We had a rather eventful day in clinic on Thursday, the kind of day that warms your heart and lifts your spirits. As we’ve mentioned before, the foundation of our medical work in Gatineau involves a community-based model, where the communities around us participate in all aspects of our program and, as such, develop a sense of ownership in the health care ministry. This not only helps to empower them, but leads to long-term sustainability. As you can imagine, it’s not always easy to develop ownership. But, the development of relationships is a good place to start. When we first started seeing patients in the clinic, we were warmly greeted by those people who lived the furthest away. But, those right in Gatineau sometimes acted like they didn’t care if we were there or not. They grazed their animals on our land, cut down our trees, stole our fruit and moved our boundary vegetation. We discussed our frustration with such activities during our greeting time with the patients every morning. And, gradually, we’ve seen the situation improve. But, we still weren’t sure if we were becoming accepted by the community, or even liked, for that matter.
On Tuesday, our first day back at the clinic after a month away, we were greeted very warmly by the patients, who said that with us gone, they had to go a lot further for their medical care. So, they really did seem to miss us! And, as I mentioned last week, many people called out energetic greetings to us as we drove up the mountain. Well, on Thursday, during the course of the day, we were flooded with gifts from our neighbors, many of whom came specifically to the clinic with food and goodies for us. One woman lives down the road and sells bread and produce from a little roadside stand. In May, before we went to the US, we were seeing record numbers of patients and passed her stand near dusk each day. She shook her head in dismay as she realized that we worked each day without eating any food. So, on Thursday, she brought us a pitcher of fresh milk with cups to drink it, bread and sugar to sustain us through the day. Other people brought cooking bananas, eating bananas, oranges, grenadia (a local fruit), key limes and fresh eggs. By the end of the day, we were nearly in tears, as we realized that we truly had made friends there – friends who care about our well being and are there beside us as we minister to those in need.