Wednesday, June 25, 2014

EMMC to Michoacan by Guest Blogger: Dr. Bill Karkow

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.
Free haircuts!
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!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spilled Medicine and Free Insurance

     Throughout the 17 years that Victor and I have served the Lord together, He has provided in many ways and in many situations.  His provision has ranged from the powerful and miraculous to the small and sweet, yet no less miraculous.  However, His provision on June 5th tops our list of "God's Creative Ways to Provide."
     The clock had nearly reached its 10 o'clock p.m. mark when Martha, our 16 year old daughter, came into the kitchen to inform us that she had accidentally spilled all of her seizure medicine in her sock drawer!  After coaxing the little glass bottle, we produced the two precious drops needed for the night dose and the one little droplet for the following morning.  (Sigh of relief!)
     The next morning, I began to search my office for her prescription so that Victor could purchase the needed medication.  As I ruffled through papers, I ran across the insurance policy for our bus.  A neuron in my brain clicked, setting off a tiny little alarm that recalled Victor recently mentioning that the policy was set to expire in May.  So, I took the envelope to him and, sure enough, the policy had expired six days earlier on May 31.
      Seeing that we planned on using the bus in less than 5 days to get God's team of volunteers to the crusade in Michoacan, we needed to purchase bus insurance ASAP.  The problem?  We did not have the money to pay for the $500 policy.  (I don't know if that is cheap compared to U.S. insurance or not, but the deal is, cheap or not, we simply did not have the $500.)
     I suggested Victor start by simply calling the insurance company, while I continued to look for Martha's prescription, and that he inquire about a 6 month policy or even a one month deal.  Although we had no money for the insurance, we needed the insurance, so, when you need insurance, what do you do?  You call the insurance company!
     Victor called the company, obediently gave our policy number, and was then politely informed that our policy had been cancelled shortly after it was drawn up due to a lack of payment!  Mind you, as Victor is being told this astounding news he has the actual payment receipt in his hand!  We had paid!  The payment stub was right there!  Somehow, someway, for some reason, the agent with whom Victor had dealt a year ago had not recorded the payment and the policy had been cancelled.  Technically, we had been driving our bus around for a whole year, confident that we had insurance, when we really did not!
     After a bit of conversation, the befuddled agent on the other end promised to look into the fumble and get back to Victor soon.  I emailed her a copy of the policy and the payment stub and Victor walked out the door, with the prescription I had found in hand, to go and purchase Martha's medication and run a few other errands, as we waited for the phone call from the insurance agent.
     I continued with my morning's activities when, about an hour later, Victor called me on his cell phone.  He excitedly exclaimed:  "Guess what?  The insurance lady just called.  They still aren't sure what happened, but considering the fact that we paid for a year's worth of insurance that we technically did not receive, they offered to give us an entire one year insurance policy for the bus for free!"  We just laughed and laughed!  The company representative did explain that, had we had an accident during the year we thought we were covered, but technically weren't, the same error would have been discovered and they would have covered the accident.  So, we technically didn't have insurance last year, but we would have been covered had an accident occurred, but since we really didn't have insurance they decided to give us a year of coverage for free!  (Did you follow that?)
     Victor met the agent later that afternoon and picked up our policy for one year of free bus insurance!
     In all the insurance excitement we temporarily forgot about the medicine, but then, before he hung up, Victor continued, "And you know what happened with Martha's medicine?  As I was leaving the house to go and purchase the medicine, two of the volunteer crusade nurses were arriving at the ranch to sort medicines for next week's crusade.  I asked them if they knew, by chance, if we had any of that specific medicine on hand.  They started to giggle and said that a member of their church had given them eight little bottles of that medication the Sunday before because her doctor had suspended her prescription!"  The nurses handed over the bottles of free medicine to Victor!
      I must admit that when Martha told us that she had spilled her medicine in her sock drawer the night before we were rather irritated.  However, I must also admit, that later that afternoon I thanked Martha for spilling her medicine in her sock drawer!  (You should have seen her face when I thanked her!)  Because of her spilled medicine, we ran across the expired insurance policy, which led to a year's worth of free insurance, and God even threw in the free medicine that we needed to boot!
     God certainly took the opportunity of spilled medicine in a sock drawer to remind us that His creative provision has no limits!  Truly, "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him"...even in spilled medicine!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

This week....

This week both aspects of the ministry of Fishers of Men: Refuge Ranch and the EMMC's (Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades), are hoppin'!

Victor and the volunteer team, including five volunteers from Iowa and our two eldest daughters, left on an Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusade on Monday to a small town in the state of Michoacan, near that state's capital of Morelia.

Refuge Ranch always ends up short-handed during crusades because half of the ranch staff go on crusade! Well, not this time!  The Lord sent a huge blessing in the form of the Current family who will be serving here for several weeks!

Enjoy the following photo journal of:

This Week With Fishers of Men...

On the Ranch...
The Current family, Danielle, Dyan, Darrell, Don and Don, starting their journey to Mexico from Indianapolis, IN last Saturday.

Don and his boys clearing rocks from the construction site of the new house so that Cirino, our mason, can mark the foundation.

Dyan and Danielle making new coupons for our TV watching system.

Caleb, Miguel, Don and Darrell repairing the road leading up to our water tank. (Stay tuned for the next issue of our Friday Fiesta newsletter to find out more!)

Don and Dyan seasoning chicken for dinner...for 25 people!

Ruth and her duct tape purse that Dyan and Danielle taught the girls how to make!  They also brought the really cool duct tape with which to make the purses!  The kids went through 17 rolls of duct tape in two days while crafting!

Leo, Josiah, Darrell and Miguel playing a board game.

On the EMMC...
Vero at her “desk” (aka the brown boxes) registering patients in the “waiting room” (aka the sidewalk).

Dr. Tom, from Iowa, and Dr. Gisela examining a patient....for free.

Getting free eyeglasses!

A BUNCH of dentists working all in a row! This picture really impressed me! (Remember...I'm (Julie) at home on the ranch while Victor and the team are on crusade, so they send these pictures to me.)

Dr. Bill in surgery.
Free haircuts!

And, then, the reason for all of the above...

Victor leading a local woman in prayer to accept Jesus Christ.
Each and every one of these patients, and all of the patients who receive medical care, dental care, surgical care, eyeglasses or a haircut, hear the Gospel message presented to them in an individual setting during their visit to the Crusade.

Thank you for your prayers and your giving that make weeks like this possible!  May God's Kingdom come here on earth....and may He use each of us to make it real for others!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Being Good Stewards

The Current Family
Greetings Fishers of Men Supporters. My name is Don Current and I am a Board Member and Treasurer of Fishers of Men.  I have been performing this task for a couple of years now. We thought it might be a good idea to give everyone some insight into how your donations to the ministry are handled.

Since the operations of Refuge Ranch and the Evangelistic Medical Mission Crusades (EMMC) take place in Mexico, and the primary funding comes from the U.S., we have established procedures to help get the money from here to there in the most efficient and cost effective way. With modern banking, we are able to quickly make funds received in Shelbyville, Indiana available in Cuecuecuautitla, Mexico.

Once a week (or more if funds are particularly tight), I make the trip to the Post Office in Shelbyville to pick up the mail. I record all of the donors and donations. I also note if there is a particular project that the donor requested the funds go towards, such as the building fund, a particular EMMC or mission trip, or a short term project like last year’s mini-bus fund.

I then take these funds to the bank and deposit them into the main spending account. When I get back to my home, I record all of the information into our Quickbooks program and notify Julie of the amount of the deposit and any designations.

We also have some regular donors who pay via Paypal which is an easy and convenient means of creating a reoccurring donation to FOM. I am easily able to transfer these funds directly to the FOM bank account. I record these donations in the same way as checks. There is a small fee that Paypal takes out, so if you’d like to avoid having that happen, many banks have free electronic banking that allows a regular amount to automatically be sent to us via a bank draft check each month. Several regular donors have chosen this means of donating.

Once Julie receives the weekly donation report from me, she does some transferring of funds between bank accounts that are established for specific purposes such as medical funds, building funds, emergency funds, and others. She also has a detailed budget she follows. Since we don’t always receive as much money as the budget calls for, she divides up any general funds by the pre-established percentages from the budget. These values are then recorded in her budget book so she knows how much money they have to spend in each category. By dividing the total general deposit up by a percentage, she can be assured that at least some funds are deposited into each category for them to spend and that way no category gets overlooked. For example, when it’s time to order school books, it is very important that there are funds available and this process helps assure that.

These funds are usually accessed in Mexico via their ATM/Debit cards provided by the U.S. bank when spending needs to occur. We have found this to be the most efficient and cost effective way of accessing these funds in Mexico.

I’ll also give you a rough snapshot of how we stand here at the half way point of the year. This is just a snapshot look without regard for the various categories money may have been designated to. The total budget for Refuge Ranch and the planned EMMC’s for the year is nearly $182,000. That means we should be at $91,000 to be on budget. Unfortunately our total to date is just over $56,000. This means that emergency funds have been spent down to the point where there are no buffers left. If this continues, future EMMC trips will have to be evaluated, staff salaries may be missed, and of course any thoughts of expanding the ministry have to be evaluated. 

God is our ever present Provider, and in past years, He has always provided for Fishers of Men to reach their annual goals. Please consider if there are any ways you could spare some funds, or perhaps take on a fundraising project such as Kids Inspiring Kids for your church’s VBS program.  (More information to come later in the week about this exciting opportunity!)

My family was able to raise over $5000 to fund a family mission trip to visit and serve Refuge Ranch later this month for three weeks which we are excitedly anticipating. Perhaps your family could do the same to either physically serve at Refuge Ranch, or to send the funds for direct use in the ministry.

Of course the most important support you can provide is your prayer. Fishers of Men is totally dependent on God for its continued success and the prayers of His children are the best means of support toward that end. Thank you for your continued support whatever form that may take.

If you have any questions or suggestions regarding the finances of Fishers of Men, feel free to contact me at

Donations may be mailed to Fishers of Men, PO Box 0940, Shelbyville, IN, 46176. Paypal donations can be made at or sent to