The team that is tasked with performing hernia repairs arrived safe and sound at the airport on Thursday and were greeted by a local nurse, Lupe Ack and sat down to enjoy an authentic Belizean Meal and a cold drink outside. Dr. Fry, was a bit delayed and had to fly through Chicago to reach Belize late at night at 8 PM. The sundown is 6 PM here, so arriving after 6 PM means a long dark ride 80 miles up to Corozal. But, one of our team was sure to meet her in person and after a good nights sleep, everyone was ready to go.
The undercurrent of the Belize culture is a politeness that sets such a different tempo than Americans are used experiencing in the US. At the airport, even when you are parked illegally, the notice on the car starts with a polite “kindly note.” Can you imagine that in the US? And when many extra patients showed up Friday, beyond those who had arranged in advance to be seen by the hernia team, they all had to be seen in order. There were 70 waiting. We could only do perhaps twenty cases, but the idea of telling people it was not an open clinic was too rude. We had to just process through people in the order they arrived. Some stayed all night or got there at 5:30 AM. And, when it was just not possible to see and schedule any more, they were promised to be given priority when the next visiting team comes in April. Each greeting starts with “good morning,” or “dias,” or “good afternoon,” or “tardes,” and the one we have the most struggle with is “good night,” or “noches.” This “good night,” is said with punctuation as if saying “goodbye.” It always is a bit confusing, until your mind catches up to the idea that this is a greeting here to start a conversation after sundown, not the final ending.
The team had breakfast at 6:45 AM Friday and spent some time getting to know each other. Two new nurses from Greensboro, a nurse from Chicago, a nurse from Denver, a Dr. of Anesthesia and her son from Cincinnati on the first trip with the team, and several veteran nurses from Cincinnati area who have come multiple times. Dr. Jay Logeman explained that his first trip was to serve as a doctor for a team of youth back in 2001. Then he was allowed to bring a team of 23 from Horizon Community Church in 2004. Now that effort has grown to multiple church teams resulting this year alone in over 130 volunteers performing mostly medicine for a week in Belize;surgery for three weeks, 12 villages receiving medical evaluations on thousands altogether, dental and construction teams.All grew from the 23 team members in 2004. Jay explained that our goal is not to heal everyone, but to represent Christ one person at a time, and help who we can safely help. Our work is not to perform surgeries as much as to be partners and friends to those we get to interact with in Belize. John Kirby explained that wherever we are in our personal faith, the people in Belize see us at a group of Christians from the USA. This was put to the test almost immediately. As the team arrived at the Corozal Community Hospital to see patients, they walked back to the surgical area to assess their surgical space. Walking down a hallway past an open patient ward, a woman approached and asked for prayers for an elderly man who was taking his last breaths. The team circled the man in his bed and prayed for him and the five family members who were saying a quiet, tearful good bye as he labored to breath. It was an honor to speak God’s word to him that God was waiting as the good shepherd who knew all his sheep and called each sheep by name (John’s Gospel chapter 10). Speaking these words of scripture to comfort him and we prayed that he would sense the release from his family to leave them now. The family was so appreciative to have a last prayer from a visiting pastor and team members. We went on to the surgery area and later heard the man died less than an hour later. Some of our team were back to give the family some somber hugs. It was proof that we are here not to fix hernias, but to share love where we can.
Thirty six students showed up to enjoy dinner with us as planned on Friday night.These students come from one of the most remote regions of Belize. They are sponsored financially by some of our community back home, so that they can go beyond the mandated sixth grade to high school. It takes them two hours to reach the stores in Corozal city anytime they need to come. This is after crossing two hand cranked ferries and traveling many miles on dusty and bumpy back roads. The students looked like any student at an upscale mall in the US and while very shy, were able to engage with our team members as we sat in their midst. We had prepared bags with our theme logo including some school supply items for each of them. We had expected 20 students last week, and soon realized we had 38 students coming. We made only 35 bags and filled them with items we had brought and also by purchasing some supplement at a local school store. As the bags were handed out, each student got one, with none left. The perfect number of bags. We explained that these bags represented our prayers for them and that our theme was fxing our eyes on Christ to run our race, from Hebrews chapter 11. After dinner, the kids played drums for us from a marching band group of four and they all recited a special poem to thank those back home who support them at $350 US to keep them in high school. Matt was very popular as a tall basketball player closer to their age and so was Jenn who played the base drum and took lessons from them on the drum.
Over 20 hernia repair cases are scheduled at a rate of five per day starting Saturday. Upon reaching the hospital this morning, the instruments needed to be sterilized again, because the plastic cases were left too long and melted.The first surgery is starting at 10:30 AM.Thanks for praying for the team.