Change of Plans
It was 12:52 am when my phone chimed. “Hello Mirta. You might say to Ruben to send the money with Herman? Also the anesthetics and needles that you gathered for the project. We are going to be here in Familia Feliz a week, and there is no anesthesia in town. I am in the middle of nowhere. I came looking for signal to send you this message.”
It did not surprise me to receive a text message from Gabriela Garcia late at night. For three months we had been messaging in the evenings after she got home from her dental office, planning a medical outreach project to northern Bolivia. Gabriela had already scheduled a mission trip to Familia Feliz (Happy Family), a Christian boarding school in Rurrenabaque, Bolivia, and she had a group of 20 people coming from an Adventist hospital to help. We decided it would be a great time for a few of us to add on a trip to Puerto Ustarez on the Guaporé River, the border between Bolivia and Brazil. I had been told on a previous mission trip that the people of Puerto Ustarez were especially needy, and I was excited to be able to minister in this remote location.
Plans had changed when an emergency arose in our family. My husband and I had traveled from our mission home on the campus of an Adventist television station in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to be with my family in Entre Ríos, Argentina. To make things more difficult, I was now in bed with gastroenteritis. Days before, I had given up hope of being able to make the trip to Puerto Ustarez—a decision that cost me a lot of pain and tears. Since informing Gabriela of my plight, I had not heard back from her and hardly knew what would become of this trip I had spent so much time organizing. How glad I was to receive her messages at any hour! It appeared that God had extra work for Gabriela to do in Rurrenabaque, and she needed the supplies I had put together for Puerto Ustarez. I didn’t mind. If God opened the way for us to go to Puerto Ustarez in the future, He would surely provide more supplies!
Right away, I began messaging friends back home in Santa Cruz. They were sleeping, of course, but sometimes when God reveals His plans we have to act fast! I explained to Ruben and Romina where to find the supplies Gabriela needed: a suitcase of medications, a box of Christian literature, another box full of Bibles, and a cash donation to help reimburse travel expenses for one of the dentists. Everything had to be at the hangar before 6:30 am so that Herman, our mission pilot, could take it to Rurrenabaque. Thanks to God, Romina and Ruben acted quickly and delivered all the supplies on time. It was beautiful to see the hand of God guiding despite seeming failure!
Planning medical missionary trips to the jungles in the interior of Bolivia is the work God has given me. The people of this nation, especially in the northeast, greatly need medical help. Bolivia is thought to be the least developed country in South America, with 45% of the population living below the international poverty line of $2 a day. A majority of the people live in primitive conditions and hold indigenous beliefs. Thousands upon thousands of the nation’s children lack access to healthcare and education. According to the Ministry of Health, at least 95% of Bolivians have cavities. In addition, many villagers lack basic knowledge of health and hygiene, especially in the preparation of food. As such, the risk of contracting infectious diseases is high.
Mission Send Me is the organization my husband and I began in order to orchestrate medical missionary trips to remote, needy areas of Bolivia. We take dentists, dental assistants, health educators, eye doctors and a physical therapist (myself) to do all we can to help the poor with their physical needs and in this way show them God’s love. We always find much work to do both in helping people with immediate health needs and in educating them in the prevention of diseases, including how to obtain pure drinking water, keep food uncontaminated and practice sanitation in their homes. Thankfully, these poor communities are eager for medical attention. They appreciate our help.
While caring for people’s medical needs, we distribute outreach literature as well—books about family, education, moral values and health. We are confident that God continues His work through these books long after we leave the community!
Although the trip to Puerto Ustarez with Gabriela fell through, God knew what He was doing. As a boarding school that provides assistance to orphaned, abandoned, abused or very poor children, Familia Feliz was just as worthy of help as any poor village we could have selected. The 617-acre campus, home to 60 students ages 5 to 17, is about eight miles south of Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. Six small homes host groups of 8–12 students assembled by age, gender and emotional/psychosocial development. The houses are built of concrete and brick, some with thatched roofs and others with metal roofs. The school classrooms, built from the same materials, are small, dark and poorly ventilated, making for difficult school days in the hot climate.
Professionals and assistants from Peru, Argentina, Bolivia and Romania came together to help this school and its community with medical care and building maintenance. The project was richly blessed with six dentists who provided free dental care for students of Familia Feliz, soldiers stationed nearby, other army staff and people of the community.
The Argentinean crew, 20 members strong, worked on remodeling and rebuilding the dingy classrooms. They replaced thatched roofs and did other maintenance work with donated supplies. In addition to their hard work on the facilities, they put on a week of prayer for the children. One of the brethren even held a workshop on prayer for the soldiers!
Although we had to be absent from the scene of their labors, we give thanks to God for having been able to aid this medical missionary project by helping to gather medical supplies, Bibles and religious literature. We give thanks that so many people were blessed by the volunteer efforts!
By the way, the trip to Puerto Ustarez has been rescheduled. I trust that God still has a great work for us to do there. I would like to encourage anyone reading this who may want to give a week or two or even several months to work in God’s missions: There is much to do! “The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest.” Luke 10:2. Please join us in the harvest field!
By Mirta Farias, missionary to Bolivia with her husband Miguel and their daughters. firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Mission Send Me and to learn how to donate, visit www.missionsendme.wordpress.com.