Chiapas 2014 Final Thoughts
On February 20th, the remaining six members of our team-Helen, Lia, Thalia, Aaron, Bob and I arrived back in Minnesota. Another Minnesota blizzard delayed our return home from the extended trip, forcing us to spend an unintended extra night in Minneapolis. Thanks to some quick phone calls, Helen was able to find us a nearby hotel so we could “wait out the storm”.
The next day-February 21, we made our final journey back to our homes/workplaces. Bob and Aaron bravely (and safely) drove us home from Minneapolis as they fearlessly tackled the ice and snow packed highways, the drifting snow and sometimes difficultly visibility. We were grateful for their skillful driving abilities.
The Chiapas team of 2014 was certainly successful and memorable. After returning home, I soon missed the clinic days of Chiapas Mexico and the team that quickly became a family that laughed together, prayed together, worked hard together, and sometimes cried together. A van full of eager volunteers chattering on our way to our next clinic was replaced with the eerily quite ride alone to the Wells and Winnebago clinics. The beautiful sights of the Chiapas hillsides, valleys and rivers, the villages, the markets and colorful tiendas were replaced with the chill of a Minnesota’s winter wind; snow covered highways, and the challenges of winter driving in Minnesota.
I still ponder and marvel at the work our team accomplished: how quickly we were able to get a clinic set up and running, the efficiency of our pharmacy team (Helen and Kyle), the tireless work of the interpreters (Lia, Thalia, Curtis and Val), the patience of our nurses (Colette and Sherry) who dealt with long lines of patients waiting to be seen, and the passionate care of our providers (Dr. Bob, Dr. Aaron and Dr. Don) as they affectionately cared for the person in front of them without the luxury of fancy x-ray’s, scans and lab work.
My thoughts still drift back to the memories of the people we served, the gratitude of the people we helped, the volunteers of the villages that helped our team and their people, the nuns who so caringly prepared some of our meals, and the beauty of a country and it’s people.
Yes- poverty, the illnesses related to poverty and the struggles’ of the people of Chiapas surrounded us daily and filled our hearts with sorrow and sadness. However, I believe everyone on this team found joy in caring for the people of Chiapas, felt privileged to have the opportunity to be a part of MDP, and selflessly shared their talents and time to care for God’s children.
We were humbled by the gratitude, patience, faith and devotion to family demonstrated daily by the people we served-the people of Chiapas.
Our lives are forever changed by the people we meet, the things we do, the places we go and the experiences we have.
I thank God for a safe and successful trip, for the financial supporters of MDP and for our family and friends who kept us in their prayers while we were gone.
I very grateful for each member of this team: the new friends, the reunion of old friends and the opportunity to work with my hometown friends/co-workers. I miss you dearly.
And lastly, I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work with MDP and serve side by side with our co-leader, Lia.
Lia spends endless hours in the months prior to our trip making arrangements for transportation, reservations for our team, coordinating the volunteers in Chiapas and setting up clinic dates for our mission in Chiapas. Lia’s passion for the people of Chiapas, her enthusiasm, her energy and her determination are so admirable. You are inspirational!
Thank-you Team Chiapas 2014! You have made a difference in the lives of many people in Chiapas… and you have touched my heart in so many ways!
God Bless, Nancy
As the first part of the 2014 Chiapas Team headed home, we left a part of our heart in Mexico. Not only were we leaving half of our team to go on for more clinics near Comitan, but we were leaving many wonderful people of another culture and country. We met, ate, cared for, and talked with a few old friends and many new acquaintances. Many of these people will live in our hearts forever. They have promised to pray for us and although many of us will keep them in our prayers, like me I forget to tell them that as I leave their village. We have lived daily with them and their lack of worldly goods, but we have also witnessed their joy and deep abiding faith in their god and the care and compassion they have for family and community. Most villages are a community of very private people and we have felt honored and blessed to share their joys, concerns and emotions and to become a part of their life.
The re-entry into our normal daily life is not always an easy one. Our trip home brought forth the great difference of time and rushing through life that we experience at home but is not normally experienced during our trip. We had mechanical difficulties in Mexico City which made it impossible to catch our flight out of Atlanta. As we raced through customs, the airport from one gate to the next and then on to another one just to see if we would be allowed on a flight, I thought, “Why do we do this?” I know each one of us had a reason to get home: jobs, meetings, family, and of course getting ahead of the weather. That night as I sat in the airport with several of our remaining teammates, I thought now is the time to reflect and remember what the trip was really all about. We travelled to Chiapas to learn, to heal, to minister, to pray, to touch lives and have our lives touched and be changed forever. I forgot about the past week as I raced from one end of the airport to the other and was glad to have the chance to slow down and remember the peace, joy, contentment and love I experienced with the wonderful people in Chiapas. We are all happy to be back in our comfortable homes, but a piece of our heart was left behind.
Greetings from San Cristobal. We returned tonight after completing a very interesting and amazing exploratory trip to the Comitan area of Chiapas. Working with Father Miguel Palumbo and Sister Marisela Uribe we traveled a little over 3 hours from San Cristobal into an area which has been greatly underserved. They have been requesting that we come for the past three years and we are sure glad that we were finally able to.
We traveled through perhaps the most beautiful scenery yet which we have seen in Mexico. The many beautiful shades of green grass and forested mountain areas brought breathtaking views at every turn. We set up our clinic in Playa Azul, a small village in the mountains of about 2000 people. This is tucked in an area which Father and Sister serve with a population of 30,000 people all of which are small mountain towns invisible as you drive along the mountain highways. This area is far in the south of Mexico - almost into Guatemala.
During our two and a half day clinic 26 villages brought people in to see our doctors. We saw 197 people with just 2 doctors, so as you might imagine we all worked very hard but were so happy to serve them. Their gratitude, respect and kindness at every turn was heartwarming. It is late as I write this. We are leaving early in the morning. We will share more of our experience in the next blog.
- Helen Peterson & team
Last night we had our final team gathering in the upstairs lobby of our hotel. We shared our stretch and and our treasure. Some shared personal stories of a child they helped, an interesting 85 year old woman who said that it was a good thing she took care of herself because her children didn't, and many more. We shared how we had all worked together so well as a team and how it was nice to have mother and son (Colette and Kyle), a doctor and his nurse who had worked together for so many years being re-united in work (Don and Sherry), a sort of like mother daughter duo (Nancy and Val), the value of feeling re-invigorated through service and so much more. It was a heartwarming time.
This morning at 5 a.m. half of the team left left to return to their families Sherry, Don, Val, Kyle, Colette and Curtis headed off to the airport for a long day of travel. We will be leaving soon for Comitan. That is - Bob, Thalia, Aaron, Lia, Nancy and me. We have been asked by a community in need to serve them. Before taking a full team we will explore the area and run some smaller clinics. I am not sure if there will be internet or phone service there so we will share more when it is possible. Please know that we are all well and ready for the second part of the trip.
Thanks for your support and care.
-Helen Peterson and the team
We finished our last full team day of clinics today in a village called San Antonio Los Baños. It was a shorter drive for us- perhaps a half hour. The name does not mean bathroom as many might think - but rather speaks of a spring or well near the town. More on that later.
This is a new village for MDP. We felt very blessed to be in such a beautiful spot. With soaring mountains and a deep blue sky, the sun kissed, warm day was a wonderful experience for the team. We worked at a little slower pace as the numbers of people were not as large. But many families had multiple needs and the doctors and interpreters worked hard to help them. Once again we were warmly received. Aaron and Curtis saw a 100 year old woman who actually had a very good blood pressure. They were able to help her with some painful arthritis issues. We could see how much families love each other. Big brothers and sisters helped their moms and again it was a very good day for MDP. Working in the pharmacy affords the opportunity to watch the nurses greet the people and do their intake work. We can see and listen to the doctors and interpreters as they listen and care for the people. And it is surely a blessing to be in their midst.
We saw 79 patients today. Combined with the 128 yesterday as well as the previous 552 we ended up with 759 total. We are grateful for the efforts of every team member. Without everyone it would not be possible. After the clinic was over, we hiked up to see the springs for which the town was named. It was a steep hike but really interesting. The town folk told us about the legend involving a young woman who was crying because she had to walk so far for water. A mysterious woman appeared and showed her this spring to get fresh water. It is considered to be a holy place. We enjoyed seeing the village on our trek.
Tonight we have our team appreciation dinner. More later...
It is always an emotional experience to finish a day of clinic. I often have the feeling tha I want to do more. And, when the leaders of the community express their appreciation, I feel a sense of friendship formed between our team and the community. It was especially moving as we left yesterday from San Antonio las Banos. There finally came time after the clinic to get to know the community better - visiting the sacred well that gave this community its name with a half dozen people from the village. Having time to play around with a few kids and see them break out in laughter was so much fun!
One night at dinner, Thalia, Sherry and I met a couple from England. We explained to them what we were doing in the clinics. The husband asked what we were able to do. We talked about the many infections and pain we can alleviate as well as helping people understand the chronic conditions they were suffering. The husband seemed satisfied with the answer, but his question stuck with me. I kept thinking about that.
Coincidentally, I saw the same English couple at a different restaurant the next night. After some small talk, I followed up on his question. I explained that I understand that what we do is one drop in the ocean but the point is to focus on the individual. While we may not be able to change the underlying circumstances that perpetuate poverty and lack of health care, what is the value of teating a family with three kids visibly sick from chronic infection; or a girl with a foot infection who may have gone septic without an antibiotic injection; or helping to encourage a woman with a life-threatening blood clot to get to the hospital or relieving the pain in a workers knee with a cortizone injection? Chiapas may not have changed visibly while we were here, but almost 800 people with their own worries, hopes, joys and burdens were healed or are on their way to better health care. Perhaps most important, a connection was made between the human beings. A small connection to more peace, solidarity and goodwill changing people and mankind.
- Curtis Brown
Lia Price - Team Co-Leader and Interpreter