At 5:30 am on Thanksgiving day with great anticipation we left our home with everything necessary, with Lara, Miguel and Franz Cruz heading to the Ramada, Santa Cruz. There we met Doctor Leonardo Freitas, Pastor Marc Chambers, Anibal Magne, who was our guide and Miguel Escalante, graphic designer. The last three are part of the Project “Loud Cry Missionary Society”. Coming out of Santa Cruz joined the team Tanya Salas Burgoa, our dentist. We took two truffys (minivan taxis) that took us to Yapacani, we were all ready for this missionary medical trip that seemed to be quite an adventure!
In Yapacani the food we would bring with us was bought and at 13:00 pm we left by bus to Punta Rieles (old railroad station) where we would start our trip on “train” to Rio Mamoré and then continue on another “train” (platform) to Boquerón. We had been told that the trip was 4 hours, but the road was in very bad shape and we arrived at the tracks in the evening.
There at the station we were surrounded by mosquitoes that tortured us!
When I mention “train” is actually a flat bed wagon (about 5′ x 12′) that people made to use the old rail road. Some of them use a car transmission with an adapter to use a motor with a belt or chain to create the motion. Some of them little bit more sophisticated, made out of a track frame without steering and metal wheels, Toyota 4 cylinder diesel engine.
So the “wagon Mobil” quickly was filled with the other people who came on the bus. Which had to go to the Mamoré River, leave those people there and return for us after an hour and a half. Finally after long wait the train arrived. We crossed the Mamoré River at night (which was not in the plans), and climb the ravine carrying everything to the next train. On the tracks we could not see anything, the driver was using only one flashlight. Every time he told us “get down that a branch is coming” we all huddled down where we could. Thus we arrived in Boqueron at 9:30 p.m. We unloaded everything, set up our tents in the midst of a cloud of mosquitoes would that accompanied us during the 3 days we were helping in these two communities.
We slept in tents, the mosquitoes were passing through the tissues of the ventilation., We had to live with them there too!
Boqueron has no electricity, only few families have generator, the water is from well. There is no phone signal, and of course no internet. A 15 families live there, there are more families but are scattered in the surrounding fields. We had the privilege of having the help of the Mayor of the community and the teachers of the school of Boqueron, who on Friday morning gave us three classrooms to be able to do medical, dental, physical therapy and health counseling.
In the photo above, on the right, Dr. Leo is with a lady who had arrived that morning from the jungle by bicycle, had traveled several hours and had been bitten by mosquitoes in the hands and face, was on edge with a lot of pain in the hands and with fever. She was not from Boqueron, she was just waiting for the train to take her to Yapacani; I found it by chance by the side of the tracks waiting, we hadn’t water to cook, I had been told that in one of the neighboring houses was the pump to bring water, while I looked I thought this lady lived there which is why I talked to her. She told me what was wrong with her and immediately I sent her to see Dr. Leo. She also had lunch with us until the “train” took her in the afternoon.
Miguel and Lara were in charge of registering people and taking blood pressure. They did an excellent job!
We saw many times the hand of God leading! An 18-year-old boy with spinal problems, for the effort they make to work crouched in the field by growing peanuts, rice, sesame, etc. and carving to keep crops clean of weeds. He had gone to the city to take care of low back pain a few days before, and had been prescribed anti inflammatory and 2 vitamin B complex injections. His mother asked if we could inject them, the Dr. Leonardo gladly did. I then asked if there was anyone in the village who would have been able give shots and said “Nobody”. We give thanks that God brought us in the right moment to help this young man.
I’m with the young man’s mother, before we go back she asked me for the anti inflammatory cream, it had helped her son so much that she wanted to use it with his spinal problems too. Not only she had asked me, other people as well.
Doctor Leonardo, on Saturday afternoon gave a talk of sex education to teenagers and mothers, especially by the high index of adolescents (14 to 16 years) with children. We thank God for directing the steps for Tanya and Dr. Leonardo to accompany us and for all the medication we carry, everything was a great blessing!
Dr. Tanya had a great surprise in Boqueron, we had brought anesthesia and antibiotics for dental extractions, but she did not find cavities! The water they take is from well and this one has a lot of Fluor which makes you have no cavities, but unfortunately found almost all with stains on the tooth enamels that the cleaning can not take out. There she made many cleanings and only two extractions.
Excess of Fluor stains the teeth.
We had brought a water filter that still had the capacity to filter 90 gallons of water. In Boqueron we saw that the water was yellowish. We filtered about 4 gallons, then the push handle to filter became heavy and when we reached Esperanza, as the water was spring, very crystalline, we wanted to purify and the handle became so heavy that it was impossible to continue to purify. We left the jungle with only two bottles of purified water, which we took care of as gold.
Miguel and Leo in the water purification process!
We are very grateful to Miguel E. because he was our cooking man during the trip. Although he hadn’t the comfort or all the utensils necessary, Miguel managed it so we enjoyed of the variety of rich dishes that he prepared each time.
We were also very blessed because several people from the community brought gifts like cabbage, beans, sesame; Many fruits like mango, banana, and rare fruits that we had not eaten before.
Franz was able to talk to many people about the benefits of 8 natural remedies and the importance of both body and home hygiene and proper nutrition, especially in the many cases of gastritis found.
Their food consists only of tapioca, rice, beans and white flour, because most of them do not have access to fruits and vegetables. Only a few grew vegetables.
Friday afternoon we had a religious meeting with songs and a sermon given by Pr Marc. It was very exciting to see the families arrive, with their towels to ward off mosquitoes and some with little baskets of cols that made smoke to ward off mosquitoes. They do not have a chapel there and they were very excited, every time they asked “We have worship tonight?” Pastor Marc Chamber, who had spoken to me about these two communities almost a year ago, was more than happy to share the word with these families! They asked many times if we would return!
God blessed us by being able to bring 63 Bibles and 100 Way to Christ, which were divided between the two communities.
Everyone wanted to receive a Bible, we started with the heads of families and then the teenagers. How much joy they had when they received these books! Saturday morning we had church service, we brought hymnbooks that we shared with them. It was beautiful to hear them sing and to open the word of God with them. Several times in the day I thought that the gospel transforms, helps us to see ourselves as a child of God and I was so grateful to God for the bibles and books!
Early Sunday we leave to Esperanza, this community is more in the jungle, only use motorcycles to move from there to Boqueron; Since Friday, Anibal had been talking to the leaders of the communities to get us a ride, after much dialogue they got us one. We were able to visit a very poor community. It had about 20 families in the village, without hygiene in homes and people, no electricity, no phone signal, suffered from mosquitoes and the heat.
The building of the school of Esperanza, where we took care medical and of dentistry.
Is attended from the mourning until the 4:00 pm. Dr. Tanya found that the situation dental of the people was completely different, many cavities. She done only extractions, had two special of patients, in one she did three teeth extractions and to another seven teeth, this last already not had their teeth, were broken. Tanya did an excellent job, and Anibal was her assistant, they were a great team. Anibal and Miguel E. called Tanya “warrior” because working fast and with much precision. At the 4:00 pm is started a religious meeting with all the community. They sang beautifully! And with joyful heart also received the Bibles and the book Step of Christ, Pr Marc again preached. He was very exited! What God wonderful we have! He is watchful of all these families in the interior of Bolivia.
The medical report that we have is: The doctor saw and attended 63 patients, in dentistry is attended 58 patients, and we gave every family member a tooth brush, in physiotherapy 14 patients and many passed by health counseling.
Before to begin the worship, came a teenager whose name was Mario to talk with me. He had back pain, as we were talking I learned that he is 14 years old and working very hard in the field, pulling out the weeds of crops. I did a massage and Franz showed some exercises to strengthen his back muscles. He told also that already had seen to the Dr. Leo because was having some problems breathing, as flu.
In the photo to the left you can see Franz with Mario mother. About three months before, her brother had died from an accident in the forest cutting a tree and it fell on him. Crying she told his story to Franz who spoke to her about the consolation we have in Christ. Mario also received a Bible from Pr. Marc. After I finished with Mario I continued putting all the supplies in boxes to go back to Boqueron when the Doctor called me over and said he need an assistant. I called my husband Miguel to help the doctor. When we were going where was Dr. Leo I find that the patient was Mario. He has an abscess on his neck for about 3 months and it was getting bigger as the time went by. He told the Leo that he went to a doctor in Yapacani, and received antibiotics, but it hadn’t cure. Dr. Leo put anesthesia, and made a little cut but no pus came out, that normally there should be a lot. This was not a abscess, Dr Freitas told him that he needed to go to a neck specialist in Santa Cruz as soon as possible. Mario began to weep and said “My dad may not want to take me”. Also we knew that he had begun to learn to chew Coca, and that he wasn’t eating well, his defenses were very low. Many men in Bolivia chew Coca because it gives more energy and can work many hours, but it makes you not want to eat. The person can skip a meal without knowing it, the defenses get lower and the person gets sick. We Called Pr Marc and all together gathered around Mario prayed asking for the healing, protection and blessing on Mario and his family. With much sadness we thought about Mario and his family that was suffering when we left Esperanza.
Early Monday morning we set off to Santa Cruz, 7 times we unloaded and reloaded our luggage that day. Two times of the “train”, another of the boat and three times in a truffy. During the trip on the train, you were ducking branches, it was clear that they didn’t maintain those train tracks! In the first segment we did about 9.3 miles by train until the we stopped because the railway bridge had fallen years ago and after crossing the Mamoré River we continued on the train platform 37 miles more. Incredible journey!
God worked a miracle in the Pr Marc that day! Almost at the end of the trip of the second train, while Pr Marc was sitting at the end of the platform on the edge of the wagon; my husband, who was of the other side forward beside the driver saw a thick branch on the opposite side, saw it but did have time to say anything, Pr. Marc was not pressing attention and didn’t see the branch and it scraped his back. He let out a cry and we heard aloud snap of the branch . Immediately we stopped the machine, the pastor was shocked everyone was scared, Miguel F. believed that it had cut him deeply but when we lifted his t-shirt to check his side, only had a mild scrap. those in front thought it had entered his body. We had seen a miracle! All gave praise and gave thanks to God for His protection!
Of the medical missionary trip that we have done this has been the more hard for me, many times I was completely out of my comfort zone. The mosquitoes were every where, we put repellent and it didn’t work. We saw how the people lived: they had no kitchen, they would cook on the soil, and the shower we used was shower with a plastic of tarp to cover, the shower was connected to a hose out side and someone have to turn it off and on for you.
There was neglect, poverty and that gave us much sadness. But for them that was normal life for them. I thought of the teacher that had to sacrifice everything to teach the children in these communities.
Listen to the words of Jesus:
“The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray to the Lord of the harvest to sent laborers into His harvest” ( Lucas 10:2).
We are going to desert Boqueron and Esperanza because we are out of our zone of comfort?
That would make Jesus in our place?
We Give thanks to God by put the desire in Pastor Chambers to prepare front line missionaries to go to evangelize communities as Boqueron and Esperanza that have so much need but above all need spiritual.
We infinitely thank God for people who helped financially with sacrifice to make this medical missionary trip out possible, and by the prayers of our brethren, which were answered in incredible form during the entire trip! Without you it couldn’t be possible.
Thank to each one of which participated in this trip, it was a wonderful team!
Thank God for guiding all things for good!
Mirta & Miguel Farias