The previous update I mentioned that I had become ill in the mountains and halfway through the return hike I had to ride a pack-mule back out. I want to thank a number of friends for their emails of empathy as they told me there’s gotta be a joke about an ass in there somewhere. :>)
Actually, when we got back I was feeling so depleted I had some lab work done and discovered I contracted a stomach bacteria, H. pylori. It’s common in Third World countries and often asymptomatic. Unfortunately, mine was fully symptomatic--the “just shoot me” strain. I’m on 3 meds for 3 months to counter it. I’m already feeling exponentially better and doing well.
A team from PA has come down and we’ve accomplished several important objectives this past week. We have begun building a house in an area called “The Invasion” on the outskirts of La Esperanza, about a thirty minute drive. My understanding is that 7-8 years ago this area was flooded and a number of people lost everything. There is no government infrastructure here; if a disaster hits this area you’re basically your own. If you are fortunate enough to have resources and a network of people around you, you can rebuild. If you are poor, which the majority are, you rebuild with nothing. These families basically “squatted” on a little parcel of land and scavenged around looking for anything that would help to form a wall. They’d find a single rough piece of scrap lumber, a square of sheet metal, plastic sheeting, anything they could gather and they put up these shacks in order to survive, initially. Sadly, these families had little or nothing before the flood and their status hasn’t changed and so they have lived in these houses of sticks all these years. No floors, no electricity, no running water for many. They cook over a fire in their “kitchen” and the interior of the shack is coated in black soot due to the smoke filling the living area. I have no idea what respiratory problems will develop in these children.
One of Mercy International’s driving purposes is to build houses for people who reside in The Invasion. This week we began another house. We dug a 20 ft. x 24 ft. perimeter trench and constructed a foundation and then poured a concrete floor two days ago. We also constructed trusses upon which the roof will go. The walls have gone up, and we should have the house finished in a couple days. I am getting to know the family. The mother, Maria, has four children living with her. Her 16 year old daughter, Kenya, has a one year old boy, as well. The first day we showed up on the site, I was trying to get to know Maria, and I asked if I could see her house of sticks. She took me inside and then pointed to her knees. She explained that because the shack is on low ground the back half of their living quarters will be covered with water up to her knees. You can imagine how excited she is at the prospect of a house (which we elevated) made of concrete block that will protect her family and last for generations.
We also held a medical clinic in neighboring village yesterday. A local doctor and a dentist donated their time to provide medical care and we assisted them. Hair was de-liced and washed, antibiotics and varying meds supplied, and teeth were extracted. A very primitive setting—an open air structure. Scrawny dogs wandering in and out. I chose to assist the dentist and, at times, had to do some deep-breathing to maintain a standing position. A school chair was used for the patient to sit in, and a Hefty trash bag draped over the back of the chair for the person to spit in after their tooth was extracted. I served to shine a flashlight into the patient’s mouth so the dentist could see wherein the pain was located. Upon successfully pulling a person’s tooth she had me then clean her instruments in some solution, dry them with a towel, and proceed to the next awaiting patient.
My wife, Leslie, worked the “pharmacy,” meds donated by people in the States. Everyone who filed through the clinic needed and received meds.
After an individual or a family received treatment several team members would then pray for them, after which the children were given clothes, flip-flops, and a beanie-baby to cuddle.
Everyone waiting in line in the hot sun was patient, humbly waiting their turn throughout the day. One of the team members commented, “I came down here to give to these who have so little; I feel like they have given me more than I have provided them.”
It’s true. Though poor and often destitute, they have a gracious and kind spirit that is rare in affluent America. May we, indeed, learn and receive from them.
Be thankful for what and who you have.
Grace and peace to you.