by Bill Staggs
Too many years ago, while visiting the Wingate church of Christ, I heard a short-bearded, hotshot preacher talking about going to Central America with a medical missionary team. In ten trips to Central America on these medical teams, I have always been amazed at what can be accomplished. Malaria, T.B., malnutrition, sores, coughs and colds, rotten teeth, whooping cough, and rashes are all a part of everyday life in the jungle.
In America, we go to the doctor, pharmacist, or dentist to take care of our medical problems. in most of the world, it’s not that way.
A medical team consists usually of two physicians, two dentists, one pharmacist, five nurses, and ten assistants, plus native preachers and translators. The team will go in, set-up a clinic, start seeing patients, checking and pulling teeth, filling prescriptions, scrubbing heads and bodies for lice, and distributing health aids, while the native preachers begin teaching.
Being an independent community pharmacist, my day is usually filled-up with taking care of business, filling prescriptions, counseling patients, and drinking lots of coffee. But while being an independent ‘jungle’ pharmacist, my job is totally different. How do you deal with life threatening allergic reactions in the jungle with no emergency equipment? Ask Mark Dvluncy and Jim City. In the San Bias Islands, we had this problem with a four year old patient and xylocaine. She lived, and we were able to see her three years later on another trip to San Bias.
Does it do their health any good for us to go there? Yes. A good indicator is their teeth. The first few times we go into an area, the dentists are worked to the point of exhaustion. After three to four trips to San Bias, the dentists are on vacation. Now they only pull more teeth in one week than they pull in two years of practice in the U.S.
Do you like adventure? Then you will love these trips. A 75 year old couple went to Nicaragua last year on a team. The Sandinistas flew us 200 miles -into the jungle on Russian-made helicopters still equipped with rocket launchers and machine guns, left us in a field, and then the Contras picked us up and took us into the village of Torteguera (it’s the place you’re all familiar with, but you can’t get there from here), where we stayed for 15 days.
native trained preachers at the Pan American Bible School. While most are still supported outside their home congregation, some totally rely on their congregation. They have elders and deacons.
Does it do me any good? Yes! Twelve years ago when I became involved with this work, I had just lost one of my jobs, being mayor of Mt. Juliet. What a blessing! I needed to change my focus. I found medical missions work and have no desire to change. The friends that are made on these trips are the best people in the world.
How do you get involved? You do not have to go to the jungle to help. Support those who do go, not only with cash, but with encouragement to them and their families.
There are many things that we throw away that are useful in the jungle. One year I took a sack of old pocket knives. Thread, needles, scissors, and ball caps are all useful.
Doctors, dentists, we could use your drug samples or your influence to get stock bottles of useful drugs. Those guys that can fix anything with bailing wire–we really need your help in the jungle. Nurses you are the most important part of the medical portions of the team. There are so many ways to help that do not hurt. Please help us help them. Contact the Forrest Park church of Christ in Valdosta, Georgia. The address is: 1601 E. Park Ave.; P.O. Box #2331; Valdosta. Ga. 31601. “I was sick and you visited me,” yes, and we had a great adventure, met the salt of the earth, established churches, and met some of the people I plan to spend eternity with.