From Thighland to Thailand

March 8, 2019

Thailand 7.13

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:38 pm

Thailand 7.13

March 8, 2019-Friday


The end is near.

I suppose that all this time our job was to find a diagnosis and treat that disease and then see the next patient one by one as many as we can in a day. It took me awhile to realize that it wasn’t about treating a disease but building relationships. Back home when we have our own patients, we have time to get to know them and we develop long-term relationships with them and sometimes, even becoming friends. In the beginning of our mission trips we often focused on numbers to justify mission trips by how many were treated and helped. Indeed, our mission trips have treated a lot of patients by improving their quality of life by allowing them to see better, feel better, look better, and eat better. Everyone wants to better him or herself; it’s just that sometimes we need help from others. The mission team does this way out here in Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar. We have developed relationships with our patients, school teachers and principals, pastors and their congregations, but most of all, with Luka and Ghan’s family, the Ahka villagers, and the AYDC children.

Most of the photos posted today are of our celebration at the AYDC tonight where they prepared a meal for us-pizza, fried chicken, soup, fruit, and homemade coconut ice cream. The team served the students, and our hosts served the team. Luka and Ghan thanked the team then there was presentation of gifts by the students to the team. This was followed by several dance performances by the children, a large circle holding hands singing and praying. We sang ,“Happy Birthday” to Ellen who had a birthday yesterday and for Mark Patton’s birthday next week. Then the hard and emotional part of saying good-bye to our friends, and as Ghan put it, “Friendships for eternity.”   There were hugs and kisses and well wishes for all.

This blog can’t possibly let you know how each team member felt; you will need to ask him or her to share their experiences with you. The photos can show you a moment of time with hopes that you can feel just a little of what we felt at that moment.

Thank you for reading and praying for us. I know that not everyone can physically participate in these missions but you can help support FCBC and our desire to continue with these mission trips with our fundraisers in addition to other projects that the TAM-F may need in the future. Thank you for your support and prayers that made this mission trip possible.

We are packing tonight and tomorrow and leaving in the late afternoon, Saturday, and arriving Sunday afternoon. Ghan and Luka will be coming to town around Easter week so its farewell my friends, but not good-bye! May we be as gracious hosts and generous as they have been to us.


See you soon,



March 7, 2019

Thailand 7:12

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 3:28 pm

Thailand 7.12

March 7, 2019-Thursday

(I posted some photos about the night market on 7.11 to take the opportunity to upload some photos since the Internet is not reliable.)

It’s amazing after a hard day’s work that there is enough energy left to have a little time to relax and eat. Maybe it’s the singing led by Kane and our Chapbook meetings that invigorate us because after that, we head for the streets. We are generally sampling the local foods but I really can’t believe we travel so far to an exotic land and some of us have pizza! Yes many of the team members miss our American (ok Italian) cuisine and go for that pizza but maybe because it’s BOGO free; that must be it. The night bazaar is a short distance from our hotel so we can make several runs. Some members fit in as locals because some tourists approached Lena and one of the twins as if they were working the booth and asked them questions about the products or pricing. LOL. There is stage in the plaza with live music and I heard a man singing an Elvis Presley song, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and had to check to see if Ming had entered the talent competition, but no Ming. There is a gigantic food court and although we are tempted to try different foods, we are more confident in restaurants since the GI bug has already hit a few team members. Buyers beware: even though the merchandise is bought IN Thailand it wouldn’t be unusual if it was made outside the country (i.e. China).

We should appreciate our freedom to roam about and the freedom of choice. This luxury is not afforded to the patients that we served today. We went to Thoeng District Prison about 45 miles from Chiang Rai. It is our third trip to the prison of which 90% of the population is incarcerated for drug related offenses. We won’t have photos of the patients due to privacy issues and they wouldn’t let us take our cameras or cell phones into prison or we would have to stay in prison. No thank you. It is a little eerie going into the prison with these heavy creaking metal doors clanging shut behind you as we look ahead at the perimeter of barbed wire and high walls. Most of the inmates wear blue tops so we left our blue scrub tops behind so we don’t get inadvertently mistaken for an inmate. We had badges that we wore designating us as visitors and one team member lost theirs so we had to do a head count when we left making sure we didn’t pick up any extra bodies. We got a tour of the facility, which is divided into a women and men’s section. There is a shopping area for inmates as they can earn some money or have friends/family send them money to spend. There is a medical quarantine area if they have a communicable disease and a birthing area. Yes, some women come into prison pregnant, have their baby there for about 3 years, and then they have to give the baby up somewhere until the prisoner’s sentence is up. There were three babies that we saw, one just barely standing and the others about two years old. They have a work area to make crafts from sewing or larger pottery works so that they can learn a craft and sell them.
We recognized a few prisoners from our last visit and they remembered us. Some were wearing the glasses they received from our visit and greeted us with smiles. These prisoners look like everyday people brought together from unwise decisions. They are friendly, likeable, clean, considerate, and grateful for us to come, even to just chat with them; some prisoners even spoke English. I don’t think that they get many visitors and some prisoners are foreigners so their families are far away. We met some inmates, who are incarcerated for up to 25 years on drug charges, manslaughter, breaking legal commitments, and human trafficking. They do not look like typical thugs or hoodlums. Most of them are well kept with regards to makeup and haircuts and even some men use some type of skin lightener since lighter skin is more desirable by some. The men were seen taking showers and brushing their teeth outside in a group area. The dental team was fairly busy cleaning teeth, the eye team prescribing and making glasses, while the medical team saw a variety of conditions. I saw more inmates complain of aches and pains related to posture and how they sleep. The prison is overcrowded with about 1300 inmates where it was made for 800. There are about 75 prisoners to a room that have to sleep on the floor, sardine style or like spoons and they complain of insomnia or neck, back, and leg pain and cramping every single night. The new King Vajiralongkorn may be pardoning many prisoners soon by releasing them or shortening their terms. He did a mass pardon for 150,000 in 2016 in an act of mercy. Some of the prisoners told their story and were remorseful while others seemed to have gotten the short stick since they didn’t have the money to defend themselves despite proclaiming their innocence. Some got teary-eyed and felt helpless with their long sentences. They have families that they are needed and while these are indeed illegal activities that warranted their incarceration, Thailand has strict drug laws and severe punishment, yet still some go undeterred, until they are caught. We prayed for some and are reminded by the passage:

Psalm 69:33, “For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.”

But who is really free? Are you? As sinners, we are not free of guilt. We are imprisoned by our sins, habits, thoughts, and attitudes and we should repent. God is a strict, yet loving god. He is a forgiving God just hoping that with each action that we take will we glorify Him by being more Christ-like.

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

May God have mercy on our souls.



March 6, 2019

Thailand 7.11

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 5:14 pm

Thailand 7.11
March 6, 2019-Wednesday

********************BREAKING NEWS************************


At about 6:30 pm tonight, in a bazaar yet fortuitous sequence of events, a young Chinese visitor miraculously avoided further harm by three heath professionals on a mercy mission from America. Kane Kuo, MD, Andy Alejo, RN, and Chris Chow, PharmD were eating at the Four Star Restaurant on Banpapragarn Road, in Chiang Rai near the famous Clock Tower when Dr. Kuo, an emergency room physician from California, heard a large crash indicative of a two-vehicle collision. His reflexive response was to investigate the cause to see if aid was needed an approached the scene of the accident with Andy and Chris in clos pursuit. To his surprise, he noticed a young woman in her twenties cradling a motorcycle, which was pinned under the front end of the truck with the wheels off the ground on top of the motorcycle. Several bystanders were trying to yank the victim out from under the truck without success, which at any moment could crush her. Dr. Kuo stopped them from potentially causing further harm and paralysis as he quickly assessed the cervical spine and back for stability first; check for head injury, and to see if she was breathing. At this time, their colleagues Ming Chong, RN and Ed Eng, CPA joined the rescue providing timely interpretation as Ming discovered she was visiting from China and only spoke Mandarin. This greatly helped assessing the situation and for her to verbalize her condition and complaints of any injuries.

As it turns out, she was not the driver of the motorcycle and not even a passenger! Apparently, unfamiliar with the direction of traffic, as she allegedly was jay walking, she froze and stopped in the middle of the road, while an oncoming motorcycle swerved to avoid hitting her. The driver laid the motorcycle down as he jumped off. The truck following the motorcycle, hit the motorcycle, which slid into the pedestrian causing her to be airborne and she landed on the motorcycle as the truck continued on top of both her and the motorcycle. Once Dr. Kuo felt it was safe to move her out of harms way from traffic, the medical team pulled her to the side of the road and further assessed her injuries and provide necessary aid. While the team was attending her, Dr. Kuo looked up to see what else was going on, noticing the motorcycle driver on the phone and the bystanders trying to get the truck off the motorcycle, which on the third attempt was successful. Ironically, no one else was tending for the victim but tending to their vehicles! By now, the EMS ambulance arrived and transported her to the local hospital after the medical team stabilized her. She had sustained blunt head trauma, multiple lacerations, abrasions, contusions, and may have sustained broken ribs or a head injury and will need X-rays and CT scans, etc. for further evaluation and treatment. The local police arrived to take control of the scene as the medical team nonchalantly returned to the restaurant since their food was getting cold.

They do not want to be regarded as heroes but they want to give all the glory to God. This accident was going to happen whether the medical team was in Chiang Rai or not. But God put the medical team, each with their gifts and talents, there with a Chinese interpreter to help a stranger in a strange land. They were at the right place at the right time.

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others

God is in control. I am proud to be part of this team who unselfishly sacrifice their time and efforts to serve others. Guys, you did good!

Now earlier today we finished at the Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation complex. No one seems to smile as you can see in many of the photos. I tried an ice breaker by teaching the patients how to say “Hello”, “Hi” and “Bye-Bye” That brought on a few smiles and for some that was their first words of the English language. We treated a number of conditions that was similar to what we treated before. It seemed busier than it should have because some patients that were seen on another day returned for something else today or patients talk amongst themselves and strategize to get another service even though they may have not even need an evaluation. Some came just to get preventative worm medications that they will need in a few months. Some were recruited as a local market telling each other about the “Free Clinic”. But one little girl touched our hearts as Kane evaluated her for deafness and the inability to speak. She was lively, shy, and playful but just couldn’t hear anything. Apparently it was from birth so she doesn’t know what she is missing. She doesn’t know what sound is or what it is like to speak. Her quality of life would change dramatically if she could hear and speak. Can you imagine how she would feel knowing how to speak and then talk? As Christians, we are here to evangelize and to serve. People who don’t know Christ are like a deaf/mute individual. They don’t know what they are missing but look how much better quality of life they would have if they did have Christ in their hearts. So whether our mission is truly health oriented or evangelistic, it’s saving lives and being saved.

Need my beauty sleep,

March 5, 2019

Thailand 7.10

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:50 pm

Thailand 7.10
March 5, 2019- Tuesday

Go, go, go. Work, work, work.

It’s hard to find peace and quiet for me. I have a little time this morning though it took traveling 8000 miles and now I can hear God’s creations, birds, insects, nature, the love of my life breathing as she is resting this am as the sun rises. I write most of these blogs at night (which I will continue later), when I am exhausted, ready to go to bed myself so it more of reporting what we did that day that contemplation. Some of you like an update for our safety or productivity and photos help show you what we do or what conditions that we have to work under and I know it gets monotonous in our poses. Only the patients change so I’ll try to get more faces than “action” photos.

We are situated on the Mekong River in Chiang Khong and can see Laos across the river watching speed boats pass by. We are out in the boonies. We are under camping conditions, okay maybe not that bad, but its glamping at its minimum. We are in the country getting bitten by mosquitoes and large ants are crawling all around us, in fact, one just crawled across my chest as I am typing this blog and it took two swats to stun it so I can flick it off me with my finger. We have limited electricity, internet, and water as you will see.

The team is an energetic team but we need our rest. We have a male and female dormitory where thin padded mattresses are provided with a blanket sharing one shower while some others are admittedly are spoiled with private rooms with a common bathroom. Bill got the honeymoon suite and I got bunk beds. John and Lisa got another room so there is an advantage of bringing your spouse…private rooms, less snoring. Lena was pleased to have her own side of the room while I got to spread out over the bunk bed. Bill said we can only bring a carry-on sized suitcase, but he didn’t say I couldn’t bring 3 backpacks (LOL). However, disaster struck. Last night the spigot in the shower broke off while I was turning it on and a jet of cold water shot out of the pipe, bypassing the warmer, and straight into my naked body. Burrr! I’m holding the handle in my hand, trying to put my palm over the pipe to slow the flow, looking at broken pieces on the floor trying to figure out if the pieces can be put back together to stop the flow. With no way to shut the water off and freezing my little fanny off I’m contemplating if I can tip toe away, no one will notice. Well, I took the opportunity to take a quick cold shower, my body keeping the water from exiting the stall onto the floor, which would have certainly flooded the floor. I was like putting my finger in the dike trying to figure out this predicament. I was able to shove some parts back in to slow it down but the faucet was still leaking. I went searching for Mark Patton, who has a contractor background, and he was able to at least get the parts back in to shut the valve off. He’s my hero. Then the maintenance guy came to assess the situation.

Then I was then awoken this morning by the sound of Bill taking a shower this morning, singing,

“Oh what a beautiful morning,
Oh what a beautiful day,
I’ve got a wonderful feeling,
Everything’s going my way.”

So I was glad that some shower was working…until the water ran out. The sinks and toilets didn’t work as well. Either they turned off the water last night or Bill’s shower drained the water tank outside (He’s got a little body so it shouldn’t have taken that much water to bathe him.) Well many of the team members were not pleased not being able to shower this am and lacking water to brush their teeth or flush the toilet. I offered them my bottled water, deodorant, and chewing gum. It just turned out the water tank for the compound ran out of water and they needed to pump more well water into the tank. No river baths needed like last mission trip. Yeah!

We have bumps in the road from time to time and we adapt, conform, and sacrifice. As an intense group of professionals and we needed to iron out some issues and today flowed a lot more smoothly. We have to focus on why we are here in the first place and Satan is always trying to provide distractions. We have to always ask ourselves is what we do pleasing to God and ask for forgiveness when we are weak and sinful. We are here for a common purpose; our goal is to glorify God and only God knows if we are even close. Work should be fun and we have limited resources and time here. We put pressure on ourselves to help others but we have to remind ourselves that God is in control. Lena commented, “It was a great day!”

Now I can’t speak for the dental team because they are way in the corner but when I see Bill wandering around, either the dental team kicked him out, or the pace is reasonable for him to go about his duties overseeing and commenting like a helicopter mom. The eye team is always busy examining and then grinding the lenses. Those who have assembled the frames can be identified by the Band-Aids covering their puncture wounds on their hands from the tiny jeweler’s screwdrivers slipping while tightening the screws and drawing blood. The medical team is going through their supply of needles and syringes giving steroid injections to over 50% of the patients they see due to musculoskeletal disorders and repetitive stress injuries. Some had accidents falling out of cars or motorcycle accidents as well. Some patients come in requesting injections of some sort and even a B vitamin cocktail makes them satisfied. The choices are medication, injection, or both. Many take both and when the patients talk and ask, “Why didn’t you get an injection?” they get back in line for one even though the first time we saw them, we didn’t think they would benefit from one. Injections are not fun and some patients grimace or cover their eyes but it’s to provide long-term relief of inflammation. They get the point. Some patients complain of headache, neck pain, shoulder pain, back pain, leg and knee pain and others complain of numbness. Some patients hurt all over and have multiple areas of pain. We had Rainbow, a personal trainer, hold a clinic for several patients at once since they shared common symptoms. He taught them posture control, strengthening, and stretching. Chris joined in because he’s pretty buff himself, but a patient was more limber than him and was teaching Chris how to stretch! They seem to have fun at the clinic, which was not quite Orange Theory, but it was a start for them. I tried some moves but it was a pain in the butt.

We are preparing for an onslaught tomorrow since there is a free pass over the bridge between Thailand and Laos. We expect droves of patients and it is welcomed but we have a shorter day since we return to Chiang Rai. Fortunately for me the water supply was restored otherwise I was going to have to do sponge baths for everyone. People don’t smile much here but do show their gratitude just to be seen. One patient brought her hands together, nodded with her eyes closed, and spoke something in Thai to me and the translator said she said, “God bless you.”

We met after dinner for Chapbook session despite the lights going on and off. People shared what was the best part of the trip and some said it was the bins, or meeting new people, or seeing and hugging old friends, or singing in the choir like angels, or the tremendous church service that we attended, or praying for a patient in the past, finding out how well that the patient was doing when there seemed to have little hope but God performs miracles.

We have some of our own from FCBC that need our prayers and support and in particular, a church member with a cerebral hemorrhage is in a coma. Please pray for her and inquire about details so that you can help the family as well. We have to take care of each of our brothers and sisters, God’s children, no matter where we are in the world. May God give us continued strength, health, and resources in all that we do and say so that we may glorify Him.

In Christ,

March 4, 2019

Thailand 7.9

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 10:38 pm

March 4, 2019

More photos:


























Thailand 7.9

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:00 pm

Thailand 7.9

March 4, 2019-Monday
FYI: Please see some edits that I made on yesterday’s blog.

After our church service yesterday, we traveled to Doi Chaang (Doi: mountain, Chaang: Elephant) to see the Doi Chaang Caffe and coffee bean processing factory. Doi Chaang produces about 50% of Thailand’s coffee beans with about 40,000 tons of beans processed from this factory. Over thirty years ago, this mountain region was used by the hillside tribes for growing opium. The king of Thailand, at the time, offered to plant coffee beans and trees to protect them from the sun and encouraged them to stop the opium business and grow coffee instead. This are allows a climate that affords premium beans, such as Arabica, to be produced. Interestingly, I am told that the top or best grades of beans are considered A grade and sold under the Doi Chaang brand, while, the B and C grades are sold to the large coffee chains that I’m sure that you all are familiar with. There are about 40 families that own Doi Chaang with 85% of them Akha. One of the initial founder’s, Piko Sandeo, son was Luka’s first scholarship student at AYDC. Piko’s face is the logo of Doi Chaang.

We then stopped at another coffee factory, Abonzo Coffee, which is owned by a friend of Ghans. It was more contemporary setting and offered the Civet (rat poop) coffee beans. Somehow the Civet knows which beans are the best, eat those, and the beans pass through its digestive tract and is then collected and is one of the most flavorful and expensive cups of coffee…I’m told.

Today we checked out of Wang Come hotel and traveled for two hours to Pastor Phongkeow’s compound near the Mekong River, which overlooks Laos. We will stay here for 2 ½ days. It’s a beautiful location and the facility is part of the Thailand Mennonite Brethren Foundation. Pastor is of Laotian decent and was a Mennonite pastor for the Lao congregation in Fresno. He does missionary work in Laos as well so we saw local as well as Laotian patients who crossed the river just to come to the clinic. We saw a number of dental, optometry, and medical patients. The clinics got busy right away but the best part was that the team came together and got caught up in making the glasses for distribution to our first few clinic stops. Ed, the newbie, is doing an excellent job cleaning the instruments but he’s hoping that Marlene isn’t expecting him to do the dishes for now on at home. We had a lot of musculoskeletal ailments and administered a lot of steroid injections for tendinitis, arthritis, and trigger point injections. Now I usually don’t pay much attention to the other health care professional but I’m not sure if can was teaching a patient stretching exercises or teaching him American break dancing or hip hop. Because later, he seemed to be getting pointers from “Rainbow”, Luka’s nephew, and a personal trainer. I think gain was trying to get some six-pack abs. I wanted some tips from Rainbow and I showed him a photo of a super muscular body builder that I wanted to look like and he looked up and down at me and say “No way!!” Thanks Rainbow.
After a busy day we had dinner and a get together with song and readings from the Chapbook. Pastor is always challenging us with deep questions, but talked about carrying each others’ burdens. 1Thessalonians 5:4 touched upon that and encouraged the team to ask about one another and to carry each others burdens.

I’m having difficulty uploading images tonight so I will try tomorrow to add to the photos. Please check tomorrow.


March 3, 2019

Thailand 7.8

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 5:18 pm

Thailand 7.8

March 3, 2019-Sunday

I cant’ believe it has already been a week that we have been in Thailand and we have gone to distant villages, schools, and today we attended church at the Huaisin Akha village. We’ve been there, done that for seven times in Thailand and yet each trip is special. It is written “As each as received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace,” 1 Peter 4:10. But this is more than a mission of service. This is a mission of sharing God’s glory with our friends, brothers, and sisters in Christ and we gathered in worship with a number of musical treats of dance and song.

Psalm 98:4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.

Some of the young male children performed an Akha welcoming dance to the beat of a drum and gongs while the young ladies performed an elegant Thai dance and others a contemporary dance routine. Another shared by playing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” on a piccolo type instrument while the young children also did a dance routine. Then there was an impromptu guest appearance by the FCBC traveling MTI choir. Prior to us taking the stage, Kane did an awesome job by making some special opening remarks that sums up what building these relationships with the Akha is all about:

Kane Kuo:

“Good morning.

Thank you for inviting us for all these years to come and worship with you.

It’s a very special time for us for a lot of reasons:

It’s special because we’ve come from 8000 miles away.

It’s special because we speak different languages.

It’s special because we’ve gathered with you for over 10 years.

It is special because we’ve seen your children grow up.

We’ve seen loved ones pass away.

But it’s most special because we worship the same God.

So even though we eat different foods and we speak different languages,

We’re actually more the same than different.

We’re the same because we’re all sinners.

We’re the same because we didn’t deserve God to love us.

We’re the same because we have the same Son of God that died for us.

And we’re the same because one day we will worship together and we will understand each other fully.

So we wanted to share two songs with you. And even if you don’t understand the words together, one day in heaven we will.”

We made some somewhat joyful noise with “How Great Thou Art” and “Yet Not I, But Through Christ In Me”.

The Akha choir and then the Chermue children with Goo Gai, Gi, and his daughter followed us.

After the songs, Pastor Jack addressed the congregation Luka and Ghan gave a message about passing through very narrow openings and Matthew 19:24 about the parable of how it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.

Near the end of the service, Mark Patton brought out a large suitcase of toys and the team passed out toys to all the children. There were games, toss toys, 100 Hot Wheel cars, balls, and hats. (Mark and Chris later assembled a Hot Wheels track for the children at AYDC where they started racing cars right away.) The children were all excited and grateful and Mark had a great big grin on his face because he was so happy seeing the children happy.

Then one of the most touching moments was when Luka’s mother, Ahpeh, gave each of the team members a bracelet that she had made herself and put it on our wrists. As we stood in line anticipating our turn, we reflected on this small gesture of gratitude, friendship, love, and generosity. I was kneeling eye-to-eye with this tiny yet influential matriarch of this village, one of the very first Akha Christians in Thailand. It was a touching moment and brought tears of joy and appreciation to our team especially to me as she kissed me on the cheek.

We had a nice meal that the church members prepared for us and said our good-byes until the next time. We may see some of them next week or until the next mission trip when we hope that many of the elders will still be around. I suppose that goes for FCBC as well as our Akha brothers and sisters. I have to admit that I got a little “touchy feely” especially with Luka’s mother who hugged and kissed me on the cheek. I don’t know where that came from but it touches my heart that she feels comfortable in sharing her feelings and how close many of the team members have gotten with these people. If love has no boundaries, why does it seem so hard to do?

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

Love, Mark


March 2, 2019

Thailand 7.7

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 3:22 pm

Thailand 7.7

March 2, 2019-Saturday

Today was a good day and I hope yours went well too. We went to one of our favorite stops-Huaisan Akha village where we set up camp at the new church. The earthquake demolished the old church a few years ago so the new one was erected in its place. One of the buildings was painted by the team last visit in 2017 and the paint still looks great and that’s where Ellen set up her women’s health clinic. The dental and eye team set up in the sanctuary though we told them it wouldn’t count for going to church this week; they’ll have to go tomorrow to get credit. Medical and pharmacy enjoyed the cool breeze on the veranda and I even had my own surgical wing shared with the optometry cutters. It was a grind. Familiar faces from the village quickly greeted us, including Luka’s mother and brother. Luka’s mother had a big smile and gave me a great big hug and kiss on the arm. I don’t know their culture well so I just gave her the “I love you” sign with my fingers. It was nice to see how all the children are growing up over the years as well.

I’m so happy. I got to see blood. Being a surgeon, we like to see blood (in moderation of course); “Cut to cure” is our motto. “When in doubt, cut it out” we like to say. So now that I have my surgical tools, I feel more useful to the team but most of all, to our patients. We all get disappointed when we can’t deliver a service or meet the expectations of our patient. Thank God we have our toys! I had the opportunity to see one of my patients who I removed a giant sebaceous cyst 2 years ago from his buttock. It was like lava flowing from a volcano (yuck!). The last time he gave me a purse to show his gratitude for my effort. He humbled me, this time, as I was admiring his scar when he said the cyst came back. Great, revision on the recurrence, patient satisfaction guaranteed. Did he get that in writing? I was hoping he wasn’t going to ask for the purse back. So I reoperated on him and he was again grateful I also got to remove some fatty tumors and skin lesions from other patients. I was in my element so I honestly don’t know what else the medical team was doing since I was having so much fun back there with Wan and Lynette assisting me with my surgery.

The optometry department was grinding away lenses and making frames. Gi and other team members helped out with the assembling with Mark and Pastor Jack doing the grinding and buffing. The dental team removed a lot of teeth and Lynelle was ecstatic cleaning with the appropriate tools. I’m happy for Bill but I was wondering why the last two days Bill has the constant look of euphoria and he’s been in such a good mood. I don’t think he’s smoking anything or using the local betel nut so maybe he’s just happy to see all his precious bins. We are working together smoothly and being as productive as we can.

We have a lot of translators, which is a big help. All of the Chermue children are helping and some even took off 2 weeks of work and school completing assignments ahead of time so that they could help us these two weeks. Some of their friends have been helping as well. It was kind of embarrassing for the team the other day when Chris came out of building asking, “We need a translator. Does anyone speak Chinese?” We all looked at each other saying, “Don’t look at me.” For a team from First CHINESE Baptist Church someone ought to speak a little Chinese (Mandarin). Where was Ming? Doesn’t anyone watch Chinese kung fu movies? We just said that we didn’t speak his dialect, which was still the truth, since Bill speaks Cantonese but not Mandarin. We need to offer Chinese lessons at the church. Any volunteers? I actually speak more Spanish than Chinese (which isn’t actually saying much) and I was proud to use it when we were at the Chiang Rain International Christian School. A little girl from Spain got hurt on the playground and we were told that bamboo had impaled her armpit. They called me and I rushed down with the nurse. I wanted to find out how deep the wound was. “Hola, yo soy Dr. Chin. Tiene dolor en la hueso o piel?” Translated, “Hello, I’m Dr. Chin. Do you have pain in your bone or skin?” She replied, “What’s that?” in English. I cracked up. She spoke perfect English an she’s probably never seen a Chinese guy speak Spanish before and it wasn’t even the right dialect; she spoke Castilian Spanish, not Mexican Spanish. These trips out here just seem like the Tower of Babel sometimes. Sometimes we have translators for translators. Anyway, I got the ER doctor Kane to check her out and she just had a flesh wound and will be fine.

Most of us are enduring the water and the food. Some have had mild GI complaints but we have been staying at a hotel and eating prepared foods. When we go to Pastor Phongkaeow’s Changing Life Center in Chiang Khong that may be a challenge on our GI tracts since it is more out in the country near the river. We have had long bus and van rides and we are a little sore all over. Pastor Jack threw out his back saving a team member from injury that fell out of the back of the truck several feet above the ground onto his overloaded backpack. Him and Andy tried to catch this dead weight. (He was overweight due his extreme muscle mass in addition to the 20 lb. backpack.) Lester said the guy looked like a helpless tortoise on his back. I won’t mention that team member’s name because I don’t want to embarrass myself but all I can say is that Pastor Jack has your back. As they say at Children’s Time, “Thank you Pastor Jack!”

Missing the Saturday night market to finish this blog. Thank you for saving me money, Bill. I hope you brought me something back.






March 1, 2019

Thailand 7.6

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 2:34 pm

Thailand 7.6

March 1, 2019-Friday

Most of our journeys to Thailand include a stop at the Sahasartsuka School in Chiang Rai where Luka was a student and this trip was no different. An American Baptist missionary established the school in the 1950’s. There is a mixture of ethnic hillside tribes and Thai children that make up the student body and most of them are from Akha villages. Most of the students did not look terribly sick and had typical colds, minor infections (fungal, scabies, warts), needed teeth cleaning, and fitting for prescription lenses to improve their sight especially to study. There was much needed enthusiasm with the access to our equipment and supplies that were released from customs. In fact the optometry team started preparing the prescriptions obtained earlier this week as Pastor Jack and Mark Patton cut and ground lenses and assembled the frames. One of the patients that Mark fitted exclaimed, “WOW!” after putting on the glasses and being able to see clearly.

The children are brave to have strangers examine them and are always polite. Andy was treating a child with impacted earwax and felt bad for her because the experience appeared to be uncomfortable. It was kind of my fault since I looked into her ears and sent her to Andy, the earwax expert. It took a couple of helpers to hold her hand and calm her while Andy flushed out her ear canals, which took about an hour to do. We tried to make her feel better giving her a toothbrush and goodies. Even in tears, she still brought her hands together and bowed to show her thanks. Our trips are always satisfying seeing young students; particularly those from hillside tribes get an opportunity for education. Luka and Ghan’s children have had that opportunity at CRICS and Da aspires to be a teacher while Wan is thinking about a career in the health field. Kane took Da under his wings and taught her how to evaluate patients with pertinent questions and examine them with our tools, such as a stethoscope and come up with a diagnosis. Then she would present the patient and her findings and give an appropriate treatment based on what she has seen Kane advise for other patients. She diagnosed and treated an upper respiratory infection patient and a migraine patient correctly and even caught a patient’s allergy to a medication that might have been prescribed for a certain condition. She shows an interest in the health field, is quick learner, and we have to be reminded that she is only 15 years-old! Wouldn’t it be nice if she became the first Akha doctor in Thailand? Maybe we should start a crowd funding campaign.

When we returned to the hotel we met for singing and devotion and we talked about prayer and a story related to Acts 12:5. It is all too common to have phrases like “Pray about it”, “I’ll pray for you”, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you” “Please God, I pray that you will…” How hard to you really pray about something? With what faith and conviction to you want or expect God to answer your prayers? Do you think God answers our prayers? Well, God did answer our prayers and not one, or two bins were released, BUT ALL OF THEM WERE RELEASED. Miracles do occur and God knows what we need and provides. He also knows our hearts and how sincere we are. We can all pray a little harder and heartier.

Thank you God. Mark




February 28, 2019

Thailand 7.5

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:14 pm

Thailand 7.5

February 28, 2019-Thursday

Today was a thirteen-hour day but that’s why they call it “WORK”. The good news is that during the day, Ghan got a call from the head of the Dept. of Health and a meeting was arranged with Ghan to plead our case for customs to release the mission supplies which included medical and dental supplies, medications, optometry equipment and most important of all, the lenses, frames, and grinders. Ghan strategically brought cookies to the secretary to ensure a smooth interaction. The official wrote a letter for Ghan to take to the customs agent at the airport. Bill, Ghan, and Mark Patton met with the customs near closing time and they had to go through about 12 bins/duffels item by item and explain the need of each item. They were convincing enough to allow EVERYTHING through to Medical Team International is back in business at full force! Halleluiah, God is good! Thank you Ghan for your nice people skills and kudos to Bill and Mark for getting our equipment to the hotel.

The team drove for over an hour toward Ghan’s Pamee village, which is adjacent to Tham Luang village in Mae Sai area of northern Thailand near the border of Myanmar (kind of like Fresno/Clovis). We went to Tham Luang village church, which was recently built and I believe it is one of thirteen Akha churches in the area. The dentists got the fan-conditioned villa of course, the optometrists worked in the sanctuary, while the medical team and pharmacy were positioned on the open air veranda and worked on their tans as well. The limited budget medical team got a Little Nemo squirt bottle with a fan to help cool us off. The villagers are very hard workers and we saw a lot of musculoskeletal disorders. The dentists cleaned teeth and extracted badly decayed ones while the optometrists worked on collecting prescriptions for grinding lenses at a later time. There were a few patients that we couldn’t help such a young man with enlarged, fused, fingers (syndactyly, macrodactyly), an elderly woman who fell and fractured her femur that did not heal, and man with a facial cyst that needed surgical removal. We will see if we can treat him at the clinic when we get our instruments. It gave me a sense of disappointment for both myself and for the patient not being able to treat these patients. We offer hope but sometimes can’t deliver. I know that we can’t treat everyone and we should be satisfied that we helped many others, yet there is still an empty feeling. Thinking about tackling that congenital hand in limited facilities and resources has made the phrase “physician do not harm” restrain my temptation. The teams felt fairly productive and then took a tour up Tham Luang mountain for some cave exploration.

Tham Luang mountain’s outline against the sky resembles a woman laying on her back. Tham Luang Khun Nam Nang Non means “the great cave and water source of the sleeping lady mountain”. The cave where the Wild Boars soccer team consisting of a coach and 12 boys, were trapped in a flooded cave system for over two weeks last year. Their full story can be seen at and Gail has a book titled, “Miracle In The Cave” which describes their ordeal. Ghan helped support the rescue team by making and serving them food. Luka and Da helped with communications especially with the news media in answering questions. We followed the walking trail up to the mouth of the actual cave where the team was trapped which happened to be fenced off. All of the soccer team was eventually rescued but a former Navy Seal diver Saman Gunan died after he was bringing oxygen to the boys. A tall statue was erected in front of a memorial building, which had large murals on the walls. We continued up to another cave, Thampra Cave, and got to experience first-hand with flashlight in hand going deep into the areas of darkness, coolness, and dampness of a cave system to try to imagine the conditions that the boys had experienced. It was eerie yet exciting. Some visitors were meditating in the recesses of the cave. One of the boys rescued was an English speaking Christian who answered to the navy seal who first made contact with them. After the rescue, all but the Christian boy adopted Buddhism. He remained committed to his faith. Fortunately the survivors are doing well and I’m sure a movie will eventually be made.

We then travelled higher up the mountain to Ghan’s village. Her younger brother has a drinking water bottling factory and we got a tour of that and met Ghan’s mother riding her motorcycle. Her other younger brother has a boutique coffee café Ahpo Kafei where we stopped to have coffee and enjoy the view of Tham Luang while waiting for Mark Patton to arrive from the airport. Bill stayed behind at the hotel to prepare for the next day and his newly acquired tools. A nice Akha dinner at a restaurant finished a quite busy and rewarding day.

We will be going to Sahasak School tomorrow. It has always been one of our favorite spots. I’ll let you know how it went.


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