Family therapy via medical missionary work

The initial doubts first surfaced mid-way through our flight bound for Montego Bay, Jamaica. In fact, we were not entirely sure that this trip was such a good idea after all. Our eldest son, 13 and in eighth grade, was already complaining about how much school he was missing and how much homework he had been assigned. Our daughter, a sixth-grader prone to procrastination, had her nose buried deep within a book. Ordinarily, this is not a bad thing. But when language arts and social studies assignments were beckoning, reading a stock, contrived, YA book for pleasure was not exactly what I hoped she would be doing. The first-grader, as most last-born children will do when not being listened to, was whining about something, and demanding to play on my phone — “or else!” While our week in Jamaica on a medical mission with all three school-age children in tow did not seem to have the most auspicious start, we had committed to helping out my friend and colleague’s non-profit group, and we were well on our way.

This particular non-profit was founded by a travel medicine specialist and an acupuncturist. Long drawn to the West Indian isle of Jamaica for its cultural richness and musical heritage, they felt it was an appropriate location to give back to their global health care community at-large. The Falmouth Medical Clinic, where their non-profit is based, during its two one-week missions every year, is run almost like a continuity clinic. The providers change, and the clinic is not always staffed. But the surrounding community knows when the doctors are in town. The church personnel line the patients up themselves and count them among their neighbors, families and friends. Because the church’s presence and direction are constant, there is actually quite a lot of order and stability to both the patients’ and the providers’ experiences.

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