Sunday, November 27, 2011

What a Year!

10 months and 6 days ago Josh and I arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador to begin working towards the goal of finding a site for a new MMI Permanent Center. Far from being straightforward and basic, this task took us all over Ecuador and required that we investigate way more than just population statistics and pieces of land. We have been humbled by the work that we have done here and we feel confident with the information that we have presented to MMI regarding the potential new center. We know that ultimately, this decision is in the hands of the Lord and that we have fulfilled the job that we set out to do this year.

For the past 2 months, we have been working at the hospital here in Milagro, Ecuador and things are moving forward. Our priority from the beginning was to learn first and to act second. This hospital has been operating self-sufficiently since 2001 and, although there are areas that can be improved, we wanted to take the time to understand the processes and the culture of the hospital before charging ahead with changes. We have learned so much in the 2 months that we have spent in the hospital and we have a lot of ideas that we are anxious to implement in 2012. We will be sure to let all of you know how we are progressing!

During the past 2 months, we also worked on a week-long mission project in a coastal city called Daule. The team that came down was from Pennsylvania and they came to work! There were a total of 20 people on the team and we saw 1700 patients in just 1 week! Josh and I are so glad to have been able to help out with the Daule project and we are thrilled that we were able to get the hospital involved as well. One of the ophthalmic techs came with us and did general eye checks and also screened patients for cataracts and pterigions. Those patients who needed surgery were given the hospital's information and we are working to help them plan their surgeries.

Tomorrow, Josh and I leave for 2 weeks in the Dominican Republic - and not for a beach vacation! :) From Tuesday through Sunday we will be working in the MMI Permanent Center in Santo Domingo, and learning from the administration there. We have had several conversations with them and we are excited to get the opportunity to see how they operate and how we can improve Ecuador's MMI hospital in Milagro. In the second week of our time in the Dominican Republic, we will be attending the MMI Director's Conference in a city outside of Santiago. The conference will give us the chance to meet with MMI staff from all over the world and assess MMI as a whole and how it can improve.

We are so excited to come home and see everyone at Christmas - we miss you all so much! We are blessed by all that the Lord has done in our lives this year and we know that this is only the beginning of our work. We pray that everyone enjoys preparing for Christmas!

Here are some pictures from the September Sangolquí project:













Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Joshua

Monday, October 3, 2011

"I will level the mountains"

That's what the Lord was saying to me over and over in the weeks leading up to the September project. "I will go before you and will level the mountains. I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron." Isaiah 45:2. There were so many little stresses surrounding this project that I put up all my defenses and would not trust God to take care of it. But boy did he. Why would I ever doubt his goodness??

The team arrived on September 17th and although there were some delayed flights, everyone got to Ecuador safely. Josh and I led the surgical team which consisted of about 20 people. On Monday, we focused all of our efforts on doing consults and scheduling surgeries for the rest of the two weeks. Even spending all that time on consults, we still did 7 surgeries Monday afternoon! In two weeks the surgical team did 52 minor surgeries and 82 major surgeries in general surgery, plastic surgery, and orthopedic surgery. Susana Logacho and the medical team were very busy as well and were able to see a total of 2,921 patients in two weeks. Looking at the number of patients who came for medical care, consults and surgeries it is clear that there is definitely need in this area and we will be investigating it further as a site for the new permanent center.

The team was unbelievable and brought a TON of supplies as well as great attitudes and ALL of their flexibility :). Everyone was ready to work and anxious to help wherever they were needed. I was ecstatic to see my parents and all our friends from Wilmington - we had a blast working together! We were also blessed to have a great working relationship with the hospital staff, and the local church was 100% involved in providing transportation, integrated health, chaplain services, food, and encouragement. God provided abundantly in every way and deserves ALL the praise!!

Now that the project is over, we will turn our sights to the current MMI permanent center in Milagro. Today is our last full day in Quito and tomorrow we make the long drive south. It will be really difficult to say goodbye to our friends here in the north (not to mention this unbelievable weather), but we are excited to serve in Milagro and try to help the current center grow and develop to be able to serve more people.

We are so grateful to you all for your prayers for us and for this project. We hope that God was glorified in the work that was done in Sangolquí, and that more people were introduced to his love because of the project.

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

And the Journey Continues!

Another project under our belts! We just got back from Ambato and it was a wonderful project with a wonderful group. 10 of the participants were nursing students and they were all so eager to learn and help in any way that they could. Another 6 were a group from Canada who brought a ton of supplies and knowledge to the project. It is amazing how close you can get to people in such a short amount of time. We pray that they will return to Ecuador on projects in the future! In the course of two weeks we were able to attend to over 2,800 patients and all of them heard the good news of Christ!

This was the first project that Josh and I have worked on that included a surgical component and, after working out a few kinks in the first couple of days, we were able to do 19 surgeries! It was awesome to see how the American surgeon and nurse cooperated with the Ecuadorian surgeons and nurses, and they were even able to teach the team at the Hospital in Pelileo some new techniques for prostate surgery. Josh and I are so glad to have been able to work on a surgical project and it is going to be a huge help to us as we prepare for the September mission team in Sangolqui. Every project we complete is a learning experience for us and we are so grateful to the project director, Susana, for teaching us everything she knows!

Prior to the last project, we spent some time in Ibarra (about 2 hours north of Quito) to see if it would be a good site for the new permanent center. We talked to a doctor there who was very informative and eager to help us. He told us that the population in Ibarra has access to a Government Hospital (free healthcare to anyone), a Social Security Hospital (free healthcare to those who have jobs), and various private hospitals and clinics (healthcare for the middle and upper-classes). After spending time there, we can see that the permanent center would probably serve more people in need in a different location.

Also prior to the last project, members of MMI USA and the members of the Ecuadorian MMI board had a meeting in Quito. The purpose of the meeting was largely to talk about the direction for MMI’s future in Ecuador, but Josh and I were given a slightly different direction as well! MMI’s current permanent center in Milagro (southern part of Ecuador) is going through a change in administration and Josh and I have been named co-directors of the center to help facilitate that change. That means that we will be living and working full-time in Milagro. We will continue our search for the site of the new permanent center, and working in the Milagro center will help us to better understand the nuts and bolts of running a clinic. We are thrilled to have the opportunity and we are staying flexible!!

The next project group will arrive in Sangolqui on September 17th and Josh and I are living here in Sangolqui for the next two-and-a-half weeks to prepare. I am thrilled to see my parents since they are participants on this project, and the outcome of this project is very important since Sangolqui is still under consideration as a site for the new center. We are so grateful for your continued prayers and encouragement!!

We treated this lady at the clinic on the last day of the project. She has 9 children and 30 grandchildren!!



Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July 2011 Medical Mission Project: Latacunga, Ecuador

Hello again! Well, our July project has come to a close and we are back in Quito. The July project was in Latacunga and we went to some very poor areas to provide health care and to share the gospel. We had enough people who spoke Spanish on this trip that Josh and I were able to participate in a lot of different areas of the project. I spent a week giving fluoride treatments to kids and also providing reading glasses to the elderly who needed them, and Josh spent a lot of time getting vital signs from the patients before sending them on to the medical professionals. We both love translating for the physicians, but it was nice to be involved in other ministries as well.

A very important part of all of our projects is integrated health where the patients go to hear talks about eating a balanced diet, boiling their water before drinking it, and general hygeine. They also hear the good news of Jesus Christ and receive clear instructions on how to take the medicines that they are given. I spent some time with the leader of integrated health to learn more about how that part works, and I was able to talk to the children who had received fluoride about Jesus and why he came and died for us. One little boy told me that his family only had one Bible in the house and since it was the special family Bible, he couldn't take it down and read it. We were able to give him the New Testament in Spanish so that he could read about Jesus for himself and also read to his younger brothers and sisters. He was so excited to receive it and we were thrilled to be able to give it to him. There is absolutely no feeling as wonderful as serving God by serving others! We will try to post some pictures in the next few days :).

In the next three weeks, we have plans to speak at some churches in Quito who will be helping us with future projects, visiting some areas to the north of Quito to see if the clinic would be a good fit there, and also preparing for our next project which is in Ambato. Most of you know about our September Medical Mission Project in Sangolqui. My dad is the medical director of this project, and we are welcoming more participants! The project dates are September 17th - October 1st and there are still some spots available for medical professionals or general helpers. We would love to see you! If you are interested and/or have questions, please email us at stephanietucker1@gmail.com.

Please keep us in your prayers as the summer comes to a close. We are exploring new ideas for the permanent center and the most important thing for us is to be sure we are following God's design and not our own. We have faith that he will provide us with all of the information that we need to make these decision.

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Medical Mission Trip, June 2011: Baños, Ecuador

Hello Everyone!

For the past two weeks, Josh and I have worked with a medical mission team of Americans and Canadians in Baños, Ecuador. We are so grateful to have been a part of this team and we would love to tell you a little bit about our experiences!

The team arrived on June 11th and we took a bus to Baños on June 12th. We started work on Monday the 13th and each day that week we traveled to a different small town in the area. Members of the team included nurses, a urologist, an orthopedic surgeon, a family practice doctor, general helpers, and interpreters. The first week we saw 674 patients and we gave fluoride treatments to 798 children. Over the weekend, the team was able to explore Baños a little and on Sunday we attended a local church. At the church service, I was given my first opportunity to translate a sermon - boy, was I nervous! But, God gave me the words, and with his help, all the participants were able to understand His word that morning. After a restful Sunday afternoon, we started back to work on Monday and worked until Thursday afternoon when we headed back to Quito. The second week we saw 470 patients and gave 459 children fluoride treatments. This gave us a 2-week total of 1257 fluoride treatments and 1144 patients who received treatment and medicine, and they and their families received health education, and heard the gospel. We pray we were able to plant seeds of hope in these patients and that God will pursue them and capture their hearts.

The whole group meshed incredibly well and we were constantly reminded how God takes such care to bring each team together to fill all of the needs. We had devotions each morning by different members of the team, and someone spoke on 1 Corinthians Chapter 12:

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body . . . Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be."

What a wonderful metaphor for the way a team works together! God was very present every day when we went to work and brought us so many patients that we were able to help. Each participant played a part in making the whole thing come together.

Our next mission team arrives on July 9th and we will be headed to a town called Latacunga. For the next two weeks, Josh and I will be preparing for the next team and, if time allows, also exploring some areas a little north of Quito that may be possibilities for the permanent center. We will let you know how everything goes!

Every morning of each project we get together with the waiting patients and sing a praise song in Spanish called "Alabare" which means, "I will praise". Please excuse my singing [:-)], but enjoy this video:

video

Thursday, May 5, 2011

April Showers Bring May Flowers

The pictures didn't post last time! They should show up now!! :)


Hello again! The rainy season here is coming to a close and the weather here is beautiful. Josh and I have been very busy over the past month and I can't wait to update everyone!

First of all, we finally were able to get our Ecuadorian driver's licenses! After finishing the ANETA driving course and passing their exams, we had to wait 14 business days to get our documents from them that we had to take to Ecuador's equivalent of the DMV. I thought the DMV in NC was rough - we waited an hour and 45 minutes just to get in the door at the Comision de transito! Luckily we both brought a book to read :). Once we got inside, we turned in all of our paperwork, were entered into the system, took their computerized test, got our picture taken, and finally left 3 and a half hours later with our very own licenses! It is such a relief to have those.

Aside from getting our licenses in Quito, we were able to spend a lot of time in a town about 45 minutes away called Sangolqui. We have been working with the "jefe parrochial" (basically the leader of the county) to see if it is a city that would need medical services like the one that our clinic would provide. He and the members of the county board of directors took us on a tour of the area and helped us get to know some of the poorer areas around the city. They even took us to eat cuy (Guinea Pig) and it was actually really delicious! There is currently a hospital in Sangolqui, but many of the people from the small villages outside of Sangolqui don't get the medical attention that they need. We are definitely keeping it in mind as a possibility.

Yesterday, Josh and I arrive in a city called Riobamba in the province of Chimborazo. It was about a 3 hour drive from Quito and was suggested to us as a possible site for the clinic. We spent all this morning driving around to see a few clinics in the area to try to learn as much as possible. We arrived at Riobamba's public hospital and decided to ask if there was anyway we could meet with an administrator to learn about the available healthcare in Riobamba, and we just happened to arrive at the perfect time to have a meeting with the former head of public health for Chimborazo. God definitely made the meeting possible! This doctor currently works in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology at the public hospital, and he was a wealth of information for us. One thing we learned this morning was that we have a lot more investigating to do here before we draw any conclusions. This afternoon we have a meeting with the pastor of a local Baptist church. He has cooperated with MMI in the past on short-term mission trips and he knows a lot about the type of need that exists in the area. We plan on staying here at least another week and maybe more before moving on to our next city.

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement! We miss home, but we are so blessed and happy to be here and pray that we can be used by the Lord in his work in Ecuador.

Here are some pictures of the tour that we got of Sangolqui. Enjoy!


We all met at the town square to start the tour




The church in the town square




Josh and I enjoying some Cuy!




We stopped to enjoy the beauty of a local ecological reserve




The Jefe Parrochial telling us about the healthcare needs of the local population




The whole group




Local transportation :)




A beautiful sunset at the end of the day


Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Joshua

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quito!

Josh and I have been in Quito now for two weeks and I have to admit, I am loving the cooler weather! We enrolled at ANETA, the Ecuadorian driving school and have been in classes for the past week. It is a 9 day course, then we have to wait 12 business days for ANETA to send our approved paperwork and completed tests to the police station, and finally we can go to the police station, take another test and get our license. It's quite a process!

We spend 2 hours per day in the classroom learning theory and then 2 hours on the road practicing. Josh already knows how to drive a stick shift, but he's using the time to learn the layout of the city and the routes in and out. That way when we have medical teams fly into Quito, we'll be prepared. I'm slowly but surely learning how to drive a stick shift and my instructor said I should have no problem passing the driving test. Another good thing is that its 4 hours a day of Spanish practice because all of the teaching is in Spanish. We had a written test last Friday which Josh and I both aced :), and our driving test is on Wednesday.

One thing we've learned from this course is that there are penalties for EVERYTHING here. You even get penalized if you accidentally run out of gas! Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, we have yet to see the police actually pull someone over for anything. ANETA has talked a TON about seat belts which is great, but it kills me how many young kids I see in the backseats of cars crawling around without seat belts on, even though the parents are wearing theirs. We make sure that everybody in our car wears their seat belts all the time!

The week before we started classes, we stayed with our friends Larry and Amanda who live here in Quito. We met them at language school in Costa Rica and while we were staying with them they took us to HCJB to learn about their mission. HCJB is a Christian radio station and they also have a hospital. It's a wonderful organization. Amanda took us to the tutoring program where she works and she let us participate in her class that she teaches! Here are some pictures of our day in the classroom:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We played "Around the World" with the kids to help them with math and also help them learn their numbers in english. Here's a video of Josh leading the game:

video

The kids were SOOO cute!

We have a meeting this coming week to determine what city we'll be going to after we get our licenses. We'll keep you posted!!

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Loja

Well, Josh and I have our car now and in the past month we have seen a LOT of Ecuador!!

We have been driving using our US driver's license and we have about 6 weeks left to drive on that, but we are still working on getting our Ecuadorian drivers license. We think that we can go to Quito and get it because the laws are different there than here in Guayaquil. We have some wonderful missionary friends in Quito who have said that we can stay with them and they are helping us out a TON. Even though its frustrating, we have to remember that God is in control - even of the little details.

This past weekend we went on a 1000 mile journey through the mountainous province of Loja, Ecuador. Jone and Abner (the MMI architects that we are living with) were nice enough to be our guides and took us to 8 different cities to see if any of them were possible locations for the new permanent center that we will be building.

Here is the map of the cities that we visited:


View Larger Map

We started on Friday, March 4th and planned to drive along the coast to Huaqiullas to stay the night. Unfortunately, about 2 1/2 hours into the journey we encountered a really bad wreck between a bus and a tractor trailer and we ended up turning around to go back to Guayaquil to spend the night. We started again on Saturday morning and drove to Machala (B) to eat lunch. From Machala we drove to Alamor (C) where we stayed the night. Alamor is a small town on top of a mountain - beautiful!! The next day we drove to Casanga (D) where we met a pastor and his family and attended a church service at his church. He told us the story of planting and growing the church in the midst of a lot of persecution. It was a beautiful service and from there a member of the church accompanied us to Catamayo (E) and on to Loja (F) where we spent the night.

After visiting Catamayo, Josh and I think that it could be a strong candidate for the medical center. It has the right population, limited access to medical services currently, and a wonderful mountain climate. We plan to spend at least a few more weeks in Catamayo this year to find out more about it.

From Loja, we drove to Amaluza (G) and visited with a man living there who does a lot of mission work in both southern Ecuador and northern Peru. He and his family live humbly, but they love the Lord so much and do the work they've been given with joy. It was very inspiring to meet them. Although it was too small to be considered for the permanent center, we think it would be a great location for future 2-week MMI projects.

We returned to Loja from Amaluza and then continued on to Balsas (H) to stay the night Monday night. Tuesday morning we drove to Piñas (I) and Zaruma (J) before heading back to Guayaquil.

It was an exhausting trip, but we made a lot of contacts and we also have at least one potential location for the hospital!

In the next few weeks we will be working more on getting our license and also planning our trips to other parts of the country. Things are definitely getting busy and with so many things on our plate we pray that we can be good stewards of our time and resources.

Please pray for us with regard to getting our driver's license. It seems like a small thing, but it is vital to our job here. Also, we realized quickly that traveling in Ecuador, while beautiful, is extremely challenging. Please pray for our safety as we begin to travel outside of Guayaquil more often.

Copy and paste this link to see pictures from our journey through the province of Loja:

https://picasaweb.google.com/105001353895748308133/Loja#

Enjoy!

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Monday, February 14, 2011

We have been in Ecuador for 25 days and they have been packed full!

This past Saturday, we finished working a two-week project with 4 medical professionals from Missouri. The team worked at the hospital in Milagro and Josh and I helped manage the trip and did some translation for them. There were two medical residents, their attending, and an ophthalmic tech and they had been working with the medical director from the hospital in Milagro for a year arranging the details of their trip. This was a different sort of trip because in addition to the team spending time seeing patients and doing surgeries, the medical director here in Ecuador taught the doctors a different technique for cataract surgeries. It was really inspiring to see the team-work that took place.

The team arrived on January 29th and we spent the 30th doing a little sight-seeing and introducing them to Ecuador.



We climbed almost 500 steps to reach this lighthouse in Guayaquil!

The evening of the 30th we went to the hospital and arranged all of the supplies that they were able to bring so that they could start work first thing on Monday morning. They all worked VERY hard throughout the past year to acquire an incredible amount of donations from hospitals and medical companies in the states and they were even able to leave a lot of donated supplies for the hospital's use after they left.






Supplies the team brought

Everyone worked very hard that first week and it flew by. Before we knew it the weekend had arrived. The team decided they wanted to visit the mountains for their weekend excursion so we went to Cuenca. Cuenca is BEAUTIFUL! We stayed at a great little hotel, saw all the sites, and headed back to Milagro on Sunday in time to see the Super Bowl in Spanish at our hotel!

The second week of the trip went just as well as the first and the team left very happy last Saturday. We are so appreciative of their work and look forward to more MMI trips in the future!

Josh and I rested over the weekend and headed back to the hospital today. We were able to spend time observing the Social Worker and we also got to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the hospital:




Tomorrow we will be going to the transportation office to find out what we need to do to get our driver's license. Hopefully this process will be quick and painless but we are prepared for anything!

Oh, for all those who love T.J.Maxx and there incredible bargains, we found a "sister"-store (A.K.A. knock-off store) in Cuenca:




Happy Valentine's Day and God Bless,

Stephanie and Josh

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ecuador!

On Friday, January 21st at 2:00 am, Josh and I officially arrived in Guayaquil, Ecuador! We are so thrilled to be here after a year and a half of preparation. Thank you so much to everyone who supported us throughout this process!!!

We didn't waste any time getting down to business after we arrived. After a few hours of sleep, we got up and dressed and drove with our host Jone and our boss about an hour to the existing MMI permanent center in Milagro. We met the staff of the hospital and got a tour of the premises. Here are some pictures of the hospital:





Afterwards, we got some lunch and purchased a pre-payed cell phone so that we had a way to communicate with Jone. That evening we met again with the hospital staff and some members of the board of the hospital to discuss more details of our goals here in Ecuador. The meeting went very well and it was decided that we will spend most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at the hospital to learn everything we can about how it is run.

We spent all day on Saturday in meetings with our boss planning out where we will travel and when, and also when we will begin to assist and direct short-term projects here in Ecuador. The plan is for us to live here in Guayaquil for about 2 months to learn the workings of the hospital and to take care of getting our visa registered, our censo (ID card), our license, and a car. Then we will travel around Ecuador doing site reports on multiple cities that are possible locations for the new permanent center. Throughout the year we will also assist the current project directors with short-term projects until we learn the ropes and can direct our own projects. Needless to say it will be a VERY busy year! After the meetings, we all went downtown and had dinner before our boss had to leave to go to Bolivia.

Yesterday, we attended a beautiful church:



and we finally got a chance to unpack! It is nice to feel settled in here and to begin working. Today we have been working through some of the documents from our meetings the past few days, and we spent about 3 hours at the Subdireccion General de Extranjeria starting the process of getting our Visa registered. We didn't quite have all of the papers we needed, but now we think we have everything, and we are planning to return to the office tomorrow to finish up with this part.

The past few days have been hectic, overwhelming and stressful, but also so exciting! We know that God is with us and that brings us comfort and the confidence that we need to begin this enormous job. Please pray that we are able to obtain all of the paperwork that we need so that we can get our censo and license as quickly as possible. That way we can focus 100% on our work in the hospital. We will keep everyone posted on how it goes!

Love and God Bless,

Stephanie and Joshua