I'm trying something new. As per usual, I've posted some of the photos below. If you would like to see any additional photos, you can click on the links throughout the story. I'm kinda rusty, so I didn't have many good pics this time, but they'll give you an idea of what I'm talking about. As the saying goes, a picture says a thousand words. But then again, so do I.
I've been trying to write this story for a few days now, but my muse continues to escape me. I've given up on flowery prose for now, and so I will endeavor to turn a very long story into a very short one. As Joe Friday used to say, "Just the facts, Ma'am."
This week, Joe and Steve and I went to a remote mountain village. Steve and his wife and six children are from Alaska and have been staying with Jenn and Joe for the last couple of months. We went to the mountains to spend time with our friend Beth, who was working with the barangay health official, doing a medical outreach. We were also there to scope out possible targets for the water project.
We stayed in Upian, a village that is only a 50 minute hike from the highway. After spending the night on a bamboo floor (there are no beds in mountain homes), we woke up at 4:30 and hiked for about 4 hours to get to the village where Beth was doing the clinic. The hike itself was eventful. We came across a family in need of some medical attention (children with possible pneumonia, and a woman with a mass in her stomach), and were able to pray for them. We also pooled some money together to get the woman to the hospital. During our hike, I broke my flip-flops (we call them slippers here) in the mud. A wonderful man who was hiking with us gave up his shoes so that I wouldn't have to go barefoot. At first I refused and tried to withstand the pain of walking over some very sharp rocks, but after about a kilometer people insisted that I take the shoes. They were probably getting frustrated with my slow pace.
Having arrived in Newtawas, we watched as Beth and the barangay health official did some basic health and sanitation teaching, similar to the teaching that Aunt Sylvia does for Impact Nations. We learned that this week, two of the villagers had died from diarrhea. It broke my heart to hear this, and I immediately determined that this village would be at the top of my priority list for water filter deliveries.
During the clinic, Steve and I had fun listening to lungs for signs of TB, and learning from Joe how to take blood pressure measurements. Before we left town I bought a blood pressure cuff, and Bethany gave me her spare stethoscope. Anytime we came across strange sounding lungs, we would refer the patient to Beth.
There were lots of children to play with as well. I had fun making strange noises at them and trying to convince them to let me listen to their lungs. One little girl was screaming and crying so I asked her mother if the child was in pain. The mother laughed and told me through an interpreter that the little girl was terrified because of my white skin and my beard. It would seem that white guys are a rare occurrence in those parts.
Before we left the village we learned of a baby that had bloody stool. We prayed for the child, and again we were able to provide some money to send them to the hospital. I'm no doctor, and at times I felt completely useless. However, I think our mere presence is a great encouragement to the people. Also, having seen the people and their homes gives me a much greater appreciation for their need for water filters.
The hike home was equally eventful. I had been rather impressed with myself for surviving the morning hike, in someone else's tiny shoes no less. The afternoon hike, however, was much more of a challenge. Luckily, I had brought an extra pair of shoes. They weren't available to me during the morning hike because our bags were brought in later on horseback. With new shoes on my feet and a light snack in my belly, I was feeling rather sure of myself as we set out. Within ten minutes, I was sure I was going to die.
Soon, I was huffing and puffing so hard I could barely see straight. At one point I lost my balance and stumbled, nearly falling back down the mountain I was climbing. Shortly after that, having lost all of my pride, I made a rather strong suggestion that we stop and rest for a moment. I quickly found myself on my back, staring up into the heavens and asking God if this was His great plan for my life. Then I noticed that the heavens were looking a little blurry. My pulse was slowing down, so my vision should have been improving....
Sitting up, I asked sheepishly "Has anyone seen my glasses?" I started looking around my resting place, wondering if I had been delirious enough to put down my glasses on the dirt path. They were nowhere near me. The beautiful, precious man who had given up his shoes for me earlier that day, was now volunteering to go back down the path to search for them. I was feeling ashamed, and thanked him very much for his help. We waited for what seemed like an eternity until he finally reappeared with my glasses in hand. It seems I had lost them when I stumbled, but hadn't noticed because I was busy having a heart attack.
Embarrassed, but grateful for my improved vision and the much needed rest, we resumed our 15 km hike back to our host's home. The rest of the hike was filled with many more lengthy rests and great patience from the rest of our crew. Joe supplied me with the best apple I've ever had, and Steve was very kind and gave me some of his water after I had run out. I was pleased, and mildly surprised that we reached our destination before nightfall. Thanks to our crew for their undying patience and grace.
That evening, we had an incredible time of fellowship with our host. Tatai and his wife run a horse ministry. They have a horse name Jungle and help to move people and goods around the region. Beth interpreted for me as I shared with them my desire to get water filters to the nearby villages. I told them that I would like to partner with them to help meet this very practical need, and they were very eager to help me. We agreed that in a few weeks time I will deliver several filters to a home at the side of the highway. They will use their horses to deliver the filters and the sand to a few homes in the neighbouring village at the bottom of the mountain. I will then join them in the village and train them to install the water filters. Once they have become installation experts, I will continue to deliver empty filters at the top of the mountain and they will continue to install filters at the bottom of the mountain.
The next morning we dragged ourselves out of bed and began our leisurely stroll back up the mountain to the highway. We were back in the city by 11am, and I was very glad to see my beautiful wife.
Well, so much for telling a short story. I did manage to abstain from gratuitous metaphors and pretentious adjectives. That should count for something. And the Dragnet reference was unavoidable. So, in summary: we hiked an estimated 30 km of mountainous terrain in one day; we paid for two people to go to the hospital; I broke my shoes; I lost and then found my glasses; and we found a solid strategy for distributing water filters to a very remote region. I'd say it was an eventful 48 hours. There are some photos below.
In other news:
Bethany is working her butt off trying to complete an assignment for Tuesday. She's barely looked up from her books this weekend, though we had a nice break playing cards together last night. She will be taking two exams on Tuesday, so please be praying for her.