"Being together is like catching a sunbeam; each new memory we make reflects light hinting there is more to see and know."

February 28, 2016

Week 53 ~ Is There a Doctor in the House?

It has been so hot. Even the Peruvians say this has been 10 degrees hotter than usual. Because our power bill was so high last month, we have cut way back on the amount we use the air conditioner or dehumidifier. Thank goodness we enjoy the comfort of the church office building all day because when we are at home we sit right under the fan to stay cool. Yesterday we took the crowded bus to the mall and enjoyed the afternoon there where it was cool, having lunch and seeing a movie, Gods of Egypt. We thought it was entertaining, good against evil, and no different than the latest Transformer, X-Men or Super Hero movie with great special effects.

In our area of five countries, including Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia, there are somewhere over 6,000 missionaries, 32 missions and 2 MTC’s. There are three doctors here in the area office who help with mental and physical health issues throughout the area and of great help to the mission presidents and their wives in handling the many health issues that arise.

Elder and Sister Raeside are the mental health missionaries. As of this week, there are 30 new cases and about 130 follow-up cases. So in looking at the numbers, it’s about 2% of the elders at a given time which is very good compared to any given college student body. The area doctors here are active with the English speaking elders and the Latino elders pursue treatment with local doctors. Some of the issues would be stress, depression, anxiety, and in very rare situations severe mental health problems or suicide thoughts. In the six months Elder and Sister Raeside have been here, they have had 3 such cases with previous mental health history before their mission and the missionary had to be escorted back home, one as far away as Washington.

Elder Raeside shared a sweet story from last week. He and his wife were visiting Guayaquil, Ecuador for mission president training. He went in the mission office and met an elder serving there who confided he needed a little help. Through a series of questions, Elder Raeside learned the elder’s father had served a mission in Rome, Italy. “That’s where I served,” he responded. “When did your dad serve?” Come to find out, he had served the same time AND was Elder Raeside’s zone leader! Small world. Since then, the elder shared with his dad who he had met and the two have been in contact. A week later, Elder Raeside received a note from this elder in Guayaquil sharing the difference their visit had made on his mission. He knew his Heavenly Father loved him, knew him personally and answered his prayer with the tender mercy of the visit from a doctor from the area office who knew his dad. God is very aware of his children in this great missionary work.

Elder and Sister Burton serve as physical health doctors, dealing with a variety of ailments and weird illnesses. Elder Burton is a retired heart surgeon and finds his missionary service FUN! He loves going back to the medical basics after 40 years in his specialized profession.

Some of the issues include appendicitis, knees and back pain, and gastrointestinal problems. An unusual case a few weeks ago was a bite from a Chilean Recluse Spider which caused a huge deep welt on the man’s calf that had to be excised. There have been three cases of a tape worm that lodges in the brain and causes terrible headaches. It is detected through a scan and is removed surgically. It is suspected to come from undercooked pork. Ugh! At any one given time, there are about 15% of the missionaries who are sick but that would also include the companion not able to work during the same time. That would make it about 30% out for sick leave.

Of the Latino missionaries in our area, there are almost 50% whose parents are not members or maybe only one is a member. Elder Burton talked to one Elder who had the memory of elders coming to his home and teaching his parents the Gospel. “Now,” he says, “it’s my turn to share what I know.”

In 1985 the Church began the missionary medical online service with quick reference guide for typical health issues. In addition, there are currently 2-3 doctors in every specialty field who are ready to answer calls 24-7 with questions from the mission field. Elder Burton knows everything about hearts but nothing about Recluse spider bites or intestinal parasites, but medical help is readily available through the Salt Lake hotline for any problem. Right now there are about 40 missionary doctors serving throughout the world and about 150 nurses.

Elder and Sister Sheffield went home last month and we will be getting a new medical missionary couple to help in two weeks. We are so thankful for their energy and service.

The other day Joe was riding his bike to work and he passed the MTC.  There on the corner were three young men sitting patiently.  He stopped and spoke with them and asked them if they were missionaries for the Mormon Church.  His own tag was hidden by his bag.  They spoke up and said, "not yet but we will be someday".  Joe told them he was a missionary and thought they looked like young missionaries.  They had come to Lima the day before with a group to do baptisms for the dead.  They had just finished their second day at the temple which had begun at 5:30 am.  They lived in Pulcallpa, Peru which was an 18 hour bus ride over the mountains and down to the jungle.  Joe was amazed and humbled at the love and dedication of these good good people.  He gave them a little money for their long ride home on a crowded bus and had a passerby take their picture.  He calls it "My little brothers."  

We love being with the other missionary couples who serve with us. We are in good company and enjoy sharing stories, sightseeing together, eating out, and talking about new discoveries. In our part of the office, Diane is trying to practice Spanish with the co-workers and they like to practice their English with us. Joe still teaches a class in English once a week and the English and Spanish join together every few weeks or so.

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