Giving Hope Along The Border — Part 1
By Theresa Otteni, R.N.
Pediatric Alliance — Northland
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.
For some folks that name conjures up scenes from the movie Sicario, the action film about the violence of the drug cartels in Juarez, a town separated from El Paso by a small bridge and a border crossing station. For me, after a recent medical mission trip to the border town, I will think of the warm, caring people who are hard working, but, due to the local economy, need a hand (sounds a lot like fellow Pittsburghers not that long ago when the steel industry left, doesn’t it?).
I was privileged to go to Juarez with a team of 10 people from the Evans City/Cranberry Township area. Our church, First Baptist Church of Evans City, helps support a children’s home, Los Amigos Ranchos, that sits on five acres in Ciudad Juarez. The original Children’s Home — a small building in need of lots of repair — is on campus grounds. Recently, the ministry moved into a beautiful large home for the children built completely by donations from its supporters. The children are brought there by parents or relatives who can no longer care for them. Currently, there are 26 children at the home — the youngest child is five years old, the oldest is sixteen. The ministry has the room to double that capacity, but they need to have more supporting sponsors for children before they can completely fill the home. While there is an elementary school on campus, the older children are bussed each day to a local private high school. The campus also has dorms for visiting mission teams like ours and housing for full-time missionaries that live there. They host teams that build homes, medical missions, and other construction projects to provide care.
Our mission team for the week.
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Ciudad Juarez is a melting pot. Desperate folks from Central America, from countries like Honduras or Guatemala, will pay unscrupulous people to bring them to the border in hopes of crossing into the United States. Instead, their dreams are dashed when they are abandoned — penniless from paying their passage — in a strange country. Mexico does not offer a welfare system of any type, nor do they offer health care. Everything is out of pocket. For many people, whether born locally or coming as a migrant, having a roof over their head is luxury, so going to a doctor or dentist is not even a possibility.
YWAM (Youth With A Mission), the ministry that runs the children’s home, pairs with local pastors who are willing to open their facilities to host clinics. Each day, we would load all of our medical and dental supplies onto an old school bus and drive out to our venue to set up shop. We were accompanied by two or three local Mexican dentists, depending on the day (Marco, Brenda, and April), a surgeon from El Paso (Seth) who acted as our general practitioner, a chiropractor (Diego) who is a full-time missionary originally from Brazil, and a dietician (Ruth) who is also native to Juarez. Adult onset diabetes is very common in a country where cheap starchy meals are a mainstay, so having Ruth, our compassionate nutritionist, was invaluable for counseling people. We brought a retired dentist, a dental assistant, two nurses, and a host of other helpers to the mix. We also had 4 interpreters who came with us from the campus to help us bridge the language gap.
Tomorrow: We saw plenty of sickness but we also witnessed dedication and skill to help those less fortunate, and plenty of love and hope, too.