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Venezuelans’ faith response affirms medical teams’ work

BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela (BP)–John McLendon found a cure for his own fatigue during a medical trip to Venezuela in July.
“I would just look up and see people becoming Christians,” said McLendon, a pre-med student from the University of Mobile. “It never failed to give me new strength.”
Baptist medical volunteers spent 10 days in the country, treating 6,427 patients and recording 2,491 spiritual decisions.
“The needs are great there,” said Dewey Dunn, a physician who teaches at Vanderbilt University’s medical school in Nashville, Tenn.
He’s also a member of the Baptist Medical-Dental Fellowship, with 1,700 doctors and dentists worldwide who average 600 volunteers on trips every year. Expenses average $1,300 per trip, and volunteers pay their own way.
Dunn has helped lead 40 volunteer projects in Venezuela, Chile, Philippines, Poland and Costa Rica.
“Over the next few years the fellowship is seeking to double its membership and strengthen support of SBC global missions,” said James D. Williams, executive director. “Dewey Dunn embodies the very best of missions support.”
In 1996 alone in Venezuela, medical volunteers treated 21,578 people and reported 6,377 spiritual decisions. Throughout the years, each trip had its own problems. In the volunteers’ first trip back in 1987, they had to dump their medications because they lacked government permission to bring the materials into the country.
Dunn needed medical care when he fell in a river and cracked two ribs in a 1994 trip there. He had to ride a mule and sleep in a hammock two nights.
“On one of those nights all of the persons in the village accepted Christ at a service under the moonlight,” Dunn recounted.
“I encountered many problems that were beyond our capacity to treat,” added Ricardo Gonzales, a member of the July volunteer team and a medical student at Vanderbilt.
“I would explain that all I had to offer was prayer,” he recalled. “Many of these patients gratefully accepted, knowing their condition was in the hands of the Almighty.” Jane Santi, a volunteer from Tennessee who worked in the eye clinic, said, “The memory that sticks in my mind is one little boy. He cried from eye strain.”
The boy was fitted with reading glasses, which led to a “big smile,” Santi recounted. “I know that even if I couldn’t help anyone else during the whole week, I was put there to help that little boy.”
The mayor of Tejerios sent his whole staff to help at the clinic in his area. He provided lunch for the team and thanked the local church for hosting the effort. Veresa Troutman Myers, a physician from North Carolina, met a boy named Jonathan from a poor neighborhood.
Myers gave the 7-year-old with dirty clothes and decaying teeth a Bible and a T-shirt at the end of the week.
“We told him goodbye, but could not get him out of our minds,” she said. “His mother was crying and said Jonathan wanted to come to church.”
After returning home in July, Dunn took another 15 teams and 125 volunteers back to Venezuela in August.
In March 1998 they plan to start a three-year project in the Andes Mountains of the country. Officials requested 16 medical teams. “That is a great opportunity,” Dunn said. “Many persons have contributed to make these missions a blessing.”

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  • Clay Renick