A Place to Gather

Today began a little later as we headed to La Red to set up a clinic just after the service at a local church. Church service is held under an outdoor structure with several trees, greenery, and a playground for the kids to play. We began to setup clinic stations while they set up chairs, guitars, and a drum set for the service. You could already feel the energy in the area as people began to arrive, and children ran around playing and eating snacks handed out in baggies by a vendor right in the church area. The service began with the pastor, Chamba, inviting the congregation to stand, and an energetic Christian band began to play. I looked over and could not miss a young mother sitting, eyes closed, singing along to the hymn, while holding her sleeping baby. Around the church area, church goers were clapping to the beat, singing along, and feeling the music and the spirit of the gathering.

The service was made even more special by Chamba, who is clearly a respected member of the community and a humble leader of this church. Preaching barefoot and in board shorts, Chamba reminded his congregation (seamlessly, simultaneously in Spanish and English) that, while our gut reaction in life is often to feed our ego by doing what suits us, as Christians, our responsibility is to serve God by serving and loving each other. The message was simple but beautiful; down to earth, but inspiring.

As clinic started, I was blessed to have an additional helper at the pharmacy. Little Betzi made herself comfortable by my side early in the day, then moved to my lap as I counted out vitamins and various medications. As I instructed families on the providers orders, she would sit and play with the bottles and continuously interrupt Abril, our interpreter, and me. Luckily, she was happy to take on the role of official Extra Mile Pediatrics hand sanitizer, and began making rounds to offer sanitizer to the volunteers and interpreters.

Even though many families had to wait for over 4 hours, the community at La Red was so kind and patient, and seemed to embrace the time together in what seemed to truly be a church home to them. We arrived grateful to be welcomed as visitors in their home and leaving feeling a little more like members of their extended church family.

Mary Otero, Pediatric Nurse