Pakistan Medical Mission
Dr. Sam Cariaga
When Brother Chito Cusi (M.A.R.C.H. President) and Miss
Helen Caranza (Mission Coordinator) informed me of the Pakistan
mission to help the earthquake victims, at first I was a
little bit hesitant because it is a Muslim country and its
negative impression to the outside world. Besides, I already
promised my wife to stay put since Im always out
of the country from the time the Asian tsunami happened.
My wife got even more worried when we were asked to fill
up our life insurance for the first time in the history
of M.A.R.C.H. A husband of a doctor asked Miss Helen for
assurance if this mission will be safe but she could not
assure him. The only assurance that she could say is by
having faith and trust in God. Because of these uncertainties,
three doctors back out at the last minute although most
of them really wants to join us.
Pakistan mission is the hardest among the rest of our missions
because it was a long trip (18 hrs) by bus and plane, stayed
in a tent for two weeks enduring the cold weather and the
dangerous daily trip to the mountains. When we arrived in
Karachi for a stop over, we were tensed and nervous because
the queues which were lined up mostly by Pakistani men with
their Muslim attire were looking at us especially at our
ladies. Because of the recent Mcdonalds bombing the day
before we arrived , we decided to stay and slept for a few
hours inside Karachi airport and wait for a connecting flight
to Islamabad where we were met by Sister Dilnawaz and her
father Asghar Ali who is the Preacher in Lahore (who coordinated
for our stay in Balakot and accompanied us for one week)
and a Pakistani Muslim(We called him Uncle Asfaq a retired
air force man) who unselfishly volunteered his service and
protected us for the entire mission.
The weather in Pakistan was new to us (2-5C), we need to
wear three layers of clothings and we took a bathe every
other or every two days, use one set of dress for two days
because the water is so cold and we could not wash our laundry.
The camp where we stayed is run by SAHARA for life, a Muslim
NGO founded by a famous Pakistani singer who provided for
our tents, beddings and meals. After a week of eating spicy
Pakistani food and having stomach problems, we decided to
cook our own meals and started taking medicines that is
abundantly supplied in the camp.
Everyday we were catered by the camps ambulance to
the mountains of Karakoram near Kashmir border reaching
up to 72,000 feet and at one point, we need to climbed in
a steep mountain to reach a camp because of a road landslide.
It was a scary climbing experience especially to our ladies
and we promised not to do it again. As we went back to our
camp in Balakot, we started to have a joke on our life insurance
and sing some songs like when we all get to heaven,
and now the end is near and other songs that
made us calm. Even in the camp as we arrived, female patients
were waiting for our lady doctors especially Dr. Josie Lopez
who is an OB-Gyne as they dont want to be examined
by male doctors. Including in our waiting list in the camp
were spinal cord injuries, post operative orthopedic patients,
cooks and camp manager waiting for Dr. Shem Sameon (as they
called him) our Physical therapist for a relaxing therapeutic
massage. Everyday we treated an average of 80 patients,
mostly nomads who are not educated about proper hygiene.
You can see children near our camp who wear the same clothing
from the time we arrived until the time we leaved. A small
talk with them and a lollypop made from the Philippines
made a glow on their small cute dirty faces.
As we leave the Muslim camp, we made a different impression
on our friendly Pakistani people that we are Christians
who are willing to help in every small way that we can and
showed to them the spirit of Christianity . Although we
are prohibited to evangelize, we sang songs of praises at
the top of our voices during our daily morning and evening
devotionals inside our tents and everyday on our way to
the mountains. Yes, they were amazed of our compassion,
humility and dedication even to the point of endangering
our lives to serve the people who were affected by this
awesome destruction. But God is also showing us how blessed
we are compared to those who suffered from this massive
earthquake, who lost members of their families, their houses,
their livelihood and suffer the effects of the cold weather
for months. (Our Pakistani friend informed us that the snow
was 7 inches deep in our camp when we leaved Pakistan).
I only pity the Christians who were left there consisting
of 3% of the entire population who were subjected from now
and then with intimidation and harassment. Brethren they
need our support, encouragement and prayers.
To all our brethren in the U.S., Singapore, Pakistan, Philippines
and the entire brotherhood, we would like to thank you for
your endless support and prayers that made all our missions
a fruitful one. To my team (Helen Carranza, Dr. Gerry Teves,
Dr. Josie Lopez, Dr Evelyn Ignacio and Shem Sameon), thank
you for the joy, hardship and lessons that we shared and
experienced as servants of Christ. By these trials we can
be better equip and do more things for the glory of God.
Especial thanks to my wife Elvie who is always understanding,
my brother Salvador and my family who are very supportive
of my mission works.
His name we served,
Rupees to Heaven
from Dr. Gigie