Amigos For Christ

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

These videos explain the water project in El Chonco a little more.....

It's been a while...

My apologies for not keeping up to date with my blog in what I just realized will be a years time soon. I am going to start blogging again as well as change my technique to more frequent smaller blogs as oppose to month long blogs (or in this case, year long) that take hours to write. So, hopefully I can stay more on top of keeping everyone updated instead of just putting it off because of lack of time. I will do my best to recap with the highlights of what I have been up to for the last 10 months or so.

In April of 2010 we had ourfirst surgical brigade of the year. It was a general surgery (gall stone/gall bladder removals, Hernia Repair, Lipoma removals) trip that was lead by Dr. Lou Smith of Knoxville, TN. We saw over 50 patients in one weeks time.

Last summer was jammed packed, summers are Amigos busy season. We have mission trips all year round but they are nonstop/back to back during the summer. The standard mission trip groups would build work on building homes in Villa Catalina or dig trenches for a water system in El Chonco.It was great to meat so many highschool, college, and adult groups and be a part of their week long experience of service.

Throughout the summer I also worked on a project where I attempted to teach rural women healthier methods of cooking that would ultimately decrease smoke inhalation. Engineers from GAtech sent low tech rice husk cookers that we used in one village. For the more rural villages where rice husks are unavailable, we aimed to build simple stove with chimneys built into them. We even played with the concept of solar powered cooking.

I went home to Nashville once in July to see family and then to St. Louis for my girlfriend's family reunion.

In August we had a OBGYN surgical brigade come down for a week. The trip was lead by Dr. Lance Wiiest from Atlanta, GA and the primary surgery was vaginal prolapse repair. Just like the last brigade, we saw somewhere around 50 patients in a week.

I went home again in September for Amigos annual fundraiser. I also ran a marathon in Tupelo, Miss with a group of the other missionaries and staff of Amigos. Undoubtedly one of the hardest things that I've ever done but it was great to start something together and see it to the finish together. 26.2 miles is an absurd distance to run.

Went back to Nica in October. We had two more medical mission trips come to Chinandega during the months of October and November. We had another general surgery group come and then an orthopedic one. Both trips we successful. We had two other mission trips come down in November from a church in the Cincinnati area, Crossroads Church. One of the groups was a father-son mission trip group. That week with the fathers and their sons had a huge impact on me. I realized how much I enjoy being a role model for young boys and men. I feel really lucky to have the opportunity to represent Christ and maybe be a part of others path to Him.

I went home again for Christmas to visit the fam. We went to NOLA for New Years, which was a pretty much all together awesomeyet ridiculous.

I returned to Nicaragua at the end of January, directly from the airport to the beach for our employee retreat. In February I went with a couple of guys on a trip to the other side of the country to explore and look for more mission opportunities and cool landscapes for possible future adventures. The trip went south and we will no longer be driving near or through 2/3rds of the country. We've also been told by our lawyers what there are only a few outdoor adventure type things that we are still legally allowed to do. We hosted a four spring break mission trip groups starting at the beginning of March. We also had another general surgery group come to Chinandega. This was a collaborative brigade with Dr. Lou and Doctors Marissa and Steve Martin and all of their nurses. Dr. Nutt, Orthopedics, was there too doing consults. Everyone who's down here full-time was in agreement that they were the best surgical group yet. Katie and the kids of the theatre program at Villa Catalina (a rural community) have put on three plays, (Snow White, The Grinch, and Where the Wild Things Are). I am blown away by the creativeness of the kids in these plays, not even considering how little they have to work with


Those are just the high notes, there have been countless, amazing stories about lives that have been changed here, Nicaraguans and Missionaries alike. The last 10 months here have shaped my life in ways I will probably not comprehend until years to come. After a lot of deliberation and prayer, I have decided to stay here another year to serve the mission of Amigos for Christ. It will be hard being away from my friends and family for another year but I look forward to being a part of Amigos for Christ ministry in and around Chinandega.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

March 28th - May 2nd

Wow, a lot has happened since my last apologies for not updating this thing as frequently as I said I would. The last few weeks in Nica have been altogether amazing (I'll do my best to squeeze everything in)! After the First surgical group that came with Dr. Richard Nutt left, one of the other missionaries, Jeremy, led a trip for the other missionaries to Somoto Canyon. This was a scouting trip for Jeremy. He is in charge of a new program that Amigos for Christ is offering called "Mission Adventures" Mission adventures is geared towards fusing mission trip services with outdoor adventures, such as hiking, rock climbing, camping etc... It's a little bit longer than the standard 1 week missions that Amigos offers and it's a couple of days of service and a couple days of outdoors fun. We had a blast surveying Somoto Canyon. The first day we went on a six hour hike/swim through the canyon and camped out on the river bed area at night. The canyon hike was beautiful and filled with high jumps off of boulders into the river. On day two we found the perfect area to set up for rock climbing. Jeremy, John (my boss) and I spent the first half of the day cleaning out the brush to make the wall climbable and setting up. What makes this area so cool for climbing is that you start already hundreds of feet up the canyon, so after climbing another hundred feet up, you get the feeling and the view of just having climbed way more than you actually have. That was a great trip for planning future trips but also just for spending time getting to know each other better. We also had the blessing of celebrating my girlfriends birthday at the end of March. Katie turned veinte y cuatro this year. It was a blessing in that we were able to surprise her with a b-day party, and not only were five of her really close friends from the U.S. visiting her that week but we coordinated it so that friends from the local younglife group, church, one of the villages we work in, and all the other missionaries were able to be there. It was awesome and probably one of the most successful surprise parties I've ever witnessed. The next week we had another highschool group from Atlanta come to Nicaragua, the Prince of Peace mission group. The group was full of energy and lots of fun to be with. Aside from the usual cuts and blisters there were a couple medical challenges the group threw at me. One of the girls was stung by an insect that caused her entire arm to swell up and bruise. My online epocrates diagnosed it as an anaphylactoid reaction, more than a local reaction but not quite anaphylaxis....between her and the other missionary who had an esophagitis flair up from taking a malaria pill right before bedtime, I was a little on edge that week. One of the Leaders from the POP group brought down a slew of reading glasses and we ran a reading glasses or anteojos clinic for the people of Villa Catalina. Surprisingly there were about 75 people that were in need of reading glasses as well as two people that were profiled as having cataracts who will be referred when our ophthalmologic surgical group comes down. It was affirming to see the people's faces when they were finally able to read the letters on the page and leave the clinic smiling. Later on the following week I went over to visit a gentleman who lives in Chinandega who had been hit by a truck last year and suffered a complete fracture to his left tibia that resulted in a massive infection, it had since then closed and healed up nicely but the bone will need to be surgically repaired with fixation. When Dr. Nutt was hear with his group he showed me how to remove and apply a fiberglass cast on the very same person. On Dr. Nutt's last day in Nica he found an orthosis for support that could be given to this man in place of the fiberglass cast, only I would have to give it to him because Dr. Nutt wouldn't have the time. So after gathering the needed supplies, we paid the gentleman a visit, removed his cast and replaced it with the orthosis. It fit him perfectly aside from the fact that he will need to add some height to the heel so that it's level with his other foot. I was a little nervous about removing the cast alone without supervision but he was counting on me. It was a blessing to be able to help him. At the end of that week, me and a couple of other missionaries went on a church retreat with the youth of the local church that I have been attending. It was great to spend time with some of the young adults; playing water volleyball in a river, camping, and praising Jesus (in espanol of course). Following that week of mostly down time (planning, cleaning, and distributing meds to villages) we had a surgical team come down to Nicaragua that consisted of mostly nurses, a few doctors, a couple of translators and the coolest clinical psychologist I've ever met. The team was led by Dr. Lou Smith from UTK but everyone was from all over (mostly Knoxville, Atlanta, New Orleans and Denver). The majority of the cases were hernia repairs and cholycystectomies with a few odds and ins. It was a honor to work with this team but also just good to see how surgical trips are run through this organization. I mostly ran the post-op room, although I was able to sneak into the OR a couple of times. This week was great too because my girlfriends sister, Megan Fitzgeral RN (haha), had just arrived. She is the newest addition to the american missionary staff at Amigos and will be leading the Health team with me on the ground. I may have neglected to mention in the last entry that there had been a drastic change with the leadership of the health team that has shifted Megan and I into leadership positions. It is definitely overwhelming and we have our work cut out for us, but at the same time it is undoubtedly a huge honor. Anyways, all of the surgeries went well with the exception of one man who had scrotal surgery and the testicle began to swell and turn rigid in the PACU after my second wound inspection. He was rushed back to the OR and all was well after a few minor adjustments were made. All in all the spring surgical group was a total success and an awesome experience. I thank God for people that can just swoop in and make such an enormous impact in less than one weeks time, and they still found time to make it to the beach somehow.... Megan and I are currently surveying the three main villages that we'll be working in for the next years time. In addition to gathering statistical medical data, surveying is proving to be a great opportunity for us to get to know the community and vice a versa. The other day Patricia, the house cook/financer/mom/everything, came to me and wanted to know if we were able to help a family friend of hers who has a child with CP, by donating a wheelchair to the family. The ortho surgeon who visited in March brought down two wheelchairs, one of which suited this nine year old girl perfectly. It was plain to see that the wheelchair made getting from A to B a thousand times easier on her and her family. I'm very glad that we were able to help them. Alright that's all I can write for now, thank you all for reading and keeping me, the nicaraguans that I'm working with, and the other missionaries in your prayers and hearts. I miss everyone from home mucho, and I'll be home the last week in July this summer so... Adios por ahora...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Back in Chinandega!!

I made it safely to Nicaragua as well as the mission house ("Casa Blanca") early on the morning of the 13th. The first few weeks here have already been wildly eventful. When I arrived to the house in Chinandega, there was a mission group from Atlanta that was preparing to leave early the next morning. Later that same day, another high school group from Mississippi came in. We kicked off their trip by climbing an ash volcano, "Cerro Negro", in efforts to prepare them for the hard work in the week to come. The climb takes roughly 45 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on the route you take. We spent the next couple of days working in "Villa Catalina", one of three communities Amigos has built from the ground up. Villa currently has approximately 120 houses built and has planned to have 150 by completion. There is also a centro de salud (health center), Iglesia (chuch), biblioteca (library), and an esquela (school), complete with 6 classrooms. The first days in Villa we filled in foundation for the new houses being built there... A lot of shoveling rocks into buckets and mixing cement was involved. In addition to helping the groups out with whatever work they may be doing, I also served as their standby nurse. I was frequently flooded with questions pertaining to bug bites, urinary tract infections, burns, and or wounds sustained during the days work. I also saw a couple of the village kids that needed wound care for minor injuries. One of the girls had a snapped toenail that had embedded into the skin on the distal end of the nail. After convincing her (in my broken spanish) that it was only going to hurt for maybe a second and then would feel much better, I took her to the centro de salud to cut the nail off, clean the wound, and wrap it up with some triple-antibiotic...all was well. On Wednesday morning I went with the group to an orphanage for the mentally and physically disabled in Chinandega. Amigos takes all the groups that come through to this orphanage. This place is beautifully unique to me. I found it hard to believe that there could be a place so well run and adequately staffed for disable children in a country where the government allows its people whom are not disabled to live in and around trash dumps. Not that they are of any less value by any means but I feel like the disabled are less able to defend themselves against corruption and maltreatment. Anyways, this is a place where a missionaries presence alone does wonders for the kids, not to mention recover from the hard days of manual labor. The following days were spent back in Villa Catalina, digging trenches for the water pipelines. These were pipelines that would provide water directly to the house being built. On Friday I climbed another volcano with a small group of missionaries. I am not positive, but we were told that San Cristobal is the tallest volcano in Central America. It was a 5 1/2 hour grueling climb, but immensely rewarding. A surgical group came in that next day, they were made up of medical professionals from both Maine and Atlanta. This group was being led by a physician, Dr. Richard Nutt, and it was primarily a consult trip to determine who would be potential surgical candidates in August, when the group plans to return. Dr. Nutt is an orthopedic surgeon and specializes in correcting club foot. We traveled to neighboring cities health clinics and saw patients from all over Nicaragua. Other times, we would drive for hours to visit just one patient in their house/shack, located in extremely remote villages. One patient in particular stuck out, Freddy. Freddy was a previous club foot repair patient of Dr. Nutt's, who had post op complications and also suffers from unmanaged grand mal seizures. Dr. Nutt and I feel compelled to move Freddy and his family into one of the houses being built in our village, Villa Catalina, so that he may be better cared for. (If you feel called to help aid in raising the funds needed for building a home in Villa for Freddy, please email me) It was a privileged getting to work with him in the mission field and learn from how he diagnosed diseases and disorders. I also got the opportunity to talk with my boss about future project for the health team. Our future plans include: a solar powered oven project, a vitamin protocal for children with vitamin A deficiency project, and creating a census health records for the families in the communities that Amigos has needless to say, I have my work cut out for me. Thankfully my girlfriends' sister, Megan, is an RN and she will be moving down to Nica by the end of April. I'm excited to work with her and have another americana here helping me out! I'm really looking forward to seeing how God will use me in the months to come. Thank you for all of your prayers, love and support back at home.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Saying Adios!

So the last couple of months post graduation have been amazing, and have literally flown by. December was great, I went home to Ohio to visit the whole family, which was nice because I haven't really had a chance to spend Christmas with the them since nursing school and work at Vanderbilt began. I Basically just studied for NCLEX and HESI (nursing tests) the entire month of January and tried to slowly prepare for Nicaragua. February 20th was my last scheduled day for work in the Trauma Unit. Just the day before, my car made a huge crashing noise on the interstate and after I pulled over to check it out, the vehicle had burst into flames underneath the engine area. Thank God that everything was okay and I was not hurt, because by the time the fire department arrived the flames had reached the interior portion of the car and it was unsalvageable... It was a pretty insane Friday morning to say the least. My colleagues in Trauma threw me a massive going away party at work followed by a proper "trauma goodbye"...(the picture doesn't show the tomato soup running down my back into my pants). I have learned so much from that place and made lifelong friends. Two years and eight months is the longest I have ever worked anywhere, they will be missed greatly. On the following Monday I took my nursing boards, which lasted 5 1/2 hours and consisted of 265 questions (I couldn't see straight by the end of the test). After two days of feelings of intermittent anxiety and helplessness, I got my results that said I was officially a Registered Nurse! A couple days later I visited San Antonio with my family for the weekend and stayed in a hotel on the river walk area downtown. I had the blessing of sitting next to a local San Antonio artist on the plane. She was on her way home from Nashville after doing a week long lecture series at Vanderbilt on spirituality and creativity (check some of her work out... San Antonio is an architecturally beautiful city with awesome tex-mex artwork everywhere. The Alamo was pretty cool also, I had no idea what had actually happened there. For those of you like me out there, it symbolizes standing up against overwhelming odds and willingly sacrificing everything for ones' beliefs. Even though the American forces were annihilated at the Alamo, they're still recognized for their heroism. I'm home in Franklin now, wrapping things up and spending time with friends. I leave for Nicaragua on the morning of the 12th (that's less than one week!!!). These last few months have been wonderful. I have learned to trust in the Father and understand that when He has a plan for you, despite your anxiousness concerning uncertainties, He will provide for and finish the Good works He has begun in you. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Amigos Por Christo en Chinandega, Nicaragua

This is a video the organization that I'll be with has put together. The video is powerful in that it displays images from the dump area where Amigos is actively moving people out of after their displacement there since hurricane Mitch in 1998. You can plainly see how they are working to better the lives of this extremely poor country.

Friday, January 1, 2010

First Visit To NICA

August 2009 -
After backpacking through various Costa Rican cities and jungles for a few weeks in
July, my sister and I ventured up north to Nicaragua.
We headed to Chinandega, a city where we were to join a mission organization that my sister, Emily, had planned to work with for the following six months. I spent a little over a week working with a group known as Amigos for Christ, mostly doing construction work and filling in where ever I was needed.
I managed to practice some first aid skills after a few of the missionaries suffered some minor injuries (injuries totaled in two broken toenails, one bloody nose, a scalp laceration, and one shovel to the zygoma aka the cheekbone). The group is dedicated to serving poor Nicaraguans who were displaced from a hurricane that hit the area in 1998. While we were there, two short term mission group trips came through to work with Amigos.
In addition to construction work and relief aid the mission groups got to experience some the Nicaraguan culture: climbing a volcano, swimming at a local water spring, visiting an orphanage for disabled children, shopping in the market place, and going to a nearby beach.
While I was there I knew that I was witnessing others mirroring Christs' love for us (Humanity), as the missionaries cared for the the impoverished of Nica. It was a blessing to be a part of that challenging but rewarding experience. By the end of my week there I had grown close with the long-term missionaries and actually started to feel as if I was where I belonged. I felt God calling me to a life of serving the poor.
I came home to the U.S. to finish my fourth semester of nursing school in Nashville and wrestle with what had been put in my heart.
As the months went by it became more and more clear that I was being called to move back to Nicaragua for missions work. I have since then graduated school and I am now preparing for a year long stay with Amigos for Christ. I still have a few more things to wrap up with my nursing registration testing but I will be leaving for my mission sometime between late Feb to beginning of March. I am very excited to continue working with this group of believers and to see how God will use me over the next year. I'll be using this blog to keep my friends, family and supporters up to date with what's happening on the ground in Nicaragua. Thank you and God bless!