Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Word from The Dominican Republic

Scripture for this day includes Zechariah 9:9-12, Romans 7:15-25a, and Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Our medical missioners in The Dominican Republic have called home. Laurie Glover phoned Madeline on Thursday. “We have no electricity where we’re staying, but there’s a cell signal,” she reported, using it.

The dorm they’re staying in has “a rustic pool”, make of that what you will. It’s hot, so even a rustic pool probably invites use. Adrienne, Bart, Laurie, and Peter are working directly in the surgical clinic. The kids (Andrea, Keith, John, Chris, Nate, and Cleo) are doing great. Maureen is holding down the pharmacy. The van is running well. And all those supplies we provided, and that our missioners lugged with them, all six hundred pounds or more, have been a real blessing, piece by piece, Laurie says.

So they have begun week two, and we keep them in our prayers and look forward to their return next weekend.

They represent so much that’s good and right about this nation, whose 232nd birthday we’ve celebrated this weekend. Our missioners, and vicariously our modest part in supporting them, is one of myriad ways that Americans share resources and use personal freedom to build bridges of caring and relationship and service with people of other cultures around the globe.

In our first summer forum last Sunday, Sue O’Riley and Molly Mackin spoke about the visit they and their colleagues will make this summer to Guatemala, one of many mission trips made under the banner of the Rural Literacy Project that Sue founded, bringing books and libraries to smaller towns in several Latin American countries. They’ve been doing this long enough to have encountered a certain failure: not all the small satellite libraries set up in past visits have survived. It sounds as if local support that was promised to maintain the books in good working order has fallen through, in some places.

In the forum, we heard how Sue and her volunteers are learning to understand this. They’ve consulted experts in the field, and are learning to travel lighter. They’re putting aside their old agenda of creating libraries, and investing themselves in building relationships that will in time help the Literacy Project fine-tune its efforts by teaching them what the people in these small towns want and need. Sue and Molly spoke of this as if it meant a shedding of their American insistence on achieving measurable results, and a letting-go of their American assumption that books and libraries are so valuable that they ought to be everywhere, the more the better.

So these volunteers do something like, but also unlike, what our missioners do. Sue and Molly and their team will live with families and find a variety of ways to spend time getting acquainted with villagers, especially children and teenagers, including finding ways to read with them, supporting them in basic kinds of reading that may help them stay in school, not leave prematurely.

By contrast, our volunteers have to hit the ground running. The organization that runs the clinics, Medical Ministry International, has the structure in place for teams of volunteers to move in and get right to work, each person taking a specific task, a cog in the system that moves lots of underserved people through medical and dental clinics that may be the only form of health care that these people have. The clinics aren’t equipped to handle all needs, but in the dental clinics many fillings, extractions, and fluoride treatments are performed, and in the surgical clinics hernias are repaired and tubal ligations performed, alongside countless other operations. Onsite pharmacies dispense needed prescriptions.

If you visit the MMI website, http://www.mmint.org/, you’ll find a quick overview with lots of streaming photos.

You’ll see that their mission is to serve Jesus Christ by providing spiritual and physical health care in this world of need. Their vision is to care annually for one hundred million of the world’s needy by the year 2050. Their strategy is a commitment to meet the need for medical care among the world’s poor with lasting solutions through excellence in medicine, patient care, and health education, by mobilizing volunteers on one and two-week medical projects and by establishing and equipping permanent medical centers.

You may recall that last summer MMI asked St. John’s to send a team to Bolivia to help open a new clinic there. We’ve got a reputation for sending hard workers.

They too experience the people and the culture, though at a different pace. Both kinds of mission trips bless all the participants involved. Both kinds give a positive introduction of Americans to the world, and of the world to Americans. Both kinds are examples of what’s good about this nation whose people are willing to serve and to learn, to leave their comfort zones and dare attempt what it takes to help the Creator God call forth a new heaven and a new earth, to help God the Holy Spirit restore prisoners of hope, and to help Jesus Christ receive the weary and give them rest.