8th Tribal Medical Mission

by RAYMOND CHAN . May 26, 2011


I had the privilege of participating in the 8th Tribal Medical Mission with Evangel Family Church-Davao from 26 to 28 April 2011. The two-day medical mission served more than 700 inhabitants in Barangays Ladayon, Arakan Valley, North Cotabato and West Marahan, the Marilog District of Davao City. Together with me from Singapore were Ivan, Jia Ni and Jessica. Christy Kwong flew down from Evangel Family Church-Cagayan de Oro to join us for her first medical mission experience.


As this was my first trip, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t even know how I could contribute to the mission as I am not a medically-trained person, unlike Ivan, Jia Ni and Jessica, who are nurses from our local hospitals. However, just like the helpers from Evangel Family Church-Davao, I was brimming with excitement at the prospect of being involved in the mission. Everyone could not wait to start the medical mission as soon as possible.


The first day mission was held at the Barangay Ladayon at Datu Ladayon Elementary School, which is about 3 kilometres off the highway, and within distance from JECPP's (Jireh Evangel Church Planting Philippines) Tribal Bible School. The second day mission was at Marahan Elementary School. For these two days, the classrooms were transformed into medical clinics, pharmacies and operating rooms. People came in tow and started queuing up in the morning even before we were ready. Most were women with their little babies and children. As we only had two doctors for both days, Ivan had the privilege of becoming a stand-in third doctor. He gladly accepted the responsibility with glee (this is because for the past seven medical missions, his role was limited at the pre-screening registration). There was supposed to be dental services on the second day at the Marahan Elementary School but the dentist was unwell and therefore did not turn up at the mission. By the end of the two-day mission, a total of 702 people had undergone medical check-up with free medicines and vitamins. Sixty-six children were circumcised and thirty children were given anti-measles immunisation jabs. Besides the free medical services, the crowd was also served with lugaw (rice porridge).


For the entire two-day medical mission, the most intriguing moment for me was the tuli or circumcision.  It was truly a rare sight to experience and to see young boys being circumcised on a classroom desk used as a makeshift operating table. The young boys were amazingly brave, though obviously nervous, as they waited for their turn in this ‘rite of passage to manhood’. Circumcision is practiced more for hygiene and cultural than religious reasons among Filipinos. If the people were to do the circumcision at the city hospitals, it would cost them a thousand pesos (about S$30). When called, the little children had to remove their pants, lie on the tables and remain still until the operation was finished. They obeyed without much fuss. The trick? The nurses put lollipops into the boys’ mouths while they were being circumcised so they could be relieved of their pain. I was amazed that the three girls, Jia Ni, Jessica and Kristy took up the challenge, under the supervision of the Filipino nurses, to perform the circumcision operations. When the question was popped up as to whether I would like to try, I must admit that it took me a long time to decide and by the time I picked up the courage, there were no more boys for me to operate on. Phew!


According to Pastor Christine, since they started the first tribal medical mission, they have come a long way in improving the organisation of the whole mission. For example, they have improved by using modern electronic apparatus in reading temperature and blood pressure which have resulted in much faster traffic in the registration and consultation areas. For the first time in this mission, Ivan brought an optomoscope from Singapore. With the optomoscope, he could diagnose the people’s ear for possible infection and inflammation.  As we were chatting on the medical mission in the car, a suggestion on improving the doctor’s prescription form was birthed. Instead of having the doctor to write the medicine prescription for every patient, the suggestion was to print the list of available medicine on the prescription form so that the doctors just need to tick the medicine required by the patient. This will definitely speed up the consultation process and not subject the people to long queues. Also, it will shorten the time for the helpers dispensing the medicine at the makeshift pharmacy as occasionally they had difficulties comprehending the doctor’s handwriting on the prescription form.


Reflecting on the medical mission, I feel that God has shown me three things which encapsulate my feelings and thoughts about the experience. Firstly, it is always good to keep your heart soft. My heart certainly could not remain hard and cold at the sight of the poor and needy. I felt so humbled the whole week and felt so close to God, something I had not experienced for a long time.