Editor’s Note: Elevation Outreach director Kyle Ferlic is on assignment in Nicaragua this week with our outreach partner Bless Back Worldwide. What follows is the first of his journal entries from the field.
KYLE FERLIC, JOURNAL ENTRY 2/16/14
If you’ve never been to Central America, specifically Nicaragua, the food is delicious. Fried plantains, fresh pineapple, seasoned rice, and chargrilled chicken have all been on the menu over the last two nights, but I doubt that it will be the end of the delicacies.
Though the food is spectacular, foreigners have to be careful. When you arrive in Nicaragua from places like North America, you’ll often come prepared with medicine like Pepto Bismol and Immodium, conditioning (even preventatively) for a cataclysmic digestive event. It’s not that the food isn’t great, it’s more that we just don’t have the enzymes in our stomachs to work through some of their food. So as much as it seems right at first glance, you know that something won’t sit properly.
The current situation in Nicaragua is similar: a tension of classes and peoples, at least to the external eye. Traveling through the capital and cities like Granada (the oldest in Latin America), you’ll see brightly colored buildings and bustling crowds. Buildings look healthy, even if not constructed according to American building codes. But once you get in the lesser-traveled “barrios” (or districts) around the cities, the poverty level skyrockets.
Families are living in 20×20 tin-boxes with dirt floors. Often, the structure will house multiple family members – but as far as my observation went, I rarely saw a number of beds to represent the number of inhabitants. Children frequent the streets, many with smiles, but many with underlying health issues. Diabetes, worms, hypertension and skin issues were a few of the ailments that our team saw in the three hours of making house calls. House calls are when a team of doctors and non-medical staff set up a mobile pharmacy and take their medical practice to their patients home, walking from one house to the next to treat patients.
The house calls were done in Granada and I tell you about the conditions of the people there for one reason. I’m writing about it to acclaim the work of Bless Back Worldwide, the organization that I’m serving with, for doing what’s in their power to create lasting change.
So often, the illnesses treated by the house calls will subside for a time and come right back. Eric Miller, who serves on their board, is well aware of the struggle between “putting a band-aid” on medical ailments and actually helping the ailments go away. Bless Back understands that so many short-term mission trips serve a dual purpose: to help people that are in crisis, as well as to give the volunteers a sense of purpose. Bless Back is determined to make it about solving the crisis, not masking it.
The theme actually overlays much of the trip, as Bless Back had volunteers read “When Healthcare Hurts” to prepare for their time in Nicaragua. It talks about the need to create a system of ownership, both for the people in the community and for those helping, in order to build habits and paradigms that will move everyone toward health. Truly sustainable health.
So why preface the details of my first day and a half with all that? It’s because I’m appreciative of the effort that both Bless Back Worldwide and Elevation Church have put into moving toward a methodology of sustainable health here in Nicaragua. They’ve jointly done that by building a medical facility on the property at which I’m staying, Los Rayos de Esperanza, and by pursuing the community’s trust at any cost – to convince them that we’re here for good.
It reminds me much of a young Elevation Church, when Pastor Steven Furtick first had the vision for outreach. He said (and still reminds us today): “we want the city of Charlotte to be sad at our funeral. We want people to know that we’re here to help and here to stay.”
Back to Nicaragua: winding down here (it’s the end of the night), I wanted to walk through some of the amazing things we’ve had the opportunity to be a part of. I’ll talk a little bit more about the incredible team and leaders that have made Bless Back Worldwide stand out in a later journal entry
Since we’ve landed on the ground, we’ve:
Unpacked ~48 duffle bags worth of medical equipment to fill the medical facility
Organized the medical equipment in the facility to be ready for opening day tomorrow
Went to church in Diriomo, where we worshipped in Spanish/English and fed the Sunday School children lunch
Made house calls (described above) in Granada for sick individuals in the barrios
Conducted a health fair (for respiratory health, oral hygiene, hydration habits and general hygiene) at a hotel in Granada
I love the work ethic that the team and leaders have. Blessed by their attitudes and general willingness to help – can’t wait to describe more soon!