Our first day of clinic was amazing! Our team of medical providers and assistants saw 212 patients. Together with the pharmacy crew, they gave out more than 429 prescriptions, including vitamins, pain relievers, parasite meds, antibiotics, steroid creams, and stomach meds. And the eyeglasses team gave 150 pairs of glasses to 75 happy people, including one gentleman who needed them so that he could read his Bible!

While local church members were giving gospel presentations, our team members were also sharing Jesus Christ individually with patients—many of whom prayed to receive Him as their Savior. That is the mission of our mission...please pray for more open hearts this week!

Dr. Curt Barnes, in our devotional time this morning, encouraged us to look for “God sightings,” experiences of seeing God’s hand at work in our encounters with these lovely Quichuan people. They are a diminutive tribe, with dark hair and eyes, dressed neatly in colorful capes and ponchos woven from soft alpaca wool. Their children are polite and precious!

Our children’s ministry team played ball, blew bubbles, played games, sang songs, made gospel bead bracelets and paper crowns, and told stories all day about Jesus to children. The highlight was having them encircle a brightly-colored parachute and throw beach balls into the air with it! The medical team also saw children from the local Compassion International program.

Stories: Dr. Jerry Falasca diagnosed two cases of sponduloarthropathy (inflammatory arthritis of the spine and large joints) in a 31-year-old truck driver and an older woman and then educated them on the medications that may help them long term. The young man had been told previously that his arthritis was probably due to vitamin deficiency.

The dental clinic saw 16 patients, thanks to “Hero of Day” Cade Douglas—the clinic had no power, but he fixed the generator so that power was restored for dental work.

Dr. Mark Williams examined and then prayed over a 99-year-old woman who knelt down and asked him to “bless” her.

Kristi Mathis, team counselor, said that her first patient of the day came in feeling down and lonely. After Kristi and translator Saul Hernandez prayed with her, the woman accepted Christ. Afterward, the patient said she felt so relieved, that this was “the best day of my life.”

Saul also saw a lady he had met on an earlier trip here. When he asked how she was doing, she replied—with tears running down her face—she was doing so well. Her husband had stopped drinking, was now going to church, and spending time with family...her children were all healthy. She said she couldn’t ask for anything more.

Ben Reeves, ETSU Quillen med student, saw an older Quichuan couple. The wife was completely immobile; her husband was caregiver since none of their children lived near. Ben remembered that our team had brought one wheelchair from CMDA. He ran to get it, and when he gave it to her, she and her husband began crying. “It was a God thing that we had brought that one wheelchair, just for her,” Ben said.

Please pray for continued good weather, continued harmony, and “divine appointments” for sharing the love of Jesus Christ in Ecuador.

Our second day of clinic went smoothly, with even more patients than yesterday. Dr. Phillip Claybrook reported that we saw 249 medical patients, with 560 prescriptions handed out. The dental clinic saw 20 patients, including children, many with extractions.

The eye clinic, operated by Brian Perley, Carol Mayer, and Megan Barnes, was very busy with 90 people, handing out 56 distance glasses and 34 readers. “Everyone was so thankful,” said Brian. “No one refused prayers, and all gave out hugs happy to be able to see better, especially the older patients.”

The children’s ministry today involved dozens of children, from toddlers to teens, with puppet stories, the Easter story with “resurrection eggs,” jump roping, and volleyball played with a soccer ball in a dirt courtyard over a makeshift “net” (a single rope). All heard the gospel message, and most were led in prayers to follow Jesus.

Our location is hosted in a very active church in this tiny community; members are so generous with their time in helping us, working most of the day just to fix lunch for us. Also, missionaries and volunteers traveled hours here from churches in Cuenca and Guayaquil, to work as coordinators and translators.

Stories: Grant Bednar, CNA doing triage, reported a good experience, in spite of the fact that we are all working with three languages—English, Spanish, and Quichuan. “It’s so cool to work with our translators,” Grant said. “They are great resources, and we can see the Holy Spirit working in them. They are so willing to help...language is not a barrier.”

Katie Patterson, ETSU Quillen med student, saw a little girl at the end of the day drawing chalk pictures in the courtyard. When she asked the girl to tell her about them, the little girl replied that she had drawn Jesus on a cross. Next to it, however, was a heart with another drawing inside...the girl said Jesus now lives in her heart. When another child was asked why he was wearing a paper crown, he said, “Because I am a prince, and God is my king.” The children are understanding the gospel message in spite of our language barriers!

Dr. Steve Douglas described an unhappy woman who came in with neuropathy in her face and multiple other problems. Steve told her there was nothing they could do for her but pray for her. “Her countenance changed completely after the prayer, and it made a huge difference in her attitude,” Steve said.

Pharmacy Director Deborah Penzak saw a 13-year-old girl who had walked half an hour to bring three younger siblings to the clinic for care....despite the fact that the young teen herself had a fever of 102 degrees. “She was so attentive to her siblings,” Deborah said, “not complaining about her own illness. What a servant she was!”

Please pray for renewed energy in the morning after the fatigue of seeing so many people today; for more lives here in this community to be surrendered to Jesus Christ; and for the local church members who serve sacrificially. Please pray also for a pregnant young Ecuadoran woman, not married, who faces the real prospect of rejection by her mother when she finally reveals her situation.

Pulingui (not on Google maps) is the name of this agricultural village, where donkeys, cows, dogs, and chickens wander the streets. Adjacent to our children’s classrooms (which smell a bit “farmy” at times) are sheep and pig pens. There is little opportunity in this region for employment, and many Quichuan rely on spinning and sewing alpaca wool for their income, often walking hours up the mountain to reach the alpaca pastures for wool.

Even at our lodging at the edge of Riobamba, we are awakened to the sounds of roosters crowing, sheep bleating plaintively, and horses neighing nearby. Temperatures here are cool and comfortable during the day, despite the intense sunshine. Exotic flowers, cacti, and succulents are in abundance...including tall “century blooms” on agave plants.

Our third day was even busier than the first two...the word is obviously getting out. Dr. Coleen Falasca became very popular with one family...a man brought a family member to see her, then he came back later for Coleen to see him personally, then he showed up even later with his two daughters to see Coleen!

We saw 260 medical patients, 23 dental patients, and 100 people for eyeglasses, giving out 200 pairs. The pharmacy gave out 601 prescriptions, too.

God stories:
Dr. Steve Douglas, Grant Bednar, Bekah Douglas, Leslie Stroud, Kristi Mathis, Andreas Fiess, and Saul Hernandez paid a home visit two blocks away to a very ill young mother of three, named Cassandra. She was suffering from an acute infection due to a home-remedy abortion (abortion is illegal in Ecuador) but didn’t receive adequate post-abortion treatment. She started crying when the team prayed with her...she said she didn’t believe they would come see her. But Steve was able to give her antibiotics. “It was a very dark scene,” Grant said. “She was so ashamed of what she did. Steve and Saul were able to talk through it with her and tell her that God would forgive her. This reminded me that many others are out there who can’t get help.” Saul said he wanted her to “know that she was loved by Jesus Christ.” The team will check on Cassandra again tomorrow and have the church follow up on her.

Raul Bonifaz, pastor and church planter, brought a young man named José over to the children’s area. Raul had just led José in a prayer to become a Christian, and Raul wanted José to see a “resurrection eggs” presentation about Jesus Christ’s last week on earth. Nancy Williams told the young man the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection (with Raul translating) and helped lead the man in a prayer of reassurance. A group of preteens heard the same story later; with Candy Arteaga’s leadership, all prayed together to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior...some already Christian, some for the first time.

Luke Barnes, Grant Bednar, and Drew Correll switched roles today to help clean tools when dental clinic got slammed, mostly with screaming kids. “It was awesome to have their help,” Cade Douglas said, “because they saved us about 15 minutes for each patient.”

Sylvia—the young pregnant woman who had visited the clinic yesterday—came back today. She said she talked with her baby’s father, and they have decided to get married July 1.They will tell her mom together, with hopes the mother will accept the news.

Please pray for Sylvia’s marriage and baby, recovery for Cassandra (who is still very ill) and her acceptance of forgiveness, and for José (new believer). Please pray also for our last day tomorrow (Thursday) that all areas will run smoothly and we will finish strong as a team. Continue to pray for changed hearts among the Quichua people. Thank you so much for lifting us up to our Lord.

Our final clinic day is did these four days pass so quickly??? What joy we have been blessed to receive through these sweet, smiling people!! They have very humble, tender, long-suffering hearts.

But there are huge financial strains on family life here. Many children are raised by single moms or grandmothers as the men or both parents leave for months or years at a time to get work in other places.

There’s also a “dress code” among the older women who wear tall, black felt fedoras or white straw hats with ribbons, over brightly-colored wool shawls, black skirts, and black boots. Many of the older people cannot read. Dirt is just a way of life here...the volcanic ash dust covers everything. And the playground/courtyard for the children was an OSHA nightmare...broken glass, scrap metal, rusty equipment everywhere...but nobody got hurt.

After a delayed arrival at the clinic this morning (slowed by a school foot race on the road), we arrived to a large crowd waiting. But with fast triage and patient transfers, the providers saw everyone rapidly.

Today, we saw 188 medical patients, handed out 462 scrips, treated 25 dental patients, and handed out 218 pairs of eyeglasses to 109 people. For the week, that means we were able to experience more than 1,300 patient encounters, with caring treatments and the message of hope in Jesus Christ. There were many professions of faith from new believers!

Olivia Douglas, Vida Stange, Drew Correll, David Barnes, and Jenny Olson, Alexis Fernando, and Jennifer Douglas were called to fulfill a more unusual mission project—a request from the church to paint murals on the walls of two classrooms. One room, which serves as a dining room, received a “Thanks to God” painting of a basket overflowing with local fruit; the other, for children, received a Noah’s ark full of happy animals, including alpacas in traditional hats! Hats off to this crew who put their artistic talents to work in a lovely reminder of God’s grace!

At lunch, as a special delicacy treat for our team, three women prepared a feast of gui—skewered guinea pigs roasted over an open fire for a long time. The intrepid members of our team gave it a try...and reported it tasted a bit gamey, like rabbit, and very chewy. 🤭

After the clinic closed, team members walked over to the local co-op where more than 50 women work on knitting sweaters, hats, and scarves from alpaca wool. A group of the ladies gathered on the porch and serenaded us with a Quichuan song about the animals of Chimborazo mountain!

Then, the pastors of the Iglesia Cristiana Verbo (Christian Church of the Word), our hosts for the clinic, sent us off with heartfelt blessings in prayer and song. It was a beautiful benediction for the last day of our work.

“God sightings”:

Beth Barnes noticed three preteen schoolgirls in the main room and invited them to the children’s area. During the storytime by Candy Arteaga, the girls sat silently. But when they started making paper crowns, Nancy Williams gave the story about Jesus’ death and resurrection. Then Candy told them about what it means to be a Christian and led them in a prayer to receive Christ as their Savior. Each girl received a Bible, too, because none had one in their homes. “There was a distinct change in the expression on their faces,” Beth said. “They left with wonderful smiles.”

Dr. Coleen Falasca was in tears this morning after working with two different girls. One with cerebral palsy was in a lot of pain, but a bigger issue was that her father had died recently, and she had retreated into a spiritual depression, failing school. She couldn’t get enough hugs from Coleen and kept coming back for more. The other girl was very sad and somewhat mentally slow. She had an infected cut on her hand from a knife cut and parasitic worms on her feet, but she had not told her mother and had been suffering for weeks. She cried the entire time Coleen unwrapped her infected hand and treated her. But when Coleen finished and led her in prayer, she had a smile on her face. “It was just so heart-rending,” Coleen said.

Dr. Mark Williams and translator Janette Olson prayed together for an older gentleman. Afterward, he said he wanted to pray for them...singing a song to them about the Holy Spirit in Quichuan.

On Friday morning, we gave goodbye hugs to our translators and left Riobamba for the four-hour bus trip back to Quito.

One of the striking differences (visible on the daily bus rides) between Ecuador and the U.S. is the earthiness of the poverty’s a hard-scrabble life. In these rural areas, people work the crops with hoes, and livestock are tethered by ropes instead of expensive fencing for grazing.

Most buildings are only half-finished, with rebar sticking out all over poorly-laid clay brick or cement blocks. It’s easy to see how a strong earthquake could wreak destruction on this area...walls would collapse.

In the afternoon, following a fast-food lunch at a giant mall, we took a cable car ride 😲 🚠 called the Telefériqo up to a mountaintop view of the region, about 13,000 feet up. Both the views and the walking around were breathtaking at that altitude!

Our evening dinner restaurant was atop Panecillo mount with a nighttime panorama of downtown Quito, sparkling with lights.

Saturday morning gave us free time for touring Quito. Several of us made our way to the old town and climbed up to the observation areas of the Gothic Basilica church, whose gargoyles represent animals of the Galapagos Islands. On our way to the airport, we stopped at a museum at the exact line of the equator and saw interesting demonstrations on the equator’s phenomena. It’s true...the vortex swirl of a drain changed from clockwise on the southern side of the line to counter-clockwise just a few feet to the north!

Our team also met for a trip debriefing and to share our “God sightings” from the week:
“Every patient was a ‘God sighting.’”

“It was wonderful to have so many young people on this trip...lots of smiles and laughter. They encouraged the older team members!”

“The best thing was fellowship with fellow believers. I have been so refreshed and will take that with me.”

“Coming alone on this trip was nerve-wracking, but it’s been life-changing.”

“This has been one of the best experiences of my life...seeing the people of the village and the love of team members renewed my entire self. It will allow me to care for my patients at a whole new level.”

“People were so patient to wait in line for the clinic. This trip gave me the opportunity to minister to people spiritually, to see the sovereignty of God at work. I feel that we were put in this place for a reason. We can find rest in His plan, because we can’t mess it up.”

“It was different from my expectations...especially helping out in worship, sharing stories with each other, getting to know each other, and encouraging each other.”

“I had been struggling with my relationship with Christ before this week. But I was challenged here, a good time to slow down. I’m so glad God led me to come...others have poured into me, and I was blessed to be around strong marriages.”

“Being here renewed my love for practicing medicine, getting to see medicine practiced in purest form. My hope is that the spiritual transformation of these Quichuan people will last after their medicine is gone. Mentoring from other physicians was also such an encouragement. And my marriage relationship has grown.”

“The biggest thing I learned this week is that, while our mission is to share the gospel and get others to know Jesus Christ, being His hands and feet here is important, too...I saw all of our gifts—pharmacy, artists, children’s games, counseling, medicine, dental—coming together in practical ministry.”

“I’m really thankful for this experience...I have always been a Christian, always wanted to be a doctor, but this was the first time I have seen these two purposes come together...I can do this at home, too.”

“I got to explain the gospel and pray a prayer of salvation with two little girls, and I found it’s not hard...not in my strength but God’s strength.”

“I was on a bumpy road these past few months and had grown distant from God. This trip has been really good for me, and I’m starting to realize God’s plan. All the prayers from my family have been a blessing to me, and I now know what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel as if I’ve been healed...God has brought me back.”

“God has shown me how big He really is...we can’t put Him in a box. I had been praying for this trip, to see God work here. I initially felt like some prayers were too big, but I have seen the fruit of those prayers...God answered all of them. I know that He will answer my prayers back at home, even when I can’t see right away.”

“Before this Ecuador trip, I felt very unprepared. But God gave me such an incredible peace, and I worked with a great team. During the week, I didn’t get to pray with patients, but then on Friday, I got to share with someone about the healing love of Christ. I said, ‘That’s it! That’s why I came!’”
Please pray for everyone who has to go back to work (exhausted) this morning after the emotional highs we’ve experienced this week...we all want to take a renewed enthusiasm for sharing Jesus Christ with others into our daily life. Pray for God to give us His divine appointments in the weeks and months ahead for living out the gospel message at home and work. Pray for the Barnes family members, on their way to the Galapagos Islands, and for the Stanges who are staying in Ecuador for another week. Continue to pray for Grat and Christy Correll as he recovers from this latest bout of illness.

Prayer update: The team made a return trip to see Cassandra, still bedridden, but slightly better. Dr. Steve Douglas had the opportunity to reinforce how to take her medicine. The group prayed with her again, this time with pharmacist Deborah Penzak, who explained about God’s forgiveness, love, and grace. Local pastor Raul Bonifaz will follow up with Cassandra to make sure she receives appropriate care. Please continue to pray for Cassandra’s spiritual and physical condition.

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