From Thighland to Thailand

March 6, 2014

Thailand 5.11

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:51 am

March 4, 2014-Tuesday




Thailand/Myanmar 5.11




From the Golden Triangle Inn, we traveled over 2 hours (only 60 miles) to the Changing Life Center to the Laotian border overlooking the Mekong River where many patients cross the border, legally or not, by foot, swimming, or other means to reach our clinic.  We have been here twice before as it slowly has developed.  It was great to see our old friend “Phonekeo”, as we call him, who moved from Fresno several years ago to run the center.




I plagiarized this next paragraph from Thailand 4.5 from an earlier post in 2012 for the sake of detail:




“Today we traveled 2 hours to the Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation. It’s located near the border town of Chang  Khong situated along the Mekong River which separates Laos from Thailand. Our connection with this area is former fresnan Pastor Phonekeo Keovilay.  Born in Laos and imprisoned after the Laotian war he fled to a refugee camp where he was converted to Christianity.  He came to Fresno after training at San Jose Christian College to evangelize the Laotian population.  He felt called back to the Khmu tribe in Laos and as a missionary for the Mennonite Brethren Church, he helped build this center for training lao pastors across the Mekong River.”




This compound has very nice facilities sprawled out overlooking the Mekong River.  Robert and Chris Davis are resident missionaries from Washington state, working with Pastor Phonekeo, are our gracious hosts making sure that we are comfortable and fed.  They even have a snack and a java station to reenergize us throughout the day.  The compound houses children from outlying villages that are unable to afford school, room, and board so, they are sponsored by the Mennonite Foundation so that they can go to a school down the street.  Lay people as well as pastors are trained by Pastor to that they can spread the word of God through their own personal experiences.




The clinics are a little spread apart but it is welcomed since we are used to sharing cramp quarters.  The dental clinic is outside overlooking the Mekong River with the medical and optometry clinics are housed in a nice well-lit AC building.




The optometry department had a returned customer.  They saw her 2 years ago.  She is this cute little ole lady.   I say that with respect because sheis 72 years-old, is only 4 foot tall, and about 60 lbs. tops.  She has an enucleated eye due to blood in her eye so they removed it.  She came for new prescription for her glasses.  As she sat there patiently, I couldn’t help but stare at her because at her diminuitive size, everyone looked like a giant in comparison.   She just stared and wouldn’t smile even when making eye contact.  I motioned to her if I could take her picture and to see if she would then smile.  She nodded yes, but still no smile.  Well, I thanked her, and then I printed a photo of her and gave it to her.  She looked surprised and then she smiled, and then she chuckled, and then she covered her smile while shaking her shoulders laughing.  I asked one of the interpreters why she was laughing and she said that this is the first time she ever saw a photo of herself and she was beside herself.  She put her hands together (prayer-like fashion) and nodded toward me giving me a “Sawadee” (thank you!) then returned to stare at the photo smiling.




One of my first patients for me to see brought in an old X-ray of his head showing a bullet or rifle fragment still lodged in his head.  Twelve years ago he was shooting the rifle and it blew up and the projectile went through his right forehead and passed through his brain lodging in the occipital (eyesight) portion in the back of the brain.  He essentially sustained a stroke and had a right-sided neurological deficit and walked with a cane and a limp.  He was told in a Laotian hospital that they could remove it for $3000.  Last year he became a Christian and heard that we were coming so he traveled to this clinic.  I asked him why he came and how could we help him.  He knew God will help him and was hoping we could remove the bullet.  Pressure, no pressure.   Okay, God does perform miracles, not me, and I told him that being alive was a miracle.  Furthermore, removing the bullet would not improve his condition; only risk his life and further visual loss if attempts were made to remove it by anyone.  It could kill him.  I tried to explain with Luka interpreting, that I felt God saved his life so that he could be a witness to others and share his faith in God and we prayed for him.  Physically, we were also able to provide some treatment for his second-degree wounds that he sustained by spilling boiling water on himself and glasses to improve his overall visual acuity.  From a surgeon’s standpoint, I felt I gave him the best advice, but let his hopes down.  I have to realize that God heals in different ways.  A sign in Myanmar read, “We treat, God heals.”  How true.




After a relaxing day at the office some of the dental and optometry team walked down to wade in the river.  I am not sure if they wanted to be one nature, wanted to feel the soft mud squish between their toes, or see how the human body interacts with liver fluke’s life cycle.  Or did they want to experience the washing of each other’s feet as humble servants as Christ taught us? They were playing together like children and posing in the background.  Dr. Chu was lying on his side posing a la Burt Reynolds (but with clothes on) having a grand time.   After wading around they checked each other for leeches, worms, and snails and washed off the mud.  I don’t think I missed anything.




We gathered at night to reflect the mission so far and not only was it satisfying we look ahead to serving again, particularly in Myanmar.  Several issues were clarified, including not addressing Sayadow Dr. Candavara Bhivamsa properly in my initial blog on “Thailand 5.4” which has since been amended thanks to a “hint” that I be more sensitive and respectful to those who are our hosts.   My apologies to Sayadow and whomever I might have offended through my arrogance.  In my haste to keep you folks connected, some inaccuracies or attention to detail have been overlooked and I will not use my excuse of typing when I am asleep at 3 a.m. as justification, I know that some of you will forgive me.




Several of you have wondered if we were able to bring in the medications into Myanmar.  Trevour Zin, Dr. Chu, and Dr. Ho spent about 8 hours at the airport after our arrival working with the Myanmar government, particularly with Customs, and while we felt that we had all the papers in order, some of the paperwork necessary to bring in medications into the country for us to treat the people of Myanmar, was discovered to have been misplaced after they were submitted, so it looked like we didn’t have our papers in order.  Several phone calls were made at “higher levels” and the government was very accommodating to process the papers and although it took awhile to make it work in a day, it would have otherwise required several weeks of processing so, we applaud the Myanmar government of expediting and allowing through all of our medications.  What surplus we had from those MAP boxes were left in the country for the Burmese physicians to use in their ongoing clinics.  I was told that earlier, another “mission team” brought in medications only to sell them once they got into the country so I can see how Myanmar needs to scrutinize each team because the fact that we were allowed into the country and to have to religious groups work side by side for a similar cause is truly a miracle in this day and age.




It was also clarified that during our second night at the Burmese clinic there was a misunderstanding on our part of why there was ongoing registration well into the night that would potentially exhaust the Burmese and American physicians.  Sayadow and our chiefs discussed the matter and there were no hard feelings and we carried on fine throughout the remaining time in the clinic.  In fact, Sadayow expressed that he would like us to return next year, if possible.




We want to continue our mission to serve wherever God calls us.  There will be conflict resolution and the political climate of each country may have an affect on the present situation.  God is in control and will make it happen if He wants it to.




As we retire for the night, Bill has been very considerate to the members who have been subject to sleepless nights due to snoring. I guess Lena and I, and some others that will remain nameless are the loudest snorers so he was forced to put the couples into separate rooms in the guest-house to seclude us from bothering others.  We were happy to accommodate the team and, yes, we missed you guys last night too.  This morning I actually awoke to the sound of crickets and not the sonorous rumbling of the male choir.  Now that’s music to my ears.



Make a joyful noise…or don’t make

noise at all.  Mark

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