Back in 1999, a group from my church went on a misson trip to Brazil. Most of the participants were engineers, houswives, NASA or other government employees, students, etc. I was the only medically related professional to go on this particular trip. Therefore, the objective was not dental or medical treatment. There are such trips organized specifically to serve and treat the poor in various countries while spreading the Gospel. Our particular trip had two main parts. We went to the Methodist camp for children located outside, far outside, Rio DeJaniero, Brazil. Later on, we went into the heart of the favelas (slums) in Rio to a church sponsored school.
Way out in the countryside we arrived at the camp. It was September, so it was basically Spring down there. The weather was great. We worked on construction of a new residence building for the kids who came to the camp from Rio. It was one of the few and perhaps only times they would travel outside the city. The building methods were these lightweight clay bricks connected with morter and a wire framework. Much of our time was spent mixing cement, bending wires, lots of digging in the mud, etc. I escaped some of that toil by setting up a mini-dental clinic in one of the other buildings. The kids from the city arrived at the camp about the time we left for Rio. However, children, and some adults, would arrive by foot from the surrounding villages to receive dental treatment. This was done with the help of Evangemed. I spent two days basically removing badly decayed teeth. The mobile van usually used for dental mission trips was temporarily out of commission, so I couldn't do fillings or travel out to the villages. The only thing we could do was extractions. Those of you who have gone on dental mission trips know that most of what you do is extractions anyway. A local physician and dentist from Evangemed were there to do most of the medical stuff. The dentist helped me with some of the dental treatment as well. One evening we went to a local Methodist church service. They do a lot of singing down there and we had to make our contrubution too. We were not prepared for that. I think they may think twice before asking those Americans to sing again! By the way I discovered Guarana down there. It's a ginger-ale like drink made from a bean they have there in the Amazon; really good!
After our camp experience, we went into the city to spend a couple of nights there. One night there was gunfire nearby. There were also some local pigs, yes pigs, that just roam around--kind of neat. One year a group of Americans had some things stolen from their dorms while they were gone. Word got around the favela and the items were returned right away. The locals knew we were there to help them and they rounded up the kids/teens that took the stuff and made them give it back. As a touristy thing, we went to a cute coastal town and took a boat to a nearby beach and had a great meal at a restaurant on Copacabana beach that evening. Also, we went way up a mountain to the Christ Statue-Amazing!
My first thought when I got back was how much "stuff" we have in the U.S. especially our huge houses. It's been a few years since I sent there, but I still miss the people, the strong coffee, the stunning scenery, but I have to say it's good to be home!
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