Dr. Richard Bechtol and First Baptist Church’s mission team of 23 saw a steady
stream of patients file into their makeshift clinic over four days in late July and early August in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Elderly men and infants, mothers and their children. The team treated 900 patients in four days with illnesses from diabetes to cardiac problems, stomach pains to high fevers.
“It’s not 8 to 5,” said Bechtol, a retired Amarillo physician. “It’s more like 8 (a.m.) to 8 (p.m.). It’s 12-hour days sometimes. Even though you don’t want to do that, that’s what it takes sometimes to see all of those who need medical help.”
Though Bechtol, along with wife Susan, said the goal is to take care of patients and show Christian love in this Dominican Republic medical mission trip, treating that many can sometimes seem like an unavoidable blur.
But then a special situation and special patient will arrive and crystallize why the Bechtols are there and why FBC is involved with Buckner International – to make a difference, to be that example of Christ’s love to those who need it.
A young mother with three children came to the clinic. The oldest was 12, and it was obvious the mother treated her a little differently than the others.
“There were a lot of dynamics going on with that family,” Bechtol said. “The mother was isolating her, and I didn’t know if she wa sust trying to protect her.”
Patients were given toothbrushes. The younger children picked their own. The mother picked the one for the 12-year-old. It could only be a guess as to why, but the girl suffered from seizures. She had as many as six a day.
Chelsea Stevens, a nurse practitioner, saw the young girl. Stevens was also able to learn this – the family was out of seizure medication.
Bechtol supervises the nurse practitioners. “If there are problems, they come to me, and we talk about formulating a treatment plan,” Bechtol said.
“Chelsea said this little girl is having six seizures a day. They are out of medication. We don’t have that medication. What are we going to do?”
Indeed, the medical mission team brought an ample supply of medicine and supplies with them, but anti-seizure medicine, no, that’s not on the list.
That’s when Bechtol summoned Cliff Cary, FBC’s minister to children, and Jeremy Copeland, a Buckner representative in the Dominican Republic. They huddled together with a Buckner official who oversees the medical portion of their organization.
Cary quizzed them about the family, their financial situation, and the short-term outlook. In
short, Cary said we can help them – we being First Baptist Church.
“I told them, if they want, we can provide them the medication,” Cary said.
It would be easy, perhaps understandable, to shake heads and say there’s not much we can do at this time. After all, this is a medical mission trip, not a full hospital. The easy thing would be to hand off the little girl’s dire situation to someone else.
There is a portion of FBC’s budget for moments like these, money that comes in the form of scholarships and gifts from church members to provide help in what unknown ways may arise.
Cary did the math in his head – he knew how much had been spent, how much budget money was available, and how much the medication cost. He was empowered to make a decision when it most needed to be made – right then.
Four years of anti-seizure medication was purchased, with Buckner to manage the distribution and care. Not down the road, not in a few days, but at that very moment. It was life changing, if not life-saving.
“To me, this is just one example of doctors and nurses coming together, Buckner coming together, and First Baptist Church coming together through the power of the Lord to minister to this little girl,” Bechtol said. “I’d like to think it’s the kind of care that Christ would give.”
Cary, like the Bechtols, has been on a number of mission trips. The tendency is often to focus on those whose problems couldn’t be solved, where help just wasn’t sufficient at the expense of those whose dire needs were met.
“But for this little girl and her family, this was truly life changing,” he said. “It’s such a thing to have a conversation and look over someone’s shoulder into a momma’s eyes who just wants the best for her child.
“I don’t believe she showed up at the doorway hoping that some church would pay for four years of medication. She was just at the end of her rope as far as what to do for her child. Through a divine appointment, we were able to help her.”
THE MISSION GOES ON
For many years, First Baptist has been engaged in medical missions. FBC teams served in Kenya and, most recently, have been instrumental in creating two self-sustaining medical clinics in the Dominican Republic. Continuing these efforts and our partnership with Buckner International, a team of over 30 people will travel to Guatemala in July of 2019. The team will see patients, distribute medications, establish plans for ongoing treatment, and connect with the spiritual needs of many families.