Every year I return to Cartagena, God has something new to show me. This year, God taught me about joy. During the medical mission week, we hosted mobile clinics in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Our services included general medical physicians, vaccinations, HIV testing, and vision clinics. They survive in some of the worst living conditions, without access to electricity, fresh water, or even an emergency room. Gang violence is an every day occurrence and yet, they were filled with joy. They waited for hours in the sun, sitting on uncomfortable chairs, or even a dirty concrete floor, for just a few minutes with a doctor. For many of them, this is the first and maybe only time they will receive a doctor in their entire lives. The expression on a patient’s face is transformed when he or she is heard and listened to by a doctor, a doctor who wanted to be there and wanted to help. Or when they were fitted with inexpensive reading glasses and could read for the first time in years. Even if there was not much we could do to help them medically, we could offer prayer and spiritual support. To some patients, that was more important than any pill we could offer. Joy is contagious and the people of Cartagena reminded me to rejoice in all circumstances. 

 – Alyssa Osenga, Nursing Instructor, USF

This Colombian mission trip was far above and beyond what I ever expected. Throughout our time in Colombia we served around 2,635 patients in 4 days. This included regular medical care, vaccines, HIV testing, dentistry, and ophthalmology. These patients waited hours to see treatment that otherwise is not available to them. Despite poor living conditions, low access to care, trauma, a corrupt governmental system, and poverty, these Colombian people contained so much joy for the life they have. They refused to focus on what they don’t have. They had a desire to be heard, cared for, and loved. After all, isn’t that what we all want? This experience reinforced that are humanness and desire for love trumps any cultural differences, language barriers, or religious differences. Our similarities by far outweigh our differences. I went in hoping to make an impact in the life of just one person in Colombia, but I think the people of Colombia impacted me and my heart more. ❤

Carry each other’s burdens. – Galatians 6:2

– Amanda Poppen, Student Nurse, USF