Sunday, March 28, 2010

77 Surgeries Completed!

The team left to for the States early Saturday morning after a long, busy, but absolutely incredible week! All surgeries were free of charge and by the end, 77 surgeries had been completed. New outer ears were molded and made from rib cartlige, tumors removed, noses reconstructed to make breathing easier, tonsils were removed, non functioning inner ear bones were replaced with a prosethis, damaged eardrums were replaced with new reconstructed functioning eardrums, etc. Overall, hearing, breathing, and living were miracously made better by the incredible team we had this week at Mission of Hope. The team worked long hours but never once did we hear them complain! We were so blessed to get to know them and share in this ministry. I know God used this week to expand His Kingdom and receive glory! Praise Jesus!

This is some of the kitchen staff for the week. They provided 3 meals/day for the inpatients. Some of the staff were actually acountants, nurses, doctors, etc normally for Mission of Hope but they just wanted to help in anyway possible to serve the patients this week.

This is not the same girl as the picture below in the OR but this little girl had the same procedure done. You can barely make out her new left ear. She was pretty happy about the results!

This is a newly contructed outer ear. The patient was not born with an outer ear so it's a 2-3 step process to contruct a functioning ear. Last year, they took rib cartilige from the patient and made an ear and pasted it to her head right under the skin to enable blood circulation to begin. This year, they put another layer of skin on the ear and lifted the outer part out from under the skin. Next year, they will construct the hole and fix any inner ear problems so the new ear can totally function as a normal ear-pretty incredible huh?

This is our friend Phil, and ENT resident at UVa, that I had no clue would be down here. We had a great time with him this week and it was so fun to have a surprise Cville feel to the week!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mission of Hope

All this week we are helping out a surgery team down from the States (mainly Virginia) at Mission of Hope, a small hospital we have been working with since being in Santa Cruz. There are nurses, surgeons, translators, residents, as well as completely non-medical people there who just want to help and they make lunch, pray, clean toilets, color with kids, etc. It's really cool to see everyone work together for one common purpose. These surgeries are completely free and they just found out on Saturday they were being operated fresh and exciting for the patients. Here in Santa Cruz, there are obviously Bolivians but also a large population of Mennonites who speak low German (the husbands usually speak Spanish but not the rest of the family). It made it interesting as far as communicating because about 2 people at the clinic speak both English and low German-they were pretty critical players!

Today, we observed a ear canal being made from the patient's own ear fascia. He was born basically without an eardrum in one ear because of exposure to the Rubella vaccine and thus had no hearing capability in this ear since birth. Then, some years ago, he fell out of a truck on the other side of his head and lost hearing in that ear. After surgery, he would wake up and hear again! So cool! Yesterday, we saw a Mennonite lady get a prosthesis for one of the 3 ear bones within the inner ear. She also had not been able to hear in that ear for 20 years.

One of the ENT's told me while we were in the OR, the inner ear is so beautiful, such an example of how creative and expressive God was in creation. I thought, how "beautiful" can the inner ear be??? But then I looked in the microscope and she was so right-amazing-bright red with shiny white bones-just beautiful! No matter the race and ethnicity, Bolivian, American, Mennonite, African, everyone's inner ear is the designed that beautifully and intricately!

More to come on this week with pictures!
The Kidds

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Hey guys

We hope everyone is well and enjoying a bit of spring time temperatures. We arrived back in Santa Cruz Tuesday morning after traveling for 24 hours but finally think we are up to date on sleep now. We will blog on Nica and the Spring Break trip soon...but it was AWESOME!!!

We wanted to tell you the story of little Milenka. You might remember us blogging about getting away one weekend during Carnaval (Bolivia's Mardi Gras) and going to gorgeous Samiapata-maybe one of the prettiest places we have been on our entire trip! It was amazing with mountains surrounding us and great food (actually vegetarian options). A playground for us especially since we are living in Santa Cruz, the biggest city we have ever lived in. So we simply thought it was going to be a weekend to get away and bike, hike, read, and eat-God had other plans.

First of all, since it was such a big holiday and many people want to get away, most places were booked for months. Joe called the Tuesday before we left on Friday and there happened to be a room in a place 5 minutes from town (which was awesome to not hear the bands playing all night) and next to the best restaurant in town. We were a little nervous that when we got there our reserved room would not be reality but it was there waiting for us. The room was nothing to brag about but was clean (which is ALOT for Latin American hotels). We were enjoying ourselves and doing our thing when our 2nd day there we met the daughter-in-law of the owner of the hotel. She is American and comes for months at a time to do humanitarian work to little villages around Samiapata. What's crazy about this is her name is Julie and she is a pharmacist in the States! Small world! We got to talking and there is a little girl named Milenka from Samiapata who the whole town had come together to try to raise support for her to have heart surgery. Milenka, now 7 years old, was born with a hole in her heart. The doctors thought it might potentially grow together but after many tests and years of hope it is still there. We had noticed signs throughout town of a picture of Milenka but never stopped to read it. Her dad is a taxi driver and the mom stays home with her other 3 siblings. One doctor in Santa Cruz had quoted the surgery to be $9000, which in no way could her family afford this kind of money. Julie asked if we had any contacts in Santa Cruz for Milenka and we had just started working at Mission of Hope the week before we came. Crazy enough, Mission of Hope was started and by a lady in Charlottesville and is funded through donations in the US but staffed by Bolivians-really a cool place! Mission of Hope is a free hospital to the poor and the have the oppurtunity to hear the gospel while being healed physically.

We went back to Santa Cruz and talked to Mission of Hope as well as the lady in Charlottesville who said they could get teh surgery done for $7000 but we would have to raise the money ourselves-there were 2 other kids who needed this surgery as well that Mission of Hope was raising funds for at the time so they did not have extra money for Milenka. We were super bummed and emailed Julie and told her the news. She had been supportted many times from her church to do her projects and didn't think she could ask them again to help finicially as we felt the same with our friends and family. The lady from Cville told us..."Don't put God in box-this is possible to raise the funds!" Joe and I actually fasted the day after and prayed for our future and decisions entailing that but also for Milenka. That night, I checked my email and one of Julie's friends, who we actually met in Samiapata that weekend, was donating the entire amount for the surgery. INCREDIBLE! He was still going to write letters for support to reimburse himself but he wanted to follow through with this oppurtunity through Mission of Hope at the discounted price.

We now are about to call Milenka's dad and tell him the good news regarding the funding. We are not sure if he even knows the money is all there and the surgery can be performed. It's really exciting!

I would ask that you pray for Milenka and her family (her dad's name is Freddy) during this time of planning and putting details together as well as a healthy surgery and recovery. The family will have to travel to Cochabamba which is about a 8 hour trip for them for the surgery. It's a Belgium hospital and seems to be top notched. They have to travel there for the initail exams and consults and then probably will travel back for the surgery so just a lot of time on the road and nerves and hopes to tend to. I also ask that you pray for the continuted about of money to reimburse Julie's friend-he really took a step of faith and knew God would provide. He taught Joe and I so much through this action.

So, next time you go on "vacation" to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, be aware what the Lord has in store for you! His plans are perfect!

Take care!
Julie and Joe

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vamos a Nicaragua

This is Asher at his 3rd Bday party! He is the son of one the missionary couples here. Amy is American, David is Peruvian and Asher is from Ethiopia. He is so so so precious! In Latin America, the 1st Bday is HUGE and the parents have a big celebration for their child. This is the first year Asher has been with his family since being adopted so although he is 3 now, they threw him a big birthday party to celebrate Asher's life! It was wonderful!

Last weekend, we had an Ayoreo kid's camp at a missionary's house. These kids are WILD and usually do not mind anyone. They were waiting all day to swim and finally when given the oppurtunity, they stripped down (literally-a lot of the kids did not have bathing suits, but that did not stop them-they went naked) and dove in!

Tomorrow morning we head for Managua, Nicaragua (although we fly from Bolivia through Miami to get to Nicaragua...and there is a Starbucks in the Miami terminal!!!) to lead a group of college kids from UVa , JMU, VA Tech, and William and Mary. College kids are coming down during their Spring Break to serve orphans in 3 orphanages and 1 refugee camp. During the week, we take the orphans to waterparks, markets, have soccer tournaments, cookouts, etc to make them feel loved. For a lot of the college kids, this is their first time to experience poverty. It is a very powerful week for them in aspect. Joe has led these trips in the past and kids go back to the States changed. It is not a a "Christian" trip but we, as the leaders, have talks with the students at night about poverty, injustice, and loving these people and changing our worldview after seeing first hand how it is to live in poverty as orphans. We are praying that kids meet the Lord this week and that the orphans feel the love of Jesus. This is definetely a trip to love on kiddos in orphanages but it's also about changing college kids lives forever and sharing Christ with them. I guess we use a "backdoor effect" to share Jesus with them. Please pray for us as we travel and lead these kids next week. Pray that hearts will be sensitive and ready to accept the Truth.

After we lead the trip, we are heading an hour away back to Granada, Nicaragua to visit everyone from our trip last year. We are so pumped to see everyone and see what is new in their lives. Yenner, one of Joe's English students, had a baby over Christmas so we are pumped to meet her! We hope to visit Juan and Rosita, our friends from the hosptial, sweet little Natalie (our tortilla vendor), and the missionaries who are still there. when we return to Bolivia we only have 2 weeks left which is crazy! We are still planning on planting a garden for an Ayore village right in the city when we return as well as work with a group of surgeons from Charlottesville, VA at Mission of Hope. We are really pupmped about going and coming back!
Thanks for your prayers and support!
Julie and Joe

Monday, March 1, 2010

More pics from FUA

Some of the younger residents of FUA. For such a small village there are a ton of kids. they have a one room k-5 school in the village that the government of the nearest town has helped with, but after 5th grade, kids must travel an hour to the nearest town if they want to continue their education.

Working on the roof of the chruch/community center. We had all sorts of troubles during out two big workdays (power tools in the middle of the jungle?) but got a lot done on the building. It was a sweaty, rewarding experience.

A typical house in FUA, which might house multiple families. There are 8-10 of these houses in the village

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pictures from FUA

Here is an Ayore women sewing a traditional bag inside her house.

This is Toni in the middle aroudn the Ayore community during the medical clinic. I actually got to give a man a shot (in his bottom!). This was the first time in oh 5 years I have given a shot but it was awesome!

There is a specific type of beetle that eats the community's peppers plants before they can bloom and become peppers. This is a great source of food as well as money because they can take these pepppers to the market to sell but the beetles are eating them. Jason, on of the guys on our team, is a nature expert and knows EVERYTHING about plants, bugs, etc. He tried to research a pesticide for this problem but it would just destroy the whole plant so he came up with cutting a 1 liter coke bottle in half at the top and catching the beetle. We were trying to get the kids involoved in this activity (usually the kids and parents just sit and watch when we are doing work in their villages). It took some time but the kiddos where actually really excited about this and wanted to do it after lunch even. Hopefully they will continue to catch the beetles so the plant come produce the peppers.

Here we are after the long journey to San Jose-pretty orange with dirt caked in our hair! A shower felt of so nice!

Friday, February 26, 2010


Hey everyone

This weekend we had the awesome oppurtunity to go to FUA (Familia Unidad Ayoreo) as well as Santiago. We traveled with a group of 13 people total through some of the worst roads I have ever riden down. On the way there, the couple we were riding with did not have A/C so we had to roll our windows down to stay half way cool. The road is all red clay and dirt and we had 2 cars in front of us so the dust was flying everywhere. By the time we made it to San Jose, where FUA is located, Joe and I were both orange. It was caked on our faces, in our hair, on our clothes-it was pretty funny. I will put a picture up later.

While there, the guys worked so hard and almost finished a church in the FUA community. It was super hot and many electric tools broke so they had to work with hand saws to cut wood and pray over generators. This specific Ayoreo group seperated themselves from another village because they are Christians and wanted to have more support and freedom to worship. It still is made of mud houses, jungle surroundings, and a ridiculous amount of bugs but it does have a little different feel to it than other Ayoreo villages.

We also conducted a medical clinic for this village as well as another one closer into town during the weekend. Toni, one the of missionaries who is a MD, is absolutley incredible. She has such an amazing story and she truly is one of my heros, especially after this weekend seeing her interact with these people. She is American but grew up in Brazil with her family who were and are still missionaries. She went to the States for college and really wanted to train to be a doctor but wanted to serve Latin America after. She decided to study medicine in Boliva where she met her husband, who is Bolivian, and got married soon after. She knows the language, culture, and just has a heart for indigenious people.

We also traveled to Santiago to try and establish relationships with people there and see what the community needs as far as buliding projects and simply getting to know the Ayoreo villages there. There is a lot of history in this little bity town. About 50ish years ago, 5 missionaries were killed when they hiked into the jungle to first make contact with the Ayoreo Indians. These men really set the groundwork for many people after by making the first contact with these people. There is a memorial for these men on top on a cliff in Santiago with so much meaning. The book, "God planted 5 seeds," is about this situtaion if anyone is interested.

It was a great weekend overall besides the horrible road out and back. On the way home, the road was blocked because of protesters wanting more recogintion for their little town. Someone from about 10 hours away had to come and remove the blockade (which was a ton of sticks, logs, dirt mounds,etc)...Latin America! We had great fellowship with all the team members and great weather. We also got to hang out with a couple named Cesar and Mirta who are Bolivian and live in one of the Ayoreo villages closer to Santa Cruz. They are AMAZING!!! They are native, grew up in indegious culture, and again have a heart for Ayoreo people. Their support is about $10 US right now and they really don't know what they are going to do. I ask that you pray for them financially. They are such a HUGE part of this ministry and everywhre they go, they are showing God's love.

I will attach a few pictures of the weekend later.
Take care!
Julie and Joe