The fear of the unknown can keep one from stepping out beyond what is comfortable. On the other hand it also offers a challenge that may well be life changing not only for the person who takes a chance, but also in the lives of those who may be touched by such an act of faith.
Day One: Although my brother is not traveling with me today to Panama to share in my first medical mission trip experience, I am still very excited! I am not sure what is ahead of me, but I am ready to face the challenge. I am fine until I get to Atlanta and realize that I am truly on my own. There is a multitude of people sporting the bright red t-shirts we are asked to wear so we can be easily identified. Seems that a lot of people are traveling together and friendships already exist. I try not to let this bother me, but I feel a little anxious about not knowing anyone. This does not last as I am befriended by two other travelers and quickly begin to feel at ease. The flight is good, but I am pretty tired upon arrival. It takes a while to get us all rounded up and together for our first mini meeting at the hotel. I get my room key and head to the room for a quick shower and what I hope is a good night’s rest. Not tonight!
Day Two: Up at 5:00AM and on the bus for an hour ride to the village and gymnasium, which will serve as the site of the clinic for the week. Breakfast is served and then we have a morning devo and another meeting. “Drink plenty of water, don’t drink THE water and sanitize your hands often!” I hope I don’t get the virus or get dehydrated! Beginning to meet more people, getting more comfortable, it is VERY hot, I wish I spoke Spanish!
I am assigned to the Optometry team. After a crash course in taking someone’s prescription and finding the right pair of glasses we begin to serve those in the community. It is a great feeling to find the right pair of glasses for someone and have them smile at you! You know that they can see and it is a good feeling. I feel like I am making a difference!
The day is long and after the clinic closes we have supper. At 6:30PM worship begins and I am surprised to find that it is all in Spanish. It is hard to focus and pay attention when you have no clue what is being said. I do my best to stay awake, but must confess that I am anxious to take a shower and get some sleep. I slept better tonight!
Day Three: Still having a hard time adjusting and not sure I am cut out for this. I pray that I can get out of myself and do what I came to do. I am not the only one who is tired and hot. The people are gracious and thankful for the assistance. It is a good day! The rain has cooled things off a bit and the breeze is a nice addition. The bats are flying tonight. They must be drawn to the sound of the singing. Still a bit tired, but am trying to drink more water and that is making a big difference.
Day Four - Seven: Wow! I really should have been writing more. Each day has gotten better. Still not easy, but a change of attitude can make all the difference. If I had been asked after the first two days if I would come back, I would have said that I don’t think I am cut out for this. Now, I feel differently. It has been a great week! I have made a lot of friends, learned a lot about myself and truly have more of an appreciation for the simple things I take for granted. The week brought the following:
- 1805 patients seen
- 6734 prescriptions filled
- 413 heads scrubbed for lice
- 1102 patients seen by the dentists
- 563 teeth extracted
- 1149 optometry patients seen
- 970 pairs of glasses dispensed
- 966 total in evening worship services
- 1 restoration
- 65 baptisms
Day Eight: The clinic closed yesterday and we got to sleep in a little later today. I am thankful for this and looking forward to seeing the Children’s home this morning. We will tour the Panama Canal later and then back to the hotel. Our team dinner is tonight and then we travel home tomorrow.
Reflection: I have been home a week now and can honestly say that there are many things I miss about my time in Panama. I appreciate the humble and thankful nature of the native people I met. Their appreciation of the simplest of things touched me. Their desire to know God and learn about Him was encouraging. I appreciate the people who where great examples of what it is to serve others. I appreciate those who took the time to get to know me and make me feel welcome while traveling on my own. I miss the friends I made and the time I spent getting to know them. I hope our paths will cross again in the future.
I hope to have more photos posted soon. Please e-mail me if you have any questions or want to know more about my trip.
Have a blessed day!