From Thighland to Thailand

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.



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.



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.


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.



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 (


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.



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.



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.




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:


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:


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

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


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.







February 19, 2017

Thailand-Myanmar 6.1

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 5:21 am

February 19, 2017

Welcome back to my readers. Although I am not a professional blogger ( just a designated one) I know that this is a portal to our overseas mission trips activities and I appreciate those that take the time to read these often-lengthy entries since I try to squeeze these out whenever there is a window of internet opportunity and there may be days of blog inactivity. Most entries are done on the road or at night with one eye opened fighting off the mosquitoes so I hope that they can make sense at times.   The last post was almost three years ago during First Chinese Baptist Church’s trip to Myanmar and Thailand. We wanted to go in 2016 but due to the health of several members and their families it was postponed until 2017. Even now, as we age, our health is not always optimal and but please appreciate the efforts of those team members that are willing to sacrifice time, money, relationships, and their health, even life, to help those in need.   No accolades are necessary as we are serving our Lord God and Savior.   It’s what we are supposed to do. The team thanks all of our friends and families for supporting us. We know that we are privileged to go on this mission trip representing FCBC and we thank FCBC membership for funding this trip and others sine 2004.   Please see the video news coverage from ABC30 on our departure on Friday afternoon:

If you missed the video of the 2012 mission trip you can view it at :

Now what’s happening: Every trip we are putting ourselves at risk traveling thousands of miles through the jungles and uncivilized areas and facing the inclement weather. This trip was no different. We have encountered storms, mudslides, leaking vehicles, careless drivers, and wind capable of toppling semi-trucks on their sides and that was just getting to LAX! Can you imagine going to countries where traffic signs and lane markings are just a suggestion? Encountering stone faced TSA agents, lost luggage, unruly passengers, smelly team members and their “Don’t you wish everyone used Dial” moments, and boxed meals (except for premium economy J) is just an introduction of what the team is about to face. Oh, have I mentioned that our trip to Myanmar to the Isuta village (pop. 4000) is so rural that it doesn’t come up in a google search? Go ahead try to find it! Now I don’t want to sound like a drama king, but Bill has explained that we may encounter a few “minor” inconveniences. Okay, Bill’s definition of “minor” and my “major” may mean the same. Are our newbies are in for a surprise!

We have been instructed to take our “vitamin pill” once a day. I found out that this is to combat malaria. Our trip into Myanmar village will encompass 6 plus hours of travel across dirt roads and an hour crossing a river on a cattle boat; watch where you step folks. Yes the same type of cattle boat that carries herds of cattle to their ultimate doom. How apropos. That’s udderly hilarious! (Joke, get it?) Where do they find these places? We will be sleeping under a mosquito net tent for 4 nights in the church village. The village runs on 2 gasoline generators so there is limited electricity, hence the portable Goalzero electric batteries, lights, and solar panels. Now, I have to admit that I’m a little ticked off at Bill since he said that I need to share my 3 solar generators, 6 lanterns, 6 hanging lights, and step-down converter. I get to keep my watch/flashlight. Whoopee. Call me paranoid, but I just like to be prepared for “lights out” situations. (Psstt. I have some personal backup batteries as well that he doesn’t know about and he won’t read this until we’re stateside).   If we are lucky, gasoline generators will be brought in to power our medical and dental equipment. There is no public water source available, unless you consider the river, which I guess it is. If we’re lucky, bottled water will be brought to the village, otherwise we will have to depend on our Lifestraw filters and UV irradiation. Shower facilities will be two tall tents in which their will be a foot pump to pump collected river water through a spray handle sans warm water and lighting. Now Bill has assured us that his iodine disinfecting tablets will make this water even potable but I don’t think iodine kills leeches IMO. I have brought a spray bottle with a fan just in case. Now, the local folks have generously built a western style toilet for our US spoiled derrieres, so that we won’t have to squat, that will flow down PVC tubing out into the river, yes, where we get our bath water from.   Hmmm, I hope that the villages collect our bath water upstream but I will still use my spray bottle, waterless soap, and baby wipes, thank you. Now I know that you seasoned campers say, “What is the big deal?” and that “At least that there are no bears around. “   That may be true, but have you slept around Burmese pythons before. I didn’t think so. Those snakes have grown up to 18 ft. in length and can devour large animals. Humans are considered appetizers. Bears are cute but you can punch them in the nose and they’ll drop you while pythons are cuddly and will hug you to death. Bill has generously provided us with “sporks” (spoon and fork combo) when food is available and baby wipes for hygiene and it was suggested to just wear your underwear inside out in between laundry opportunities; your undies will last twice as long. No one liked my idea of edible underwear in case of emergencies. We will be surrounded by some type of military either under surveillance or protecting us. I hope that it will be the latter. Rambo is on stand-by. Okay, enough of the “minor” inconveniences.

Bill, fortunately, watches our back from time to time and we are presently at the Hong Kong airport lounge where some shower facilities are available to freshen up and plenty of food so we are enjoying these amenities while we can. We have a long layover and then off to Chiang Mai for an overnight stay and then we begin our journey to Myanmar for 5 days. Our last trip to Myit Wah, Myanmar yielded about 3000 patient contacts in 3 days and if this is a representation we should be able to reach our to a few thousand more at this village. Then we will travel back to Chiang Mai for a day of clinic and then back to our old stomping grounds in Chiang Rai/Golden Triangle area. We will be setting up makeshift clinics providing medical and minor surgical procedures, extracting teeth and providing dental restoration and hygiene, making prescription glasses, and dispensing drugs for a variety of diseases and ailments. This will occur in villages, schools, and perhaps a prison. We hope to treat thousands of patients. Bring it on.

Thank you to all of our volunteers on this mission trip. Here is an introduction of the current veteran team members with the rookies highlighted in bold letters:

Pastors Danny Jack and Kim Takemoto (Sanger Faith Community Church)

Fearless leader, Bill Ho, DDS and his wife, Gail Ho, RN,

Lowe boys, Larry Lowe, DDS and Lester Lowe, DDS,

Lynnelle Winn, dental hygienist and twin sis Lynnette Yuen, clinical lab scientist,

Optometrists Diana Lee, OD and Lisa Shimada, OD,

Pharmacists David Chow, PharmD and son Christopher Chow, PharmD,

Jack Patton, MD and his sidekick son, Mark Patton

Kane Kuo, MD,

Vascular surgeon Leo Fong, MD in private practice in Fresno,

Nurse practitioner, Ellen Middleton, FNP, PhD in a women’s health practice

Zina Clark, RN, surgical scrub nurse at local hospitals,

Ming Chong, RN,

Andy Alejo, RN,

Mark Chin, MD and his boss Lena Chin.

We are a team and we have a great team leader who, with his wife Gail, has been planning this for over 2 years. I can’t imagine all the countless hours and sleepless nights and overseas phone calls they have made in preparation of this trip. Most of us, like myself, are content to just show up and plays follow the leader and have faith that we will have a safe and rewarding journey. Many times I said, “If we’re lucky…”.   Well, there is no luck. God is in control and we are taught to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).”

I really learned that I have to trust in the Lord during the few weeks, days, and even hours before I embarked on this mission trip.   Although we have been planning for months, Lena and I did not know if we were actually going to make this trip since we took on some added responsibility over the past year. My father, Tuck is 94 years old and my mother, Jayne is 89 years old. They are recent Fresno transplants from the Bay Area due to their age and health.   My father’s health has been waning, with 4 ER visits for low blood pressure and low heart rate; his heart is failing.   The last ER visit was two weeks ago. Two days prior to leaving we were told that his heart has been pausing 3-4 seconds which translates to an average heart rate of 15-20 beats per minute (60-100 bpm is normal). Since his heart was being monitored his cardiologist urgently called us and told us that he needs a pacemaker and pronto. When asked if he wanted a pacemaker, my father replied, “Well, if it will give me a few more years…yes.” Surgery was scheduled Friday 2/17/17 at 11:00 am, but got delayed and the bus leaves for the mission at 1:00 pm.   There was no question that I had to be at my father’s side. My dad and mother were brought to Fresno so that I could keep an eye on his health. He can’t die on my watch.  Fortunately two of my sisters were able to come to Fresno to help out during his recovery and Steven, my son is just a few blocks away. I was reluctant to ask one of my sisters who is undergoing her own treatment for a serious illnes if she was strong enough mentally and physically to take care of Dad and she said she was. Kudos to her in HER time of need. I still had so many questions going through my mind that I was having a manic moment. How will he handle anesthesia and surgery? What if he stops breathing or his heart stops and he dies during surgery, or after while I’m away? Who will be there for my mother? What should we do? If I stay, Lena stays, but she says that she needs to go since she invited her friend Zina to come, who suggested Dr. Fong to come. So if Lena goes, I need to go with Lena because of my sense of obligation to her.   God first, spouse second, family third and so on.   Will we let our team members down? What about contributions that we might make to the needy? Will I let them down if they need surgery? How would we feel if my father died while we were gone and we won’t even know for days? I heard a voice saying from above, “Uh Hello, this is God speaking. Umm, your father has on My watch all the time. Did you forget?”   “Yes sir, I did forget.”   When we try to handle things ourselves then things get out of control. I should not worry because God is in control.

I had to remind myself of Philippians 4:6-7:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

So, I kissed my father good-bye in the preop room and my father said, “Go. See you later, Mark.” Dad had faith all the time. So must I.   Lena and I boarded the bus as it was getting ready to leave knowing that my dad’s life is in God’s hands as are all of our lives. As of this writing, Dad got his pacemaker and he was discharged from the hospital and is doing well. I would have worried about him the whole time but now, his heart is even better than when I left. Thanks Dad and thank you Lord.

Your humble servant, Mark

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