling with no sleep, we finally arrived!!
For anyone who thinks a mission trip is a vacation, you are sadly mistaken. Not that a mission trip isn’t enjoyable or fun, because it definitely is. But you work hard, you sweat hard, and you don’t have much downtime (or at least we did not). It is definitely a good idea to have a day or two at the end of the trip to sight-see and/or rest. Luckily, we do!
Our hotel was very…. authentic for the country we were visiting. This however is not a good thing when you are staying in a third world country. The bathroom included a sink, toilet, and shower but no actual walls. This means that every time we took a shower, our entire bathroom flooded. The hotel did not provide soap, towels, toilet paper, shampoo, or conditioner. Luckily, we knew to bring these things with us.
Also the shower head was electric. Meaning if you touch it with the water on, you get electrocuted. We did the buddy system for showers (1 person in the shower, 1 person sitting outside the door) to ensure we would have a helper if we got electrocuted. The plumbing in this country is MUCH less efficient than our plumbing in the US. It cannot handle toilet paper. Instead there is a trash can sitting next to the toilet, and all of the paper must be thrown in the trash can.
The water is most definitely not safe to drink. We kept a water bottle next to the sink to brush our teeth. No AC, but at least a good ceiling fan. Also (no surprise I’m sure) no phones, internet, or TV. Our bedroom had a very large hole in the wall (probably 2 feet by 2 feet) and a bird’s nest in the rafters. We saw the bird fly in and out of our room multiple times. Sounds funny now but was NOT funny at the time.
Our hotel was near the hospital, which is 2.5 hours away from where we are now. We are staying at a “fancy” hotel tonight so that we are closer to the airport for tomorrow. It has WiFi!! The bathroom and shower have walls! However, the plumbing is the same everywhere in this country (paper goes in the trash). The showerhead is still electric (and apparently shorting out, as my partner in crime got buzzed in the shower this morning). And no hot water so ICE cold showers.
Providing medical care
We are EXHAUSTED!! We worked almost 80 hours in 5 days with essentially no downtime. We were able to do 29 surgeries.
The eye clinic saw over 250 patients (for glasses). The medical clinic saw over 100 patients (checkups and surgery consults mostly). Dental clinic saw 30 patients in 3 days. We handed out a large suitcase of small toys and toiletries.
The anesthesiologist stayed with us in the room, but my friend and I did about 95% of the work. He was on standby if we needed him, but he allowed us to do as much as we possibly could by ourselves, which was nice. Everyone involved was very nice. The atmosphere was very casual, optimistic, and lighthearted, which helped decrease the stress of everything quite a lot. The locals were very welcoming and we clicked right away. We had 6 Americans and 9 natives on our team.
The natives were amazing and so helpful. They ran the eye clinic, medical clinic, and dentistry areas. They also held education classes on diet, exercise, and general healthy living. There is no access to healthcare for most of these people, so prevention is vital. Some of them walked for 8 HOURS just to come for the care we provided.
Helping orphaned kids
We also were able to spend about 4 hours at a home for malnourished/ failure to thrive children. They had 29 children, about 15 under age 1 and the others between ages 2-5. It was heartbreaking. These children are dropped off by their families because they either cannot afford to take care of them or it is just too much work (there were 2 Down Syndrome children and 2 otherwise mentally handicapped, possibly cerebral palsy).
We spent some time with the babies first, feeding them and holding them. It is just so sad. They are tiny and horribly underdeveloped. We were able to get some smiles and laughs though. Then we went over to the older children (2-5 years). None of them can talk. Only 4 of them could walk. None of them smile or laugh.
I particularly clicked with a small girl named Raquel. Not sure exactly how old she is but maybe 3 (she doesn’t look it). The first day she was sitting in a little walker chair. Just sitting, so forlorn and defeated. I blew bubbles by her. She was definitely interested but still totally flat affect. I tried to hold her hand and she seemed scared but didn’t pull away. The next morning we came back and she was sitting in a playpen. I went over to her and picked her up. Oh how she screamed, but she did hold on to me. I held her and rocked her and rubbed her back. After 2 minutes, she was completely passed out and stayed that way for about 45 minutes.
It came time for us to go so I laid her back in the playpen, still sleeping. I so wish I could have spent more time with her though. She was so sweet but also so sad. It is horrible that these kids are so young but have already experienced so many bad things. On the upside, they have many workers there and they all seem to genuinely care about the children and helping them.
I have many more stories to tell but they will have to wait for another day. Just know that this has absolutely been one of the best weeks of my life. I will never forget the experiences I’ve had or the people I’ve been blessed to meet. We helped them but they helped us just as much. It is a very different world here and I will never be the same after experiencing it.