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Nurse gets 'recharged' through mission work in Mexico

 


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Nurse gets 'recharged' through mission work in Mexico

April 7, 2004

A UMNS Feature By John Gordon*

Susan Dungan set out to help others when she joined members of her church on a medical mission to Mexico.

After visiting some of the most-impoverished areas in the country, she found out that being in mission means receiving as well as giving.

"We come with the presumption that we're coming to help these people," Dungan said. "And we leave with the overall and overwhelming confirmation that we were helped by them in learning how big love is."

The registered nurse from Shreveport, La., spent her spring break far from Mexico's resort areas. She and a team from North Highlands United Methodist Church drove 700 miles to Carboneras, a tiny fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico. There they treated more than 200 patients in two days. Boats line the beach as fishermen prepare their nets.

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UMNS photo by John Gordon

Carboneras, Mexico, is a fishing village on the Gulf of Mexico. There is no doctor for the 1,200 residents.

But townspeople who line up at the clinic are smiling.

"I see a very content people - very happy, very satisfied with life," she said. "But the need that I see is great for medical care."

Children began following the church's van as soon as it arrived in the town. The 10-member mission team also included two doctors, a pharmacist, a retired nursing instructor and a paramedic.

While the team unloaded equipment and drugs, entire families began lining up at the makeshift clinic, set up in a church built by members of the Louisiana Annual (regional) Conference's Volunteers in Mission program.

"I thought, 'This is exactly where we needed to be,'" Dungan said.

The team treated illnesses ranging from runny noses to foot infections. The clinic has its own pharmacy, with drugs and vitamins donated by a U.S. pharmaceutical company and brought across the border with the help of the Red Cross.

But more than drugs are needed to deal with common medical problems in Mexico. Many residents cannot afford socks, so the team brought 500 pairs to give away to reduce foot infections.

"I feel more needed and wanted here than I have in a long, long time," said Pam Waguespack, on her first mission trip. Waguespack is a postal worker and member of St. Charles United Methodist Church in Destrehan, La.

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UMNS Photo by John Gordon

Registered nurse Susan Dungan (left) and Dr. Suzanne Taylor (second from left) treat Maria Morales and her 8-year-old son, Calep.

"These people are just so warm and open and honest and genuine," she said. "And I wish everybody could meet them and know what that's like."

Scott Temple, a paramedic for the Bossier City Fire Department, echoed those thoughts.

"You just feel fantastic," he said. "You feel like you have a heart as big as the Empire State Building."

Team members met a living example of how the mission work can help. A local teenager, Erick Trevino, arrived at the clinic on both days to meet patients and help translate.

Two years ago, Erick, 16, limped after he dislocated his hip while playing soccer. His family could not afford an operation.

A Methodist doctor on an earlier mission trip met Erick and later arranged to cover the costs of the operation. Now, Erick walks normally.

"I feel real good, no pain," the teen said. "I'm very grateful because they helped me."

Aaron Parman, a retired factory worker in Reynosa, helps coordinate the efforts of mission teams visiting the area. Parman sees stronger faith as a key to solving Mexico's economic and social problems, such as alcohol and drugs.

"It's very important that brothers (from the U.S.) come to preach the gospel and help our people," he said.

Dungan has been making the mission trips twice a year for the last four years. The experience has changed her life. Now she is taking night classes to become a nurse practitioner so she can provide even more care to Mexico's poor.

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UMNS photo by John Gordon

Scott Temple (left) takes background information from patients at a clinic in Carboneras, Mexico.

"I was immediately taken to the mission … and knew that this is what God had called me to do," she said. "I get recharged when I come down here."

Louisiana Volunteers in Mission wants to send teams to Carboneras monthly to provide follow-up care. The organization also sends construction crews to Reynosa, just south of the Texas-Mexico border, to build homes and churches.

Dungan's first mission trip to Mexico seemed to happen by chance, but she believes it was fate.

"I accidentally showed up here the first time," she said. "I was carrying some men home from a retreat and just happened to be invited to be part of a mission trip down here to Mexico to help as a nurse."

Dungan is already planning her next trip to Mexico in September. She still has another 14 months of long nights as she studies to become a nurse practitioner.

"It inspires me to continue doing what I'm doing. I just feel so blessed."

The United Methodist Volunteers in Mission Web site, http://www.umvim.org, details mission opportunities and how to sign up or make donations.

*Gordon is a freelance producer residing in Marshall, Texas. News media can contact Tim Tanton at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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