"Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" (Matt. 25:37-40)
The dry, dusty soil of the coastal Peruvian desert hardly seems the sort that would support a single seed, let alone bear an abundant harvest. The sprawling communities of this stricken territory likewise appear an unlikely place for hope-filled life. Given some living water, however, these communities too can break forth in blossom.
One community of believers has for several years carried on undaunted by the lack of immediate reward for their ministry. They labor on in the hope of the benefits unseen. This month they returned, a team of thirteen missionaries from Independent Presbyterian Church in Memphis, TN, to minister to communities in need in and around the city of Trujillo, Peru.
For five days, the team attended to the medical needs of hundreds of patients in eight separate communities, including a nursing home and an orphanage. Working together with Peruvian health professionals from the Bethesda Clinic in Wichanzao, they administered loving care in dentistry, general medicine, and surgery. Others shared the gospel with the families of patients, or encouraged local congregations.
For much of the week, the team traveled from community to community holding mobile clinics. Most of these clinics were held under the oversight of the local church. In the Parque Industrial community, the mobile campaign provided a backdrop of service for the inauguration of a new clinic in the Bethesda Health Association, demonstrating to local residents the loving care the new clinic will be providing their community on an ongoing basis.
The team included dentists Dr. John Kakales and Dr. Jim Avery, as well as medical doctors Dr. Mel Payne, Dr. Bo Mitchum, and former Peru Mission missionary Dr. Marcus Ueltschey. Nurses Katherine Allen and Gloria Hill assisted, as did Lisa Mitchum in pharmacy. Several others joined the team to serve. High-school students Mary Elizabeth Kakales, Andrew McBride, and Jay Mitchum all assisted, and Sarah Lawrence Allen worked in evangelism and assisted in dentistry.
Not only did the team administer medical care to the patients, but they also brought much needed medicine and supplies to Bethesda Clinic in Wichanzao, including thyroid medications, antibiotics, vitamins, and cold, cough, and stomach medications.
While the team's focus was on medical care, their work was also about building relationships. Bill Johns, director of student ministry at IPC Memphis, was able to encourage Peruvian youth leaders Pablo Quiróz and Eduardo Layza. Johns and the other youth leaders gathered youth from the Manuel Arévalo and Wichanzao communities for an afternoon of learning and fellowship. The young people made tie-dyed t-shirts, played games, and listened to a reflection by Bill Johns on the importance of serving God and being in a church community. The rest of the team from IPC joined in.
“For me, it was a great blessing to speak with a colleague, someone who is in the same ministry field as I am,” says Quiróz. “I was able to share my experiences with him, and he understood my struggles.” Quiróz adds that the visit was especially encouraging for the young new Christians who were present. “They see that the Church isn’t only in Manuel Arévalo, or in Peru, it’s in the whole world, and we’re all a family.” Later this year, Johns plans to return with a group of young people from IPC Memphis to continue to build the relationships formed on this and other past trips.
Bringing lasting change to communities entrenched in poverty and sin takes time. For the most part, the branches bud long after the initial laborers have gone. This can be seen very clearly in short-term medical missions work. Diagnoses are made, prescriptions and treatments given, but the healing often happens after the physicians leave. The physicians often never get a chance to see their work bear fruit. Without the initial work, however, the fruit never comes, and that's why short-term missions are important and useful for the Kingdom. We are so thankful for the ministry of IPC Memphis in our midst, and for the heart that this congregation has for selfless, generous, and patient service to our communities.
Tue, February 28, 2012
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