(Reprinted from The Chronicle of Mt. Juliet, May 7, 2003)
From April 11-19, 2003, Twenty-four members from the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ traveled to El Salvador to carry out a medical mission and evangelist effort. The city of Usulutan was chosen as the location of the mission effort. Usulutan is a two hour drive east from the capital of San Salvador. Usulutan is a significant city in the region, being the regional capital and is slightly larger than Lebanon, TN.
Local patients were able access a full medical clinic offering free medical care. They were able to see a doctor, get prescription medicine, have teeth extractions by a dentist, and get treatment for head lice. The medical clinic was set up at a walled school, where the team lived for 6 days of the trip. The campaign was successfully with 2,318 patients being aided by a physician, 233 dental patients involving 354 extractions and 158 head scrubs. Also, health aids such as soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and shampoo were distributed to several hundred families.
The evangelistic campaign was also very successful with the establishment of a new congregation with 22 new converts. All religious services were well attended including 395 in the daytime children classes, 477 in the nighttime children classes, and 225 in the teenage class.
Former Mt. Juliet resident, Bill Staggs, served as the team’s lone pharmacist. Staggs was kept busy through the trip, filling a total of 7,550 prescriptions during the trip. Staggs reported that many of the aliments were for infections of the throat, lung and skin. Insomnia and high blood pressure were also problematic.
The team had one emergency incident when a 10 year old boy, came to the clinic with a large cut on his hand. The boy had cut himself after playing with a machete. The boy’s cut required several stitches, but was given a clean bill of health before being released.
Team member Heather Walker commented on the best time of the trip: “When you give something to someone and they look you in the eye or hug you. That’s when you know you’re doing something worth being there. That’s when you realize you don’t want to leave.” Walker served primarily as a health aid distributor during the trip.
Terry Burton, who helped in the mission’s dental clinic said, “The worst part was when the children came up [to the dentist] and were scared. They had never been to a dentist before.” However, Burton also stated the best part was when the tooth extraction was all over and each child received a toy.”
Mt. Juliet Church of Christ has been sending a team to Latin America annually for several years. Panama has been the focus of past mission trips. This changed after a devastating earthquake in El Salvador in 2001. It is anticipated that a group from the Mt. Juliet Church of Christ will be participating in similar missions to the area for the next several years.