Are you proud of what you did? God wants you to be proud.

It occurred to me that I never placed the final numbers for the Mission trip on this site. I am placing them now, as well as offering some words of encouragement and congratulations for those that stepped onto the mission field, if only for a few days, and helped expand the Kingdom of God in Rio de Janiero last week.

Totals for the Week:

Medical Clinic       734 patients      468 adult      266 pediatric

Dental Clinic         254 patients      158 dental     96 cleanings     231 teeth extracted

Optical Clinic        618 patients

Total Patients        1606 ± (due to unregistered patients)

Pharmacy             2626 prescriptions filled

And the most important number of all: 339 Salvation decisions made for the Lord

All of these rewards we place at the throne of the Lord who allowed us to travel to Rio.

A thought for the team and everyone who supported us in Rio

I came across this inspiring statement of how God wants us to lead our lives when it comes to serving Him today Jon Acuff’s amazing blog “Stuff Christians Like” . In the post, Jon discusses his continuing struggle with his ego and success in light of his commitment to serve the Lord.

If I want a greater expression of God, I cannot sit up with my lips glued together with an aloof expression on my face and expect to get a mighty move of God. I want you to understand that to receive what God has for you, you may have to break out of your comfort zone. God did not promise to fit into your training and your background and your personality. God did not promise to fit into your little idiosyncrasies. God did not promise to be housed in any man’s culture or philosophy. God is too big to be held down to the principles of your age or your time. God says I know what I want and I like what I want and I want somebody to praise me.

Do we have reason to be proud of our accomplishments in Rio? I say yes–as long as we understand that the reason we went to Rio was to serve His needs and wishes and not our own. I say be proud of your hard work and allow yourself some brief sense of accomplishment for being part of an amazing movement of the Holy Spirit in a poor, neglected corner of the world. Be proud of the fact that you allowed God to use you as an instrument of His will and that, in some small way, we were part of revealing His love to those that may never have had the chance were we not there. This doesn’t mean get a big head and act as though you are any better than the sinner sitting next to you since everybody has a sizable dose of that flowing in our blood-enough to keep us eternally separated from God were it not for the sacrifice of the Son whom we serve. The sense of elation everyone felt as we returned home was not only for the relief of seeing our loved ones but also from the fact that God whispered in our ears, “Well done, my good and faithful servant…” and for that, I am proud to have served with everyone that came to Rio as well as those that prayed for our safe travel and our ministry while there.

This is not the end of this site-not in any way. In fact, I plan on placing more information here to allow everyone involved in the Rio Mission to look back at what we are doing as well as start planning the next one. That’s right, God has given us another chance to travel to Rio July 10 – 19, 2009 and continue serving Him amongst the loving, kind people of Brazil. Mark your calendars and save your pennies, as it only gets better year after year.


Some more images

In order to allow the team members, and any interested readers, access to more images of the trip than this blog will allow, a gallery has been created at PicasaWeb. There you will find many more images from the team that you can download or comment upon as you like.

Here is the link to the site:

Please feel free to look around and tell us what you think.

Where’d everything go?

I apologize for the delay in placing new posts and images on the blog, but it got a little busy later in the week and everyone was exhausted, including this author.

God certainly showed His love and grace to the team as we continued to work in the clinic, deepening our appreciation for the people of Realengo. We tended not only to broken, failing bodies but also to broken souls as we ministered to our patients and one another.

God has an amazing propensity for placing the right people together on these trips as members made new friends and deepened existing friendships. We often find that the person sitting next to us on the bus has spiritual and emotional needs that are simmering beneath our calm surfaces and the physical and emotional stress of being on the mission field brings those wounds to the surface. I think that this is part of God’s plan since it makes us admit that we aren’t immune to the forces around us and that there are kind-hearted people willing to help if we ask for it. It’s very easy to become a bit frazzled by Thursday given the pace of our work and often times caring for sick people.

There were several members who began to become a little “under the weather” while we were on the trip. There were a lot of sniffles and coughing as some members developed cold symptoms due to cool mornings and tiredness. The Lord was gracious enough to spare us any major illnesses as we continued working the rest of the week.

Despite our weariness, God allowed us some humor within our week. For instance, Jim Waltman shared a story of a woman who came to the eye clinic who had some serious issues with her eyes and did not own a pair of glasses. As she was trying on some glasses, she went outside to test her distance vision. She commented, “Mountains!” as though she never knew that there were mountains just a few miles from the neighborhood she has lived in all of her life. Jim then had her try a pair with a different magnification, resulting in the comment, “Mountains! Closer!” from the woman, who then left, quite appreciative for the new pair of glasses and a better idea of what was around her.

There were also some heartbreaking experiences that the team shared, including the story of a woman who brought her three month old baby to the clinic. The baby was showing severe signs of distress with poor color and responsiveness-which are signs of poor clinical condition and can indicate a serious condition requiring aggresive treatment not available in our clinic. The doctors and nurses urged the mother to take the baby to a hospital as soon as possible in order for the child to be treated. The mother resignedly stated that she would take the baby to the hospital when she had time and left with no apparent concern for the child’s welfare. Broken hearted, the medical team asked God to move the mother to act for the benefit of her ailing baby.

Let me tell you what “Short workday” means around here

No one here wants it to be Wednesday. Wednesday (or commonly, “Hump Day”) is usually one of the harder days in terms of work load since we have already been in country since Saturday and everyone is feeling fatigued due to the hard work we are doing. Wednesday also means that we only have two more days in clinic to serve the people of Brazil on this trip.

Since we are not the only team that comes down during the summer to help with medical clinics, the local missionaries, Ray and Sharon, have implemented a short day for Wednesdays in order to give everyone a chance to recharge and relax a little while. This sounded like a really good idea  since we saw a lot of patients and have all been working very hard so far this week.

Good idea, right? Well, the Lord had a different, perfect, plan for us that resulted in one of the best days we have had in a single clinic in quite a while. We planned on being on the bus by 3:00 p.m., shortened our lunch break, and were working diligently on the lines when it suddenly occurred to us that no one wanted to turn a patient away simply because WE were tired. Our team has a comfortable hotel and nice restaurants to return to in the evening and will soon be headed back in good health to our comfortable homes and livings in the United States. The people we are helping will return to homes of necessity, not luxury or comfort, and some will return to worrying whether they will have a meal tonight or medicine once we leave the favela this week. Somehow, I think this reality compelled us to work even harder this afternoon to serve more people than anyone thought possible in what ultimately was a short day (we left about 45 minutes early) and one that left everyone with a smile on their face.

Jamie Shandy, a first time Rio team member, shared this experience with me. It shows how not only does God work through us to provide joy, but that even the people of Rio are working to increase the territory of our team members.

Today was a very awesome day at the clinic. Not only was the line outside the church enormous, but the people we saw in the eye clinic were absolutely some of the most appreciative people I have ever met. One elderly lady, 83 yoa, put on her glasses and her entire face lit up. She said “perfect”, and thanked us so much for the work we are doing at the church here, hugs and kisses galore. I could certainly feel the Holy Spirit in the clinic today.

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!””
Isaiah 52:7

Since I missed posting our numbers for Tuesday, I am placing both days’ information on this page. God has seen fit to bless us with many gifts and talents and we are all glad that He has allowed us the opportunity to serve here in Brazil.

Monday     Tuesday     Wednesday      Total
Adult            53            103              96               252
Pediatric       24             68               78               170

Patients        26             39               28                 93
Extractions   35             41               48               124
Cleanings     20             23               18                 61

Rx               232            671            598             1501

Patients        87            122             123              332

Decisions      51             63               58              172

Tuesday, a day of challenge and of reward

I am placing a very quick note to help summarize Tuesday and will come back with more photos and details later today. Clinic was very busy all day with many interesting stories and experiences and I hope I can do them justice as we continue.

There are two special situations that have caused us to deepen our trust in the Lord as we deal with them and try to ponder why He does some things. The first came Tuesday morning as we learned of Elaina Laumbach (forgive misspelling?), 44, a missionary from the U.S. in another part of Brazil who became suddenly ill and died yesterday, leaving behind 5 children. Sharon, the missionary who coordinates our trip here, is a very good friend of the family and she was quite upset at the initial news that the lady was sick and understandably shaken at the news she died. Our team showed as much love as we could to Sharon and her family and to the MKs (missionary kids) that have been helping us this week in clinic.

The second piece of challenging news came to our team that Jac Weller, a retired missionary in Tuscaloosa, AL, suffered a massive stroke and is not expected to survive for very long. Jac was gracious enough to speak at our team’s retreat in May of this year and offered insight into the role of the missionary and how we are to be humble servants to the Lord’s will while on the mission field. Jac has been an inspiration to everyone here in Rio and while it is deeply saddening to hear of his predicament, we know that he will be received in heaven without question as a good and faithful servant.

Our prayers go out for the Weller and Laumbach families during their time of loss. Please pray for them and also for our team as our work continues.

Crack open your jars of clay, it’s time to get working

Monday morning on the medical mission trip is a good example of “hurry up and wait” as everyone rushes to make sure that all the equipment is loaded to carry to the clinic site and then work like crazy to make sure that all of the departments within the clinic are up and running before the first patients arrive. Everyone pitched in to make sure that the gear they need was in working order and that we had some sense of how we would move our patients to and from their waiting areas and in to see the practitioners to tend to their ailments. Along with this work, the evangelists trained and prayed that the Lord would guide their words while speaking to the lost in the neighborhood. This preparation took until about 10:30 and then we really go to work in the clinic.

The typical path a carioca follows in the clinic is that they will wait in line until they are given a chart number that will stay with them the duration of this day’s visit. The wait in line can be very short (practically nil) on the first day and up to several hours on the following days as word travels that there is free health care available at the church. Once the person comes into the clinic, they fill out a little bit of paperwork that tells the clinic not only their chief complaint, but also asks some questions concerning their spiritual life and whether they are members in a church and have a Bible at home. After this is done, the person is moved to a waiting area based upon which clinic they are visiting: medical, dental, or optical.

Once in the waiting area, a member of the Evangelism team visits with each patient in order to share the Word and offer the plan of salvation to the patient. This time is critical for us in our effort to serve God and help new believers take the first few steps to the Kingdom. Each evangelist is allowed to use whatever tools they feel necessary to share the Word with the people. Not everyone accepts the plan of salvation, instead choosing to move along to the clinic area and receive their treatment with no obligations. Some, however, are willing to take the first, gentle steps to their new relationship with Christ the Savior. I have to admit that there is great celebration and rejoicing among the evangelists when someone prays to accept Christ into their heart and surrender their life to Him.

This is what makes our time away from family and work all worthwhile…

Everyone is tired but excited to be here. Although we didn’t have a full day’s workload, we were still able to see many patients and share the Gospel with them. A daily feature of our mission are “the numbers”, an account of how many people were seen in each clinic as well as how many decisions for salvation were made. The numbers are not important in the sense of keeping some sort of score to show how well we toiled for God, but instead to serve as a reinforcement and encouragement tool for the team to keep running Paul’s “good race”. These numbers will be placed on this site each night so our readers can keep track of how the Lord is working in Rio while we are here.

Dental Team
Cleanings: 20
Clinical patients: 26
Teeth extracted: 35

Medical Team
Adults: 53
Pediatrics: 24

Pharmacy Team
Prescriptions: 232

Optical Team
Patients seen: 87 (and we are still minus our optometrist due to flight issues!)

Evangelism Team
Decisions made: 51

God is working miracles here in Brazil and all of us are honored and humbled to be allowed to be part of His movement. All of us will rest easy tonight knowing that we are only instruments of His grace and we are grateful for the chance to be here.

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday (or, how to get your mind in proper frame to serve God)

So, outside of watching a daring rescue by the Rio lifeguards this afternoon, God once again helped place our role in His world into perspective. A normal part of our routine is that we spend Sunday morning in worship with the members of the local church (igrejia) before we come and open the clinic. This time allows us to learn some of the names and faces of who will be working beside us over the next few days. The church is relatively new within the favela and seems to have a small membership, but there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is moving amongst its members in ways that leave us wondering why it seems to be missing at home.

The church’s pastor gave us an inspiring message based on Acts 8:4-8 and how God is using our time in Rio not only to aid the ill, but to help set the scene for Him to heal the souls of those that will allow Him to enter their hearts. Even though the pastor was speaking in Portuguese, it was evident that he was feeling the presence of the Spirit and his words (on later translation) provided us with a jolt of enthusiasm for our tasks here.

Philip in Samaria

4Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ[a]there. 6When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7With shrieks, evil[b] spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed. 8So there was great joy in that city.

As favela churches go, our site this year is very nice. There are no issues with the building or its location. We have been assured that the usual safety issues with the gangs and such are not a problem at this site and that we will be able to operate in an unmolested environment. While physical challenges with buildings and locations are not going to deter us from our work, it is certainly nice to know that we won’t have to deal with any major problems like open sewage lines in front of the building or having to walk half a mile uphill to set up the children’s area. Everyone will be working in close proximity to one another and we have already worked through what few issues we expect to encounter this early.

We did have one unexpected piece of news today. Wes Dubose, our optometrist, was planning on arriving Monday morning due to work issues that prevented his flying in sooner, but weather in Atlanta is delaying him another day. How does weather push someone back an entire day? It’s easy; there aren’t that many flight from the U.S. to Rio on any given day. So, we will adjust as needed and our eye team will cope with its missing leader for a day and take the opportunity to thank God for the additional challenge. Pray that God will lend His hand of kindness to Wes and allow him to travel unimpeded the rest of the way to Rio.

So, looking forward to the week ahead, we expect to work very hard and love, laugh, and cry together as we grow closer to one another and the Lord who we are serving while in Rio.