As we reel from two strong aftershocks in the past 18 hours (6.8 and 6.9) following the earthquake that happened a month ago, I am even more glad for last week’s change of pace and scenery. Erik and I were asked a few months ago to translate for a “medical caravan” that was happening the second week of May. Obviously at that time we didn’t know about the natural disaster to come, and how it would consume our lives for several weeks following as we collaborated with our coworkers on relief and recovery efforts.
And although we didn’t necessarily put the earthquake out of our minds at all, we welcomed the change in rhythm that last week’s events brought. A team of 6 pediatric doctors from Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Chicago came to offer care for hundreds of children and even some mothers in the high mountain region of northern Ecuador. They were supporting the recently opened Emanuel Clinic in Cayambe, an exciting development born from the Santiago Partnership, a partner foundation started by our coworkers, the Delps. Anyway, Erik’s and my task for the week was to offer our language skills as translators for these doctors as they set up mobile clinics in rural churches and after-school centers.
It was a busy few days, seeing child after child who came in with various injuries and ailments. I learned much more about basic health issues and preventative care just by observing and interpreting for these mini patients. I especially enjoyed that they were children and that we could speak simply with them about their nutrition, hygiene, and emotional/mental health. That’s not to say everything was simple. Some kids had very complicated medical issues, or some had simple medical issues that couldn’t be easily resolved due to complicated living situations. Many of these families have little to no extra resources to put towards healthcare, medicine, or even simple things like toothbrushes. Many of the doctors had never been to Ecuador before and had their eyes open to the unfortunate realities some of these children face. It was difficult for them to know how best to treat certain issues without proper resources. However, they all offered very excellent, gracious and thorough care. Each child was respected, listened to, and we did our best to provide even small things to help their day to day lives. Everyone was given vitamins, antiparasitic medication and a toothbrush, since those were almost universal needs. I really enjoyed getting to know the doctors, learning from them, and interacting with the kids. It was hard work and we were exhausted every night, but it was a great experience and nice change of pace.
We even got a change of scenery by packing up and staying with the group for the week in the Cayambe area, and enjoyed riding the private bus every day without worrying about driving or directions. On one morning we even got to tag along on the cultural outing to the Otavalo market which we don’t get to do very often! Although this is not our main ministry goal here in Ecuador, I will not turn down another chance to participate in something like this again someday to stretch new muscles, learn about other ministries, and gain a bigger perspective on God’s Kingdom here in Ecuador!