Service Travel

I’ve been on a lot of trips and visited many countries. I’ve been to Haiti, and other places where I’ve visited poor people with dirt floors, and I’ve also visited mansions like the Biltmore. From each trip I feel like I learn more about life, happiness, and pleasure. I’ve seen firsthand what it would have been like to be born into a family like that of Cornelius Vanderbilt. He created more wealth in a few short years than 99% of the world will see in a lifetime.

I don’t look at people who are rich and think that they are all snobs. I know many people who have lots of money that work hard to create jobs, purchase cars, houses, food, and entertainment that help the world to go round. I realize that there are some people who don’t care about anyone else.  I know many people who are poor who don’t care about anyone else either.  The bottom line is that we need to serve each other more.  Whether it be with our funds, time, talents, or our hearts, we need to give more.

Dr. Ty Erickson

Today I saw one of the most moving presentations about a medical mission that I’ve ever seen.  Dr. Ty Erickson, who is from Idaho Falls and works at Rosemark, went to Arusha, Tanzania for a two week medical mission.  He is an OB-GYN doctor who has practiced for over 20 years.  He is a very intelligent person and has created surgery techniques and travels around the country teaching them to other doctors.  He is absolutely brilliant, and he took time from a very busy schedule to do a service mission to a hospital in Arusha.

He spent two weeks in this African country doing complex surgeries for individuals who don’t have any money at all.  There were no charges for his expertise, no insurance billing, no medical coders, and no malpractice requirements.  He went to save lives, and to change lives.

I was moved by photos of a child who was born with cleft palates on both sides of his mouth.  The child was 9 months old and the mother had to have worked extremely hard to keep the child alive as the sucking motion would have been extremely difficult.  A couple of hours later and the child was on his way to recovery.  It is very possible that the child wouldn’t have survived otherwise.

As you might expect the tools are grossly out of date.  The ultrasound machine is over 20 years old and not even the single OB knew how to work it.  They don’t have a simple doppler that is used to hear the heartbeat of the unborn children.  Dr. Erickson explained that a simple tool that he had brought along for the trip saved a woman from bleeding to death.  The tools that our doctors use on a daily basis here in relatively routine situations are the difference between life and death in these locations.

In the 10 days that they were performing surgeries Dr. Erickson and two other doctors were able to help over 200 people with various conditions.

One of the other things that interested me was the amount of burns that they repaired.  At an elevation of 4000 feet above sea level they dealt with a lot of people who got a little too close to the campfire to stay warm.  There were lots of burn patients who needed skin graphs for their wounds to heal properly.  They even had to perform skin grafts for one child who had lost both of her eyelids.

Other Ways to Serve

Ari, who is Dr. Erickson’s son, went along and significantly improved the IT department of the hospital.  They have dial-up Internet (Remember that stuff?)  which is really slow and they don’t have much for a records department either.  Ari was able to repair many simple problems and make the hospital run much more efficiently.


As you can tell, this presentation moved me.  I felt compassion for those people, and I wish that I had the skills to help save lives like Dr. Erickson does.  I wish that I had the knowledge to completely rewire their hospital with a new IT infrastructure.

At the end of the presentation Dr. Erickson put up a checklist of things to do for each surgery.  One of the items listed was “Prayer.”  He had explained that one woman had arrived and was profusely bleeding, but demanded that a prayer be said before the operation was to begin.  As a people they might not have much for material possessions, or money, but they probably have more faith than the rest of us.  Simply put, it is probably all they have.

Some might be able to give money, others might be able to make blankets.  Some can give their time, and others only have their hearts to give.  Whatever you can give, I encourage you to give it.  I truly believe that when taking trips that are dedicated to service, the person who takes the trip probably benefits more than those who are served.  I know that was the case for me when I went on a service mission to Haiti with the Haiti Sak Plen relief organization. So let’s all look for opportunities to help other people.  Let’s not allow this Christmas season to pass us by without giving something to someone in need.

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