Tarawa Kiribati: 2016/2017
Arriving home 3 days ago from Tarawa allows me to reflect on the trip which started the evening of December 13 and ended the early morning of January 6. Having been on a trip to the Island in 2014 there are some obvious changes in the geography. The most obvious is significantly improved and surfaced roads through the Island. Many side streets are also blacktopped now. The people are the same. They are the most friendly smiling fun loving people I have ever met anywhere in the world. People have been wonderful in the country of Peru, Guatemala, Mexico and Interior Alaska, where I have done mission trips. Though these other places are wonderfully friendly and the friendship is delightful there is something that is over-the-top with the Kiribati people. The weather this time matches what I experienced as an adolescent in Missouri during the months of July and August. The temperatures were running in the 80s and the humidity was high. It felt the same as when I was back in Missouri. This year the expected rain at this time has not occurred and it is very dry. It only rained twice during the time spent on the Islands. The biggest adjustment , is adjusting to the different foods prepared for us with such loving hands. Every place we served the medical needs of the people, it was a new and different day and style of medicine. Getting there and back was the most difficult trip I have made . This trip allowed God to demonstrate His miraculous presence many times, and it was worth going just for that experience with God’s hand moving in our behalf. As usual, there are lots and infections of every part of the body. Only saw one case of lepersy. Removed one facial teratoma. Saw lots of bronchitis for which we were informed afterward that there was an outbreak of TB in that site…suspected several cases but were unable to test for TB. The northern portion of the outer island of Abaiang has facial features of the Europeans and it was the first island that missionaries came to. The care of the people on the outer islands require carrying all the meds and items you need along with you, for the “clinic” run by a local nurse is not available nor equipped to service a sudden influx of 2-300 cases needing meds and supplies. We did contact and got the blessings of the local clinic nurse before barging into her territory of responsibility. The biggest surprise was the extensively decay of the teeth of the people on the northern portion of the island of Abaiang. A few miles to the south, on the same island and on the main atoll of Tarawa, had very minimal tooth decay and the teeth are shining white. They say the teeth stay white because they use the inside of the banana peel to rub their teeth and gums with….also chewing of the ripe pandanus fruit cleans the teeth like using dental floss.
The newly established Tarawa Health Center, has been the daily work of Nadia and Serge Domas and family along with many local nationals. It is well organized and a delight to work in. There are nurses and assistants to help anyone coming to work for these people medically. A trip to an outer island is planned by Gary Morgan of “Search for One”. It will start in February 14 and end about one month later in March 2017. I am planning on going back again this year, probably for three weeks during the October 2017 time period and would be happy to encourage others to go along…seems to always need the number of willing volunteers that God sends to the battlefront of service for His Kingdom. The style of the medical work is really different at the Tarawa Center, were I would see about 35 patients/day, as compared to the outer island work sites , where up to 100 patients would be seen each day by each medical provider. Nurses and other medical personnel were able to see and treat patients, which is really “foreign” to our US medical systems. More charting at the “Center” and much less paper work for the outer island patients. My, mostly unpadded skinny behind, became sore each day from sitting on a hard plastic or metal chair for the many hours in patient care. Patients would line up for the visit to the provider and the next group of patients to be seen sat in a circle listening and learning about whatever the current patient’s issues were. No HIPPA out there, all a big family with nothing secret or hidden. We had several stations for medical care providers set up and a “pharmacy” and a treatment area where ear wax plugs would be removed, or back and spine adjustment were provided.
I did not have time to get in touch with my emotions while in the “trench” working, but the moment the Fiji Airplane broke ground on the way back to Nadi Fiji, I was overcome with emotion. These people are family to me and I love them…I must go back again and again. Hopefully, in October of this year. All the nearly 24 hours in actual flight and the additional 5 days I spent on the ground sleeping on the concrete floor hoping for passage on the next flight to Tarawa,and the two weeks in care for their needful bodies, seemed to wash away my sore behind and tired body and bronchitis . Service to any underserved group, is a privilege, but when the served are really happy to have whatever you are able to bring and express their praise and thanks, it really creates a joy within my soul that only experiencing it could ever do justice to.
There were many following along my journey as I FB sent out messages and pictures. So many of my friends prayed us through this trip for which I am sooo very thankful. As for now, May the Lord Bless all those praying, organizing, raising and giving funds and those on the “ground working”. In God’s way of doing everyone has a part and every one is blessed when playing their part.
See you on the next trip for God’s biding?
Ray Andreassen, DO
PS: My 11 ½ y/o, granddaughter Ruby went along and turned out to be a great medical assistant…she is welcome to go along anywhere with this “grandpa” medical provider.
Tarawa Kiribati: 2016/2017