by Curtis Brown
“I appreciate the fact that you are here with us. That you remember us.”
As I flew home from a 12-day medical mission with Minnesota Doctors for People to the State of Chiapas in southern Mexico, I was taking notes in my journal on what I’d learned, people and things I wanted to remember and aspirations for how I wanted to be and act after the trip. I filled pages, but was not really satisfied with what I was writing.
The morning after my Monday evening return from Mexico, I was taking my son Max to school. In the car, he was watching the video I took of the closing comments of one community leader in Playa Azul where we had held two days of clinic. When I heard the leader on the video say again: “I appreciate the fact that you are here with us. That you remember us;” I suddenly realized the purpose of our mission for me: memory.
The purpose is to remember people and circumstances and what we shared together, to form a memory and to not forget. First, there is the basic human need to want to be remembered and not forgotten. Also, we are to be reminded of the fact that everything – everything – including the most dire living circumstance or the most comfortable hotel bed, the malnourished patient and the delicious meal, the patient whose illness will soon claim her life and the young girl whose life will be saved because of medical treatment, sobs from depression and raucous laughter – everything is to be taken seriously and given meaning in the context of the most cherished memory which is the memory of the knowledge, the certain feeling that God’s gaze is on me. Without that memory, suffering is a tragedy, poverty is intolerable, illness is totally incurable, and death is final and unredeemable.
I understand why I wanted to consciously remember faces, to remember what people said. I wanted to remember their hugs before leaving clinic or their relief at learning a diagnosis. It was important to me to not forget their stories of walking to the clinic, of coffee harvests lost to a coffee tree plague, of not having money to go to a follow-up appointment or buy medicine. To remember their casual and sincere references to God’s presence in their life: “I can’t see well when I try to read the holy Word of God;” or “I want to thank the Blessed Virgin and thank God for your help;” or all of the phrases that translate to some variation on “God willing…”
Our task is to not forget. The Italian priest Father Luigi Giussani said: “Memory is the spiritual organ that sees in things their real nature. Memory is an event that happens now.”
The November 2017 Chiapas trip is not a time-bound event that began on November 2 and ended on November 13. The memory of the people, of the experience, is there for us if we insist on not losing any piece of it. But it is not enough to simply remember specific, stand-out emotional moments. Rather, I need to step back and look at the full impact of the experience. I need to remember how I was first given the opportunity to participate. I need to remember those at home who made it possible to take the trip. Th experience also includes the way I felt sharing my gratitude with the rest of the team in the van at the end of a day of clinic and my eager anticipation to hear the reflections of others on the day.
This is the memory that allows me to see clearly the work of Providence in my life, which is the real nature of things. To see the involvement of Christ offering to me people and circumstances for my good. It is this memory that allows me to return to my work in a comfortable office in a prosperous suburb with a new perspective of humility and gratitude. It allows me to live with my family with a renewed appreciation.
The memory of the tenth medical mission of Minnesota Doctors for People in November 2017 is available now, to be recalled with gratitude and to allow me to see my present reality for the gift it is and allows me to live these circumstances with an intensity and awareness which is enhanced by the experience of the medical mission.
Remembering in this way, I can assure the community leader in Playa Azul that I do, in fact, remember them.
by Collette Meidinger
Friday was a busy day with over 80 patients who needed double interpretation. Imagine going to clinic with your uncle, cousin, two sisters and a grandparent, and all feeling sick with different problems. We had several families in this situation today. Thankfully they can be open about their problems in front of families, but it does take time to gather all this information as everyone has their own idea of what is really the problem.
We had clinic in the most awesome building. The people in this village had a great vision for their future. A beautiful modern church was built high on the side of the hill. Next to this church is a beautiful large two story clinic that would house multiple doctor offices, dental, pediatrics, surgery and multiple other services. Now it is being used for community health and visiting medical personnel. We were so blessed to work in such a private area for the good of our patients.
...and the day begins
Typical tools of the doctor's stations in clinics each day.
Our top notch pharmacy duo keeps the meds organized while facing a variety of settings during the week.
Providers at work.
A husband and wife amazed to be able to read their bible and sew with their new glasses.
May God bless all of you, the work you are doing, and the people you are serving this week in Mexico.
by Nancy Linder
November 4, 2017
Our first day of clinic was held in the village of Tierra Blanca. Within a few hours of getting our clinic day set up and going, it was obvious our team was eager to work and serve the people of Chiapas.
People from six different villages were seen in clinic today. A young father, his little daughter, elderly mother and brother came to clinic. It was a 2 hour walk to get here followed by a long wait in line waiting for the opportunity to be seen by one of our providers. Only his mother and daughter needed to be seen today. It was getting late in the afternoon and dusk was settling in.
In the village they live in, there is no access by car or truck to take them to the clinic. When the father and daughter were done with their consults, the father looked a little worried and concerned. I asked what was on his mind. He expressed a little fear and concern about having to walk another two hours back home with the only light coming from his brother’s small flashlight. It had been foggy all day with light rain off and on. I can’t imagine the type of slippery terrain and potential hazards they may encounter on their way home. Thalia opened her backpack to give each of them a small granola bar as she was sure they had not had lunch today and still had a two-hour walk home. This family was most certainly a sign that need here for medical care is great. Our day was filled with countless other stories of poverty, lack of resources and the challenges encountered in everyday life here.
A total of 104 patients were served today, thanks to the combined efforts of the local health coordinators, local volunteers and our MDP team.
by Nancy Linder
November 3, 2017
After breakfast, we gathered our supplies, picked up last minute medications needed for this mission, packed up the van with our faithful driver Vicente and we were off to the city of Comitan, the most southern part of Chiapas, Mexico, just a few miles from the Guatemala boarder.
We arrived at our hotel late in the afternoon and then spent the next several hours organizing medications and supplies in anticipation of our first big day of clinic.
The long ride down to Comitan displayed the some of the common sights of everyday life in here in Chiapas, such as the roaming /grazing of sheep and cattle, the open markets perfectly stacked with fresh fruit and homemade canned fruits, the pottery alongside of the road, the fields of corn and other crops, the mountains, the valleys and winding road, small simple houses with the laundry hanging on the fence, wood smoke from chimneys drifting into the air.
Amongst the beauty of God’s creation were the signs of poverty, disparity and the challenges of everyday living for many of the people living here.
by Nancy Linder
Nov 2, 2017
At 11:30 pm, our team members began leaving their homes, family and careers to begin the journey for the 10th MDP Medical Mission to Chiapas, Mexico. Our team departed early in the morning from the airports of Minneapolis, MN; Des Moines, IA and Peoria, IL, to meet up as a group in Atlanta and on to Tuxla, Mexico.
In Atlanta, old friendships of previous MDP mission trips were once again reunited and it was the beginning of new friendships sure to last a life time.
Meet the team:
Our “husband, wife, son” group: Dr. Aaron Johnson, Jenna Johnson, Pharmacy Technician and Joshua Johnson, Interpreter-Blue Earth, MN
Our Mother/Son Duo: Colette Meidinger-Lab tech/nursing- Winnebago, MN & Kyle Meidinger, Muscatine, IA-Pharmacy Technician.
Thalia Taylor, St Peter MN- Interpreter
Curtis Brown, Urbandale, IA- Interpreter
Dr. Andrew Bishop- Peoria, IL
Teresa Stevermer NP, Easton, MN
Sherry Bobich-Nurse, Chisholm, MN
Lia Price-Interpreter, Co-leader- Mankato, MN
Nancy Linder NP, Co-leader-Easton, MN
We had a long, tiring day of travel however there were no glitches in travel and a quick transition through customs.
This evening volunteer’s drivers from the church greeted us at the airport in Tuxla and we were off to the retreat center for a late night dinner and restful night.
Aaron Johnson, MD