From Thighland to Thailand

March 4, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.11

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:23 pm

March 3, 2017

We had a day of R & R Wednesday to supposedly rest our weary bones. You know how that goes. Usually you do more strenuous activities than expected because you get antsy just sitting around. One of the attractions that we have enjoyed before has been riding the elephants. The Karen tribe has nicely commercialized this endeavor and we thoroughly helped support their cause and their way of life. I don’t know how many of you have ridden an elephant, much less petted or fed one, but these docile appearing creatures are quite massive in size and impressively strong. We climbed aboard stepping on its neck and went for a slow jaunt about 2 mph. We strolled through the river and village getting a little nauseous but I was afraid of dirtying the river until I saw what the elephants dumped in and then I didn’t care. There were a few floaters that we had to dodge but when nature calls, the elephants don’t hesitate. Anyway, I was a pleasant, if not rocky, ride and then we fed them corn, sugar cane, and bananas. One mighty beast grabbed and uprooted a banana tree and just held it in its mouth until later eating it as a snack. They also had an area to pet large snakes and lizards but no takers in this group as they slithered to the vendors.

Another group went to Mae Fah Luang Gardens in Doi Tung where the King’s mother (Princess Mother) helped the hillside ethnic tribes change from growing opium years ago in to teak, coffee, and fruit. It’s a beautiful garden to explore on the ground and in the air.

Our last day of work was at the Sahasartsuka School where Luka was a young student. An American Baptist Missionary, Cecil Carter, founded the school in 1957. There are over 2700 students of which 80% are ethnic hillside tribe and 20% Thai. Sixty per cent of the children are Christian while 30% are Buddhists, and 10% animistic. The children are quite polite and proper lining up their shoes outside and waiting in groups to be seen. The dental team did a wonderful job at screening and evaluating these children in their important time of teeth maturation and despite the lack of tools Lester literally did hands on manipulation on a child with a loose tooth. After looking around unsuccessfully for a doorknob and dental floss, he did it the old fashion way and just loosened a tooth with his hand until it came off. The child was comfortable without anesthesia and happy the tooth was out and anxious for the tooth fairy to come that night. Larry continued the oral examinations as Lynnelle gave out toothbrushes to the children and instructed them on proper use. The medical team dealt with lice outbreaks and treated dozens of children. Lice give me heebie geebies so I let the rest of the team deal with them medically otherwise they might have gotten a shave from me a la Snead O’Connor.   I just didn’t want to be nit picky.   My scalp itches just thinking about it. Does yours? There was a touching moment with Ghan was interpreting for a 14 year-old patient of mine and she thought she looked familiar. She asked a few questions and then realized it was one of the children who lived at AYDC when she was seven. Tears flowed with the reunion with Ghan just happy to see her growing up.

After the school clinic we headed for AYDC for a special ceremony. The children of AYDC wanted to thank FCBC for their donations and past support, which allowed the purchase of the bus that they have been using over the years transporting the children to school, and for building the new boys dormitory. As I mentioned earlier, the massive earthquake in 2014 destroyed several buildings making them uninhabitable. Both the girls’ and boys’ dormitories had to be rebuilt. FCBC help raise funds particularly for the boy’s dormitory and they had a program of gratitude and dedication of the building. Almost all of the children in various groups sang praise songs such as “All and All” and “How Great is Our God” for us and several gave a thank you speech. Ghan and Luka’s children and friends sang one of my favorite songs, “Give Thanks (With A Grateful Heart).” The medical team was presented with wreaths of beads, handmade bamboo cup, and bag of gifts.

It was over to an hour of song praise, and thanks followed by cutting of the ribbon and a tour of the building and coconut ice cream! It was really touching how this act of gratitude, which took a lot of time of practice and organization, was carried out for our benefit. No one expected it or anticipated it and it caught me completely off guard to show their appreciation for what FCBC, which includes not only the medical team, but also the congregation.   We should be proud that we are in a position to help those in need and less fortunate than us and be thankful for how God has blessed our church. I am a proud member of FCBC and I feel privileged to have an opportunity to be part of a wonderful team of professionals and caring, unselfish individuals who make financial sacrifices while risking life and limb. It has been a blessing to get to know these people of Myanmar and Thailand especially to know and work with the Akha people for over a decade. I am humbled by their compassion, thoughtfulness, and acts of gratitude. I believe that we are taught to serve without the need for thanks only because God is the very reason that we are able to serve in the first place.  God has been in control this whole mission trip and although we thought we had limitations because of the lack of supplies, it allowed us to be more reliant on Him, than on ourselves and showed us different ways that we can serve and glorify Him than we had thought.   I thank the readers and the supporters of the FCBC and their efforts to provide future mission trips. Your thoughts and prayers have helped us get through these difficult two weeks and many of you would have like to come on this trip. Willingness to serve is the first step and all these team members contributed to the success of this mission trip by showing up and I am proud to have served next to them. Thank you all for this experience that I will never forget. For those who can’t go on these trips but want to help out, please help financially to support future mission trips. There is still a need to build water towers for the dormitories so that the water supply and flushing system would work optimally and we will need to raise that money in the near future. Please think about giving to help this project come to fruition. If you would like to donate or need more information please contact me at mchinmd@aol.com. Thank you for your consideration.

I leave you with the faces of the future.

 

Blessings, Mark

March 1, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.10

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:29 am

February 28, 2017

Today we traveled 45 miles to the Troeng District Prison about 90 miles from Chiang Rai. We came here once before and it reminded us that we don’t want to get in trouble here in Thailand. As we approach the prison there are armed guards.   We are immediately greeting with some people who want to take our picture. Smile! Frankly, we will do anything they ask and don’t want to appear hostile. There shouldn’t be a problem getting in the prison; I’m more worried about getting out. I was worried about the bodily cavity search but fortunately it was just a simple pat down. (TSA screening is more invasive.) It’s an eerie feeling being behind bars and looking at the razor wire that deters escape along with the heavy metal gates and bars. It is a medium security prison housing about 700 inmates of both genders with about 100 women. Most are incarcerated due to illegal use of drugs so we felt pretty safe with these non-violent criminals. Good thing we left our betel nut at the hotel and brushed our teeth of the dark red residue.   Thanks dental team for the toothbrushes! Most of the prisoners seem friendly and your average Joe but somewhere along the line they made the wrong decision and it cost them dearly. Typical sentence is a few years to 15 years in prison. Dr. Patton had reviewed several charts and felt that they get pretty good medical care but some have acute diseases that we were able to treat at the time and some chronic diseases we could treat with injections. So far we haven’t had much set back in the medical department, as we have been able to get supplies and drugs locally at pharmacies. Needless to say, cameras were not allowed into the prison so this is it:

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The prisoners seemed to be content at the moment to serve out their time. They have adjusted to their incarceration and have no choice to experience the same routine day after day. No hard time here nor balls and chains or rocks and sledgehammers. Metaphorically speaking, we can become prisoners ourselves. It could be that we are prisoner of wealth, greed, materialism, drugs, alcohol, lust, infidelity, pride, and we get used to the same routine. We are enslaved by habits, and routines, and succumb to temptations. The difference is that for most of these prisoners, they will be able to have a change in their current routine when their sentence is up and they are set free. We, on the other hand, may be sentenced for life due to our habits and greed. Will we ever be satisfied? Will we be set free?

Psalms 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.” We need to focus on rejoicing unto the Lord so that our desires are God’s desire then we will not go unfulfilled.   Yes, I still buy the Powerball Jackpot lotto ticket, but I truly know that the winning the lottery is with God’s salvation and the eternal treasures of knowing Christ our Lord.

Comment:

Thank you for reading these blogs as I realize that this is just one small portion of the team’s perspective on the trip. Sometimes I sound like I’m preaching when I don’t have the authority, knowledge, or experience of many of you who are more biblically versed. These blogs are a personal reflection of my thoughts, which allow me a deeper understanding of what this experience is to me or how God is talking to me.   Sometimes it’s an epiphany and maybe it might provoke your own thoughts and understanding of God’s message.

Okay we got out safely, I don’t ever want to go to prison so I will have to keep my nose clean and ask for forgiveness for my sins. I’m putting back the hotel towels and ashtrays where I found them but maybe not the toilet paper though since I interpret that as a “God will provide” moment. I will not try to find a massage parlor that offers “happy endings” even though there are a plethora of masseuses around us. Literally there are dozens of parlors within walking distance and I will have to go “La la la la la la la, I can’t hear you!” with my ears covered as the catcalls are directed my way.   God knows what we need and he will provide.

We had a chance to go to a large park after the prison and chill out. Type A personalities need their daily quota and many were overdue for personal time. Singha Park, or known as Beer Park, offered zip lines from a tall tower, bicycle riding, giraffe petting (and why would you want to do that?) and tour around the park. There are large tea plants in unique topiary patterns. We developed a nice appetite and Bill wanted to take us to a nice restaurant but there was one condition, we had to catch our dinner ourselves.  What was nice in this quiet environment is that we felt loved. (We’re kinda needy at this point.)

It felt like we were back in Myanmar (they regulate because suddenly about 8 pm the city went dark. Completely dark, literally, lights out.   A citywide black occurred and we were concerned with team members lost in the dark. However, it didn’t damper some die-hard twin sisters, whose names I won’t mention, from shopping in the bazaar since they used flashlights and taking advantage of the vendors who needed to make quick sales as the tourists scattered.   I’m often hassled about bringing too much on mission trips but Bill didn’t seem to mind when I handed him an extra Goalzero lantern to complement his computer screen output. Most of us had flashlights for personal use but I felt a little guilty since I had multiple backup lights and resources, so many, that I had to put towels around the door edges so that not too much light would shine through the cracks and attract people, err, I mean mosquitos towards our room.  Okay, add, “I will not hoard Goalzero lanterns” to my list of greediness even though others came ill prepared. As we prayed for electricity, there was a voice heard from above “Let there be light!” and behold, the lights came back on after about an hour. God will provide.

Mark

February 28, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.9

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 12:54 am

February 27, 2017

Happy Birthday to Lynnelle and Lynnette! Since we have gotten to know Lynette, it has been double the pleasure! Happy Birthday to my sister Sandy as well, and I hope you had a great party!

Today we return to the medical health clinic near the Huisan Village, which has been the most modern looking facility. We worked side by side the existing clinic obligations and they were very accommodating. The eye clinic was, as Lena put it “women united” as the male team members had other duties. The eye clinic set up shop inside right next to the surgical suite where Leo got to take off a few lesions including a gigantic sebaceous cyst so he got one too. Leo also took off a calcified tumor off a lady’s forehead in the shape of a heart so she wanted to take it home. Leo was in the groove as he was in his element and as a newbie he jumped right into anything and everything. It’s great to have him aboard.   Zina, our surgical nurse has been fantastic organizing and making the surgeries flow smoothly since she can anticipate So far we are managing on what we were able to find from storage, finding supplies at the medical clinic, and buying supplies locally.  Since we are rationing suture material, we have to be innovative so Leo used superglue, yes, superglue to close the wounds of his three patients.  The benefit is that no sutures will need to be removed.  No problem.

A lot of patients had repetitive stress injuries and just wanted to feel better so that they can go back to work. Many steroid injections were given in hopes of alleviating some inflammation that they experience day to day. Some were repeat customers from years past and some patients with chronic conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or chronic fractures or dislocations that weren’t repair could not be helped much.

As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, there was a strong earthquake that rocked Thailand with the epicenter near the AYDC compound. There was a medical clinic attached to the old sanctuary, which was demolished and then resurrected on the site of the old sanctuary. The clinic was built not too long ago and needed to be painted inside and out. Fortunately, God tapped the team’s talents of brain and brawn and Mark Patton’s general contracting experience to picked supplies the day before. The Lowe boys used a pocketknife to take apart shutters off the windows to paint. So under General Patton’s direction, Andy, Lynnelle, Larry, Lester, Mark, and Pastor Jack baked under the hot sun painting with rollers and brushes in awkward positions straining neck and arms, tirelessly, first priming the surface followed by another coat of paint. They came away with paint on their face, body, and clothes like a two-year old playing with finger paint but by the end of the day it was a first class job. One benefit was that the gang has really nice Hawaiian Tropic tans.

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We had a little celebration for the twins with a birthday cake and drinks and gathered around singing praise songs with Kane leading on his guitar.   He’s a really talented guy. One of my favorite tunes is “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” whose lyrics I find appropriate for our cause:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

And we pray that our unity will one day be restored

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

We will work with each other, we will work side by side

And we’ll guard each man’s dignity and save each man’s pride

And they’ll know we are Christians by our love by our love

Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love

May God continue to bless our time with these wonderful people of Thailand and grow together in Christ.

Mark

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February 27, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.7

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:02 pm

February 26, 2017

Happy Birthday Lindsey Lowe!   I hope that you get that new car you are wishing for and that mama and papa are reading this! 😉

Bill has always looked to keep the cost down on these trips and the Golden Triangle Inn and we lucked out because the GTI was more expensive than the Wangcome Hotel we are at now and it is pretty nice.  Air conditioning and warm water is about all we need at this time but the rooms are nice and the buffet breakfast has quite a variety. Most of us slept pretty good after a night of shopping and stuffing our bellies with mango-sticky-rice and Swensen’s Ice Cream.  Thanks Bill!

We drove to the Huisan village where we had Sunday service. This is the main church of the Akha village that we are all familiar with. We saw the new sanctuary that was built after the earthquake since the old building was not structurally sound but a new medical clinic was built in its place since that was crushed as well during the earthquake. The sanctuary was beautiful but I had to get my bearings right because I tried to sit on the ladies side and Lena had to point me to the correct side. I forgot that there was not coed seating in this church. It was very special to see familiar faces that greeted us with warm hugs and smiles. It is very important to maintain these bonds and we felt as if we were just here. We have established this relationship with this village over 10 years ago and we cherish their friendship, as they are appreciative of what we share in spirit, love, and fellowship.

The pastor and the head of the village welcomed us and thanked us for coming. Both Pastor Jack and Pastor Kim were able to give messages to the congregation with interpreters and we celebrated in the word and in song. We were treated with traditional Akha dances by both young men and young ladies in Akha attire. The church then prepared a wonder meal in the education wing. How I love the fresh fruit!

We had a productive day during clinic for the medical and eye team setting up outside the sanctuary. The dental team assisted with the pharmacy helping organizing for an efficient flow.   We have been doing quite well with what we have in supplies. I was touched by the gesture of a man from whom I removed a large buttock mass.   I don’t get grossed out much but this was a large sebaceous cyst that was about 3 inches in diameter hanging off the left cheek and during its removal it started to leak and then a lava flow ensued and it just kept coming and coming. I’ve never seen such a large cyst before. He was very stoic as he laid on his tummy on a hard church pew bench and it though it hurt a few times he was a great patient. I thought he would be mad at me for hurting him  but I was in for a big surprise. He was so grateful that about a half an hour later he returned to give me a man purse as a gift. It’s always a nice feeling to get a gift deserved or not.  I accepted it with gratitude, as I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by not accepting it. We don’t serve for accolades, payment, or barter and we really don’t expect much in the way of thanks. The people that we treat are so grateful for whatever treatment that they receive. The people here are polite, patient, gracious, and generous. I am humbled by their attitudes and get great satisfaction when I think I improved their quality of life. These people here are hard working individuals and it is amazing how fit and strong they are even when they are 70 years old. I admire their stamina and work ethic to continue to be productive all their life.

This trip is more about establishing new relationships as well and strengthening existing ones rather than what we actually do or how many patients we treated. God wants us to share our love. We hope to measure the impact of our presence here not what we do physically but how we affect one another spiritually

In Christ, Mark.

 

February 26, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.7

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 3:55 pm

 

February 25, 2017

I want to wish a happy birthday to my precious daughter Allison. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there to celebrate your birthday but will make it up when I return. And to my lovely sister Daphne, I wish you a very happy birthday and for strength and good health in the months to come.

Yesterday was a travel day as we left the Isuta village the way we came.   The villagers were great in taking all of our supplies and luggage down the steep hill. Men, women, and children helped us down as well to the long-tail boats. It was a sad good-bye since we made many friends and shared our experiences and culture with one another. They were appreciative of our presence and efforts and we were appreciative of their hospitality and accommodations.   They had even built two toilet stalls for us. The dental team did a great job in education and prevention of tooth decay, which goes along ways for the children’s future since so many past mission trips were spent pulling rotten teeth and treating abscesses. Plus each child received their own toothbrushes and instruction on how to properly use it and how to protect their teeth. The optometrists saw many eye patients and although some patients had cataracts already, they were given sunglasses to prevent further damage while others will get their glasses at a later time. The medical team taught prevention, strengthening, and ergonomic techniques for musculoskeletal disorders, and treated ailments such as respiratory illness, GI issues including worms, rashes and skin conditions such as scabies and fungal infections. There was also time for monkeying around, fishing swimming, and for many, enjoying the camping experience. Now it was time to return to Chiang Mai.

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I said I didn’t want to whine anymore so I want to have a positive attitude this trip and here is one exhilarating experiences I would like to share. It was a real treat to be in a car driven by a race car driver disguised as a pastor. So it was a really, really, exciting to experience a life threatening and harrowing ride back through the river crossing and back roads along the streams holding on to dear life to the ceiling strap straining my left shoulder in the meantime. Hey, but pain builds character and my frozen shoulder with limited range of motion will keep me from offending others with my body odor . Bring it! Where can you get that adrenaline rush?   WOWEEE! A Disneyland E-ticket would never come as close to this death-defying ride and a ride would have to be a Space Mountain, Star Tours, and Big Thunder rolled into one just to get close. For those who enjoy a good scare, you really missed out something. It was so cool to breeze by 5 cars at a time along blind S-curves crossing over the medium like a sports car in Le Mans. (I would have to get a Porsche turbo to do that and I still wouldn’t be as fast.) I found out was it was like to travel with Godspeed in a truck with no seat belts. It’s okay because Pastor K, as he likes to be called, has an angel as his wing man. The only thing we could have done to make it more exciting if we were to raise are hands up and scream. When Pastor K goes, “My God!” as he breezes by a scooter, it adds to the excitement and anticipation to the next curve. I found out that 140 kph is about 84 mph and you know how fast we went? Well, we were the lead car and we had time to stop at his church along the way so he could change his shirt, we could have a banana, meet his wife, go to the bathroom, and take some photos, and we still ended up the first to arrive at the hotel.   I am grateful for the two medications I took for the motion sickness, so PTL! No need to get that Tesla P100D with ludicrous mode now. Been there, done that, too. We all made it alive back to Eden Hotel with no casualties (I’m just a worry wart) for an overnight stay and packed up to travel to AYDC tomorrow to our old stomping grounds. I guess he likes his nickname Pastor K because we were going “Oh K!” the whole time.

A few setbacks have occurred.  A few team members have been under the weather with respiratory illnesses or GI upset and need some rest.  Some individuals started the trip with lingering illnesses and aches and pains and are digging deep to contribute so we lift up the team to God for healing and would appreciate your prayers.  We were also told this morning that our bins at the Chiang Mai airport have not been release and may not be until next week due to the weekend.  Yes, bummer.  But we will adapt and not think “what if?” and optimize the situation since that is all that we can do.  We will use whatever gifts and talents God has blessed us with and see what He is planning to do with us.  I know that I am personally learning how to have a positive attitude adjustment.

God has taught us patience with this trip and when growing impatient and becoming frustrated, based on our own desires and not His, He teaches us more patience and humility.  Sure, I’m a surgeon as is Leo and we like to “cut to cure”.  The dentists are surgeons as well and they salivate at performing procedures.  The optometrists have skill to correct and optimize one of our most important senses.  Society has placed these acquired skills at a respectable level though we are not better than our neighbor and fortunately for us, God didn’t limit us with only those skills.  Mark 12:31…”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Our very presence here on the other side of the world is what makes this mission trip successful more than what we do or what we think we should be doing.  God will use us as He desires and for His glory.

Today it was an easy three-hour drive to Chiang Rai in nice air-conditioned limo vans.  We arrived at the AYDC-TAMF (Akha Youth Development Center of Thai-Akha Ministries Foundation) and were immediately greeted by old friends that we have missed for many years.  It was great to see Luka’a wife and children Ghan, Lin, Da, Wee, and Wan along with their friends and relatives again.  Ghan made us a wonderful lunch and we had a nice visit in their home.  We raided the storage are at the guest house and, although it was not quite a gold mine, we were brought to joy and excitement to find some old medical supplies and drugs that were left from prior missions so that we could do a few minor surgical procedures, give steroid injections, and replenished the pharmacy.  YIPPEE!  With these supplies, we were able to broaden our treatments as we treated staff and children from AYDC compound.

We were able to see some of the new buildings since the large 6.5ish earthquake in 2014 that rocked the buildings requiring major demolition and reconstruction.  FCBC helped the rebuilding by sending funds to help repair the church sanctuary, girls and boys dormitories, and homes).  The tea crop on the compound is flourishing as they are harvested to sell and raise funds to sustain AYDC.  The new bus that FCBC donated years ago to replace a dilapidated old school bus was seen in action.  We will always hold a special bond with these people of Thailand, as they are our sisters and brothers in Christ with whom we continue to bond no matter what the distance.  We look forward to the next week working side by side once again in Chiang Rai.

Ape, Luka’s mother is the matriarch of this Akha village.  She remembers you face no matter how much time has elapsed and she passed out bracelets to many of the team members and even gave a lucky bystander photographer a dongle for his camera.

It’s Saturday so you know what that means…night market and bazzaar shopping spree!

Time to go, Mark

 

February 24, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.6

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:11 pm

February 24, 2017

There is a reason why I didn’t take up camping. I am starting this blog in the middle of the night, as I don’t have much enthusiasm right now so I guess I need to vent. I have tossed and turned every night and this is no exception. I can’t sleep within my claustrophobic mummy bag as I try to center myself over a sweet spot on the mattress pad but roll to the side where my half my body is on the floor while the other rests on air. My necks has a crick in it (not sure if that’s a true medical term) and the bare skin areas stick to each other due to the humidity and sweat.   I don’t think I’m the only one uncomfortable here but we are supposed to go to sleep and wake up refreshed, not waking up with aches and pains and headaches from sleeping the wrong way. My bladder is full and pulsating but it’s too cold out there to make a potty run so I find my down jacket to keep me warm and my head covered to maintain body heat. I wish I had a urinal or a Depends. There is minimal wiggle room in these mosquito nets but we all hope we won’t contract malaria or the Zika virus or Japanese encephalitis (shoot, I forgot to get that vaccine shot). We have layers of Deet on our skin and our clothes and it burns at times. It’s a little uncomfortable to type laying on my back, neck bent up with two pillows since I can’t sit up, the computer on my tummy digging into my ribs with knees bent to support and bend the screen at the right angle (hah! That’s why they call it laptop!)   There is nothing else to do at this hour so that’s why I decided to type. Bill assigns me this chore each year to keep me preoccupied and to stay out of trouble but I do this to let you know we are not captured and held hostage or we drove off the cliff. Moving my limbs keeps me warm since I can’t do jumping jacks. I can’t get up or I’ll wake my other 8 other roommates, though they probably have earplugs in since we all “saw the logs” at night.   I’m even looking forward to the Cup-O-noodle and powdered coffee and our breakfast that the villagers prep for us each am. We should appreciate that since they have to get up earlier than us to prepare our food, which has been very good and plentiful. I can’t wait to sleep in a bed tonight like you guys. Boo hoo.   Thanks Naomi Ruth for those care packages; they are very valuable as snacks at 3 am.

The day and a half trip to get here, in and out of airports, squeezing in vehicles like sardines, or bouncing in the back of a truck from place to place, facing often hazardous road conditions, encountering hostile environments and risky travel is what is involved in these mission trips. The weather is too hot or too cold and too humid. The water has bugs that we are not used to so we take probiotics, Pepto Bismol, antibiotics, boil, disinfect or filter our water to drink to prevent traveler’s diarrhea.  Some of us took typhoid vaccines along with several others (hepatitis A and B, tetanus). Our showers are cold and from river water, yet it is blessing to have them. Thank you Bill. Our compound has armed guards so we smile a lot as we interact with the military personnel who are carrying side arms and AR-15 rifles.

Even getting to the destinations, the team needs trucks traveled along treacherous highways and had to cross streams balancing on rocks or wading through the water, carrying supplies on their backs under the hot sun for miles.   We have to go back the way we came so that means back in the 4 x 4’s, along the potholes and dirt roads. Good thing it’s not raining otherwise I doubt we could have made it or we would have gone off the many cliffs since were riding the crest of the mountain range for 2-3 hours. Fortunately we haven’t broken down. At least I am up early enough to put on my motion sickness patch behind my ear and take an anti nausea pill for the bumpy ride back to Chiang Mai.

I know you’re saying, “Quit whining!” There I said it for you. I’m just venting, as I like to complain sometimes. I’m not asking for sympathy because we all signed up for this. And, you know, we will gladly sign up again! This is about serving the Lord in what capacity you feel that you can based on the gifts and talents that each of us have. There are many bodies in a church and many Christians in our community, yet few are willing to serve. We live a very comfortable life and as Pastor Jack says we have to get off of our blessed assurance to do something significant for the glory of God, at least for believers. Every few years are okay for me to get out of my own comfort zone. As a health care practitioner, I mainly see patients that want to have a procedure and do not necessarily need them. My patients generally can afford what ever they want and pay cash. Others on the team may treat those in need at home, but for me I participate the best that I can to try to help people who need our services that don’t have access to health care services. This is truly out of my comfort zone as I treat patients of all ages, see exotic diseases not seen before, and dig deep in knowledge and experience while performing some procedures that I never even did before. Even then with the correct diagnosis, we are frustrated with the lack of medications, surgical arena to perform surgery, and lack the follow-up care that they also would need.   I am sure that we are here for a reason, though it is not always clear to me and it becomes apparent later. I want to be as effective a physician and fellow human being (I’ve never really liked that term because were all human).

The dentists and hygienists are great.   They relieve pain and suffering and prevent future dental decay by providing education on hygiene. They even distribute toothbrushes to those that are receiving them for the first time. Kudos to the optometrist who literally can make a blind man see.  The medical doctors and nurse practitioners apply their craft with care, touch, and appropriate medications.  As a surgeon, I need to cut to cure.  Once we get the tools of our trades back we look forward to making a bigger impact.

Sometimes we don’t get off of our blessed assurance because we don’t know what our gifts or talents are or that we’re afraid that we are inadequate or fearful that we will be in a uncomfortable situation. And yes I know that it has been said that fear can lead to the Dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering…Yoda.   Well 1 Corinthians 10:13    God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability (i.e. God won’t give you something that you can’t handle.)   See, isn’t this funny?   Did you see what just happened! God is talking to me right now through this blog. How ironic.   He woke me up in the middle of the night to knock me in the head with this message. He’s pretty sneaky. He sent me on this trip to give me this personal message.

God is asking each one of us to get out of our comfort zone for His glory. That might even mean asking your neighbor sitting next to you on a train if they know the Lord, volunteering at Matthew 25 at FCBC, feeding the poor at the Poverello House, getting involved at church. God needs you to step it up and quit whining about yourself, your friends, your job, and, yes, your church, FCBC.

The roosters are crowing, people are waking up and walking the grounds. It’s time to get up for another day. I have renewed enthusiasm, so I need to finish this so I can get the day started. I can’t wait to stretch out, to shave, and use drinking water to clean my face and brush my teeth and groom my hair. We need to pack our bags and head to Chiang Mai for an overnight stay and then we will be going to Chiang Rai. Our planned visits will be at AYDC (Akha Youth Development Center and Luka Chermue’s home base), a prison, a health clinic, and a school established by Baptist missionaries last century.   I am excited for this leg of our journey. Been there, done that so it should be smooth sailing once we all get our tools back.  Bring it on!

I hope that each of you will venture off and optimize your gifts and talents and may the glory be to God.

Have a blessed day.

Mark

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Thailand-Myanmar 6.5

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:33 pm

February 23, 2017

I realized that this is our last clinic day here in Isuta. We are saddened. We had just met, befriended, and bonded with individuals that were complete strangers just a few days ago. Our bonds were deeply rooted in Christianity and the plight of persecution on religious and ethnic grounds for centuries. We were able to see a large percentage of those in need but we were limited on what we could provide with medication and procedures but were generous in caring, loving, and supporting one another. And today, we did what our team does best, that is, show up and let them know that they are not forgotten and that others care for them. We are all God’s children.

We had clinic once again with the eye clinic and medical clinic making strides even though we had had run out of certain medications.  The eye clinic has been keeping a log on those patients that need prescription glasses made in Chiang Mai to be delivered at a later time. Many of the musculo-skeletal disorders could be improved with ergonomic attention and posture while performing those duties. Simple strengthening and massaging techniques can be therapeutic and the patients received instruction on those. Women were instructed on gynecologic hygiene and many upper respiratory infections and dehydration was treated. There were patients that we could not offer any help, then, we relied on prayer to let them know God’s love for them, and that we know that God will take care of them. There was a baby with hydrocephalus, commonly called “water on the brain” where the head was enlarging out of proportion to the rest of the body. This leads to developmental delay and seizures. Neurosurgical intervention is needed. We felt as helpless as they. A young teenager had cyanotic (blue) lips indicating poor oxygenation and had heart irregularities in sound and rhythm. She was discharged from the hospital and ran out of medications. Her liver is failing and it is hard for her to breathe. We realize what we can and can’t do with these patients yet God still puts us in a position of offering care and love for them. We can only pray with them to feel God’s presence and have faith that God will take care of them.

The dental team took a hike traveled up and down the mountainside for a mile to reach a school packed with children. Lynelle led a seminar in the classroom to discuss dental hygiene and the importance of protecting their teeth for the future. They handed out pads and pencils to draw teeth and then Lynelle demonstrated how to brush their teeth. The team then gave out toothbrushes to each child. For some this was the very first toothbrush that they have owned. Kindergartners through high school students were in attendance with the team giving out over a thousand toothbrushes.   The dental team is used to being productive by providing palliative care but had to get out of their comfort zone in order to show that they care in other ways.

This was our last day here and we will be packing up in the morning. The trip to Myanmar seemed quick, especially since we lost a day waiting for our bins. Reluctantly we leave our Christian brothers and sisters behind but they will continue to survive as they have for hundreds of years.   Adoniram Judson was one of the first protestant missionaries in the 19th century and was influential in working with the Karen people (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoniram_Judson).

 

The Karen are a people without a country. They have been displaced to this region of Myanmar and are protecting what territory that they have. This village is expanding with the population of little ones their future and it was such a joy to see hundreds of children, which are the future of these villages.

 

High-ranking officials of the Karen military received a monetary donation along with vitamins and medications to support their local medical clinic.  It was a small gesture to show our appreciation and gratitude for the accommodations and food and to allow us to come into their part of the world.

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Now don’t gross out but the following is there way of life. The villagers raise chicken and pigs to eat. In was an honor for them to sacrifice a whole pig for our team to eat.

They prepared several delicious plates of pork and even Bill got into the action in the kitchen by making beef stroganoff and I’ll have to admit it wasn’t bad tasting; good job Bill. Speaking about meals, a large katydid tried to take a chunk out of Kane’s thumb but let go since it apparently didn’t like Chinese food. Someone said they didn’t bite. Then why do they have teeth?

Several members went down to the river to swim and fish, just for the halibut. I guess because it is written that we should be fishermen, or was that fisher of men? Oh well, Kane came up empty handed. Too bad he didn’t have that giant insect for bait, I’m sure he would have.

We finished the night with a service of praise songs and service. Andy felt compelled to offer his thanks to the people of the village and spoke eloquently.   It was very heart felt and loving. We ended the night with the villagers shaking our hands thanking us for coming. It was a farewell, but not good-bye.

Mark

 

Thailand-Myanmar 6.4

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:24 pm

February 22, 2017

I’m having Internet withdrawals. I couldn’t send this earlier due to the lack of Internet availability and let’s say some sensitive material couldn’t be covered until we left Myanmar.   So would you like to hear the good news or bad news? Okay, the good news is that God is great. “…O ye with little faith? Matt 8:26

God was just playing with us, testing our faith. God is in control and answered our prayers. He gave us back our toys. We got word that all of our bins and luggage released but the bad news is that we had to leave for Isuta village yesterday without them otherwise we would have lost another day from the village. So we departed with limited supplies that we picked up locally and we won’t be able to reunite with the bins until going back to Chiang Mai Friday.

We left for Isuta village yesterday on Tuesday, February 21, bright and early which gave us an extra day to acclimate to the time change, which is 15 hours ahead of you. So you’re really reading about what’s happening tomorrow.   So, back to the future: After a 6-hour grueling ride that required four-wheeled drive vehicles to traverse streams and climb hillsides while riding the crest of mountains, our caravan of about six vehicles arrived at the river bank bruised and battered. Truly we were tossed all over the place in our cabins hitting potholes and rocks in the river, heads bouncing on the cab and shocks sometimes bottoming out. A few brave souls like Chris, Andy, and Kane rode in the open back bed of the truck. It was also convenient to vomit if the need arose.   I am just glad I wasn’t in the trailing truck.   When they got out they were covered with dust; they reminded me of Pigpen.   We were able to avoid the cattle barges by getting to a river crossing in a more favorable spot, thus avoiding governmental checkpoints as well, which might have held us up and we certainly didn’t need that. A short ride on the long-tailed boats brought us to beach on the other side, which was now Myanmar, where we would face a steep climb of several hundred feet. The villagers fortified the dugged-out steps to make the climb easier. Young and old were bringing up our bins, luggage, and large fresh water bottle supplies up the hill like personal Sherpas helping each of us to the top. If we tried to help carrying things we were really in their way and actually a hazard to them. We were greeted on the receiving grounds with smile and a large sign saying, “Welcome For All People.” That was comforting as you know, some countries have certain bans to people of certain ethnic backgrounds from entering the country, but I’m not mentioning any names.

Our gracious hosts in the Karen village sacrificed some of their own personal space to allow the team to spread out into 4 different huts. Electricity is minimal but we got a gas generator to satiate this power-hungry group and their personal electronics.   We are camping on wooden floors with thin mats and an air mattress and our thin sheets under mosquito nets.   Some underestimated the cool night air and froze while others stayed toasty warm with their mummy style sleeping bags. I did suggest that members could share body heat but Pastor said “No!” (I think he said that since no one wanted to share their body heat with him.)

We literally woke to the sounds of the roosters crowing.  It is, by the way, the Year of the Rooster and they wanted to let their presence be known.   I am really hoping for some roasted chicken soon. After our morning devotion we set up clinic in the community hall.  We were still very productive and effective despite not having our tools of the trade but God knows what we need and provides the things that we need for today duties. The eye clinic were still able to check refraction and make note of their prescriptions so that the lenses can be ground in Chiang Mai when we return and glasses can be assembled with our equipment and then sent later back to the village. The clanging village bell rang out to notify the families to go to the dental clinic held at the nearby elementary school and taught hygiene and brushing. They gave out toothbrushes and pencils and tablets to the children so that they could draw. About 73 children filled the room.   The medical clinic saw a lot of musculoskeletal disorders (many patients are manual laborers in the field), pediatric disorders, and women’s health issues.   Some surgical problems like a large inguinal hernia and leg mass could not be helped. Ellen Middleton, FNP held a special seminar at night on women’s health issues (pregnancy, violence against women, gynecologic hygiene, breast cancer screening with self- breast exams. This was a “women only” event as I was kicked-out pronto as I was seen as paparazzi even though I was just doing my job as a photojournalist. There it goes again, a nurse telling a doctor what to do. It’s an epidemic.   This is going to be a long two weeks.

After clinic ended mid afternoon, we took a mile or so stroll through the hillside to look at the village refugee camp where the dental team will go to give dental hygiene and prevention education. This is a settlement of many displaced Karen tribe families who are another ethnic group without a country. I believe that the militia present helps keep this region safe against warring factions and are part of the Karen military. High-ranking officials came to meet us and let their support be known.

I am amazed at the village layout and construction of the buildings. Wood from bamboo line the walls with roofs covered with a type of tree leaf where they collect, dry, and pressed to make a protective roof.   There are scattered stores along this pathway to the upper grade school. We came across a medical clinic that has a birthing center for the villagers.   The village is very productive as there are crowds of young children playing in the streets and in the river. One small child just grabbed a chicken in the road by its legs, held it upside down, and just took it down to the river in preparation of their version of KFC (Karen Fried Chicken). Adult hogs are locked in the pen while piglets play with the family like pets. One pig even had a leash around its neck. The river is quite important to them as a source of water and chores. One man was sharpening his machete on the rocks while others washed out their clothes by hitting the clothes against the rocks then creating soapsuds to clean them. The people look very content and happy. Many children played with others or simply looked out the window or sat on the stairs watching people, such a silly tourists taking pictures or video or them, walking by.   They are quite curious and amazed when I show them a photo of themselves on the camera. They giggled and laughed and I wonder if any of them has seen themselves in a mirror or photo and actually know what they look like. They seemed to live comfortably and even had satellite dishes and solar panels connected to large car batteries for power. We do not or should not pity them based on our western culture. I’m sure that there are a lot less type A personalities here and they do what they need to do to put food on the table. Did I mention that this is a mostly Christian village with posters on the side of the house of Jesus Christ. Hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

 

At dinner, Kane presented us with new T-shirts that his friend who makes them donated. It read, “Side by Side For the Faith of the Gospel.” Logos of oxen and huts that remind us of our past trips were part of the nice design. These shirts will be one of the uniforms that we have to wear.

After dinner yesterday the village put up a concert-like program for us filled with teams of children singing a variety of songs. The team members embarrassed themselves by trying to sing “Amazing Grace” especially on the second verse where few knew the words. The children sang several songs of praise and were very entertaining.

We were very tired from the trip and unpacking so we turned in early even looking forward to sleeping on the floor. Some of us smelled fresh, although our definition of fresh is: smelling like iodine-treated river water. Thank you Bill for the portable water shower. It was very refreshing washing off layers of accumulated sweat and Deet from our skin and actually well.

Good night. Time to catch some zzzzzzs.
Mark

 

 

 

February 21, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.3

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:43 am

February 21, 2017

God is testing our faith in Him.  Regardless of whether we have our bins going with us or not,  we are on our way to Isuta Village this am.  We are determined to make an impact either way and perhaps this journey will have less emphasis on numbers (as it should), but rather effort in how and who we touch.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Proverbs 19:21 ESV

So here we go:

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Luka and his team have coordinated our trek, however, only one man has been there before.  We will be traveling in a caravan of seven 4 x 4 trucks along a tortuous route (red line) on the crest of the mountain range from Chiang Mai traveling west for about 6 plus hours toward the Thailand-Myanmar border near a town called Mae Sam Laep.  There, we will have to cross a river on a cattle barge to a remote village of Isuta, which will take an hour,  and set up camp and clinic in a church.  We will see (or not) what available electric supplies and lighting that we will have.  This will truly be a camping adventure.  I anticipate that this trip will help with my recent weight loss plans.  Our only contact to the outside world will be through a satellite phone hotspot, courtesy of Lester Lowe.  I don’t know how efficient downloading will be so this blog may go dark for several days.  If it is longer than a week, please have Richard send the marines using code name: R.A.M.B.O.  (Rescue American Medical Baptist Opportunists).  There will be other military present but I am not sure from whom they are supposed to be protecting us.

I will update you when I can, but in the meantime your thoughts and prayers will be appreciated so that we can make this trip productive, if not, spiritual.  I have no doubt that this experience will have an impact on the natives, but on the team members as well.  Below are a few who had the day off:

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“Do or do not, there is no try,”  Yoda.

We will do our best, after all, that is what we are asked of us.

Mark

February 20, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.2

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:12 pm

February 20, 2017

Hello prayer warriors, we need your help.  After a 16 hour flight from the US we traveled another 4 hours from Hong Kong and arrived at Chiang Mai airport around 7 pm last night.   Right now, we are dead in the water, spinning our wheels, at a stalemate, at a standstill, or whatever term that you may want to use to describe our current situation with the customs agency.  We have at least 31 bins and luggage aside from personal carry-on luggage that were held up in customs and they had us open each one.  This was highly unusual and contrary to what we have been used to.  Although we are on a mission of mercy, certain changes have been made in the current government (which is under martial law) that will not allow medical devices and equipment, including dental and optometric lenses and glasses, and medications into the country.  Whatever reason it is Bill, Luka, and Ming tried to get us through customs and their efforts were futile.  We had managers and their bosses and their bosses get involved.  I have been told that a general from Myanmar who “invited” us is talking to the Thai government general to try to get this resolved.  All day today, Bill and Luka were at the airport trying to negotiate the bins passing and only a few bins containing non-medical items were released.  Fortunately we got mosquito netting, sleeping bags, and air mattresses through as well as a few lanterns.  We are praying that the government will eventually let these bins through.  Please pray that we will be able to reunite with the necessary equipment so that we may continue with our current plans.  We have already lost a day and though it is President’s day in the states, this day off was unplanned.  Perhaps the theme of this mission is that God is in control and it maybe  OUR plan is not GOD’s plan at this moment.  So we need to enlist as many prayer warriors as we can because right now  we would like to know what God plans for us.  Please pray for Bill since he is carrying the weight of responsibility for a successful mission.  Success is hard to measure but any impact, however small, will still be considered an improvement.

In the event we do not get our supplies back we are starting to develop Plan B.  God has blessed each of us with gifts and talents that are often untapped.  It may be that this trip will be quite different than the previous trips and the emphasis of this trip may shift to a non-medical one.  The pharmacists and Dr. Patton were able to purchase many of the medications that were confiscated so that we may be still able to diagnose and treat some disorders.  However, the surgeons, dentists, and optometrists are dependent upon equipment and tools to perform at their best so it will be interesting what duties will be assigned.  Hopefully by morning we will know if they will release the bins but right now we are making plans as if they won’t be available.  There are other activities that we can do instead of health care but the team and as long as we have willing and able bodies we are going forward no matter what.  On the bright side, my dad is alive and well with his new pacemaker, Bill will not be going to prison, we get an extra day to shower, no one has been stricken ill, we got to see a little bit of Chiang Mai while having an extra day to recover from jet lag. Now, we are ready to work.

God is good.

Mark

 

 

 

 

 

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