If someone invited you on a trip to a Central American country where poverty is pervasive and disease is rampant, you might be intrigued. If they said you’d have to pay your own way (about $4,000 for a couple), and you’d work a 14-16 hour day, you’d perhaps raise questioning eyebrows.

However, when they told you the trip would be a positive life-changing event, and your only regret would be that you couldn’t stay longer and work more hours, if you were Jerry or Lou Jean Studebaker, Latta teachers, you’d say “Where do I sign up?”

Jerry and Lou Jean were “back home” in New Bethel Church, Byng, Wednesday evening and, on request, Jerry gave an off-the-cuff report on their recent week-long trip to Nicaragua. He promised to return for a slide presentation later and is available to share their experience with other churches on request.

The trip was sponsored by the Baptist Medical and Dental Ministries International, and the Studebakers joined a 37-person team from First Baptist Church of Moore. The team included two doctors, two dentists, two pharmacists, seven nurses, seven evangelists and one veterinarian,. The rest of the team were assistants. Each year, 40 such teams go into Honduras or Nicaragua.

The project has been ongoing since 1964 when missionaries were successful in planting churches in these Central American countries. Though they were meeting spiritual needs, the missionaries were disturbed by the number of natives who were ill, of children and adults whose teeth were decaying, of pregnant women who had no prenatal care, and of people suffering from terminal cancer who did not have access to even an aspirin to alleviate pain. In 1974, the mission program was revamped to its present formula with medical and dental needs being addressed, though not at the expense of evangelistic efforts.

First Baptist Church, Moore, has been a long-time participant in the program, and it now budgets $20,000 annually to help with expenses. Seven other churches worked with the Moore group this year. Most medicines, dental, and hygiene items are donated, and it is estimated that value of work done by the teams exceeds half a million dollars annually.

Ordinarily, incoming teams set up clinics and spend four days of their allotted week, taking three days for transportation and setting up. This year, however, the team went farther into the mountains—a five-hour bus ride from the airport and thus were able to spend only three days in actual clinical practice.

Jerry, however, is still amazed at how much was accomplished in those three days.

Each day the team hit the ground running at 7 a.m. Patients had been waiting in line outside since 5 a.m. Many had walked 10 miles to reach the clinic. Admission tickets for treatment were handed out to the first 250 people.

Jerry and Lou Jean say the trip was life-changing for them. They were made aware of how wealthy the U.S. is by comparison, and of the great need that exists throughout Nicaragua and the Honduras. “There are so many remote villages that need help. We plan to go again next year if it is at all possible.”

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Several people have asked about Mildred Henson after I mentioned that she was recuperating from heart valve surgery at a re-hab facility in Shawnee. After struggling with an infection, she was moved to a nursing home in this area, and last week she suffered a fall which resulted in a broken hip and some fractured ribs. She underwent hip replacement surgery at Valley View Hospital and is currently a patient there.

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