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Pressing on…

We do continue our medical-pastoral journeys in the high poor Andes regions in Chuquisaca and Potosí. We in fact came just back to our Andes Mission Base (10.800 feet high) from a very exhausting trip in regions above 12.000 feet. Next month, we go on to the Amazon villages.

I don’t know if you remembered it well or if I even mentioned it but end last year my blood pressure went sky high (dangerous for hart failure) and I needed urgently some rest, medical examinations, and medicines for it. The chronic stress and altitude (together with some family history of heart problems) are the great cause according to the Cardiologist. It’s thanks to your prayers and thanks to God that I am doing well now taking the necessary medicines. Please pray for this!

It’s sad that last year our American and Belgian Reconstruction surgeons teams who came so many times in the nineties and in the beginning of the year 2.000 passed away last year. They came many times for periods of 2 weeks to help us in resolving any big surgical problems we faced and taught the local surgeons on the same time…. God bless their soul! This way “Face the Challenge – USA” and the private initiative of the Belgium team stopped their activities in Bolivia.

But we are also grateful that we were able to collect the necessary resources to buy many medicines to help the people in the regions we work to go witnessing in Word and Deed. Since more then 33 years, every month is a challenge to get the needed donations but God always provided.

First, we returned to the small mountain village of Poco-Poco as we wanted to follow up with Maria-Helena. Despite all the good care, she still suffers and has many pains when she is out of medicines. She cried and was so happy to see us again. Often, we see such an encounters of chronic sick people in the middle of nowhere. She showed also some improvement as for the first time, she could come out of bed in a wheelchair. We continue to pray for her and the many we need to leave behind trusting in God’s mercy.

We also visited a 20-year-old young man who suffers from a kind of Myotone Dystrophy. A congenital hereditary disease in which a doctor can do little. He is moving on a mattress constantly his head, can’t speak and can’t stay right up. As many people with disabilities in these regions, he was hidden on his mattress in a small adobe house on an altitude of about 11.000 feet high. Only a true miracle can save such a person. We ask your prayers for this young man as we will continue to pray for him too!

The young pastor was moved by our visit and asks the Lord to help him the further building of his church and the realisations of a medical post in his village. However, as I have often seen, the construction of the church is currently at a standstill due to a lack of financial resources. Also, few doctors feel called to stay in such a village. We always try to encourage young Bolivian doctors to not forget these villages, to pray and return because of the serious medical conditions these people encounter. The deeper we move into the Andes, the more elderly we see as they become gradually the most “needed” population. Almost all young people go to the big cities to study or work. There is simply no future in the regions we work. All too often, the elder people are left behind. The gratitude among them is therefore very great when we come to visit them, to cure them and to pray for them. Altogether, it remains quite a challenge to continue with this demanding ministry, logistically, medically and spiritually.

Poverty and disease will always exist… Yet we try to reach the many deserted areas step by step! This is our call! And we want to keep moving towards it! We don’t want to leave these people on their own. Given the decades of work, the degree of difficulty and the follow-up of the projects that were set up so many years ago, we don’t want to add new big projects. However – as has been said several times – we will continue to provide medical and spiritual help to isolated villages and we will also go back to show these people that they are not left behind. We have seen many blessings and great gratitude since we started these outreaches in 1990.

We want to ask for your prayers that we may keep going on. Especially the high altitude and the many villages that we want to reach with our medical and pastoral team demand a lot. Yet we remain positive in all circumstances, and we know that the Lord is able to rain down blessings on this work as we notice it on the moment. We thank Him that He always gives us the necessary strength and courage to continue.

A special event was a celebration at our Andes base. We could celebrate the 1st birthday of Andres, our last member of our Doctors On Mission family. It was a very special moment to be able to experience this too!

Furthermore, I currently have a visit from my son Bart who, at the age of 30, he is still specialising in various branches of reconstruction medicine in the USA. He is now studying with the help of “Operation Smile” and “Mercy Ships” to complete the last part of his long specialisation.

Also, many other Bolivian children – I knew when I was starting the ministry – started to study Medicine and are now very dedicated MD’s who help our ministry “Doctors On Mission” where they can. It’s a real joy for me to see this.

Despite the many needs and challenges, we continue and do not give up in this mission given to us. For me (Rik) it becomes more difficult to keep up the pace after decades of work in these areas (first time in Bolivia was in 1986). Still, I am grateful that – despite the many setbacks – Doctors On Mission continues to grow and flourish.

The thing that gives me the greatest joy is to see that this mission is becoming more and more a real Bolivian mission in which doctors and pastors voluntarily join to spread the Good News in Word and Deed in villages where they otherwise never should have gone. What a blessing!

Many greetings from Rik, my wife Carolien and our dedicated Doctors On Mission team.

PS: Many photos of the work can be seen on Facebook if you type in the name “RikCelie”

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