My heart pounds. I collapse my aching and exhausted body onto the soft green grass. We've been hiking for at least 5 hours at elevations over 10,000 ft., and I'm ready to be done.
After a rest, we continue up the hill, arriving at the small road-less community of Choro. The sheep part ways as we walk through the middle of them, DJ leading us to the familiar set of huts on the other side. A lady appears in one of the doorways in response to our greetings. Her husband Plas, DJ & team's trail guide from the first medical trip, is not home but is due to return the following day. We ask if we can stay with her family for the night and she burst into tears, saying that her 15 yr. old daughter, Kasilda, has been sick in bed for four days. Dr. Alex quickly assures her that we will see her daughter right away and she hurries off to the kitchen hut to peel potatoes.
Kasilda avoided the doctor's eyes and mumbled answers to his questions. She shyly exposed her thin arm for Nurse Gimena to take her blood pressure. Dr. Alex gave her a few treatments to temporarily alleviate the pain and then slipped out of the dark room. As soon as he was gone, Kasilda opened up a lot more. She was accustomed to the 5 hr. walk home for the weekend with her younger brother from their "boarding" school. Unfortunately, her sickness had kept her from returning the previous Sunday. Dad was gone for meetings in another village, Mom had to take the sheep to pasture, and with no medical services anywhere nearby, Kasilda simply stayed home, in bed.
Kasilda's yellow eyes and distinct abdominal pain led the doctor to believe she had hepatitis, which needed further attention at a hospital in the city. If only we had an airplane to take her so she wouldn't have to make the 5-hour hike and 12-hour bus ride into the city! But this time we could help only a little, and then we had to leave her…
Doña Marina wiped her hands on her skirts and left the pile of potatoes she was drying in the sun to lead us inside. She had been hemorrhaging for nearly a month, but was still working when we arrived! Life goes on in these villages and one has to be bed-bound in order to justify not working. Marina needed to see a specialist in the city, but would have to make the same trek into town as Kasilda. I imagined loading her up in the airplane, staying behind myself; I really wouldn't mind herding sheep for a few days. But instead, Dr. Alex set up an IV drip and left some multi-vitamins and rehydration drink packets, encouraging her to make the trip to the city while she had the extra energy instead of finishing the harvest of the potato crop. It seemed so hard to walk out, having provided only a temporary solution…
It had been a long day, not only for us, but also for Don Mario and his wife, Doña Florencia. Our two-hour hike across the valley seemed short in comparison to their full day of climbing up and down the hills pasturing their animals. North American hospitality is very cold when compared to that of other cultures around the world. We didn't even ask before they offered us sheepskin beds to sleep on and lots of potatoes to eat. Nearly 20 people showed up the following morning because our hosts had gone around early and alerted them. We were glad to help, but my mind kept drifting back to Doña Florencia. Her condition was too hard to diagnose without other tools like an ultrasound machine; she needed to go to the hospital. Pain was written all over her frail figure, partly bent over. How long would they wait before they made the two-day trek into the city?...
The village supposedly had a road going into it, but they said the motorcycles were barely making it. So we backpacked our gear and the medications into "Tiger," the village's local name, arriving some 6-hours later at the small group of huts. After experiencing unprecedented hospitality, we headed to the house of the "sick man." Everyone kept talking about Gomercindo, this man who had been sick for three years, "unable to walk" (read: unable to hike the 6 hours out). Dr. Alex checked him out and determined that he needed x-rays and an ultrasound to further diagnose the muscle and joint pain in his chest. We left him a few medications to alleviate the pain and prayed that either the "road" would be fixed soon or that we'd have a flying airplane to get him the further help that he needed….
It was a good thing to see Don Max walk around the corner with a smile on his face. It had been a week since we first saw him and he was looking a lot better.
We passed through this village in the jeep a week before on our way into the mountains. The suspicious crowd didn't believe our story until we agreed to see a wounded man. Don Max had fallen the night before we arrived and gashed his head open, the 4-inch cut reaching down to his skull. The ambulance crashed last year and hadn't been replaced and the regular bus line wasn't due for another two days.
Dr. Alex was able to stitch him up right on the spot, albeit a little bit "mountain medicine" style. A week had now passed; the wound was closed and there were no signs of swelling or infection. I believe our arrival was no slight of luck, but rather a divine appointment….
(Left) After Dr. Alex finished suturing the wound.
(Right) One week later - healing well.
Our last hike out of the mountains was a strenuous one, the first 4 ½ hours a steady, continuous uphill. We arrived back at the jeep after dark and still had another hour or two to drive before we would find a place to sleep. After we'd crossed the pass, an older man came out and motioned for us to stop. And could we please stay at his house for the night and see his wife in the morning? Of course!
In the morning, after the doctor had seen his wife, and him, and his son and daughter-in-law, and the grandkids, and the neighbors…, they asked us to go and visit a young lady with "epilepsy."
"She's been to at least 10 doctors in the last three years, none of which have been able to help her. She lives just ten minutes down the hill," they said. And so we went.
Alejandra's family lived in two huts, similar in every way to the others except for one thing: the huts didn't have walls. Instead, they had sheets hung all around them. This was obviously a poor family.
We visited with Alejandra and her parents for a short while. I went close to Alejandra because I wanted to talk to her. I tried to concentrate on this beautiful child of God instead of the overwhelming stench of urine and the hundreds of flies that buzzed all around. She was bright, no question, and her smile… yes, it was there. Dr. Alex left the father some natural calming medication and we turned to leave.
Alejandra immediately screamed, was flung into the air, and tossed down the hill twice, caught only by the rope that was tied around her waist and anchored into the ground. Twenty seconds later it was over and the embarrassed 17-year-old sat quietly with her head down.
This was no epilepsy that I had ever heard of. We had been suspicious that Alejandra's "sickness" was more of the spiritual kind. Now it was pretty clear. But how does one cast out a demon? How does one convince the parents to believe that Jesus can and wants to save their child?
I returned to Alejandra's side and put my arm around her. DJ had tears in his eyes. We read the Bible together, prayed together, sang together. And then we had to leave. "Won't you pray for me, please?" Alejandra kept repeating, her big eyes looking straight into mine. "I will, I will," I promised. And so I pray often, but will you pray too?
There are so many people in these mountains that need help. Many need medical attention and could benefit greatly from emergency services, but their biggest need is Jesus. All of them need Jesus. And that's what we're here to share, whether it be through an emergency flight, peeling potatoes, or giving a demon-possessed girl a hug and hope.
Thanks for your support in making this mission possible! God is calling each one of us to share the experience of having a relationship with Jesus with those who do not know Him. Won't heaven be so much greater if it is shared?
After nearly 8 months, Samson's new overload springs and tire chains arrived! Although the shocks were lost in transit, DJ is installing the parts we did receive. Please pray that the shipping company will replace the missing items!
Top Project Needs:
1. Airplane - Super Cub (see webpage for specifics)