With the formation of Iglesia Luterana Sinodo de Nicaragua, our LCC Mission in Nicaragua now focuses on resourcing this new Synod so that they are better able to carry out their God-given mission of Gospel proclamation. In the preceding article, I described two microfinance programs which provide assistance to our church workers. In this article I share a little about our Mission Medical/Dental Clinic that not only provides a service to our pastors and deaconesses and their families, but reaches out to the communities that surround the Mission Centre and provides a witness of care and concern.
The clinic had its official beginning on Easter Monday, 2009, but did not begin receiving patients until May. It opens every Thursday at 8:00 a.m. and remains open until all the patients who arrive for care have had a chance to visit with the doctor (around 4:00 p.m.). We are pleased to have the most basic medicines available at the clinic which permits us to fill most prescriptions provided by the Doctor. Since opening, well over 500 patients have visited the clinic and received medical care from Dr. Benjamin Garcia or dental care from Dr. Maria Andrea. Santos Alvir Soriano, our sewing school instructor, pitches in and serves as the clinic receptionist. There is always one pastor and a deaconess also present to provide spiritual encouragement, witness and support.
We came to know Dr. Benjamin through his service with visiting Short Term Volunteer Medical teams who carry out clinics at our various churches. Nicaraguan regulations require any visiting medical team to have at least one or two Nicaraguan doctors working with them. It was easy to see in that context the passion he has for working with the poor. He himself comes from that background, but had the privilege of attending medical school “It’s a privilege,” he says, “to be at the clinic providing care to those who might not otherwise receive it.”
Dr. Benjamin keeps a record of the various ailments that he encounters at the clinic. Many, patients, he says, come with respiratory problems. The heavy humidity at this time of the year combined with smoke from open fires has an impact on many and in their compromised physical health, they have difficulty fighting off infection. On the day of our visit, He also treated a variety of dermatological problems such as scabies and ring worm. People came with kidney infections and gastrointestinal problems. Among the elderly, he also treated hypertension and arthritis. When asked whether there was any equipment that would be beneficial for the clinic, he mentioned the need for a “Glucose Meter.” He has run into a number of cases of diabetes.
In the room down the hall, Dr. Maria sees 4 or 5 patients during the day. While extractions are quite common at the clinic, most of the work done this time involved filling cavities. People in Nicaragua appear reluctant to visit the dentist. Many associate dentists with pain and so they wait until the situation is serious. Dr. Maria has also worked with the Short Term Volunteer Dental teams who have visited Nicaragua and on occasion does some follow up work after the team has returned.
Dr. Benjamin also has the same experience. In fact, one of the reasons for establishing the clinic was to meet this need for on-going care especially with patients suffering from hypertension or diabetes. Dr. Benjamin has a small number of these patients; more will be added to it after the visiting clinics in January and February of next year.
Now that the clinic has been established, our annual budget runs about $10,000.00 per year. The two major elements of that budget are the stipends for our doctors and money for the purchase of medications. We are grateful to LCMS World Relief who provided a start-up grant of $5,000.00 enabling us to purchase some furnishings and other basics for the clinic in addition to several months of operating funds. Our goal is to finance the clinic through individual donors willing to become Clinic Sponsors through a gift of $500.00 or more. Gifts can be made on line at http://www.lutheranchurch.ca/donate or by cheque to LCC 3074 Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, MB R3K 0Y2. Our American friends can receive a tax receipt by sending their gift through Immanuel Lutheran Church, 415 N 9th Street, St. Clair, Michigan 48079. (This congregation has sponsored a number of volunteer medical teams over the past years.) Please designate your gift, Nicaragua Medical Clinic.
I said earlier that a pastor and deaconess are always present at the clinic to provide spiritual encouragement, witness and support. By God’s blessing the result of this ministry has been the establishment of a bible class each Wednesday afternoon and a Sunday Worship Service at the Mission Centre. As our Synodical theme says, “Give Jesus Glory!”