Where We Go
Philippines - Islands
Philippines - Manila
I Left a Piece of my Heart in Haiti
...I feel so incredibly blessed to be back safely in the U.S., in the arms of my precious family and so thankful for everyone for their thoughts and prayers during my amazing mission trip with Medical Relief International. However I ask the Lord, "Why are you creating in me a restless spirit, why does my heart hurt a little today and why doesn't the sleep come when I pray for it?"
It took me over 15 years to prepare for this mission trip. It was my true heart's desire when I graduated from dental school. But when I had the time, I didn't have the means or the funds...when I had the means, I didn't have the time nor could I release the responsibilities I carried in my family or the practice. After an incredible week of serving and pretty much back breaking work of surgeries and battling some of the worst decay, removing wisdom teeth with the most dense bone and longest roots in some of the most primitive conditions,I thought for sure I would achieve some sense of accomplishment or at least feel some contentment in my heart.
As we begin Holy Week, I pray the Lord renews my spirit and answers some of the questions left in my heart. Although my hands were constantly at work with barely any time to spare for the bathroom or even a sip of water, the realization dawned that the focus of this mission trip was not really about the dentistry...it was about giving hope and allowing God to enter the lives of those being treated.
As the crowds would gather daily, the word was spread and Pastor Johnny and the volunteers, including full-time Haitian missionary, Mason (my newly appointed Kid Brother) would spread the Word in their native tongue of Creole and ask those seeking help to open their hearts to the Lord. It was the most beautiful thing that I have been a witness to.
I really tried to find joy in some of the most unpleasant situations. My husband pointed out that this picture spoke to him, in the fact they were three little Haitian girls almost identical in ages to our own daughters that had spontaneously gathered around me when I turned the corner to our makeshift dental clinic in the the region of Canaan (the promised land) in the town of Corail. I am forever grateful for my Haiti Family and teammates, Michael Karr, Bill Mays, Steffan Clements, John Judd, Mason Young & Lauren Young. I hope that we can spread the vision and mission of Medical Relief International.
Janet Darling reports (March 22): End of day and we are beat. 125 patients-85 med/40 dental. Shed a few tears for the interpreters. One lost his 20 year old ...son. The other lost a college friend who was sitting next to him in class. Still the Haitians smile.
(March 23): At 4:45 each morning we awake to a Haitian church service. Now called "The Church Over The Wall." The preacher begins by singing several songs over the bullhorn and then preaches a firey 30 minute sermon. Jesus said to let them preach and to rise early to worship. We are repenting for not being able to sleep longer but they are full of joy and gathering every day! Father please forgive us!!! (March 24) So tired...Assisted with 85 year old for cleaning & 1 tooth extraction. He really had beautiful teeth. But then a young girl had 5 teeth removed & really needed more. I now know how to clean, extract, fill, file, & make partials. Don't fall asleep at my place when I get home as I have a new hobby!
(March 26): Its our final night in Haiti. Phone is having difficulties with some keys. Worked in Merger today. Most fun was the classes we had for kids. teaching them to brush their teeth while at the same time giving them a floride treatment.
Zack Mays reports (March 23): Not hard to see how so many people died when you see the devastation! Unreal some of the things we've witnessed!!! We are seeing around 130 patients/day and everyone on the team is well. We've also rebuilt one of the houses on campus that crumbled in the quake. Still much to do and never enough time.
Michael Mays reports (March 27): Today was bitter sweet...said bye to half of the MRI team as they left this morning, we miss you already! Monday and Tuesday we will be going to a place that has not had any medical attention since the quake so we will need all the prayers we can get. Miss you all!
John White reports (March 27): Just a short note. We have been here in Bolosse for 10 days. I have been an Ophthalmologist for 3 days and Dental Assistant/Dentist for 3 days and a construction worker for 3 days. I haven't really used my french in 22 years, but it is coming in handy especially when we are short on translators. It's great to see people smile when you are able to help them read without trouble or relieve them of tooth pain or rebuild the wall to their home.
We also spent some time in Merge, a small town of 2500 in the middle of sugar cane fields that have no business infrastructure left. The people in the shanty towns of Port Au Prince have many times what these people have.The only thing going on in that town is prostitution, gangs and voodoo. There is only 1 small church in the middle of town that is trying to pull the people out of their poverty. The main street is a 2 ft deep ditch that runs the length of the town.
We are heading out to Carforfeuille (sp) on Monday and Tuesday. It's been 2 months since the quake and they have not seen any medical or dental relief. About half the country has not see any aid at all. We'll do what we can with what we have as half the team has had to head back to the states (about 14 persons remaining).
Bill Mays reports (March 29): Today we set up clinic amidst the rubble at a church in a town that has not yet received aid. My friend, Dr. Milo and his wife were killed here.
John White reports (March 29): I took some time on a break this afternoon to fly kites with some of the kids in Corfuviel (this area has not seen any medical relief since the earthquake). They make them out of 5 pieces of stick, some twine and a plastic bag. We had 20 kites flying in the air from the rooftops. They taught me how to make them dip and do circles. It was definately a highlight.
Barikiwa Health Center - Maswa, Tanzania
In 2010, MRI, took a medical team to Maswa, Tanzania, which has a population of around 1.5 million people, who have little or no resources available for medical and dental care. During that time, we identified a young woman who showed tremendous leadership ability, who also had a desire to further her education in the field of dentistry. MRI made the decision to sponsor Dr. Ashley Lucas, who after 5 years of training earned her DDS degree.
Property was then purchased in Maswa, and funds were raised to begin building the Barikiwa Health Center (complex). A well was dug, and water began flowing in 2016, concurrent to the groundbreaking of the beautiful 5,000 square feet facility, called Myers Clinic. Completion of the Health Center will be in three phases:
Phase 1 - Build the 5,000 square feet Myers Family Clinic (pictured on left). This phase included digging a well which gives 7,000 liters of fresh water per day.
Phase 2 - Surgical theater for more complex surgeries, to be performed by visiting surgeons to train local physicians.
Phase 3 - Hutcherson Community Center for tutoring, vocational training, etc.
MRI currently has the following staff on site:
Ashley Lucas, DDS - Medical Director of the clinic
Dr. Scholastica Lucas - Doctor
The Tanzanian government has sent representatives to visit the compound, and the people are excited about the quality, low-cost care for those who could not otherwise afford it.
Josh Myers, of Blackstone Development in Tucson, Arizona began funding the building project of the Myers Clinic in 2016, with the grand opening scheduled for January 2018.
This is a story of persistent faith - believing that if you just follow you will be healed.
After a full clinic day on the island of Romblon, the MRI team was wrapping up the clinic at noon, at which time an outrigger would be loaded to carry the team and supplies to the little island of Cobrador. It was important to leave at noon, because the sea would be too rough if we waited.
While hurrying up to pack up equipment and supplies, a father came with his daughter, who was in intense pain. She had fallen and broke off her front tooth, exposing a root! Now you have to understand there are no dentists on this island. This was quite a novelty, a dental clinic on their island, and the community knew they needed to take advantage of this incredible opportunity. Unfortunately, all supplies had been packed up, and the outrigger was waiting to transport us to the next island, about an hour with rough seas.
The father had to be told it was too late. But the father was persistent - he and his daughter followed our team to the outrigger, and loaded he and his daughter - no overnight bags, no thought of food or lodging, just faith that if he followed our team, we would heal his daughter.
It wasn't until we reached the little island of Cobrador that we realized that the father and his daughter had followed us to the boat, and got in with us. When we reached the island, and were walking to our place where we would lodge, we realized we had been followed, all the way to our room!
The wonderful people of Cobrador extended hospitality to them, fed them and gave them lodging. The next morning, when we opened the clinic, the little girl was first in line.
Little did we know the procedure would take over 2 hours. But not only was the tooth saved, but restored to a beautiful smile. Most of all, the pain was gone!
This is just one of many personal stories of people who were relieved of pain, and given a fresh start with a new smile, because they heard about the help coming, they followed, and they believed!
What a privilege to be used in such a tangible, practical way, but for people who have no health/dental care, could be a difference between life and death!
Thank you for continuing to support Medical Relief International, especially as we return to these small islands to respond to the desperate needs and the requests to return!
Donate to the Philippines missions!
Philippines - Islands
MRI supports Global Surge, serving the greater Manila area with dental care. Teams from churches and dental clinics all over Seattle give of their time and money to bring hope and healing to people who would otherwise receive no care.
Philippines - Manila
September 29 through October 10, 2017
MRI was invited by Hellenic Ministries to serve the refugees in Greece on Lesbos Island for the first time in 2017.
Here are some of the reflections that are coming from Greece:
"No words. Lifejacket Graveyard. When the sea is safer than the land, there is no choice. This September, the water was calmer, except for the last three days. That's why they came by the hundreds. 600 in just the week before we arrived. 120 in one day, counted by Robbie, a volunteer with Euro-Relief. We try to find the humanity within all of this? With smugglers only filling the tanks with enough fuel to make it halfway through the waters. Lives lost. Lives saved. 4800 at the camp only meant to house 1,000. We question our purpose for this week here? Then we realize God asks us not to question and just to be. To be who he created us to be."
"I can only say one thing at this point.....I need to be here helping Hellenic and Euro Relief reach as many of the abandoned people of this earth. We have helped so many and received many hugs. Taking on a half denture tonight for a guy who had front teeth (7) busted out with an ISIS rifle butt. It will be an undertaking, but Dr. Pham and I have a plan. It will be worth the late night work. Tomorrow I will post before and after pics....it will be dramatic. I usually do not have an issue with words, but I feel speechless with all this. As I send a pic of Lesvos Island at night, please remember to pray that we all have a new awakening as to God's plan for us to reach many."
“Today was emotional. Hard. This is what they call the Lifejacket Graveyard. Greece is beautiful and charming, as most portray it, and we've certainly seen a lot of it as just that. The truth is there's pain and ugliness everywhere, and I was certainly sheltered from a lot of it. The more people know, the more can change for the better. Standing there today our purpose was never more certain. These lifejackets were worn by families hoping to flee a worse reality than the difficult one they'll be entering. Paying smugglers their life savings to get them across to Greece, but being in it only for the money, they fill the tanks with only enough fuel to make it halfway through the waters. Either they get caught not far out and are sent back to where they came from, or, they make it into Greek waters, but risk drowning before making it across. But either way, the smugglers get their money. If fortunate enough to make it to shore, they shred their jackets and rafts, destroying any means of having to go back to where they began. Adults, even baby jackets pictured, all abandoned in the haste to get away. Although painful, seeing where the people we're serving first started, and thinking of those who didn't make it, will put things in perspective and propel us through this week when we feel we have nothing more to give.”
"It's hard to encapsulate, I can't quite put it into words, but the camp is basically despair in concentrated form. 4,800 crammed into a soccer pitch sized plot of land. One of our interpreters told me a little of his story. Born in a Palestinian refugee camp. Relocated to a Syrian refugee camp. Fled unspeakable conditions in Syria ( think ISIS). Paid $10k USD to get crammed onto a raft with 72 others (25 children) by smugglers to flee to Greece. He's 26. He's never lived outside a camp. Merciful Jesus..
Later, I was approached by a man carrying his 6-10 month old child while assisting his wife. Thru the terp, he explained his wife needed care as she had "bad blood" and was obviously miserable, sweating profusely and unable to walk unassisted. Not knowing we were just dental (all medical folks are in one area) he begged me for help. I took his child so he could better assist his wife as we made our way to the medical groups. As I left them, I empathized non verbally with him. Later on as I passed by his tent, our eyes met again. In that moment I connected father to father and husband to husband. The visceral need to protect, provide and comfort, all things denied him.
I about lost it. I suspect their plight was just a footnote in a much larger story.
I'm glad we are here, providing very needed and unique care, but it shines a spotlight on what is actually going on in this world.
It's hard to see and experience, but it's only a smidgen of what is reality in a fallen world.
I feel compelled to do what I can as I consider that my Father sees all and feels all and yet asks us to be his hands and feet.”
“My 1st thoughts of what the locals call the Life Jacket Grave yard.... Reality... reality of why we are here. Not the amazing food and scenery or the friendly people... That piece of broke down equipment is symbolic for a bankrupt country... Those cut up life jackets are a very tough decision made for a hopeful future.... Reality...”
“No words. Lifejacket Graveyard. When the sea is safer than the land, there is no choice. This September, the water was calmer, except for the last three days. That's why they came by the hundreds. 600 in just the week before we arrived. 120 in one day, counted by Robbie, a volunteer with Euro-Relief. We try to find the humanity within all of this? With smugglers only filling the tanks with enough fuel to make it halfway through the waters. Lives lost. Lives saved. 4800 at the camp only meant to house 1,000. We question our purpose for this week here? Then we realize God asks us not to question and just to be. To be who he created us to be.”
"Happy Blue Friday from Athen's! The beautiful Tagaroulias family met us at the airport decked out in their 12th man spirit! Bobby and Lahela are a part of Hellenic Ministries, which has had a refugee ministry since 1981. Lahela comes from a Polynesian heritage with both parents originally from Hawaii. She has served in missions for over 13 years. Her newborn 3 week old son is named after her dad, David Hughes. He was not only the former Missions Pastor from Antioch Church, but also played for the Seahawks from 1981-1985. Bobby, also a lawyer for the Ministry of Finance and board member of Hellenic Ministries. Missing my hubbie and daughters, but playtime with Kela (9), Liki (7), Zoe (4), Nicolas (2), Davis (3 weeks) really warmed my heart. Go Hawks!"
"Block 4 - each day new neighbors move in literally 8 steps from where I am drilling. 6 new tents I count since yesterday. Most with an infant or toddler. Yesterday we are strangers. Today we are family. There's a heaviness and ache deep that gnaws on my heart as each refugee tells their story. Hala and Zharaa, teen sisters from a family of seven, live with 2 other families at the corner of Block 4 arriving 10 days ago on a rubber boat that carried more than 60 from Turkey. It was cold and they were scared as they floated for seven hours with their 8 and 10 year old sisters and a younger brother at early dawn. "I want to be an eye doctor", 16 year old Zharaa shares with excitement as I examine her teeth. "My daddy is blind and I want to help people with their eyes." After selling all their worldly belongings, It took their family one and a half months to walk from Syria, through Turkey as their mom led their blind father, then to pay smugglers $1500 each to cross the waters, to become refugees in this small Greek Island. Now they are our neighbors - our family on block 4. The girls are giggly, huggable, and charming and it makes me miss my sweet daughters. I meet their mom with a vivacious smile and my heart melts even more. I lament not bringing my heavy jacket as the cold and wind catches you off guard in the evenings. I wonder how this sweet family sleeps with the ration of one blanket per person at the camp? I pray for them tonight in hopes that God will keep them warm...as much as they have forever warmed my own heart."
Medical Relief International has taken teams to Guatemala to serve the Mayan Indians high up in the mountains, after a 17 hour adventurous trip from Guatemala City.
The people are beautiful and trip is extremely rewarding!