- Written by Kimberly Pepmiller Kimberly Pepmiller
- Created: 25 July 2016 25 July 2016
We are sitting down to write this blog while enjoying a beautiful sunset on one side of the boat and a gorgeous moonrise on the opposite side. The scenery is majestic here in the jungle on the river!
We are spending our days in the village and our free time on the boat. El Evangelista is a sizable riverboat. There are four decks. The first deck is used by the crew and has access panels to the hold. The second deck is where there are men's and women's living quarters. Each has eight sets of bunk beds to hold sixteen people each. There are also men's and women's bathrooms and showers aft. The showers use filtered river water, so they're refreshing (but not drinkable)! The third deck contains the dining room, kitchen and several small quarters where crew members stay. We eat three meals on the boat each day, and the women cooking for us are creating delicious flavors. The fourth deck is open and is a great place to view the scenery. This river boat creates a great home where we can rest and re-energize to continue our work projects in the village.
In the medical building today, the team finished placing the tongue-and-groove boards on the interior walls. We also started putting up a plywood ceiling in the medical clinic building. There are no ladders to assist with ceiling work, so two taller volunteers stood on tables to hold the plywood in place. The shorter volunteers used eight-foot sticks to help support the plywood ceiling while it was being attached to the frame. Don was too short to be on the table, but was just tall enough to hold a stick. Janelle, who the Shipibo call “Janelly,” and her young Shipibo “assistant” worked to varnish the outside of the doctor's quarters and the medical building. Sharon, Tom and Sam brushed up on their painting skills after the majority of the crew ran off with the generator to another building. The big group began siding the walls of the storage shed located behind the church: more tongue-and-groove!
The medical clinic saw 38 patients today, including some patients for follow-up. One was a young girl with a leg burn. The burn debrided well overnight, and we are hopeful for successful healing. A large group of volunteers were enthralled by a minor procedure to drain a large abscess on a man's back. Kimberly assisted, but, without a mask, spent most of the time wincing in fear of a pus explosion. This was followed by a child presenting with a toe severely cut by a machete two weeks ago. More in-depth wound care ensued. We also cared for a woman who needs her gallbladder removed and a young boy with a severe seizure disorder that is currently untreated. Overall, today brought fewer patients but more serious cases. We also had a few non-human visitors to the clinic today. We saw a pet monkey and a couple of turtles. It is always an adventure in the jungle!
Over in the eyeglass-fitting station, Wyatt spoke to an elderly woman who came hoping to get reading glasses. She brought her tiny New Testament Bible to test the effectiveness of the glasses; she wanted to make sure the glasses were powerful enough for reading the scriptures!
In the afternoon, Gloria (our host, with her husband Ricardo, and a missionary to the Shipibo people) sought the assistance of Sue and five other volunteers to work with some women from the village. After a devotion, 42 women were divided into three groups; each group had two volunteer assistants. The group chose one of three projects to work on: making an appliqué washcloth, sewing a child’s dress or assembling a tote bag. Sue said it was interesting to watch the women choose the project and the fabrics they would use for it. The volunteers helped teach how to assemble and hand sew these projects. You could see the younger women's lack of sewing experience, but the older women could even use their feet to help with the sewing! After the completion of the projects, the donations we had brought were divided up into 42 equal piles. The donations from Saint John’s and the other three congregations included clothing, shoes, kitchen items, hair ties and many other useful items. Sue and the other volunteers got to hand-deliver the items to the women. Sue wishes she could share the women’s gratitude, shared in hugs and kisses, with all of you who donated!
The medical clinic slowed down in the afternoon due to most of the women of the village being at the sewing workshop. The children, however, were sent to the clinic building for the afternoon. In stark contrast to the organization in the sewing room, the community building was chaotic as it evolved from a medical clinic to a coloring clinic. Over fifty children under the age of seven received coloring sheets and only two crayons. The crayon limit was rigorously enforced by Nelly, who walked around policing how many colors each child had and making sure things stayed fair! Eventually the children realized they could trade colors instead of hoarding them, and each child completed at least two coloring sheets. A small riot over toothpaste ensued, but was quickly quashed. This ended the “medical” clinic for the day.
After dinner we climbed back up to the village of Nueva Palestina for a church service and, finally, the official welcoming. The mixed congregation was led in singing in both Spanish and Shipibo. The sermon, in Spanish, was based on Matthew 3 … we think. For prayers, we all walked to the front of the church and joined hands in a circle. As a few people from the United States group took turns praying out loud, the Shipibo elders of the church prayed out loud continuously and fervently. The service concluded with a group of Shipibo women sharing two songs. For the final song, a Shipibo welcoming song, the women came and invited us to join them in the front of the church to hold hands and dance. While we did not understand much of the service, we were able to share in the amens: "let it be so."