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Medical Mission:
Pakistan Medical Mission

November 15-30

by Dr. Sam Cariaga
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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.
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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.
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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.

In His name we served,
Sam

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