Originally created 07/17/04

Mission workers venture out to provide health care



Augustan Ashley Titter will be part of a 33-member team traveling to Honduras this month to build a kindergarten. She is following the advice of veteran mission workers to take sturdy work shoes, bottled water, a journal, a generous amount of bug spray and a snack food she likes. That means she's packing animal crackers, thanks to advice from members of Wesley United Methodist Church in Evans.

Experienced volunteers can ease the way for first-timers on short-term missions when they share their stories.

Keith Snider, of First Baptist of North Augusta, has served in Ethiopia and Guatemala. His advice: Prepare for the unexpected.

"It is never how you envisioned it or how you imagined. Be ready," he said.

Dr. Mike Havird has learned his way around a mission site. A dentist who attends First Baptist, he has served in several medical mission clinics, including one in Ethiopia in April.

Getting medications into a country requires some long-range planning. Dr. Havird's advice to first-timers is to get letters of recommendation from the native host to expedite customs and to have a formulary. Medical staffers also need to take copies of their credentials and licenses.

"You need to start the clinic with a prayer and ask the good Lord for guidance," he said. "You will be tested physically and mentally and philosophically. These are God's children, the same as you are, except you are extremely fortunate."

Volunteers also need a secure place to sleep. They should avoid ingesting raw fruits and vegetables or drinks with ice cubes. When people do drink, they should drink out of a bottle and use a straw, just in case someone's hand touched the top when opening it and contaminated it.

Dr. Havird also carries along IV fluids in case a team member becomes dehydrated.

Most trips last about 10 days, with roughly half the time devoted to traveling. Volunteers pay part or all of their expenses.

The Rev. Rod Blomfield began training mission teams in Australia in 1986 for service in countries closed to the preaching of the Gospel. The question then was: "Am I prepared to lay my life down now for Jesus?" he said.

"Secondly, do you have an up-to-date relationship with the Lord?" said the Rev. Blomfield, the associate pastor at Burns Memorial United Methodist Church. He has been to several countries on missions and says it is important to get to know a country's culture to avoid offending anyone.

"One trip, they cooked up dog and passed it around to us. If we didn't eat it, it would have offended them," the Rev. Blomfield said. "We showed we loved them by eating what they offered us. Be prepared to live with the people like the people live."

The Rev. Blomfield said that while preparing for a trip to Africa in 1990, the Lord impressed on this heart that he would raise someone to pray for him. During the trip, the minister contracted malaria but recovered.

He went from Africa to England, where a man approached him and surprised him by saying he knew him. The Rev. Blomfield protested; he hadn't been in England before. Nonetheless, the man told him the exact time he had had malaria, he said.

The man told him that "'God woke me up and told me to pray for you,'" the Rev. Blomfield said. "He saved my life."

Reach Virginia Norton at 823-3336 or virginia.norton@augustachronicle.com.