Friday, February 26, 2010

Remembering a great mission week

I'm packing my suitcase to go back to Seattle for three weeks, a combination of work, community meetings, and vacation time. Seems like a good time to unpack a few of the photos (by mission photo-journalist Jane Kortz, an Associate of the Sisters of St Joseph of Peace) and memories from our week in San Juan Opico.

Our group numbered 29 in the beginning and included seven M.D.s, three optometrists, an optician, a 4th year medical student, a few nurses, a bunch of interpreters, and a great group of "I'll fit in anywhere" volunteers, mostly from PeaceHealth. Sadly Dr. Betsy McDowell, one of our optometrists, was called home with a family emergency in midweek, but the rest of us stayed in good health and good spirits throughout the week.

We were all grateful to Gabina Duvon de Garcia, also known as Dina, a Social Worker with the Archidiocese of San Salvador's Pastoral de Salud program. Dina, who has been working for about 18 years with the people of San Juan Opico connected us to the Promotores de Salud (health promoters) who organized the selection of patients, registered everyone, kept the lines organized, and made our work easy. This group of volunteers even included a couple of extraordinary singers, Doña Chita and Doña Carmen, who belt out ballads like pros. They created some special songs for us - much better than our attempt at "De Colores"!

We will never forget the patients who came to us. Some carried lives filled with sorrow, like the woman who wept inconsolably when told that nothing could be done to relieve her blindness. Others were full of joy as they received their glasses and prescriptions. The photos here tell the stories of a little girl who was so scared of being examined by the doctor that she clung to Kathy Garcia through the whole procedure; of a beautiful 100 year old man who was carrying a heavy bag of tools on his back, his working tools; of a woman who showed up on Monday with an enormous abcess on one side of her throat, endured having it lanced and drained, and came back twice for further treatment, finally bringing with her a thank-you of enough fruit to feed us all.

Indeed, we have all been well fed at San Juan Opico - in body and in spirit. As usual, we are the ones who were ministered to, as we learned to weep and rejoice with the beautiful people of San Juan Opico.

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