Serving on a Short-term Medical Mission Trip
By Kathleen Lee MS, RN, WELSNA Treasurer
“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers” (Galatians 6:10). This is a verse from a daily devotion I read as I prepared for a medical mission trip with Christians Forward – Southeast Asia (CFSA) (christiansforward.org). I thought the verse fit the situation well. The trip was not to Thailand as many of the CFSA trips are, but to Mahahual, Mexico, a first for the organization. Mahahual is the site of the Costa Maya Ministries (costamayaministries.org) and the Cruz de Cristo Lutheran Church. The church is served by Martin Valleskey, a WELS pastor. A group of three RNs, one LPN, and two non-medical individuals were part of the mission team.
According to Anne Press, executive director of CFSA, the organization provides opportunities for nurses to serve in a short-term mission and to witness and demonstrate Christian love to others during the mission trip. CFSA also has roles for non-medical individuals in both manual labor and medical trips.
On our team, Jill Holter, a Christian day school teacher from Tacoma, Wash., served as an assistant.
The team offered nurse-run clinics on five days. Two were in the “middle class” section of Mahahual (that is middle class by Mahahual standards), two were in the poorer section of Mahahual, known as Kilometer 55, and one took place about an hour away in the poor village of Xcalak. At each clinic site, there were three “nurse tables.” The table was manned by an RN, an assistant (either the LPN or a non-medical person), and an interpreter for the non-Spanish speaking nurses. Patients would approach the table and share their medical complaint or make a medical request. The RN would assess the patient and then offer education and/or over-the-counter medications. We treated complaints including headaches, GI distress, skin conditions, pain, and parasites. When a patient could not be treated with the over the counter medications, they were encouraged to see a doctor. We were able to check blood sugars, total cholesterol, HDL, and triglycerides with equipment lent to us from a local clinic. Each patient was given information about Costa Maya Ministries Bible studies and the Sunday church service.
My nursing teammates commented on serving in Mahahual. Marilyn Schwartzbauer, a critical care nurse from Bismarck, N.D., stated the team was able to provide basic health care in a moment’s time. We did not have an opportunity to follow up. As nurses, we were limited to treating minor problems and providing education. Education included teaching non-pharmacologic methods to manage the problems including stress management. Carol Laumer, an LPN from Willmer, Minn., is motivated by the thought of helping others. She wished the team could do even more for those we served. She believes that as a servant we need to avoid acting superior and must be willing to do all of the necessary tasks. Meghan Mortenson, a bilingual clinic and home health nurse from Green Bay, Wis., stated when serving others it is important to understand the patient’s perspective and then meet their individual needs. I am a retired RN from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and the WELSNA treasurer. I view serving as doing for others the things they cannot do for themselves. It is important to keep the focus on the people and their needs.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve the people of Mahahual and Xcalak and to work with a wonderful team of Christian women.
Learn about the ministry work of WELS Special Ministries.
SUPPORT SPECIAL MINISTRIES
Support the ministry work of WELS Special Ministries.