Faith, Family and Community

There is a truck that drives by every morning at 6 am and honks five short times. No need for an alarm clock. The water is turned on and we start our day.

Because it’s Sunday, we only have a half day of clinic. Church is at 4:30 pm, so all the work needs to be done early. As soon as we open there is a woman with an older frail man in a wheelchair, leaning to his left side. She says he recently had a heart attack, and now is weak on his left side. The team jumps into action, taking him immediately into the PT room where there is a table he can lie down on. While Allyson starts to evaluate his strength, Sayra starts interpreting to get the fuller story, while another gets his blood pressure and pulse. Is he having a stroke in front of our eyes?

As the story comes out, he may have had a “heart attack” in mid October, and started then with one sided weakness, which is getting worse. He coughs when he eats and is clearly dehydrated. Quickly we discover that his pulse is 44 beats in a minute, when it should be at least 60. This man needs a pacemaker.

We bring Dr Elry in who explains that it would be very expensive. He could go to the hospital and have an electrocardiogram, but that would already confirm what we knew. But what would the family think if we offered no treatment? Dr Elry carefully explained to them the options. With God’s guiding hand, they chose to take him home and keep him comfortable.

Having been shown the path, the team now had their roles. The patient had fallen asleep on the examining table, and we wanted to show the family how to safely move and turn and feed him. It turns out, the family was all there at the clinic. One young woman, a granddaughter, was being seen by Heidi because she was exhausted from caring for him overnight. Men who had been lingering outside the clinic door turned out to be family-grandsons who could pick the frail man up and place him in the truck when it was time to go. Allyson set up a training area in the dining room and taught the caregivers proper body mechanics so they didn’t hurt themselves while caring for him. Audrey sat with this man while he was sleeping to assure that he didn’t roll off the table and quietly prayed for him and his family. Allyson made time to pray over him also. They remain in our prayers.

What an example of family love and caring! We saw a lot of that today. Right next door is the community soccer field, a shortened field played 5 v 5 on dirt next to the lake where the ball frequently ends up. Sunday is Soccer Day. Futbol is life!

All day long leagues of men and boys played. They all had their team uniforms, and the referees had their whistles. Crowds came to cheer in the stands. One team, whenever they scored, set off fireworks on the fields. The cheering continued right through our afternoon church service.

Before church, though, the pastor/doctor led us on a walk through the community. An abandoned railroad owned by the government runs through the town. Squatters have built their homes made of corrugated metal right over the tracks, or within the ten foot right of way on either side. The government has threatened to remove these homes, but a whole village has grown up along this track. We could peek into open doors and see the single rooms used for all purposes-eating, sleeping, living- and the wood fired cooking areas. One friend of Dr Elry’s allowed us in. She had a more luxurious space, with bedrooms that were separated from the rest of the house, but no sitting options except plastic outdoor chairs. Her pride and joy was her sewing machine. She showed us what she was working on, a beautiful satiny gown for her daughter’s first communion. The floor was cement and the chimney for the open fire cooking space was a hole in the wall.

We also were able to visit the Center for Women and Children which is run by Samy. It was established by a non-profit in New Mexico to teach single mothers sewing and embroidery skills, while their children are cared for and schooled. It is a beautiful building which just opened two weeks ago. Five women now are learning there who will later teach the next class that comes through. For more on this project check out El Salitre Women’s and Children’s Center

The clinic was miraculously transformed into a proper church while we were gone. The church congregation surprised us. It was mostly, if not all children and women. When Dr Elry started his ministry, he first started with kids’ camp, helping children with their homework. They love to come around the church, and some of them come around most afternoons. The service was beautiful, filled with music. Dr Elry’s family does it all-run the slide projector and audio, pass the donation plate, help with communion, and read the scripture. Family is so important in his home, in the church and in the community. 

We sang familiar songs in Spanish that filled our hearts:

Behold what manner of love The Father has given unto us, That we should be called the sons of God

And we sang to a recorded version of A Mighty Fortress is our God, performed by La Ibi. The title in Spanish is Castillo Fuerte.

It was a day filled with faith, family and community. And a little bit of fun.