Sunday, July 13, 2014

I've been here 6 MONTHS! [I can't believe it]

Dear Friends and Family,
  I’d said I was going to write quarterly reports, but 6 months into it, here’s my first report.  I’ll start with a story.
   The day that our new CAT scan was up and function, Lyndal (an Australian who works in the radiology department: taking X-rays, CT scans, and performing ultrasounds) asked me to send one or two patients for a head CT because the machine hadn’t come with a manual and they were trying to program the machine.  Everyone wants CT scans of their head for headaches, but most of them don’t meet my criteria to risk the radiation (the radiation of one CT of the head is equivalent to that of 1000 chest x-rays).  My response to her was that she should pray that God would send me people who actually needed a head CT.  So then God responded and sent me two patients who needed head CT’s and one who needed an abdominal CT---at which point Lyndal said, “That’s enough.”
    One of the patients was a 23 year old male with a 2 month history of seizures.  He had what looked like a tumor and a brain bleed on his CT scan.  I sent him to a neurosurgeon.  The other was a 33 year male who left his village to go to Lima 8 years ago. When he got back he was not the same.  So his father had brought him to be evaluated.  He’d just start talking about nothing, not answer questions appropriately, and mentioned that he’d here different things being told to him (which sounded like audio hallucinations—ie. Hearing voices).  His CT was negative.  I suspected either influence of drugs or schizophrenia, started him on anti-psychotics and sent him to have a psych eval.  We waited a week for the final read from a radiologist in Germany.  The patient and his dad waited for 3 days, but when they ran out of money and couldn’t even afford anything to eat they left.  The dad came back alone to receive the final reading.  He was a poor, simple Quechuan who was very concerned about his son.  I felt that what he needed most was encouragement in Christ and prayer, which is what we offered him.
   This is my usual work day.  I care for anything from a healthy check up, to a chronic medical problem, to an acute emergency.  I take care of kids and adults; inpatient and outpatient.  Anyone I admit into the hospital I take care of in the hospital and then follow up in my clinic.  Also I’m on call 4-6 times a month; covering any emergencies that arrive between 5p-8a on weekdays and 8a-8a on weekends. Like all Christians, I share my faith and the love of God daily with my patients, the nurse who works with me, and the other workers in the hospital.  It’s especially easy to get to know the nurse assigned to me for the day and who ever I eat lunch with in the cafeteria.  I just started a bible study with two women who work in the hospital (Dennis and Rosemery today).  I rode my bike 30 minutes uphill to get to their village, and was just starting to regret my commitment when I arrived (I didn’t know where I was going.  I just had a map they’d drawn me. I was looking for a bridge and two trees.  They said it took 15 minutes by car, so I was anticipating it’d take me at least 60 minutes to arrive.)  The trip back, though in the dark, was obviously much easier—10 minutes straight down hill (almost no peddling).
     I’d been attending a church called the Puente (meaning “bridge”, because it’s located at the bridge into town), but after much prayer have started attending another church called Iglesia Evangilico del Peru (Evangelical church of Peru). They have serves for teens and young adults Saturday nights, church Sunday morning and night, night of prayer Tuesday nights, and evangelism training Thursdays.  Peruvians come late to everything.  So all services start at least 30 minutes after when they advertise they will.  All their evening services start for real at 7:00pm at the earliest and go until 9p.  That’s really hard for me, because if I don’t go to bed the night be for work between 9 and 10pm I can’t speak Spanish the next day and I’m not very patient.  So currently I’ve been attending Saturday night, Sunday morning, and Tuesday night.  I really enjoy the IEP church because the leaders are still pretty young, and full of enthusiasm for evangelism (especially to the youth) and to do the Lords work.  Since I started attending Sunday mornings, they always get together for lunch afterwards.  Today we had typical Peruvian food and then walked the final World Cup game together.
       Every 4th Sunday I still teach 3-7 year olds at the Puente church.  Every 3rd Sunday I go with Kirstin and Ryan (two of the other Americans here) to a village up the mountain (an hour walk or 30 minute drive) called Puka Puka do teach bible class to the kids there. 
    Monday evenings the hospital staff plays volleyball.  In August, a couple women at the church and I are planning to start a women’s bible study (modeled after Rachel Kincholoe’s, my most recent roommate in Tulsa) for teenagers and up on Monday evening, after volleyball. Thursday evenings I help with Kid’s Club, which is hosted at the hospital for the kids who like in Lukmos--- the village I’m living in right now.  Kid’s Club is kind of like Sunday school/VBS.  We sing songs, play a game, have a lesson/skit, and do a craft.  They do kid’s club in Curahuasi also.  But the sessions run throughout the week based on age and gender.  The Lukmos club is all the ages and genders together.  Usually there are at least 80 kids in attendance.  For the craft and sometimes the lesson we break them up into three groups by age---3-5 years old, 6-9 years old, 10-16+ years old.  Friday evenings the Americans (all English speakers are welcome) meet to eat, hangout, and study the bible together in English.
    What free time I have I spend either hanging out with my friends (foreigners and Peruvias), learning to play guitar, studying Spanish, Studying Quechua, reading Up-To-Date articles (to try to figure out what to do for my patients and to trying to learn more about stuff I see frequently), and reading bits and pieces of a pile of books I have on evangelism, culture shock, living as a “missionary”, disciplining, etc.
  As far as living situation goes, I spent my first two months living in the hospitals temporary housing.  Since then I’ve been staying in the guestroom of Ann Charlotte (the nurse administrator) and Ursula (the ophthalmologist, who’s been on furlough in Germany since I’ve been staying here) until I could find a place to stay.  In August, I plan to move in with Lisa (a dental technician from Germany), when her roommate, Inessa (a dental assistant from Germany) goes back to Germany for 6 months.  When Inessa comes back, Lisa will return to Germany, so the arrangement works out great.  They live in Curahuasi, so it will be a lot easier to have people over because it’s closer to where everyone lives (Lukmos is on the opposite side of the hospital.  To walk from Curahuasi to the hospital will take close to 30 minutes, and to arrive at Lukmos will take you another 15-20 minutes [that’s why I have a bike.  It takes me 11 minutes to ride from Lukmos to the IEP church in Curahuasi]).
     Cost of living is very cheap here.  Rent is about $60-100 per month. Electricity is maybe $10 more at the most.  I eat a large lunch at the hospital each day for $1.  There’s not that much to spend your money on here.  I guess that’s good.  In Cusco and Lima, though, things cost a lot more.  And touristy things will drain your wallet quickly.  I have an account through my sending church in the states, Park Plaza, for projects, but I’ve not figured out how to use it yet.  I’ve considered creating an account at the hospital that I can use to given even more discounts to patients who are really poor.  Or maybe just put the money into the account that already exists at the hospital.  Currently, I’m allowed to give medicines that we have that where donated to us for free, and I have a 50 sole donation cap (about $20) that I’m allowed to give on labs, imaging, and medicines.  If I think the patient needs more help, I have to call the Peruvian social worker to come talk to the patient, because we foreigners get scammed and taken advantage of by rich patients all the time.
   Overall, my heart is content and I know why God has called me here. Although superficially Peru seems to have lots of medical resources and everyone “knows” God, it’s now very apparent to me how much of an illusion those are.  If you have enough money you can move through the medical systems.  But if you’re poor, you’re out of luck.  And the training of the physicians overall is pretty disappointing.  Everyone says they believe in God (a lot of them are Catholic, but many more are evangelical) and they believe they obey everything God says.  But I usually ask them this after they tell me that the trigger of their headache or stomach pain (which is the reason for their visit) is getting very upset/angry, anxious and/or worrying.  So then after they tell me that they obey everything God says, I ask them what he says about getting upset/angry, worrying and being anxious.  They can’t answer me.  They say, “I don’t know” and look at me with a blank stare.  So I’ve realized that they all say they “believe” in God, few know what he says, and fewer still really serve him.

Please be Praying for:
-          My Study with Dennis and Rose Mery
-          The Women’s bible study
-          My work in the hospital: for wisdom to practice excellent medicine and on how to be Christ to each patient
-          For kids club Thursday
-          For my new living situation
-          There’s a youth conference in Abancay (a large city about 2 hours away) in August that I’ve been asked to speak at
-          Melanie Brinkley, one of the daughters of a family who has been spiritual mentors to me, is graduating high school and coming to hang with me for 2 weeks before she goes off to AIM (a 2 year program that prepares people for missions) in August.  Pray that God fills her with his heart for the nations and that he shows her clearly the area/type of missions he’s preparing her for.
-          For wisdom and discernment on how to financially support the work that’s being done here.

Thanks for your thoughts, prayers and support.

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