Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rio Medical Mission Journey Update: Day 6

21 people requested home visits.
22 people requested to be plugged into a Bible study.

32 people made decisions to follow Christ.

35 children received fluoride treatments.

61 people received eye exams and glasses.

92 people were seen in the medical clinic (50 adults and 42 children).

218 prescriptions were filled in the pharmacy.

It's called Wacky Wednesday for a reason. That because this day, in the middle of the clinic week, was extremely different from all the rest.

Today, we were open for business from 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. The word is now out on the streets and more people are stopping by to receive medicine, glasses, and teeth cleaning, and to hear the message of Jesus.

After closing up shop, everyone loaded the bus to stop by the leper colony that a recent Brentwood Baptist team visited a few weeks ago. While there, they planted a beautiful garden, poured concrete for a sidewalk, laid sod, planted flowers, and more.

The colony was established in the 1920s. Back then, lepers were ostracized from their family and friends. A glass wall in each home separated visitors and lepers. It was segregation at its worst. Until it was open to the public in the 1980s, the lepers living there weren't to be touched for fear of passing the disease on to someone else.

Here's the current reality that doctors have come to realize: this disease can't be transferred with a touch. It's not contagious like a cold. It's caused by a germ similar to what causes tuberculosis that develops from living in close quarters every day with someone who's affected.

If detected early on, a cocktail of antibiotics can cure it. However, if left untreated, it can destroy the ability to feel pain, so lepers have a higher risk of injury and infection. And, the longer the disease is left undetected, the more likely that person will develop deformities—noses shrinking away, earlobes swelling, blindness, fingers and toes disappearing, and eventually losing hands and feet.

Leprosy is a disease that affects more than 12 million people around the world, and Brazil has one of the highest rates. This statistic is attributed to the extremely crowded areas where people live in the slums, the lack of food, and the waning immune systems that come from unclean water and sustenance.

At the leper colony where Brentwood Baptist worked, we got to meet two women: Terazina and Angelique. Living among 5,000 other residents, they both paint for a living—flower pots and canvases. And their spirits are incredibly beautiful.

While the rest of the country abandons and ignores the least of these, believers in Brazil and Brentwood Baptist have embraced them.

The New Testament is full of stories that paints pictures of Jesus' compassion for lepers. For example, in Matthew 8, a man with leprosy approached him, knelt before him, and said, "Lord, if you're willing you can heal me and make me clean."

Jesus wasn't repulsed. He didn't shy away. He reached out and touched him and said, "I'm willing. Be healed." Then the leprosy instantly disappeared from the man's body. There's another account in Luke 17, and Jesus tells his disciples to do what he did and also heal the lepers, found in Matthew 10.

Amy Fairchild, a nurse who's been here just as long with Sharon Fairchild, her mother-in-law, mentioned a particular book yesterday after we left the colony called Gift of Pain, co-authored by Philip Yancey and Paul Brand. It chronicles Dr. Brand's experiences with leprosy patients in India and the United States. In the book, he talks about the mystery of pain and its importance in our lives.

The bottom line: pain isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes the numbing produces decay and death in our lives. Sometimes the pain is a reminder of danger or the fact that we need the help of another (i.e. Jesus Christ). God uses pain to refine us and awaken our senses to what's happening through different things: a numb perception, a scarred heart, an emotionless existence and reaction to the world around you.

Romans 8:28 says, "All things work together for good to them who love God." The Greek original text translates this: "In everything that happens to us, God is working for the good of those who love him." If we believe Scripture, then we believe that to be true all the time. If God is good, he's always good—no matter what. If God is faithful, then he's always faithful—whatever the situation. Even in the pain.

Most of the people we've seen at the clinic this week have come in for some sort of pain, sickness, or irritation, and almost all of them have also shared the pain that's been brewing in their hearts and lives. And we're introducing them to a Great Healer, one who has each day of their lives planned out.

Who better to know the kind of pain their going through than a Father who gave up his only Son and a Son who died for the sins of all?

Other pictures from the day:


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