Thanksgiving. A time to celebrate the bounty of the land, a time for families to…
Grace in difficult days…
This is Elsa, who is grateful to be able to help pull together the thoughts of Rik Celie with his amazing and so very important Doctors on Mission. The words, feelings, and experiences are all his. I am adding my request to his: if you can, please help. I have given to Rik and his Doctors on Mission for a number of years, a monthly donation. What more can I do, I asked myself. I have no calling to be a doctor, or go work in the Andes or the jungle. I do have a lifelong calling to help. I don’t know your calling. Maybe, like me, you have a mission to do what you can – like give money where it is so needed. Please do give, and also please share this message. There is a subscribe button at the bottom, so people can stay updated. I would love to see many more people support Rik and his amazing life-work, Doctors on Mission, which is meant to be also his legacy to the world, continuing to grow long after his life. I will close with the donation links. I am helping Rik (no cost) as he is too busy helping others. Right now he is in the Bolivian Andes and the Bolivian Amazon and wants to get the word out before Thanksgiving Day.
Now it is Rik’s turn, starting from a few short letters he wrote to me:
We are alive, which sometimes is hard to believe, given the severe symptoms suffered by ourselves and most of the team when we came out of the Amazon six months ago. Thank God that, after our work there, we were able to leave these dangerous places. We even became healthy again and could return to Bolivia after treatment in the summer of 2023.
But enough for now about all our symptoms. We know why we do what we do. We help as much as we can.
As you know already, the pandemic hit South America with hundreds of thousands of deaths. In Bolivia, where we were, many doctors died. It was a disaster.
It stuck just after a big personal loss, the early death of one of my closest friends, the Bolivian doctor, “Dr. Ino,” who was becoming the leader of Doctors On Mission. I worked with him for more then 28 years. He died at the age of 52 because of the “Chagas” disease that affects 20 million people in the Andes. As a doctor I knew what the likely outcome was, because for “Chagas” there is no cure available after decades and decades, because this disease is not known worldwide or given attention by major researchers.
The loss of Dr Ino was a double loss – not just a personal loss but a huge blow for Doctors on Mission. I hope to be able to continue working in Bolivia at least until I am 70. I am now almost 63 and already overcame many life-threatening diseases. Still, the burning desire to help those in great need is enormous. And Doctors on Mission is meant to continue and keep growing. There is so much need, and this mission does so much good for the poorest of the poor where no health care is available.
We came just now from our medical work (no charge to anyone) to our Andes Base (11,000 feet high).
I am working at too high an altitude (till 12,000 feet) with meetings, repairing defects of the ambulances, looking for medicines, looking to help my local Doctor team members – all things that a normal MD doesn’t need to do. And on top of it, I need to pay all the people myself as they come from these very poor regions and finished their studies with huge debts. Also, many already have a young family as birth control doesn’t exist in these regions and people marry in their early 20’s.
May I say that medicines, surgeries, all the time consulting for free patients, etc., are paid thanks to you. I really have so many thanks for donations from people like you. Best for me is monthly donations, as then I can plan.
You must believe me, there are not many people like you …. Most of the time, I don’t know how to go forward but somehow what we started (and this was a lot) 33 years ago, is continuing despite a communist regime that does nothing but hinder us.
Tomorrow (yes on a Sunday), we need to continue and will leave for the work in the Bolivian Amazon because of the great need – wild fires, etc.
Now I need to go to sleep as we need to further prepare this next outreach by looking for cheap medicines, repairing our vehicle and having meetings to know for sure where the need is greatest, where there is an epidemic or where there are many tropical diseases or even normal diseases like throat pains that become life-threatening pneumonias or parasite diseases. (Every child has an average of 400% parasites and every parasite stands for at least 50.000 eggs, larvae, mature parasites, etc., that eventually leads to total dehydration.)
I still see up to a 100 patients a day, or more when I go with my medical teams. I know it sounds unbelievable, and I/we can’t do this every day. The days are going so fast… Needs are overwhelming… biggest concerns are always how to buy the medicines…
Tonight I want to say thank you. We could not do this work without you.
My passion, always, is to help people, to help the poorest of the poor. That was my dream, even as a boy. The one thing that pressed me the most was an article I wrote that every day more then 30,000 children die from just 5 easily preventable diseases That is more than 8 million children under 5 every year die because there is no doctor to help them. In fact, now they are talking about 5.2 million children under 5 years who die each year from just 5 EASILY PREVENTABLE DISEASES if you google it.
I am thinking back to being 14. I got a world globe, spun it around and promised myself that I would spend a whole year working in the country where my finger pointed to. It was BOLIVIA! So later, while other of my fellow medical students took USA, England, Spain, etc., I started with this country I had hardly heard of. It’s in the middle of South America without oceans or seas around. I wanted to bring social justice not with arms like Che Guevara but through good deeds.
I did not know, as a boy, how much I would need a community of people – like you – who cared as much as I did.
I am so thankful that you care. You care to listen. you care about these people, and you also care to be generous, to give. Only this makes our work possible.
Some of you are strong Christians and your giving comes from that root, perhaps most from the example of Jesus. Some of you are non-Christian humanitarians and you give just as generously, with not only words but deeds. All of you who give are showing your heart with your good deeds. Sooo necessary. You have a heart for the work I am doing. I am so grateful to all of you.
Some of you have very little time. I have so much more to share, but if you have no more time, here are donation links:
If you can give me a little more time, I wish I could start from childhood but there is a lack of time for you to read and for me to write.
If there is one big miracle, it is that I am still alive after having helped (though this was forbidden) the minorities in North Pakistan (in Peshawar, etc.) when the Taliban and Al Qaeda were ruling. The danger was that they would kill us – and indeed they did kill many doctors including a good Norwegian friend and colleague. Another miracle happened with an earthquake in Haiti (Jan. 2010), where there were about 250,000 dead, and 800,000 badly were wounded. That time, all the people died in the tiny house just next to the place where I was sleeping, and I survived with a minimum of injuries.
But please have a look at www.DoctorsOnMission.org. I think seriously that we are sometimes too scared to ask for money and it’s even not for me but for this 501 C3 Medical Mission, that I myself created. The full 100% of all donations is forwarded to Doctors On Mission, as all who help do this on a volunteer basis.
A big problem is that our mission is so much more costly now, after 3 decades of developing. Sometimes it seems that many people do not understand how difficult it is to maintain this mission in the poorest regions of the poorest country in South America.
I always thought that, if I chose the poorest regions in the poorest countries, I could make a difference, especially if I could multiply myself with local doctors, dentists, etc. It was THE reason why I started my Medical Studies, Tropical Disease Studies and some Surgery.
Money is the problem in these countries. There is great motivation from the doctors, dentists and nurses who come from these regions. In the first picture, in the middle is my good friend Dr Ino, with Dr Oscar and Dr Esther.
There is so much more to say about all I have experienced but time is too short to even do an attempt after 33 years serving the poor. First, an 8-month Internship in 1986 in the hospitals for poor children in Bolivia. Then a gap until 1990. From then on, I have been working here.
As many of you know, a big change has happened with my health.
I have had to go to Belgium for my health. I can’t stay away, as I used to, for 4 years before returning to Belgium. I have gotten so many diseases. My health situation doesn’t allow me anymore to do all the time the heavy work I used to do. Since the end of the summer, when I – thank God – was healed again, my medical team has been pleading with me to come back to the Amazon, to go to several villages where no MD had been in years. On top of everything, a Dengue epidemic had broken out. This can be very dangerous as you can bleed to death without the proper care, certainly if you already had it like me. It increases by a large amount the risk of dying from a second infection brought by a mosquito.
Very important. Right now, we are looking hard for a new Toyota Landcruiser Ambulance.
The only two that still function of the 5 we got are now 17 years old. The repairs once we return from these muddy gravel roads in the inland are extremely costly.
These vehicles along with my 35-year-old “Hospital Truck” have become completely worn out.
For a new ambulance, we need about 50.000 US$.
The biggest problem again is that we don’t have enough sponsorship – enough money – to help all the people in urgent need, let alone to buy an ambulance. If you have 10 more doctors, you have 10 times more patients and need 10 times more medicines! We go somewhere – there are hundreds of people.
It’s difficult to estimate the monthly costs for purchasing medication, supporting our financially-poor doctors, dentists, nurses and young pastors who come from these regions and have graduated with large debts. At the same time, they are our best guides.
Then, the people whom we serve can’t give even a cent for their medical visits, medicines, or surgeries.
I deeply believe that Doctors on Mission will last as long as there are funds enough. If Doctors on Mission ever stops, it will certainly not be due to our local doctors who are very enthusiastic to go on! Even those who have left Doctors on Mission have become witnesses in other organizations or hospitals where they are working.
We need to make sure that Doctors on Mission can move forward as a new generation of local doctors, dentists, nurses and pastors are willing to follow the example we set forth.
We hope that we can continue to count on your prayers and financial contributions. This is so important for the lives of so many small children, weakened young women and elderly people. With Doctors on Mission, we are talking about probably hundreds of thousands (100,000’s) of lives over the course of 33 years. We have lost count of the number of people we have helped. Keeping count became too much. But I remember that in one year, when we were keeping count, we treated more then 23,000 people.
Thank you for all your care and love, all your prayers as well as your vital financial contributions. These donations are essential to so many lives. Thank you for taking Doctors On Mission into your heart and making it part of your lives!
Wishing you all a great Thanksgiving!!!
Many blessings and warm loving wishes from from me (Rik), my wife Carolien and the whole team – doctors, dentists and nurses – from Doctors on Mission – as well as the many people whose lives you have touched.
With much gratitude for your care and your support from the deepest of our hearts.
PS. This is Elsa, with closing thoughts. I have followed Dr. Rik for many years, given to his mission on a monthly basis, which he most desires because of the continuous needs. I ask you to please donate to him and his medical mission!