From Thighland to Thailand

February 24, 2017

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

March 10, 2014

Thailand 5.15

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 4:21 am

March 7, 2014-Saturday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.15


We have one more half day to work at the AYDC at Luka’s compound and we’re used to seeing most of the villagers at these clinics and I was hoping to see more familiar faces but the crowd is small.  We enjoyed working in the new building that has ceiling fans and lighting that we are not used to.  In the past we worked in a small building shared by the dental and medical team while the optometry team worked outside in the hot humid air.  Now we had plenty of brand new chairs and tables; we were spoiled.  I mentioned that funds for the new building was donated by the Norwegian group ( run by director Knut Inge Bergem that support financially T-AMF and BCMlives (BaanChivitMai) for disadvantaged children, particularly, at-risk for human trafficking.  Luka happens to sit on the board of that group as the AYDC works with at-risk children as well. That organization started 25 years ago realizing that many children went “missing” and began rescuing at-risk children.  They have a youth hostel and house about 80 children in two homes with their youngest resident being an abandoned 7 years-old child. Knut happened to be at the night market and ran into Blah who knew Bill and when Luka walked up and said “Hi!”  You know that Luka gets around; he knows everyone. Knut found out why we were there and asked Bill if he could bring some of the children from the hostel so 5 youths received dental care today at the clinic whose foundation help build it.  How cool is that!  We also were able to treat many of the ADYC staff that often doesn’t get a chance to take care of themselves.


An American woman, who runs a foundation to help out the Akha youth brought in several patients to our clinic who were recently involved in a car accident near the Thai-Myanmar border near Mae Sai. There were six traveling in a truck sitting in the back and a drunk driver swerved into their vehicle, hitting them, forcing them off the road and wrecking the vehicle.  They went to the local emergency room for treatment and were here for follow up.  One passenger sustained a broken arm while another had a leg laceration that we attended to.  A young girl had a forehead and scalp laceration that required suture removal.  One of the passengers was a young Burmese Pastor, Abraham here to translate the bible into one of the dialects of Myanmar.  He had the more serious lacerations to his face.  Sutures were in the lips, eyelids, scalp, and forehead. His black eyes were slowing resolving.  For a handsome man, the forehead was not a pretty sight.  His forehead was mangled and sewn piece meal back together.  There was an abraded flap of skin tissue that was puffy, discolored, and dusky (poor circulation) and it didn’t look like it was healing properly and the skin edges were uneven.  It’s risky to open up wounds so soon since an infection and occur, but I took it apart anyway to keep the skin from dying, and proceeded to remove hair, glass, and blood clot still into wound which went all the way down to bone.  A nerve appeared so he may have some permanent numbness in his forehead.  I did the best I could to clean it up and getting the skin edges together for improved healing and ultimately a lesser scar, but there will always be an emotional scar.  Other areas of the face seemed to be healing well and the sutures were removed.  Being a Burmese Pastor, I asked him if he knew of Adoniram Judson, one of the first American Baptist missionaries to Burma, and he nodded without hesitation, and was well informed of his history.  It was remarkable what Mr. Judson did for the Burmese people translating a bible into Burmese and writing the first Burmese-English dictionary.  Two hundred years later, a young man is risking his very own life trying to translate the bible into other dialects to spread God’s word in the land that’s mostly Buddhist and continues to perpetuate Judson’s efforts.  That’s remarkable; that’s a miracle.


Except for Jen and Ali who will be staying here for another 2-4 months to continue helping Luka, Ghan, and the T-AMF/AYDC efforts, this is the medical mission’s team’s last day in Thailand for a long time.  Missing our children is a no-brainer for Lena and I as well as the “aunties and uncles” that they are so close to.  Uncle Bill is one of her favorite uncles since he gave her about 3 bins to bring back about 200 fragile Thai lantern party favors for her wedding.  (I guess I have to invite him now.  Okay, let’s see, Gail and a plus one.)  But we will see them face to face in just a few months, and in just a few days on Facetime.  That is so easy, almost too easy in this day and age.  What is not easy is to come to grips that we may not see some of the close friends that we have developed relationships with ever again.  Certainly, the patients of Mywit Wa, our ox cart driver, tour guides, van drivers and even Wendy, our receptionist, cook, janitor, laundry coordinator, at the Golden Triangle Inn that we have known over the past 5 trips here (8 years).  She always greeted us with a warm smile and “Sawadeeka.” 


As we departed the Golden Triangle Inn, perhaps for the last time, gathering our belongings, we reminisced about the good times here and how is played out as a headquarters for our mission trip.  As Gail looked around her room for possibly the last time, (since the GTI might be sold and torn down) the ceiling light bulb in the middle of the room went “poof” and the light went out and the room darkened.  Our spirits in our hearts go “poof” when we leave and the spirits in the eyes of the patients go “poof” when we leave.  Our highs become lows, our bubbles burst, the candle grows shorter and the flame slowly dims until there is darkness.  We can keep that flame of hope flickering in their eyes with continued support in further mission trips and funding of their projects.  We hope that other organizations and churches can continue their support or start getting involved; the more the better.  It was great to have a joint effort with the Sanger and Fresno churches working as a team.  We don’t have to do it alone.  It’s all about teamwork.  We had two very different religious groups, Christians and Buddhists, with different beliefs work together and many different cultures and ethnic groups working together.  Our mission team went, and you went with us.  The home churches, friends, and families prayed for us, and felt our pain and joy, and I hope through this journal it brought you into the action even though you can try but can’t imagine the needs or pain of those we served.  Thank you for supporting YOUR mission team and for allowing this opportunity for the churches to do what is commanded of us; that is, to serve.   


Where we go from here is up to God.  How much we support Southeast Asia as a medical team or more financially for projects will be decided after we determine the needs of the people we want to serve.  I hope that others get involved because the more, the merrier. 


Before I sign off on my final entry (I will try to post photos afterward when I’m home from the 70 GB of photo/video) I would like to tell you about my last patient that I treated today.  I have known her for 8 years; her name in Lin.  I first met her when she was about 10 years old.  It is one of the daughters of Luka and Ghan.  I saw this life-threatening lesion on her shoulder that’s a large congenital nevus about the size of a quarter.  It had multiple dark black and brown spots over this bed of tan pigment.  It looked nasty since some of these individual lesions can develop into a malignant melanoma over the years.  I was concerned for her then, and I am concerned for her now.  Left alone, in time, there’s a good chance that it would turn into cancer.  This is not your typical  “Excuse me, can you take off this mole?” moment.  Now it is larger almost 2 inches in diameter and has some areas darker, speckled, and irregular, which lesions are more prone for malignant change.  Due to its location around a joint and because of its size, it is difficult to excise without resulting in a very long scar and in a patient that tends to keloid.  She received some laser treatments done in Chiang Rai to no avail.  So after evaluating the lesion I decided that the best of both worlds (smaller scar and eventually resect the entire lesion) was to stage the resection.  First remove the areas that have the most potential to become cancerous and leave a scar, that might keloid or not, within the lesion which will come out anyway in a later surgery. This would give her a fresher scar that won’t widen as much (less tension on closure) or be as long as much compared to trying to remove it at one fell swoop.  Decision made.  Hmmm, this is a classroom.  There is no operating room.  There is no bed, just a laminated hard table, but it will do.  There is no pathology.  We wrap a piece of plastic around a sleeping bag for a pillow.  There is no gown so she sheepishly pulls down her right sleeve of her T-shirt to exposes her shoulder and chest.  She is scared and she calls out for her mother.  Lin is crying.  A crowd of about a dozen surrounds her on one side of the table to help hold her down and not move.  Her mother holds her hand. Lin is very popular amongst her friends and this tight knit community, after all, she is their leaders daughter and has seen her grown up.  There is no anesthesia equipment or sedation.  I only have local anesthesia and she gets stuck several times to that I can numb the area, jerking her body writhing in pain at each needle stick.  My daughter Allison, with no medical training, helps me in the meantime, until help arrives. Fortunately, Ali is not afraid of blood, and helps me get Lin ready in the meantime.  (“Dexter” is one of her favorite shows and she enjoys the “Twighlight” saga with Bella, Edward, and Jacob so she is use to blood and guts so this is nothing to her.)  Where was I?  Linh, a nurse at Childrens’ Hospital, is used to working with pediatrics, and has been a great help to me on most of the surgeries on this trip and learned to “assist” with surgery.  She brings comfort to Lin. I put on my 2.5 power surgical loupes that begin flashing as the battery runs out and use my Surefire camo pattern headlamp for lighting. I don’t have all of my plastic surgery specialty instruments but disposable grade instruments.   This is as good as it’s going to get.  It’s backwoods medicine with our very own MASH unit: hill tribe edition.  As we work with this life and death surgery, the rest of the team has lunch.  How can they eat at a time like this?  After I place the drapes to partially cover her face, her friends distract her.  A short stroke of the #10 scalpel blade nicks her skin without a response. I am good to go.  I excise around the premarked pattern that will encompass the central half of the lesion all the way to the fat and resect the football shaped specimen.  It’s bleeding so I hold pressure to avoid a hematoma.  I reach the OMG stage when the wound opens to 3 times its size due to the elasticity of the skin as someone wipes my forehead sweat away so it won’t drip into the field.  They don’t know that my hands are dripping under the latex gloves, as I often need to shake hands.  My suture is limited and the needle holder barely adequate but I refuse to use a stapler or super glue.  The wound slowly comes together as a layer the sutures in and I am relieved, though I hope that it won’t break open under tension, develop a blood clot, or get infected when I leave.  The sutures will dissolve and hopefully leave a thin scar to resect later with the rest of the lesion.  The round lesion is now oblong. I cover it with tape butterfly stiches as well to give it extra strength.  Lin attempts to peek at it and then is relieved that it is over.  By now she is brave and smiling and wants to see the specimen and takes a picture with her phone crying out “Eweeeww in Akha.”  (I think it was Akha.)  We make do with what we have and the surgery was a success.  The patient made it.  It was touch and go for a few moments.  There is no follow-up so I leave her with antibiotics and pray that it heals satisfactorily and doesn’t break open.  We treat, God heals.  All of us have something in common. We do with what we have.  God knows what we need.


Lin still has premalignant lesion, albeit, half the size still present.  Time is ticking.  Now, we have to go back to Thailand, to resect the remaining premalignant lesion.  Everyone reading this, we need your support.  Our work is not done.




For you number crushers the final rough estimate for the number of patients treated by the FCBC medical mission team and by the wonderful Myanmar physicians, who worked by our side with unequaled stamina and dedication, are:



Myit Wa, Myanmar:           3411 patients (26 hours in 2 ½ days)

Yangon, Myanmar               202 patients (6 hours in 1 day)

Chang Rai, Thailand           272 patients  (9 hours in 1 ½ days)

Chang Khong, Thailand:     557 patients  (11 hours in 1 ½ days)


Grand Total:                      4170 patients seen (give or take a few)


We say farewell, but not good-bye to our colleagues and friends in Myanmar and Thailand who has made this mission effort a success and precedence for future mission trips.  We have established relationships that we hope to be long lasting.  I am proud of the mission team and I thank you for the privilege to work along side of you.  Thank you to the congregation of the First Chinese Baptist Church and Sierra View Community Church for your financial support of this mission.  Thank you Pastor Jack for being our spiritual leader and keeping us mindful of why we are serving and how we can bring others closer to God, while becoming closer to God ourselves.  Thank you Dr. Bill Ho for coordinating the mission trip and for your patience.  You are a good man.  My wife, Lena, and I leave Thailand leaving behind our beloved daughters Jennifer and Allison, whose charitable hearts and unselfish desire to help others by sacrificing their time, money, and efforts, and by enduring discomforts and inconveniences working out of their comfort zone, and by leaving their loved ones behind so that they may serve God and humanity.  We are soooo proud of you and love you so whoa whoa whoa muuuucccchhhhhh!!!!!!!  You are an inspiration to us all.  I hope that God will bless you deeply as He has for your mother and I.  We miss you but will see you soon.  Bye-Bye sweethearts-daddy’s little girls.






March 9, 2014

Thailand 5.14

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 6:11 am

March 6, 2014-Friday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.14


This morning Pastor Jack needed to get his Children’s Time fix out of his system and so instead of doing an adult song, he made us do the kiddie song: “Deep and Wide” song with all the hand and feet movements.  I guess we need to “shake it to wake it” moments.  Some just stood there faking it in their action poses when Pastor would see you.  It was a sorry sight.  I wonder what the foreigners thought of us, silly Americans, perhaps?  Definitely. What do the lyrics “There’s a mountain flowing deep and wide” mean anyway? I dun no.  Later we were to find out.


Our devotion this morning we discussed our high points and low points and what we found out about ourselves.   We talked about working as a team and working with new members since it was the first time for Lisa, John, Chris, Ron, and Ali with this team and having Vicki and Jen back on the team continued to feel like family for all.  We felt very comfortable working with each other and picked it up for others when we weren’t at our best of health.  We had set backs starting in the beginning at customs, loosing our compressors from the get go, half the team getting sick, and rough travels. So it was apropos for us to do some team building exercises, further bonding, and other mushy stuff.


First we toured what is essentially an outside museum and acted like tourists visiting the “Black House – Baan Si Dum.”  There is a Chiang Rai Artist Thawan Duchanee, a pretty famous local guy, with a bent for dark themes.  There are large eclectic house size buildings that are filled with odd and unusual objects.  Skulls of animals, horns, and snake skins (very long like Burmese Pythons) arranged around tables and chairs are in the first building.  He also likes very large phallic woodcarvings for some reason, picture a big club or baseball bat or one made into the handle of a slingshot. Both genders of the team really seemed to like handling, err, “examining” these pieces of “art”.  Frankly, it made me seem inadequate.  There were things from huge gongs to shark jaws and horns and beautiful pieces of wood furniture carved from massive pieces. Huge meteors like rocks were on the grounds along side of an owl and python in a cage.  He either designed a lot, or he’s a collector, or maybe just a hoarder.  We appreciated the quietness of the park like surroundings.  Rumor had it he was actually sleeping in one of the houses, as there was security around one of the buildings that didn’t let us in.  Several ethnic people were taking photos around this piece of living art.  There was a man, very statuesque appearing, where flocks of tourists where coming up and taking a picture of him.  His hair was a white, moustache white with a white beard.  He appeared unassuming, yet, very politely nodded yes when asked it they could take a photo with him or of him.  One mother brought his child up to him.  Hey, that’s Pastor Jack!  He thinks, they think, he is Santa Claus.


After that, Luka said, “Do you want to go on a hike?”  Most of us, feeling adventurous, said, ”Sure, why not?”  Considering that we’re just a group of office workers and paper pushers the thought of us trekking into the jungle was exciting, Some members said they wanted to just chill at the Golden Triangle Inn (what you travel 40 hours so you can read a book?) but, I think they were scared.  So us brave souls got to feel like Indian Jones and take this treacherous adventure to the famous waterfall of Chiang Rai:  Khun Korn Waterfall.  I’m sure lives have been lost or people lost in the jungle but good thing we have Luka, our tour guide and Ron our outdoorsman to keep an eye on us stragglers.  Oh yeah, Bill he keeps a current head count. For Luka, Khun Korn waterfall holds precious memories for him since he took his wife, Ghan, on one of their first dates there. He wanted an excuse to hold her hand by helping her up and down the steep terrain.  Rumor has it that he fell head over heels for her, and proceeded rolling down the path, and over the embankment face planting into the mud.  I guess he made a lasting impression, in the mud, that is.  From the gate we had to hike 1.4 kilometers; that doesn’t sound far, no problem we thought, but it was a struggle crossing the path of snakes and bugs, like the dreaded bamboo worm, fighting off malaria-carrying mosquitos, water hazards, and spider webs, and that was just getting out of the parking lot!  It took 45 minutes of up and down (mostly up) gaining and loosing altitude, slipping on dirt and mud, traversing rocks, tree roots, with Ron, felling like Bear Grylls, hacking away with his pocket knife, with machete-like motions, to make a path, cupping his hand yelling’ “We’re almost there” for encouragement.  I really think that Ron could have his own outdoors adventure reality show himself!  He actually was jogging up the hill and jumping down the steps when most of us were crawling.  There were some slow pokes, names, which I won’t mention, but it wasn’t me, even though I was last.  I had some Gopro technical difficulties I had to deal with and the only shoes I had were my Disneyland ½ marathon shoes.  I see Bill whisper to Ron, “Make sure there are no stragglers.”  Half way up some of the team got enough fresh air and had enough sense to turn back.  Been there, done that and “I’ll just watch the video” attitude.  Besides, they prefer their aerobic activities back home like golf (especially when driving the golf cart).  Well it was a good thing because I left the nitroglycerin pills and the AED behind.  The distance markers were not encouraging, first 800 and then meters.  Then I realized it was meters and not feet!  The sounds of the falls in the distance and the other team members heckling were the only encouragement.  I was not going to be left behind.  Finally, I see the falls breaking through the jungle not far in the distance.  I think I hear Pastor singing, “…There’s a mountain flowing deep and wide.”  As I huffed and puffed with my 20 lb. backpack on, there is a silhouette of a figure stooping and looking over the ledge to the waterfall.  It’s Ron yawning and looking at his watch thinking, “It’s about time, what took you so long?”  The guy can be intimidating for an “older” man.  I was just enjoying the scenery.  He doesn’t realize that I was watching out for him.


The members who made the climb are playing in the water and taking pictures as the mist and cool breeze flows into their faces.  It was an experience to appreciate God’s creations and beauty.  Some wanted to go skinny-dipping in the base of the waterfall but they were afraid I’d identify them and post a photo of their derriere.  I actually did find some loose underwear but no one claimed it.  After plenty of Kodak moments we return down the mountain, which is slightly easier than going up.  Ron makes sure everyone is accounted for and he’s having a grand ole time hopping and jumping down the steps.  I’m sure those of you that know him can picture his “energy.”  Now this is for real.  He happens onto a vine and starts hanging from it doing his best Tarzan imitation.  “ahhhAHHahhAHHahh!!” No lie, I have a photo of it.  Dar, I would like to know what happens when he beats on his chest at home.  We mad it back to civilization with the proper head count. Okay, enough of this boy scout stuff; we already went camping in Myanmar, so we headed home.


There is not a lot of nightlife for us but the night market is a hit with the women and fun for the men as well.  The men do go along to protect them, but mostly to carry their goods.  (I think I’m a pretty good shopper myself; I got a free plastic carry-on suitcase made in China that Lena loves…even though I had to buy a watch, because mine broke, to get it.)  The women sweet-talk Bill into giving them bin space for their souvenirs.  Funny, I have to buy bin space from him.  They buy for the staff, their friends, their family, and some for themselves.  Some try to bargain just for the sake of bargaining but others feel guilty since these people are supposed to be “poor” and pay full price without bargaining or using the “walking away without buying something so the vendor chases you” technique. But they must be pretty good businessmen themselves; they got you to buy something you really didn’t need, didn’t they?  It is interestingly a zoo and packed with locals and busloads of tourists arrive like Black Friday.  Street vendors line up and down the alleyways and the women can’t get enough of the night market and go back night after night.  It’s something about that place…


It’s pretty bazaar 😉  Mark



March 7, 2014

Thailand 5.13

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 11:14 am

March 6, 2014-Thursday


Thailand 5.13


This morning, Pastor Jack, had a nostalgic moment and thought we might need more exercise and proceeded to play the “chicken dance” on his phone (yes I got it on video) while engaging my daughter in some moves that I actually might utilize at the wedding during the father-daughter dance.   She’ll probably not approve of it.  You know Jen. 


The team was going to see a prison today but for some reason, due to activity there (breaking rocks or making license plates) they were too busy to see us.  In the past mission trip we were able to see a number of patients living there and it was a unique experience seeing them confined to these walls, this home, with limited access to very little. The prison is all that they had and in some cases it was a life sentence. Once you’re inside a prison it is an eerie feeling because, you wonder what happens if you can’t get out.   The people that we have served over the past two weeks are also prisoners of their circumstances, such as poverty, starvation, limited or no health care, and loneliness. They can’t get out.  I feel that sometimes, we Americans are prisoners too, POW: Prisoners of Wealth.  We need to have this and have that, and we can, because we do indeed have.  We have our comfort zone and not until one gets uncomfortable and see those who don’t have will our hearts soften.  Participating in charitable organizations and giving back by serving make us aware of the needy and using our wealth to the benefit of others less fortunate allows us to attempt a prison break. God does not condemn the wealthy, only how we use our wealth and what our priorities are.  How can you make sure that you stay out or get out of prison?


We learned more or Luka’s ministry.  T-AMF started in 1995 to help the poor, orphaned, and youth at-risk (i.e. human sex trafficking). The team visited a nearby school, which many of the students from the AYDC attend.  It is one of four destinations in which the bus, that FCBC donated, travels to 5 days a week transporting students.  Another vehicle takes the children to two other schools.  We saw children in the classrooms where they learning English and they counted numbers and also recited the alphabet to us.  Interesting on the wall listed some words starting with certain letters; “Jesus” was the example for “J”. The team was not too successful is teaching our “ABCDEFG” song since no one could agree how it ended “tell me what you think of me’ or was it ‘now I sing my ABC’s.”  We only knew the words “ABC etc.”  How sad.  So the dental team decided not to teach ESL but to do what they do best and that is dental education.  Vicki and Lynelle handed out toothbrushes to the students and took out a tooth model and showed them how to brush their teeth the right way.  I guess I’m doing it the wrong way since I didn’t recognize what they were doing.  And what is dental floss?  The children were all glad to receive the toothbrushes and they also used it to scratch themselves like their foreheads.  There were sayings or proverbs posted around the school.  Some of my favorites were:

1. “Knowledge makes humble. Ignorance makes proud.”

2. “Who never made a mistake never mad a discovery.”

3. “Success is the maximum utilization of the ability that you have.”

4. “Well done is better than well said.”

5. “It’s not knowing what to do, it’s doing what you know.”



Then we went on a tour of Luka’s compound, headquarters of the T-AMF (Thai-Akha Ministry Foundation) and the AYDC (Akha Youth Development Center).  We met the members that support the ministry and they told us of their involvement.  Jennifer and Allison have been volunteering there for the past two months and you can follow their blogs and photos at and .  They are helping with website development, grant writing to help funding, accounting, biographies of the students, and teaching English, amongst other things.  FCBC has been a proud sponsor for TAMF and AYDC as we have developed a relationship with them over the past 10 years.  We have been involved with helping them with a Bull ministry to help populate the cow population for the Akha families.  In California, great cheese comes from happy cows.  We’re hoping great calves come from happy bulls.  Now there are 100 cows.  We helped purchase four acres of rice field so that they can feed the 100 children and staff in the AYDC, which houses and feed the village students during school 10 months of the year, and the teenagers from BYF (Baptist Youth Fellowship) came over one summer and built the barn (also funded by FCBC) that houses the harvested rice.  Right now their rice crop can only provide rice for 5 months due to the limits of water available from their existing irrigation pond that doubles as a catfish pond.  At least $2000 is needed to excavate adjacent dirt and build a dam to hold more water in the pond so that 1½ -2 crops of rice per year can be possible.  Purchasing more acreage for farmland would help with the production of rice fields.  There is an adjacent field next to the rice field, currently growing tobacco that is for sale for about $39,000.  What a waste of money; that entire product is going up in smoke so it would be nice to purchase it and change it into a rice field.  Purchasing the rice field and building a dam would help feed the mouths of the students all year round.


Two years ago, FCBC raised over $45,000 to purchase a bus/truck to replace a dilapidated school bus, which transport the school children to four different schools and help transport goods to and from the center.  We got to ride in it this time and noticed the difference; our lives were not at risk. 




Projects that are in the works and hoped for the future are:


1. The church was expanded for more space but the classrooms need to be constructed for a school to teach grades 1-4.

2. The hostel managers take care of the children and their room needs to be completed (only a roof and foundation exist).

3. There is a tea ministry where 7-8 crops of tea are harvested and sold to help support the costs of operation of T-AMF.  However, a large building that was supposed to be a factory for processing the tea was built but the equipment costs were too much, so now, there is a desire to remodel it into a library and reading area for the children, along with a storage are for the tea and tasting area for prospective buyers.

4. AYDC dormitory to be remodeled into a 2-story structure.

5. Establish a water purification business to make bottled water for sale to support the Akha villagers.



Many donors throughout the world help or have helped T-AMF:  

1. H.O.P.E. Church from Maryland helped with a learning center at Huaisan Village Church complex with further funding needed for the classrooms on the ground floor. 

2. Christian Alliance, which started with T-AMF in 1995, helps provide funds for operating costs.  

3. A church group from South Korea helped fund the cow ministry and funded the building of a church in Baam Huaikeelet and Baam Tamluang Akha villages.

4. A local charity from Norway that established a program for at-risk children in Thailand donated money for a new learning center building at AYDC.


If you are interested in helping funding projects please contact First Chinese Baptist Church write directly to:


Mr. Luka Cheurmui, Administrator

Thai – Akha Ministries Foundation (T – AMF )

P.O.Box 66 A.Muang Chiang Rai 57000 Thailand

Phone: ( 66 ) 081 960 5805



What’s in your wallet? 


We visited some of the homes in the Akha Village.  Luka’s brother, Joe, was our host and showed brought us fresh papaya, bananas, tamarind, and taro and poured coconut milk right from the nut.  Lihn, Andy, and Kane were jammin’ on the drums.  I think Linh bringing one home.  Luka demonstrated using a bird catcher that the villagers’ hand make and use this live bamboo worm or caterpillar as bait.  Kane almost lost his finger in the demonstration.  Fortunately it was just a flesh wound.  I tried it out and got worm guts on me, as the worm didn’t make it.  Then Joe’s wife brought us out freshly fried bamboo worms for us to eat!  How can we say “No thank you?”  It’s like caviar to them.  In the mean time, Vicki grabbed some toothbrushes from her backpack (she’s always ready) and worked her way down the road and approached families hanging out side. “Avon calling!”  “Fuller brush man!”  “Mary Kay Cosmetics!”  No takers.   I’m surprised that they didn’t shut the doors when they saw her coming.  Well, some houses didn’t have doors to shut.  But her smile is what got their attention and as she approached them she found a way to communicate to them to give them toothbrushes; a simple toothbrush that we take for granted.  She said, “When you have something to offer something it opens the door to show that you care despite the language barriers.”  Likewise, Andy uses food and candy and when he gave out one candy bar to a child at the school that we visited, and then another came, and another.  When Jennifer was taking photos and giving them out to the children and patients in Myit Wa until 10 p.m., they were smiling and gathering, and then crowding to have their pictures taken and then were overjoyed to receive the very first photo that they possessed.  John commanded the attention of a Burmese crowd, “a sea of children” per Lena, making Origami animals, birds, boxes, and other objects out of simple pieces of paper.  They were amazed at what could be made and brought smiles to their faces. There are different ways that our presence may be remembered through our actions and these selfless acts of kindness.  As Christians, we want to leave the essence of God’s love.  If we can do that, our mission has been successful.


March 6, 2014

Thailand 5.12

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:52 am

March 5, 2014-Wednesday


Thailand/Myanmar 5.12



We try to utilize our sensitivity training that Pastor Jack has reminded us about when traveling to foreign countries.  He spent one morning with his Chapbook underscoring the importance of attitude. We often have an agenda and we might appear impatient, abrasive, and impersonal during our clinics when we set up, conduct business, and pack up. He asked us if we have been demanding, grumpy, bossy, caring, joyful, humble, flexible, friendly, or rude.  Yes to all.

We sometimes don’t display our enthusiasm or friendliness to others who help us or to our patients and while we Christians are all under a microscope we need to appear like were having a good time, whether or not, we are.  We’re having a GREAT time, right team?  So we will take time to smell the flowers.


We continued to see patients from Laos and Thailand, many of which had crossed the border.  More carloads are coming in from further distances but many have walked here as well.  Most of the patients have common complaints of wear and tear on their bodies.  Since they are manual laborers, joints and backs wear out so we try to explain ergonomics and posture along with strengthening exercises.  They are tough and when you feel their shoulders or knees during their range of motion no only can you hear the grinding of bone on bone joints, you can certainly feel the grating and discomfort and pain.  What are we supposed to do, tell them to retire?  Work is their livelihood; there is no state subsidy or workers’ comp vocational rehab.  If they don’t work, they starve.  They just want to feel comfortable so we give them steroid injections and ibuprofen, lots of it.


Optometry clinic gives out a lot of reading glasses.  Many workers sew and need to see up close.  Many of them don’t appreciate clear vision until they realize how good it can be and how they can now continue their craft. 


I saw four otherwise healthy guys today who came together for the same treatment.  They just wanted to get a refill on their medications.  I asked what medication they needed and they said it was for worms.  I was wondering what they had in common.  As we all know at home: completely cook pork to avoid worms such as the tapeworm, which is a parasite.  Did you know that some people actually eat it on purpose so that this “Tapeworm Diet’ helps them loose weight?  Gross.  Well, apparently raw pork is a delicacy and they are willing to risk the chance of getting a little, teensy, weensy, worm for the sake of a brief moment of ecstasy.  It reminds me in Japan of the puffer fish.  Eat a little and you get a little “tingle” worth eating from the neurotoxin, tetrodotoxin.  Eat a teensy, weensy more, and its your last meal, ever.  They really didn’t seem to care as long as their was medication to cure it.  Fortunately I had Internet access and I search Google images for tapeworm and showed them what was growing inside their bodies.  “Oh”, Ooh!, OOHH!!, OOOOOOHHHHHH!!!!” they said in unison.  They were shaking their heads and I hope that they were grossed out.  I should have touched their bellies and pretended I felt worms moving and say “Do you feel that?”  But, I was trying to display more sensitivity per Pastor Jack.  I would have rather done the latter to get my point across.  Wouldn’t it have been hilarious?  Okay, sensitivity. 


Speaking about sensitivity:



I have said it before, I am not a reporter, an English major, nor a professional blogger and I have been “recruited” (since no one else volunteered), to be a representative to record our events, as I see them, and to avail this information to those desiring to follow our perilous journey.  I do take this responsibility seriously because I know that this and each subsequent communiqué may be the last time you hear from us in the event that we are captured by Somali pirates, thrown in jail for religious persecution, drowned from a sinking boat, crash landed, or from other means by which we are called to heaven.


I will attempt to get the details of the events correct, names correct, and “report”, no relay, this information as factual as I can, while rushing to get this blog out to you in the wee hours of the night.  So, unless I intend to distort or exaggerate the truth or actual occurrences on purpose through innuendos, or stir apparent controversy with sarcasm for the sake of adding some, zest, as it were, to illicit a “yearning for more” or cliff hanger, to avoid a monotone affect (I have, indeed, “toned it down” over the years) I will continue to write whatever pops into my mind at that time.   I am not hear to “swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” so forgive me God.  Some of this may be hearsay or gossip, but most of this is through my personal experience and interpretation of the events. This blog is most understood by those who know me, and my attempts of humor, although I’ve been told to keep my day job, and if I hurt anyone’s feelings please forgive me since God already has.  If this blog bothers you, please stop reading it.  It is my viewpoint and not a documentary, and for selfish reasons, it will help me remember my experiences as a mission team member over the past decade and how I enjoyed those experiences with unique and wonderful people and had the opportunity to work with unselfish, caring, and gifted people and professional colleagues, with a common purpose: to serve God with the best of our God-given abilities.  To Kelley Quan and whoever else is reading this, thank you for your attention.  I hope that you don’t miss the aroma or flavor of the soup by biting on the peppers. 


What the clinics try to address are factors that are most important to the patient’s quality of life.  Dental addresses the necessity of eating and nourishment.  Eye addresses the need to see what they are doing to work.  Medical addresses the ability to work. Those basic needs might be taken for granted with higher socioeconomic status.  For some of the patients at the bottom of the totem pole these are life and death issues and not simply just quality of life. 


Take care.  Yes, take care of yourself.  Mark




Thailand 5.11

Filed under: Uncategorized — markchinmd @ 1:51 am

March 4, 2014-Tuesday




Thailand/Myanmar 5.11




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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




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



Make a joyful noise…or don’t make

noise at all.  Mark

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