Welcome to this week's guest blogger, Dr. Bill Karkow! Dr. Bill serves on the Fishers of Men Board of Directors and has participated on numerous Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades in his area of specialty, surgery. From June 9-14, Dr. Bill accompanied the Fishers of Men team to the state of Michoacan to serve the Lord. Here's his story!
On June 8, 2014, Fishers of Men set out on another medical brigade. This time was my 5th as a surgical team member, but the first for Dr. Thomas Miner – family practitioner from Dyersville, Iowa, for my student Mia Carnes from the University of Dubuque, and for my daughter Katie – a pre-med student at Iowa State University and her cousin Ashley Ambroson. Now, the first rule I learned for short-term missionaries is, “Be flexible”. True to form, FOM changed its destination to a small town near Morelia, the capital of the state of Michoacan, with one week’s notice, due to communication and support problems that arose with the original plan to go to another city.
|Local townsfolk lined up waiting for the crusade to begin as Vero and her helper (in orange shirts, lower right hand corner) begin registering them.|
Rising at 5 AM, we drove for 7 hours to arrive in the early afternoon at a small church, outside which people were already gathering. By the time we had set up various stations to see people, there was a line of roughly 20 prospective patients waiting to see us. So, by the time surgical instruments had been sterilized, my first patient was ready to be seen, and I began the first of two operations that afternoon. Mia served as my first surgical assistant, having had the most preparation as part of a course in surgical assistance. She was very interested in coming because her father is a Mexican immigrant who has run a successful restaurant in Illinois for many years. But, Mia had never been to her father’s home country, and, in fact, had learned Spanish, not from her parents, but in school, like the immigrant children of old, who made every effort to adapt to their new surroundings.
|Dr. Bill and the surgical team: (left to right) Angie as translator, Mia, Dr. Bill, Katie and Ashley.|
With Katie and Ashley watching and serving as circulating nurses to open sterile packages, Mia and I began the first of what would ultimately add up to 45 separate operations over 4 days. Katie’s Spanish was the strongest of the three students, but even her school-Spanish could not keep up with the flow of rapid conversation and local accent. However, Victor Zaragoza had planned for this by sending his two eldest daughters, Angie & Diana, along with us to serve as translators. On rare occasion, even they needed help with some medical terms, at which point we turned to Dr. Gisela Kovacs for assistance.
|Angie translating for the surgical team.|
Meanwhile, Dr. Miner began seeing family practice patients alongside Dr. Gisela Kovacs, Dr. Ricardo Escamilla, Dr. Martin Cortes, and Dr. Isabel, while in other parts of the church sanctuary, Dr. Victor, Dr. Leslie and her daughter, Carolina, and Dr. Diana, along with another local dentist, started seeing dental patients; two physical therapists, Lupita and Alejandra, treated musculoskeletal complaints, a beautician, Rosi, began cutting hair, Isabel, an optometrist, performed eye exams and handed out free glasses while Becky, as well as a local pastor and another visiting pastor, shared the gospel of Jesus Christ. Also during the week there were special moments dedicated to evangelize the local children through clowns and other activities.
|Dr. Miner seeing a patient while Diana translates and holds the patient's young child.|
|All of the dentists working in a row!|
|The physiotherapists at work.|
|Isabel working with a patient to find her prescription in order to give her a free pair of eyeglasses.|
|Vero sharing Jesus with the local children.|
|Children's activities on the street.|
Another rule of FOM is, “Even if you are not a believer in Jesus Christ, we will provide free care, but in return, you must give us the chance to share the good news.” But our goal is not merely to make new converts, but to make disciples, which requires ongoing commitment by the church which hosted us to follow up with initial declarations of faith, and help these new believers grow in knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ. So, while we were working in our various specialties, Victor, Adrian & Vero, Joel, Ari, Jesus, two other pastors, and a host of local church members helped to coordinate, answer questions, and solve various problems. (For example, I ran out of gauze midway through the week so they bought some more). Those individuals served as our pastors both spiritually to encourage us and physically to meet our own needs and shepherd us together as a team to worship, eat, and take us to various homes for the nights. And as the word went out, day by day, more people came to see all of us as they overcame their skepticism, so that by the third day, I found myself doing 23 operations. In truth, I could not keep up such a pace for long… By the end, I was about ready for that lonely mountain, followed by the boat on the Sea of Galilee, and you would have had to paddle me to wake me up, something I don’t think they did to Jesus.
|An overview of the sanctuary that housed a portion of the crusade: intake, general physicians, dentistry and optometry.|
|Dr. Bill and Mia at work.|
During breakfast one day, I was introduced to a visiting pastor, Mr. ‘Pakistani’, about whom Victor joked that he was ‘not a terrorist from Pakistan’. In truth, Pastor 'Pakistani' had a compelling story of our Lord’s grace, growing up in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, leaving home to try to make a living selling belts, trying and desperately praying for a number of years for guidance from the Lord, not finding a church for some time that could serve as his spiritual family, eventually returning to his place of birth, and against much local opposition, sharing the gospel. I learned of the corrupt cronyism between local government authorities and Catholic priests, even to the point that in certain areas, any who were Christian were at various times denied work, driven from their homes, having to leave possessions behind, and even being beheaded. However, the pastor emphasized that persecution cannot prevent the word of God from causing people to turn to Him in faith and, for every believer killed, 5 more would spring up where he once stood.
|Pastor Patishtan sharing with the crusade team.|
|Pastor Patishtan shining with the joy of Jesus!|
We tried to give what we had, but as in any work of man, our efforts frequently fall short. Dr. Miner does not speak a word of Spanish (we finally got him to say “Bueno” to just about everything!), and even in the best of hands, it is not ideal to get a patient history second-hand through a translator. For example, he thought a patient had a symptom for a few months, and later he learned that it had been going on for 15 years, and then got worse just the past few months. Without an accurate and detailed history it is difficult in some cases to arrive at the proper diagnosis. And in my case, a patient with an axillary lipoma – a fatty tumor, came back the day after its removal to complain that she still had the pain that prompted her to see me, but now the pain was 5 cm anterior to its original location, along the course of the axillary nerve. In such a case, having nothing more I could think of beyond pain medication to offer, we prayed with this lady that our Father, who knows all things, would relieve her of her suffering. Our abilities to help the body heal pale in comparison to our Creator.
|Victor leading a local woman to pray to accept Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior.|
It is a professional frustration to see conditions for which I had neither the time nor the facilities to properly treat. And we knew that once we were gone, people would need to turn to other human agencies for help with their health needs. But one of our pastors reminded us that Jesus did not heal everyone in every town through which he passed. So, although we did only small operations, and limited medical treatment, Dr. Miner and I agreed that the Lord can use even the small efforts of our entire team as an opportunity for hearts to hear about the eternal life that He offers without cost.
|The surgical team at work.|
And once again I experienced what I wish everyone could experience, working with brothers and sisters as a team toward a common goal, with love and fellowship, everyone willing to lend a hand in gratitude for the greater gifts Jesus has given us at the cost of His own life. The closest I ever expect to experience heaven on earth, while in my present body, are times like these. Under what other circumstances can a person in this world leave his own country with a poor grasp of the language, with confidence that a family he has never met and cannot even talk to, is willing and ready to provide him a bed to sleep in, food, water, towels, and other such things to meet his needs, all on the basis of being brothers and sisters in faith? The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of this world. Maranatha!
While Dr. Bill was more than busy in surgery, our "All Terrain" team made a house call to see a sick, elderly man.
|The "All Terrain" team on their way to the house call.|
|The man lying in bed surrounded by religious relics in which he and his family had placed their hope.|
The team first attended to the man's physical needs, including placing an IV with the needed solution and medication. The placement of the IV was a miracle in and of itself as the man was extremely thin and his veins difficult to work with. However, part of the team prayed as the other part of the team worked and the IV went in on the first try! Now, that's teamwork!
The team then went on to attend to the family's spiritual needs. Their spiritual hunger was more than evident as the home was filled to overflowing with spiritual relics in which the family had placed their hope. Much like the Apostle Paul's visit to Athens, when he identified the peop0le's spiritual hunger by their worship of even an "unknown god", Victor and the team were able to readily identify the spiritual need of this family and tell them of One True Living Hope, for now and eternity, Jesus Christ! We will pray for the local pastor and believers as they continue to minister to and guide this family in God's Word!
|Eight family members of that patient prayed to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior....|
One True Living Hope!
To God be the Glory!
Remember, this is just one Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade! Stories, adventures and conversions like this happen on nearly a monthly basis as Fishers of Men carries out approximately 10 of these crusades every year! Thank you for your generosity and prayers, which the Lord uses to make His work here on earth possible!