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Mission team helps at orthopedic hospital

Sequim Community Church Pastor Rick Dietzman wanted more.

He was concerned that the typical short-term mission trip was seen by participants as a vacation or a feel-good time, so when he set up a mission trip for a team to San Pedro Sula, Honduras, he worked to make sure it was worthwhile.

"I'm annoyed that people would go just for themselves. I wanted our trip to be as beneficial to everyone as possible," Dietzman said.

The team of nine went to Honduras from Feb. 28-March 8 through CURE, a international nonprofit agency that brings surgeons and doctors to aid children and families medically and spiritually.

The group stayed at a children's orthopedic hospital where the members saw and met children with clubfeet and other orthopedic problems that were being treated and children who had undergone treatment.

The mission team had two goals: to play and comfort children in the hospital and to go into villages where CURE had helped children, to see and speak with the residents.

"We didn't go there to convert people to our church but to talk with them and take their beliefs to a deeper level," Dietzman said.

"The majority of the people in Honduras are Roman Catholic, so for us the trip wasn't whether they were Catholic or Protestant. It was about having Jesus in your heart," said team member Chris Wiswell.

The mission team would split up and go into the villages with an interpreter and local pastor or church member.

Dietzman said about half the families he spoke with were receptive.

"I didn't want to come across as an overconfident American," Dietzman said.

The mission team handed out Bibles, comic books with biblical stories and solar panel radios that played sermons in Spanish. If people were receptive to the discussions about God and Christianity, then they would use a device called an "Evangi-cube," which folds into itself detailing the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Team member Chet Burley said the people were skeptical at first but at the end of the presentation people's skepticism went away.

"The beauty of it was that it is visual. People's eyes were glued to it," Burley said of the Evangi-cube.

"The goal was to help people know what it means to be a Christian. It creates a focus on what's important, which is that they have a relationship with God," Dietzman said.

The medical aspect of being in a hospital meshed well with the spiritual for team members as it opened their eyes to international medicine.

Team member Alicia Welch watched an operation where surgeons corrected a little girl's severely bowed legs. She also encountered different levels of need. One little girl fell out of a tree and broke her leg. Since medical attention is scarce, the mother had to reset the bone herself.

When Welch went into a village, a woman took her to a crippled 90-year-old woman who couldn't feel her feet or keep food in her stomach.

"She called me an 'angel from God' and I was 'Heaven sent,'" Welch said.

The daughter of the 90-year-old asked Welch to take her to the hospital. Welch was devastated that she couldn't help but she sent an orthopedic surgeon back to help.

"It made me question my faith briefly. But what I figure is that God is leading me on a path. I may not be able to help this woman now, but I can help others later. God isn't done with me yet."

Welch plans on going to nursing school.

Dietzman said the group was invited to come back. He plans on leading another group next year. Welch wants to go with a medical team as early as this summer.

The team was Rick Dietzman; sisters Alicia Welch and Erica Brandelius; Bob and Chris Wiswell; Chet Burley; Doug and Judy Davidson, an orthopedic surgeon and anesthesiologist; and Amber Arnold, a pre-medical student from Illinois.

Each leg or foot operation costs $1,000 but the hospital charges its patients only $2.50. This keeps the operation affordable for parents who are concerned about receiving charity.

The hospital opened Jan. 5 and in two months has seen 880 patients and performed 63 operations. All money given to Cure Honduras goes to Cure Honduras. There are no administration fees charged by the U.S. office.

Sequim Community Church is raising funds for a insect screen to go around the dining area at the children's hospital.



Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.





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