One of the things that intrigued me about Pullen Memorial Baptist Church from the get-go was the congregation’s approach to international missions. Pullen supports five international partners through long-term relationships that involve diverse groups within the congregation. One partnership goes back to the 1970s. Another to the mid 80s. Taking on a new partnership isn’t done on a whim, because the church sees value in being able to commit to offer support to the work of partners through money, volunteers and prayers for an extended period of time.
This afternoon I was able to get a personal taste of one of these partnerships when I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua, with six other friends from Pullen. We are here for 11 days to visit and work alongside AMOS Health & Hope. Drs. David and Laura Parajón are the driving force behind AMOS — which stands for A Ministry of Sharing Health and Hope. The Parajóns are top-knotch physicians and public health experts who have poured their skills and passion out for the people of rural Nicaragua.
AMOS operates a medical clinic at the compound in Managua, but the Parajóns primary work takes place in the remote villages of this Central American nation where access to clean water, antibiotics, and training in safe hygiene are sorely lacking. AMOS establishes trust with these communities, identifying a member of each village to serve as a health promoter who can perform basic, but often lifesaving tasks, referring the most critical cases on to licensed physicians. Health promoters also work to change the habits of people in the 27 communities AMOS operates in. Running water through a sand filter before drinking, washing hands, and paying attention to minor issues before they become crippling all go a long way towards fostering healthier communities and happy people. In a place where diarrhea can quickly lead to death for a child, and dirt floors make keeping clean a challenge, this work of education, care and advocacy is what it looks like to embody the love of Christ for the most vulnerable of God’s children.
Our team will be piloting a new project that involves offering vision screenings and prescription eye glasses to people who may have gone their whole lives without being able to see clearly. The logistics have been extensive, though others in the group have done the hard work of making plans, preparing equipment and securing paperwork. We had a short scare on the runway at RDU, as our fully loaded plane was held in limbo on the tarmac for nearly an hour before we were told an item had to be removed from the luggage area because of improper paperwork. We were worried some of our optometry supplies may have thrown up a red flag, but all of our gear made it safely to Nicaragua. With careful negotiations and 46 pages of documentation notarized by multiple officials across two continents, we even made it through customs.
I’m looking forward to what the week may bring: opportunities to deepen relationships with friends, new people I will get to know at AMOS and in the villages we travel to, and perhaps the joy of helping someone who has struggled with visual impairment for many years to see clearly again. The break in routine that comes with adjusting to a different pace of life in a foreign culture is also a welcome reprieve from busyness that so easily encroaches on my time at home. Perhaps, with the help of some friends, I’ll also be blessed with clearer vision to see things I may have been missing, and eyes that focus more on what is necessary. One can hope. I will also pray.