News and Stories
Medical Mission that took us ‘around the world’ (literally)
We were supposed to leave at 7am Friday, February 1, but a snowstorm changed those plans. 600 flights were cancelled that day out of Chicago. Instead of going west through Los Angeles to the Philippines, we went east through London. 62 hours later we arrived in Borongan, Eastern Samar-62 hours all spent in airports or airplanes. Upon our return, we continued to fly east until we arrived once again in Chicago. Hence the medical mission that took us ‘around the world.’
This being our fourth time returning to Borongan, our hosts greeted us with warm smiles and comforting hugs. After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to start and start we did. The first day we unpacked twenty duffels, 50 pounds each and 7 boxes, all full of medical supplies. We set up the operating rooms and the recovery room and began screening surgical patients. The medical clinic opened with hundreds of people already in line.
We started each day together in prayer. Patients, missioners and host co-workers attended daily Mass in the hospital hallway celebrated by Fr. Ernie Norbeck, a Joliet diocesan priest from Downers Grove, Illinois. Over 100 surgeries were completed and hundreds of patients seen in the clinic during this mission.
We had the pleasant surprise of being visited by a patient we cared for last year. In 2007, Ida was critically ill and in need of surgery. Her husband had pawned their coconut grove to pay for her hospitalization, but they did not have the money for surgery. We were blessed with the ability to care for her and she survived. A healthy Ida returned with her husband, their coconut grove back in their possession. They brought with them a sack full of fresh crabs as a thank you. Lunch was quite delicious that day as we feasted on this delicacy from the Asian waters.
We again had a delightful time visiting our friends, the Oikos Sisters. You may recall these are 4 women who have dedicated their lives to care for the poor. Their two rescue homes continue to be full to capacity with women and children in crisis, hurt and damaged by abuse, poverty or loss of parental love. Our hearts were overflowing with joy as the children squealed with delight as they saw some of their friends return from the U.S. We shared Mass, food, songs and dance. After their performance of Filipino songs and dance, we entertained them by teaching them the hokey pokey and the chicken dance.
In addition to meeting the needs of the poor in Borongan, the Sisters also visit villages ‘in country.’ On Sunday they took us with them to a fishing village accessed only by boat. San Gregorio barrio is a very poor village of 62 thatched homes. They have no medical facilities, only one spigot in the village to supply all the homes with water and a two room schoolhouse to educate the children up to 6th grade. If a parent wants their child to continue with their education which is free, they must still supply a school uniform, shoes, books and boat and tricycle transportation. For most this is an impossibility since there is no money for such ‘extravagances’, providing food and medical care must be their first priority. We spent a wonderful day together, missioners, villagers, the Oikos Sisters and their volunteers. We brought lunch for the village, enjoyed a Filipino piñata game, sang, danced and played - all in the pouring rain.
On our day of departure, we left at 3pm instead of 12 midnight. We had a two hour notice of our early departure due to the heavy rains in our area for days on end. We learned we were experiencing a typhoon! There was concern the road we needed to travel on (a 4 hour ride) would soon be impassable due to flooding and mudslides. We made the trip without difficulty but our friends, the Oikos Sisters and the children did not fare as well. At 5:30 that same morning, neighbors woke them as flood waters entered their home. They had to evacuate all the children and their possessions by boat. We also learned that the village of San Gregorio was totally submerged in water. The villagers took refuge and made makeshift shelter in the nearby mountain.
We departed with quick goodbyes and sadness in our hearts. We lost precious hours that we wanted to savor with our friends at the hospital and with the Oikos family. The rains showed us what we already knew, how hard life is for our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. Thatched roofs do not keep homes dry, windows without glass do not keep winds outside and dirt floors when wet with rain waters turn in to thick mud.
But, it was our time to say goodbye, all we could do is wish them our best and give them our love. For some miraculous reason that almost seemed enough – maybe because we felt the presence of God protecting them and maybe because they were sending us on our way with the same love and joy they greeted us with and maybe also because we knew, God willing we would be back with them again.
Mary Jane Trinkus