Medical Mission to Huamantanga, Peru
by John Pearson, Roswell United Methodist Church, and Ted Pass, Morehead United Methodist Church
Huamantanga, Peru was the location for our medical mission team June 9-18. This was a combined team from Kentucky and Georgia. It was the first ever mission team from Roswell UMC, Roswell, GA, and the fourth medical mission team for Morehead UMC, Morehead, KY. We had 6 participants from Roswell, 18 from Morehead and 30 Peruvian helpers.
Huamantanga is a small and very poor village of about 500 people, seven hours ride north of Lima. The final 1½ hours is on a dirt road up the side of a mountain with 4,000-foot drop offs. There is practically no commerce in Huamantanga—several very small stores, a couple of hostels and farms where people raise mostly cattle, sheep, goats, chickens, potatoes, and corn. Their diet is primarily rice, beans, potatoes, and bread. All the roads are dirt and rock and dusty. There are no cars!
There is a small school in Huamantanga and a small clinic with a nurse who works every day and a doctor who visits once a week from Lima or Canta for half a day. He sees NO patients, just does paper work. Many of the homemade mud brick houses are broken down and deserted.
Huamantanga is located just over 11,000 feet in the Andes in a very picturesque location. They have two seasons, winter and summer. We were there in winter when the temperatures dropped to about freezing at night and warmed to around 65 during the day. At this altitude the sun is very hot and almost everyone has to wear hats.
Three doctors and a nurse treated gastritis and GI problems, many of which were related to diet, parasites, and drinking the poor quality tap water. The medical team treated many smelly feet with fungal infections, and they observed in children several rashes that they could not identify. We also treated a lot of urinary tract infections. Everyone received vitamins and parasite medicine.
The children were treated for upper respiratory infections, pneumonia, GI complaints, and pinworms. Several 80+ patients received steroid injections in their joints secondary to arthritis.
We held eye clinics and 300 pairs of prescription glasses and several hundred pairs of sunglasses were given out. Observing Peruvians reacting to being able to see again, especially the children and teens, was a special treat!
The dentist pulled approximately 200 teeth. Almost everyone has problems with tooth decay because of improper diet and bad water.
We had a psychiatrist on our team. He, along with Arthur Ivey, U.S. missionary to Peru, helped many discover just the surface of the personal hurt and despair in Huamantanga. They helped many come to a clearer understanding of their problems, and they let them know that Jesus loves them.
The people in Huamantanga and the surrounding villages, who came to our clinic, are a wonderful, grateful people who so desperately needed medical and spiritual help. We saw about 750 patients. In addition to seeing medical personnel, each person received spiritual help, hearing about Jesus, many for the first time, and they were given a tract of the Gospel of John. According to one of the local missionaries who worked with us about 300 Peruvians accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior! Don Ho, pastor of the Huamantanga church, will handle follow-up discipling, and that has already begun. RUMC and MUMC donated money to pay the salary for three missionaries for six months, purchase Spanish Bibles, and help build the first Protestant church in Huamantanga.
These wonderful Peruvians who have very little hope for a better life changed our lives. We know that we made important inroads for Christianity there, but there is much more work to be done to help these people heal physically, mentally, and spiritually. Seeing them on the final day, in the streets smiling and speaking to us, hugging our necks, is certainly a good beginning.