Today we travelled to the village of Charcos. This is community was new to me, but Luke 9:2 Ministries has been there twice before in the last 10 years. Team members who had been there before kept talking about this village they remembered visiting. The thing that kept coming up was their memory of so many special needs kids in this town. Beth Anne said she was told it was due to an outbreak of viral meningitis in the village some 15 years ago. These patients hold a special place in the hearts of some of our long-time care providers who were hoping to see the children (now young adults) they remembered.
Charcos is about 1 ½ hours north of the retreat center where we are staying. So, our morning began before the sun was up. We were in the bus and on the road by 7:00 AM. When we arrived, there were easily 100 people waiting to be seen. From the outside, this school building looked like so many others we’ve used before. However, there were some very distinct differences once inside. For one, each room had electricity and working light fixtures (and they had light bulbs in them!). Also, this school had a computer lab with computers, tile floor acoustic tile ceiling, and air conditioning! Most rooms have a cement floor, maybe one electrical outlet, a tin roof with rafters exposed and windows with no screens.
For those of you unfamiliar with the flow of our clinics, let me take a moment to explain. All patients begin with registration outside. Here personal information is collected from each patient such as their name, age, and if they wish to see the doctor, dentist, or need glasses. All this information is recorded on a pre-printed, white, lunch-size paper bag which is presented to the provider at each station. This way, the medical providers quickly address needs and prescribe medicine.
After registration, each patient receives a dose of de-worming medicine and one-month supply of vitamins. Prenatal vitamins are given to those who are pregnant. From there, most patients proceed to the line to wait for their turn to see a medical professional. By this time, many may have already waited two or more hours! It could still be another hour before they are seen. There are never any complaints. They wait patiently.
Today, as we started setting up the stations, Doug Nally recognized one of our special needs patients. Her name is Nelson, but she goes by Nelsie. The first time Doug saw her she was about 10 years old. She is 19 now, but Doug recognized her immediately. Apparently it wasn’t that difficult, because Doug said she was holding the same pair of beads she had when she was ten year old! Nelsie’s mother and father were with her (her dad carried her through the clinic), and they recognized Doug, too.
We saw more patients today than any of our previous clinics this week - a total of 477 patients! The size of the crowd and the severe needs of some of the people drained us physically and emotionally. And yet, it was reassuring to realize that this community had come together to make their school and their town a place where everyone was given a chance to learn and to be their best.
Thursday looks like it could be an even busier day, and it is almost 2 hours from our lodgings. We learned that the pastor there has advertised the clinic on local television and radio! Please pray once again for our stamina. So far, every team member is healthy. We are so grateful!