As I write this, we are in the tail end of Lent. The Catholic churches are full, the incense strong, and people are marching the Stations of the Cross in the streets. Protestants are celebrating by going off to camp. We’re all leaning towards the dawn of hope, the risen Christ. Love conquering despair. Life in the Dominican Republic, as everywhere, seems to be a constant tug-of-war between the two. We find ourselves grimy in the conflict, close to the mud pit in the middle often, but in good company. Thankfully, God is already tugging us towards love in spite of ourselves. As we share our stories of good news at Easter time, we’d love to hear yours too!
This has been a season of unexpected open doors in the physical therapy part of ministry. We have begun regular meetings with the physical therapy staff at the local University, focused on their goals for improving the curriculum in their program. We are thrilled at the warm welcome to this work, which we see as an amazing opportunity to produce long term improvements for patients who receive their care. Over coffee we cross out courses, add others, and discuss how to promote critical thinking and clinical reasoning in a country whose school system is based more in rote copying of materials. We spent some weeks working with the students on their rotations at the busy public hospital, both to understand what this part of the curriculum looks like and to lend a hand (15:1 student to teacher on live patients?? Compared to U.S. 1:1 or 2:1?). One day Cristobalina, their clinical professor, leaned in and said “Guess what? I’m doing what you do and have started asking the students ‘WHY’, instead of ‘WHAT did you do with the patients today.’ And I’m finding out that they often don’t know! We’ve got some work to do!”
Another open door came with an invitation to visit the “physical therapy” department at a US supported mission’s hospital in a rural zone several hours away. Their staff of 3 opened the morning with a word of prayer. We were asked to evaluate their patients, and were swamped with clinical questions during the process. We soon found out why. The staff had received only a week of training from a well known international aid group prior to beginning to accept patients. As bright and professional and well meaning as they were, they unfortunately had very little understanding of the anatomy and pathologies of the patients arriving at their door. Lack of even assistive devices for demonstration was another issue: One mother reported that her 4 year old with cerebral palsy had been walking with a walker 2 years ago around the house, but it broke, and so they had been carrying him ever since. Later that day, another door opened for a meeting with the hospital CEO and local missionary. We shared that there exists a bachelor’s level physical therapy program less than 2 hours away that offers weekend courses. They rejoiced in this news, and promptly scheduled a meeting with the staff to encourage them and offer scholarships to receive the formalized training they didn’t realized existed. This story demonstrates the complexities of international service work. Please pray for this group as they prepare themselves for further training, and grow in their faith and service as a Christian based hospital in the process!
Yet another door opened this week, close to home at our Santiago Children’s hospital. Due to the yearly presence of a U.S. team of Creighton University students, the staff has long realized the need for inpatient physical therapy. We were invited to collaborate on a presentation to the medical administration on the importance of physical therapy services, in hopes that a request will get approved to hire therapists. Given the lack of access to journal articles in Spanish, it has been a pleasure to dig up all the documents on what happens to the human body on bed rest, physiologic and functional improvements with inpatient physical therapy, reduced hospital cost and length of stay, etc. It is fun to reflect again on how God heals the body, and allows us to participate in caring for each other by understanding and participating in the healing process! We are so glad to rejoice with you in the unexpected opportunities that God is bringing.
Finally, an update from our local church. In efforts to raise money for land for a new church in rural area, we held a concert in the community. Last week, our church treasurer was robbed of these funds as she walked to church. We are so thankful she was not physically hurt! Please pray for the church as they deal with the $900 loss. Included is a picture of the current church building, built quickly on borrowed land, but being put to great use.
On the home front, an old friend of Laurie’s found our door open, and came to study Spanish for 3 weeks in March. It was lovely to have a friend (Sarah Scott) to come home to at the end of the work day. Laurie turned 31 in March, and we’re celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary by going up to the mountains for some hiking this weekend. Thursdays in the child sponsorship ministry continue to go well- we are planning a group trip to the beach!
Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement! May God continue to give us all strength and wisdom to live our daily lives with love. Many blessings.