For the record, I’m a homebody. Which is weird because I’m an extrovert so people expect me to enjoy road trips and party with the stars. But the truth of the matter is road trips stress me out and I don’t know any celebrities. So it stands to reason that the Lord would bring the perfect match of a man into my life almost 24 years ago and this man would be a world traveler. Mark was born and raised in Argentina, attended high school in Paraguay and spent time in Africa performing mission work. The icing on the cake is that he’s an expert packer of suitcases and mini-vans. Me? I like to throw things in Target bags and hope for the best. I’m a homebody, but I’m an optimistic packer. The nice TSA people know this.
Several months ago, we were invited to go to Jamaica (Yes! This beautiful tropical island has medical needs!) to help in a clinic where Mark had previously worked. Because our children are older we decided to take the whole family and I will say that any trepidation I had before the trip was completely unnecessary and unfounded. In case you are interested, here are some pictures and highlights of our trip. Please feel free to ask questions and/or comment if you feel led.
The MorningStar Mountain Clinic and Ministry Center was located in St. Elizabeth parish Jamaica near Santa Cruz. We stayed with an American nurse who has poured her heart into building and maintaining this clinic for the people who live on the mountain. There is healthcare, good medicine and people being the hands and feet of Jesus because this clinic is there.
A Family Practice physician from our home area compiled a list of medications that would be needed at the clinic. We took a large check-in bag filled with all the medicines to stock the tiny pharmacy. The really, really tiny, adorable pharmacy. Nurse Karen is quite proud of her tiny pharmacy!
The beauty of this trip was that our whole family got involved. On other trips only Mark traveled because there was nothing for the rest of us to do, or our little ones were just too little. But this time we all jumped in and helped. Our oldest son is 18 and is headed off to college soon and thinking about studying medicine. In Jamaica he was able to work alongside his dad performing patient assessments. Nathan took blood pressures, tested blood sugars and wrote down chief complaints. And all his training was done on-site by a professional.
Unlike here in the States there is no EMR in Jamaica (can I get a hallelujah?!) Mark was able to keep paper records, spend as much time as he wanted with each patient (and no one complained if they had to wait!) and he still saw 30 patients a day. And he was done by 2:30. Seriously.
There were 2 days of clinic work where the patients either came by taxi or walked for many, many miles up the mountain. Once a patient was seen by the physician they were given the opportunity to have someone (me) pray with them if they desired. Or, they could have their prescription filled at the clinic pharmacy. Then the patients just waited outside on metal folding chairs until they could get a taxi back to town or until they decided to just mosey back home. There was sweet sense of comminuty as I watched children play and patients wait to either be seen by Dr. Mark or get their prescription filled. Sometimes there was laughter and singing and just a precious feeling that there was no rush to get anywhere, to do anything or to accomplish a task. Being with those around you and loving on the sick was more important than anything. I saw it. Our children saw it and it changed us for the better.
Our last full day at MorningStar Mountain Clinic and Ministry Center brought a full day for our whole family. Even our younger 2 children, who may not have been able to work at the clinic in a medical capacity, were able to plug in on Saturday as Nurse Karen hosted almost 40 community children for a day of activities, Bible study, lunch and treats. We found out that we should’ve brought more bubbles. Many, many more bubbles. And maybe more chalk, but we had so much fun just playing and loving and hugging on those sweet precious children, many of whom come from very unpleasant home environments.
But there was fun and laughter and love that day. We tried to show them love like Jesus would. But, we used bubbles and ice cream. Sticky, sticky love.
And there was soccer (they call it football in Jamaica). Lots and lots of football. Because we were on the side of a mountain the best place to play football was, obviously, on the roof of the clinic. So that’s what our boys did with the Jamaican boys. For hours and hours they played. You would’ve thought these boys had know each other for years instead of just having met, but athletics can cross barriers of language and culture if we let it. Watching those kiddos kick that ball and play and laugh just blessed us. They were a huge mess of sweaty, laughing, stinky, hungry teen-aged boys and it was so fun to watch it all unfold.
Our family wants to go back and serve in Jamaica and I’m not just saying that because I’m looking at 6″ of snow on the ground today. Lives were changed and not just ours. We saw healing take place, hearts changed and souls fed. The Jamaican people are thankful for what they have even if it’s very little so it’s hard not to come away changed and blessed. Funny, we went to bless and we were the ones blessed. Didn’t see that coming.
Do you think about serving? Do you serve? How do you incorporate a family in service? Is medical missions something your family wants to do, but you aren’t sure how it will look with a family? It’s not impossible! We are bonded as a family when we serve together.