Life is harsh for children living in poverty. For 10-year-old Danilsa, life was about to get a whole lot worse when an out-of-control vehicle exploded into their palm-board dwelling and crushed her leg. Isolated in the tiny village of Hatillo, Dominican Republic, medical help was limited. Injuries of this kind commonly resulted in amputation.
Dr. Francisco Paredes understands this kind of poverty. Born in a public hospital, he lived in a wooden house with dirt floors—two rooms, a bedroom, a kitchen and an outhouse. He remembers, “We had three beds—one for my parents, one for the three boys and a small twin for my sister. From the time I was eight-years-old, I walked five-times the length of a football field (500 meters) to get water every day. I waited in a line with my mom and dad, filled 20 one-gallon buckets, then carried them home two-by-two another 500 meters. All of this for me was a normal and happy life.”
Life changed drastically when Francisco’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. During the long process of her illness, a man from the Baptist church (IBQ), came to visit and pray for her. They began to attend church, where Francisco and his mom accepted Christ, followed by the rest of the family within a few years. Francisco was chosen for a Samuel’s Fund sponsorship. Church members supported the family in many ways, and even poured a cement floor for them. In spite of surgery, and chemotherapy, his mother passed away. Life became increasingly difficult as Francisco became caregiver for his younger siblings. Hunger frequently stalked them. He continued to attend school and church. He took English classes and dreamed of becoming a doctor, an impossibility for a poor child. Resigned to life as a day laborer, he began to work installing cables after high school graduation.
However, God had a different plan for Francisco’s life. As David affirmed in Psalm 138, “The Lord will work out His plans for my life.” Through a series of miracles, he qualified for a government scholarship to study medicine in Cuba. He endured many hardships, including hunger, but ultimately graduated and was licensed as a doctor.
About the same time, the Bravo grocery corporation gifted a medical van to STCH Ministries equipped with state-of-the-art ultrasound. Dr. Francisco became Medical Director for STCH Ministries to impact the abortion rate, improve maternity outcomes, and provide medical care for our Samuel’s Fund sponsored children and families. The need grew and spread to orphanages, Christian schools and churches. In addition to the family of faith, the clinics provided an outreach into the communities. Medical care and medications, given without cost, introduced many to the grace of God offered freely through Christ’s sacrifice.
When the pandemic began, medical needs exploded. Mired in poverty, many had no options for medical care. However, God, who sees the future as clearly as the past, led Dr. Francisco to add Dr. Analiel Pichardo to the medical staff in October of 2018.When Manuel Castillo (Alex), sponsored by the CLEP program, graduated from medical school he also began to give back to the ministry. With the addition of Pedro, a former taxi driver, to chauffeur the van, and share the Gospel with waiting patients, the team responded to the overwhelming medical needs. The combination of love, skillful medical care, prayer and the Gospel message lived out in word and practice was life-changing and life-saving.
Cynthia Sosa is a pastor’s wife. She shared, “For me personally, this ministry has been a great blessing in the tutoring room, in the preschool, in the Church and in this community. When I got sick with COVID-19 my pressure had risen, and thanks to God, I could receive the medication. It is my prayer that the Lord will continue to bless this beautiful ministry in the love of Christ.”
Angeline added, “The medical clinic teaches me every day that God’s love for me and my family is great. My daughter even told me that she wants to be a doctor because of how the doctor is with her. May God continue to bless the doctor and everyone in the South Texas ministry who makes this possible.”
Pastor Ruben Diaz shared, “The medical clinic has been a big blessing to our ministry. We did a medical clinic in a poor area where we do ministry, called Los Humildes. That opened the doors to many homes where we can now go and share the Gospel.”
Bianela was especially grateful. She acknowledged that only God gives life, but recounts that when she brought her father to this medical clinic, I found out he was suffering from very high blood pressure. “After God, you are saving lives.”
Although the increased needs are great for medication funding, and volunteer medical help from the United States, a person’s ability to pay does not determine their access to this ministry—an inviolable STCH Ministries principle. We have been blessed by God’s provision through generous donors and trust God will continue to provide every need. As the number of patients increase, so have the costs of medication and service delivery. In 2018 the average medication cost per patient was $6.33. In 2021, the cost increased to $7.66. Although that doesn’t seem like a big difference, it means a 20% increase per patient. Just in the last 6 months, the purchase price of medications has increased 39%. Another complicating factor is the lowered number of mission teams who frequently bring donations of over-the-counter medicine and vitamins—both expensive in this culture.
Danilsa was only ten-years-old when the accident occurred on October 30, 2017. Rushed to the only near-by facility, she spent 17 days there. She was then released to go home with a partial cast, an open wound and a 15-day follow-up appointment. Since she was a sponsored child, Dr. Francisco was monitoring her situation and he became concerned. Experienced in the inadequate medical treatment available to poverty-level patients, he decided to take her for more x-rays. The x-ray proved what he had suspected—the bones were never set properly, and he also feared infection. When Dr. Francisco showed the x-ray to an orthopedic doctor at the Hugo Mendoza Pediatric Hospital in Santo Domingo, he was told that since this case did not qualify as an emergency, according to protocol, it must be treated via consult. Unfortunately, they were full until next year.
Using personal connections that he had developed, Dr. Francisco pursued help from other doctors. He remembers, “After some negotiation we were put on the consult schedule for Tuesday. However, the doctor could only see 10 patients per day and already had 22 on the schedule. We were given number 23. I knew that the patients would be seen in the order of arrival. The next morning, I left home at 3 am, drove to Hatillo, picked up Danilsa at 4 am, and arrived at the hospital by 5:30. We were first in line!”
The doctor diagnosed a life-threatening infection, cleaned the wound properly, removing a significant amount of infection, which already had a disagreeable odor. Dr. Francisco immediately purchased the correct antibiotic. For the next 2 months, Dr. Francisco would carry Danilsa back to this hospital every two days to clean and inspect the wound until the infection was gone. Today, Danilsa is an active, cheerful teenager. Faithful in church, performing well at school, her mother reports she is helpful and compassionate—a blessing to many.
Dr. Francisco and Danilsa are only two of the countless children who are born into poverty, live in isolated neighborhoods on one of the small islands in the Caribbean Sea. To the outside world they appear to have no special merit or value. But God created them in His image on purpose, for His purpose. “God will work out His plans for my life,” the psalmist affirmed. God’s plans for these children, and many more, involve STCH Ministries. His love moves the hands and feet of our staff, and awakens the compassion of generous donors—who give boys like Francisco, and little girls like Danilsa, hope and a future. This incomprehensible God gives incalculable value to those He created in His image. His un-understandable love carried Christ to a barn, and then to a cross, to accomplish His plans for our redemption. Knowing all of this, why should we marvel at the lengths to which God will go to work out His plans for our lives?