June 2012 – From DR to Panama: Collaboration and Advocacy

Doing the “conference pose” with Marilyn Moffatt in Panama

June is upon us. Hot and humid, sweet with mangos, anticipating avocados. We get up earlier to capture the coolness of the day, as the fans die with the electricity in the afternoons, and with them, our energy. Much has happened in our lives since the last newsletter!

In mid March, we traveled to Panama for 10 days, for the Nazarene church’s Mesoamerica regional missionary conference, an event that occurs every ~5 years. Here, we met missionaries from Mexico down into Central America and the Caribbean for the first time, and were greatly encouraged. Themes on attitude, trusting in God, and self-care hit home and prompted growth, as did the delicious all-you-can-eat buffets. We even spotted a sloth in the rainforest around our hotel!

Delegates of the World Confederation of Physical Therapy – North America & Caribbean Region at the Panama 2012 Conference. We were privileged to represent the Dominican Republic.

In Panama, at the Missionary Retreat, we saw our first slot. He is about the size of medium-sized dog.

Miraculously, about a month before we left, we found out about a regional conference for the World Confederation of Physical Therapy in the same city, scheduled the week before our mission’s conference. We changed our tickets and through a series of events, ended up representing the Dominican Republic, providing a report on physical therapy in the DR, to the international leaders gathered. It was both educational and eye opening to sit and strategize with therapists from other countries facing similar challenges to quality health care. We are currently working at the slow process of bringing the Dominican Republic on as members to this association, as they have previously not met professional standards to join and receive the groups varied types of support. We are thankful for this opportunity!

A dozen countries were represented at the Conference.

Upon returning from Panama, life shifted into high work gear. As you recall, we are conducting a research-level needs/assets assessment to describe the state of physical therapy in the DR, to offer health care professionals some material for reflection on quality of care, and to help us plan our next ministry steps wisely. After completing the process of an ethics committee review, we recently finalized the multistep processes of approval to enter most all of the hospitals on our research list. Thanks be to God.

As we enter into hospitals and clinic settings for observation and interviews, God is providing unexpected opportunities for meetings with medical directors and hospital CEOs seeking feedback and suggestions on their services. Pray with us that as they hear our concern as missionaries for quality health care for vulnerable populations, they would understand the love of God. That they would be moved towards this Love, and therefore, to action. Pray for ethical leaders to rise up to the task of appropriately administering the funds that do seem to exist in these public hospitals to change unnecessary unsanitary conditions for the better. These visits are affecting our hearts too, as we see unhealthy patient and health care provider environments, including intensive care units without consistent running water. We see how lack of resources and resource management, and lack of regulation regarding care standards influences the lives and deaths of the people in front of us. We are now finishing results from the first 3 hospitals, and have about 10 more clinics around the country to go, a project which we see stretching through October, with the consulting that follows integrated into our ongoing ministry.

Making pizza with some friends from church, after the service.

We are otherwise well here, learning, growing and adapting as we celebrate our one-year anniversary in the country! Relationships continue to grow. We are enjoying the friendship of a family from church whom we had over to make pizza (a first for them!) last week. Next week, Laurie’s parents come to town for a visit, and a month later, Nick’s parents will follow. Pray for safety in their travels and for a healthy, fun stay with us.

Sending all of our love, thanks, and blessings…

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