The idea of a STCH Ministries medical mission trip over spring break to the Dominican Republic originated in the hearts of a few Baylor University students early in the fall of 2018. They ranged from freshman to seniors and their majors varied—neuroscience, medical humanities, health sciences, biochemistry and others. Their ultimate goal upon graduation was a career as a Physician Assistant (PA). 17 students (from Arizona, Colorado, California, Oklahoma, and Texas) quickly paid their deposits and filled out their applications. Their enthusiasm and perseverance made up for what they lacked in experience.
TRIP LEADER, Anna Kemp, reflected, “I knew I wanted to have a medical mission trip, but at times it was hard not to be anxious. None of the group were close friends, and I was inexperienced on how to organize and lead a trip like this. What can we do at a clinic with no Spanish and little clinical experience? I would pray, and then trust and then doubt all over again. The process was a big faith-builder for me. I had to exercise my faith-muscle!”
In the Dominican Republic, Dr. Francisco Paredes, STCH Ministries staff doctor, began preparations for logistics of food, transportation, pharmacy help, children’s ministry volunteers, and translators which every medical clinic requires. For the group of Baylor students, with limited clinical experience, how could he plan clinics in which both the students and patients would benefit? Michelle Gambrel, a licensed PA, heard about the trip through her daughter who was a participant and decided to go along. Another doctor, Dr. Rebecca Georges from San Antonio, agreed to join the team. Dr. Georges also agreed to present two lectures on relevant medical topics to enhance the students’ learning experience.
As Dr. Francisco continued to plan for the clinics, he knew he would need additional experienced medical professionals for this group. Then he remembered Jammal. Jammal was a faithful Christian in the Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana (IBQ). As an outstanding high school student, he had been awarded a full scholarship to medical school there in the Dominican Republic. Jammal also spent two summers in the United States to learn English. His ability to communicate in English would be crucial for this unique opportunity. Having recently graduated from medical school, he was treating patients at a local hospital. With Jammal’s help, Dr. Francisco recruited six additional English-speaking Dominican doctors to also donate their time for a week of medical clinics.
The clinics were held in school facilities located in impoverished neighborhoods and villages. Closed for the day to allow medical needs to be met, they converted the classrooms into makeshift doctor’s offices. Each team included a doctor, two Baylor students accompanied by a translator as needed. The team sat behind a table laden with a blood pressure machine, a stethoscope, intake forms and prescription forms. More chairs for the patients on the other side of the table formed the consultation setting.
“Everyone took a chance on us and trusted God that good things would happen,” reflected Ella Heintz from Seabrook, Texas. God answered! In three days of medical clinics, in different communities, they saw over 400 patients. They heard their ailments and together the team of translator, doctor and students diagnosed and prescribed treatment with compassion. Available medicines were provided. Then, “How can we pray for you today?” a team member asked. Bowing their heads, sometimes holding hands, the team voiced a prayer of blessing over the patients’ needs and families. One student shared, “I experienced the reality of God’s kingdom extending all the way from a Baylor classroom to a makeshift clinic in a poverty setting in another country.”
At the end of the week, several other Baylor students shared their impressions.
“It was an incredible experience to be able to work alongside the Dominican doctors all week. Not only did we learn from them while working with patients in the clinics, but we built relationships with them throughout the week. (It) opened my eyes to what it means to serve wholeheartedly under one God.” Miranda Swanberg, sophomore, Health Science and Biochemistry, Round Rock, Texas.
Craig Russell, graduating senior who had already been accepted to PA school, reported, “We shared experiences together and learned from each other’s cultural differences, respecting those differences all along the way. At the free medical clinics that we set up at the schools, the doctors were immensely helpful in explaining to us their mentalities in terms of why they made certain decisions or diagnoses regarding the patients.”
Another student, Olivia Azzopardi, commented that she was impacted by “experiencing the sheer love and devotion for God from a different cultural standpoint! The experience solidified the fact for us that we all serve one God, and have one common purpose in life. I was so blessed to be able to create friendships with them over our common center of love.”
As an experienced PA, Michelle Gambrel shared from her perspective, “Seeing Baylor students pursuing a PA profession and who want to use it for God’s glory was a rewarding experience for me. It made me excited for the future of the PA profession. It also seemed to affect the students, giving them a renewed sense of God’s presence in their lives.”
Every participant concurred that the medical missions experience especially confirmed their sense of calling to a medical profession. “We were serving others, and watching God work.” In the reactions of the team, Anna Kemp sensed God had fulfilled her desire as she began plans for the mission week, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” (II Corinthians 4:5)
Spring Break, 2019—a moment in time. Time to re-set priorities, slow down the pace of life enough to hear God, and see the needs of others. Time to strengthen relationships, and develop new relationships with Christian brothers and sisters 2000 miles away. A sacrifice of time and resources in order to serve others. For each student and their families back home, it required a significant step of faith. We hope these moments will live on in each student’s heart, and produce a rich harvest of faith and service to others as God continues to lead them in their journey of life.