A Different Kind of “Vacation” . . .
By Dr. Linda Adams
I was first exposed to missions at the age of six months when my parents went on vacation to Mexico. They started out to visit friends just across the border in northeastern Mexico and somehow ended up 1,000 miles south in the state of Chiapas, at a Seventh-day Adventist boarding school that was just being established high up in the mountains. I ended up spending most of my growing-up years at this school, now known as Linda Vista University.
We were not the usual missionary family supported by the church—I have yet to see the Church place a call for a logger! My parents saw a need and wanted to help. They found that, by living very carefully, we could work at the family logging business in northern California during the summer and have enough money to spend the winter—and thus the school year for us kids—in Mexico. We drove down to Chiapas each year, packing our car and trailer with supplies for the next nine months.
I helped with Branch Sabbath Schools, but mostly I just did the normal things kids do as they grow up—exploring, getting into trouble, playing and fighting with my brother & sister, going to school with my friends and graduating.
Whenever we visited the villages we would be surrounded by kids who had lice, sores on their bodies, constant coughs and runny noses; and I always wanted to be able to help them. So I came up to the States and went to Medical school.
After I completed my Residency I started working in the ER at Orthopaedic Hospital in downtown Los Angeles, which is where I still work. I kept busy, bought a car, bought a house, and, well, just didn’t have time or money to go on mission trips. Seemed like taxes and bills were always due, therefore extra shifts needed to be worked, and . . . there was always next year.
Then, 8 years ago my sister Lanita and her family went on a mission trip to the Yucatán Peninsula near Cancún. Yep, right on the beach. My sister kept telling me that was something I should do, so I decided to check it out. I will do most anything to spend time with my nieces and nephews. I thought I was on VACATION and had fun with the kids. When the rest of the group found out I was a doctor playing auntie, they quickly put me to work—and that was the end of my vacation! From 1998 to 2002 I volunteered with the same group and gradually assumed more responsibilities.
Three years ago when the book Prayer of Jabez became popular, I started praying “expand my territory.” That year I was asked to direct the medical aspect of the mission trip, which involved an extra “pre-trip” to Mexico to scout out locations for clinics, find an operating room available for the surgical team, and secure permission from state and local authorities. As I usually prefer to remain low key and in the background, that really expanded my borders!
Over the last couple of years several physicians and nurses approached me regarding a Mission to Chiapas—they would go if I organized a trip. I’d been toying with the idea for a while, then in Sept. 2002 a surgeon from Portland, Maine called and asked if I was serious about planning a trip. His team needed to know right away so they could purchase airline tickets. I said yes, they bought their tickets . . . and I was committed! I dedicated the trip to God and started praying for Chiapas. A group of friends also prayed for me and the trip.
With a lot of help from my brother Fred and his organizational skills, who did all the computer work and much of the communication, the trip started coming together.
I thought 20, MAYBE 30 people would volunteer for the 10-day mission. Instead, almost 70 people of different faiths signed up! They ranged in age from 9 to 82 years, and came from 12 different states. Plus 20 nursing students from the Adventist University in Chiapas asked to participate!
The purpose of the trip, which happened just this past March, was to build 6 classrooms and to provide medical and dental care to villages where none is available. When the people in these mountain villages need medical care, they have to travel many hours out to the nearest medical facility on foot or mule or, if they have enough money to pay for a ride, in a pickup. Can you imagine riding 4 hours over rough dirt roads when you have acute appendicitis? And not only once, but twice? This happened to one poor lady when the doctors in town misdiagnosed her symptoms and sent her home, so the second time she went out with a ruptured appendix—and survived!
In spite of the time, hard work, and usual problems which will be encountered any time you have 70+ people in primitive conditions eating different food, sleeping on hard floors, working in the hot sun in high humidity, and getting sick from being in the blazing sun all day, overall it was the most positive, awesome mission trip I’ve experienced so far.
We treated 320 patients; one dentist pulled 290 teeth from 201 mouths; the surgery team operated on 25 patients; eyeglasses were distributed to 140 persons; nursing students gave health talks, distributed toothbrushes, washed and cut children’s hair to rid them of lice, cleaned and bathed patients confined to their huts, etc. Visitation teams distributed clothing and toys in more than 150 needy village homes; six classroom walls were built and steel trusses placed. And all this happened in only 4½ work days! We ran out of time and money and didn’t get the roof on the classrooms or the concrete floors poured, which greatly disappointed Gene Witzel our head builder. I felt so bad for him as I had to practically pry him off the scaffolding to get him on the last vehicle out of the village late Friday afternoon!
But there was so much more than the numbers and the people we went to serve; the changes and experiences within the group were the most powerful. As Rick Warren says in his book The Purpose Driven Life, “Although it is a big responsibility, it is also an incredible honor to be used by God.” I feel happiest when I’m fulfilling God’s purpose for my life.
Dr. Linda Adams writes from southern California. She works long shifts at the hospital
"Scared to Death" about
the Mission Trip
After “Big Bob” Napoletano signed up for our “Friends with a Mission,” he told his pastor and other friends, “I’m scared to death about going on this trip.” A new Christian, in his mid sixties, Bob had never gone on a mission trip.
When we reached the village of San Lorenzo, normally talkative and “tough guy” Bob was speechless at the living conditions he saw. In fact, he almost couldn’t handle it. Later he said, “If I’d had a car my first day there, I would have gone home right then.”
Even though he didn’t speak the language, Bob soon began to make friends with the children, using a supply of candy he’d brought to communicate. Before long he had friends wherever he went, and worked right along with the others on the new school rooms. Always looking for ways to help, Bob shared popsicles with workers on hot days, helped in the kitchen, and cheered up some of the discouraged kids in our group, giving them fatherly advice. He also stared in amazement at some of the naked featherless chickens running around!
Now Bob says, “If you ever get a chance to go on a mission trip––don’t miss it!” As I write, Bob is preparing to leave on another mission trip in a couple of weeks, this time to the Dominican Republic.
Betty Adams works with “Big Bob” at Community Services in Placerville, California.
We were enjoying a lovely
Sabbath at beautiful Linda Vista
a jewel of a school in the forested mountains of south Mexico. The Adams
family invited us to visit a small church in the nearby village of
Maravillas, so we squeezed into Fred's van. Half an hour later we were
seated on wooden benches in the small cabin-like church. There were probably
25-30 folks attending, enthusiastically singing and worshipping.
Barbara Julier is a retired physician from Placerville, CA. She enjoys
volunteering her services in Alaska and many other places,
compassion and relief to people who are suffering.
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