What a day!!

On Friday morning, we all shared breakfast together before breaking into 2 small groups for our excursions.  The first group left for ziplining immediately following breakfast, while the snorkelers loaded up with sunscreen to prepare for the day. While we were not serving today, we did come back tired after a long day of fun!

Our Ziplining team headed off to the jungle of the “saw-toothed” Maya mountains and the Mayflower Bocawina National Park for an adventure on Belize’s longest zip line! The complete course is 2.5 miles long with the longest single run being 2,300 feet.  Once in their harnesses, our group took flight in the trees of the forest.  Pictures to come!!

Our Snorkeling group sailed away on a 45 min boat ride to South Water Caye Marine Reserve where our resort has their sister island.  Upon arrival, we were greeting by Alton, who helped to prepare us for the day.  Their island base on the barrier reef allowed for snorkeling, kayaking and relaxing in Belize’s largest marine reserve.  We saw all kinds of marine life, including a stingrays, a sea turtle, and a small coral reef.

Next stop? Belize City!  Check back this evening to hear about our adventures in the city.

 

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And that’s a wrap!

IMG_2538Thursday was our last day of clinic, and although it felt like a slower day, we still served close to 200 patients. All in all, we reached almost 800 people (765 for those wondering)!! Between our team, the help of Reverend Clare, and several local volunteers, we were able to serve the people of Dangriga to our best ability. We even had several patients return to show us their glasses or say thank you!

A unique part of our day was taking a quick break to spend time with two Mayan women who had brought intricate hand made goods. It was fascinating to see all of the effort and attention to detail that went into their craft, and many of us were excited to hear more about their work. One of the women even came back to have her eyes checked!

After we had finished taking down our clinic, packing our items, and loading them into the bus, we had a very special moment with Rev. Clare and Rudy. According to them, the Dangriga community had felt our group had been the most organized and our exams the most thorough. We took a few pictures to capture the end of our clinic, then presented Rev. Clare with a gift from CUMC.  It was again a special moment that we will all remember.  Finally, we loaded the bus and headed back to Pelican Beach Resort.

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Although we were tired, our evening was filled with joy and laughter as we reminisced on some of our favorite moments of the week.  Dinner was a delicious Belizian meal, and it was made even better by the presence of Rev. Clare and her husband to join us.  After saying our goodbyes, we retreated to our rooms to prepare for our Friday excursions (or if you’re me, to fall asleep while writing a blog post).

That’s it for now!  Tune in later (as in tomorrow morning) to hear about our various adventures from Friday…

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Pending!

Sorry everyone; if I’m being honest, I fell asleep while writing this with my laptop on my stomach.  Check back later this afternoon!

Can you believe it’s almost Thursday? Neither can we!

Tomorrow is our final day of our clinic, and it has flown by.  Today, we were very busy and again served roughly 200 people, bringing our total to almost 600.  While the last several days have been filled with kids, today we saw an increase in adults (especially ladies in their eighties) receiving care.  While today was a very big day in terms of the people we served, it was also a big day for other reasons…

IMG_2491First, we had a special visit from the program director of the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI), Leolyn Garcia.  She stopped by the church to check out our clinic and meet the members of our team.  BCVI is where our optometrists have been referring patients who will need ongoing care or surgery.  Also, we have been thankful to have Anna, an ophthalmic tech from BCVI,  working with the doctors.  She has been instrumental in both patient care and providing translation services, so it was great to meet another member of BCVI.  Per Leolyn, she was very impressed with the functionality of our clinic.  More importantly, she reported that members of the community who have visited the clinic have talked about how they have had a positive experience.

IMG_2516Secondly, today brought a larger amount of elderly patients to be seen, with our oldest patient being 94 years old.  It was exciting to be a part of improving their vision and providing opportunities for enhanced sight.  One of these people was Francisco, a man who had a very high minus prescription, meaning that he had poor distance vision.  Francisco, a man who loves to canoe, fish, and cook pigtail stew, had once been a ambulance driver.  Sadly, he lost his job due to his eyesight 15 years ago.  Today, Francisco received his first ever pair of glasses, and all I can say is that it was a profound moment for all of us (video to come).  When asked how he felt after he received his glasses, he simply stated “I feel free.”

And with that, I will sign off.  With heightened energy, we plan to dive head first into tomorrow and finish strong!  #HighVOLTage

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Here we are at the end of day 2, and we can’t believe the trip is already half over!

IMG_2426 (2)Today we saw an additional 200 people, bringing our total number of people served to almost 400!  Interestingly enough, many of our adults this afternoon did not hear about the clinic through the community; rather, we had a radio station visit us onsite to broadcast the news, drawing in many people who otherwise would not have known.

20180515_104320 (1)The children that we have seen have been very curious, especially about our special glasses holders.  Thanks to the Mission Possible Kids groups from all over the United States, we have tons (and I do mean tons) of beaded glasses holders that have been given out to all of the children we see.  They have loved getting to pick out their own special necklace, and are even more proud to display their newly acquired glasses!  We are so grateful for all who helped to make the glasses holders and their hearts for service.

One of the highlights of today was finding a small taco stand right outside of the school.  Susan quickly discovered that they sell small juice bags filled with various fresh juices made by a local family.  Yes, you did read that right…bags!  We’ve been finding that many of the local beverages come in bags instead of bottles, including water.

IMG_2411In addition to local tacos and juices, some of our newfound Belizean friends have introduced us to a number of new foods including Cassava Chips, Bukut, and Green May Plums dipped in salt and chili powder.  The people here have been so kind and friendly, and we are enjoying the connections we are making.  Both the kids and adults have made us feel nothing but welcome!

We are ready and excited for the adventures that Wednesday will bring!

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Greetings from Dangriga, Belize!

We have officially arrived safely and have already finished our first day of clinic!

IMG_3768We arrived Saturday in Belize City and after a 3 hour drive, we arrived in Dangriga, Belize at our home for the week – Pelican Beach Resort. The location is beautiful and is only a short drive from the church where we have the clinic. Thankfully, we made it without any hiccups, and the journey was incredibly smooth…despite traveling with close to 4,600 pairs of glasses!

On Sunday, we attended a special Mother’s Days service at Epworth Methodist Church. The church’s resources are limited, there are holes in their roof, but the parishioners of this church were nothing but kind and receptive of us. To show their appreciation, we were each given a personalized coffee mug thanking us for our time and efforts. After church and lunch, we returned to set up the clinic. Pews, tables, tarps, chairs, desks, big rocks – anything and everything imaginable was used to hold equipment, glasses, and people.

Our first day of clinic was today, Monday. In the morning, a bus full of children from the adjacent town were our first official patients of the trip.  The team quickly worked IMG_3719together to get all of our stations running.  The afternoon consisted of serving adults, several of whom are teachers in the area.  All in all, we served a total of close to 200 people today (children and adults), and we are expecting more tomorrow! Take a glimpse at the photos below for our adventure thus far; we are so thankful for your prayers and support and are looking forward to what Day 2 holds for us!

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Friday began with a beautiful sunrise and cloud of mist over the bayou as we drove to our site.  We haven’t mentioned it yet, but during our visit, a bridge has been closed resulting in a 20 minute detour to the Dulac Community Center:  complete with bayous, tall grasses and a gravel road.  When you look at your GPS in the car ride of the detour, it looks like we are in the water!
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When we arrived at 8:15 to start the clinic at 9, we were greeted by Mary and 4 persons who had arrived at 6:45 am so they would be early in line for eyesight testing. We began with a inspirational devotional by Sharon Rankin. She referenced the biblical story of how the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed  and how it grows into an enormous plant. She also shared about a man who planted small bamboo seeds in the 1940’s which are now bamboo forests. We may never know the effect of small kindnesses, and how God can create great blessings from small acts.
After our prayer,  the group immediately got into gear and began the busy day. Everyone pitched in for whatever needed to be done. There were laughter and groans with Dr. Brad’s humor and antics, and there were heart-felt moments when the people from DuLac shared personal stories. Carol Wills was touched by a man who shared his story of almost losing his leg years ago and being hospitalized 180 days, but showed courage, perseverance, and gratitude although he had many losses in his life. Marv was touched by a gentleman he had met yesterday, who in his retirement decided to make wooden carvings (some religious). The man brought several of his carvings to show the group, saying that God is an ongoing inspiration with his artwork. Mary’s and Genevieve’s hospitality, coordination and kindness were wonderful.

 

By the end of the day we had assessed the eyesight of 82 persons, bringing the total for the 3 days to 280 persons.
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As was our tradition at the day’s closing we shared our joys. We laughed at jokes and were thankful everything blended together to make the trip a joy and success. We are so blessed to have learned from this dear community and hope in some way we have helped them with the clinic and glasses, and more importantly, being a ripple of God’s love and care. Expressions of thankfulness were made, as well as acknowledgement of our team leadership – the Mathers’ as our onsite team leads, Mary & Genevieve from Dulac, and for David Lewis who laid all the ground work for our trip as the Plano team lead.  Though David and Larraine could not join us, but they were certainly with us in spirit!
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Hugs were shared and with the setting of the sun over the beautiful bayou, we closed this adventure, but the people, blessings, hospitality and conversations in DuLac will be forever etched in our hearts.
P.S.  After packing up our clinic, we all stopped for a BITE to eat at another local Cajun restaurant.
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Friday was a busy day for all.  We started the morning with a devotion from Barb, who reminded us that we are all equal in God’s eyes.  No “us and them” and no one better than anyone else. Also, we are here to serve others.
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Then, the team worked together almost non-stop, filling in for each other, and keeping everything running smoothly with the flow of patients.  Some of us also received periodic on-the-job training from Dr. Brad and our professional optician, LeighAnn.  They answered many of our questions as the team tried to provide the best glasses possible for each person.  Sometimes, there is just not a good match in our inventory of about 6000 glasses, so Dr. Brad (Wemhoener) always comes home with some prescriptions to provide custom glasses which he makes and ships to these patients free of charge.
Today, we were treated with delicious grilled cheese sandwiches, courtesy of Jennie, in our tiny break room as team members cycled through at lunch time.  The break area is also amply stocked every day by Sharon, so that we can come and go for lunch, as we have time.  Thank you both for feeding us!
We are also very thankful for our local team helpers, Mary, Marty and Genevieve, for supporting us during the clinic!  Mary continued to fill our schedule for Saturday during our first two days of clinic.  Marty graciously provided ice, free of charge, to give us cold waters, lemonade and tea every day.  And Genevieve, who supported our team welcoming patients and helping with delicious coffee in the morning.  Thank you all!
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Overwhelmingly, the team is again delighted by the friendly people in this community!  They have many stories to tell, and most seem to have generations of family in this area.  One of the “gifts” we received today was a serenade from an Elvis impersonator, Steve, who sang to our birthday couple, Gary and Carol Wills.
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We also heard solos from a husband and wife at the end of the day, which were a French (gospel?) song and Amazing Grace, accompanied by Glen on guitar, and the entire VOLT team as backup choir.
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Today 111 people were served – over 25% more than yesterday’s 87!  Our total number of patients is now at 198.  We don’t turn away walk-ins, so it can make for a busier day, but well worth the smiling faces, hugs and thank-you’s.  Today we are happy, but exhausted.
What a great day!  
We served 87 people today and were so happy and thankful to get to know them!  We heard stories of people who have been through really hard times in their lives and were still grateful and faithful to God through it all.  We met locals who had been, or still were, shrimpers with their shrimping boats and livelihood right here in Dulac and Houma.  We met courageous people who may not read very well, and told us so, yet they left with glasses to hopefully improve their daily lives.  We met young people and old people alike who screamed or giggled with joy when they put on glasses and realized they could see SO much better.  We also received periodic visits from a furry friend, the local dog Milo, who would pop in to see what was going on.
 
At the end of each day, when we go around and every team member talks about their high point for the day and their low point of the day, many people were simply thankful.  Thankful to be back on a mission with this eye clinic team, thankful for the kind and gracious people we met, and thankful for some delicious local cajun food for dinner at the end of a busy day!  
God is good.
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The VOLT team is on the road again!  After our commissioning last Sunday at Table of Grace service, and a white-knuckled 8+ hour journey in the rain from north Texas to southern Louisiana, we are here, ready to be the “hands and feet of Christ”.  Besides the rainy journey, we also encountered a Detour, due to an outed bridge, when we were only a block away from the Dulac Community Center!  The detour, including a gravel road, and took us 20 minutes – we were surprised there was still that much land south of Dulac, LA, which is already 2 hours south of New Orleans!  We did arrive on time.
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As you can imagine, there are quite a few houses that are elevated on stilts ranging from 2-3 feet, up to 8-10 feet, due to being so close to sea level.
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We arrived at 4pm and immediately got to work setting up the stations to start first thing Thursday morning, starting at 8am.
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We thank God for our safe travels, we thank David Lewis for preparing all the groundwork for our mission, and we thank our wonderful hosts here at the Dulac Community Center, especially Mary, for providing the space and signing up about 300 patients for our next 3 days of clinic!  Hallelujah!

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