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Saturday, February 28 [Day #1]:

I couldn’t help but think as we descended through the lofty clouds around Cancun, how thankful I was for what was about to happen upon landing. Truth be told, however, this incredible team of students had already accomplished much - even before leaving Scottsdale… crafting bracelets and raising almost $1,800 dollars for their slush fund (with extra help from some generous parents), learning how to take a medical history, checking vital signs, and even suturing. Many had gotten introspective about the reason for the hope within them, and most had chosen at least one song that reflected something the Holy Spirit had spoken into their lives recently.

Upon arrival, we divided into pre-arranged ‘families’ of students and chaperones to lessen the likelihood of getting searched at the airport. Only Kolbi and Lidieth drew a red light – and both skated through the search process unscathed. We prayed that God would blind the eyes of those investigating – and He did. Not a single medical or humanitarian donation was lost.

After telling them to settle in for a long drive to Valladolid, we surprised the group by immediately taking them to the beaches of Cancun – getting in one hour of good swimming (and selfies) before hitting our gourmet dinner down the road (McDonalds)! They couldn’t get their swimming suits on fast enough as they ripped through their luggage before heading down to the surf. The students had a blast fighting the waves and enjoying the warm ocean water. We all marveled at the way Kris MacDowell maneuvered up and down the beach stairs even with his crutches. A walking miracle (pun intended)! You could hear the girls screaming with glee every time a wave bowled them over.

Not sure why I expected the kids to pass out on the 90 minute bus ride to Valladolid. Wired and giddy, they talked the entire trip inland. As I write this blog, they are preparing for a big day of Clinic tomorrow at the hospital where we will evaluate 75+ patients for surgery this week.

Keegan Krell, one of our stellar chaperones, said it best (as someone who is just getting to know these students). He observed that it felt more like a reunion rather than the beginning of a new trip because of the way these kids all get along so well – like friends who are rekindling old, deep friendships.

Thank you for your prayers! I can only say it is a privilege to watch these students in action. Like the Israelites who wandered the desert and were finally given entry into a new land, tomorrow we follow the lead of our Lord and Savior into a hospital filled with people desperate for hope and a new life. Please continue to pray:
1. That we will recognize and take every opportunity to share Christ. No Regrets.
2. That the language barrier will be evaporated by a God who created all languages.
3. That the ultimate treasure, Jesus Christ, will become exponentially more real to these beautiful teenagers.
4. That we will make wise decisions regarding the treatment options for the patients we see.

Sunday, March 1 [Day #2]:

Not sure where to start today’s journal entry. It was too good to put into words, but here goes…

We began our day early – leaving the hotel at 6:45a to gather under the palapa next to Medico Centro San Lucas hospital. The expectation level was sky high as we ate our ‘Mexican breakfast’ (pancakes with Nutella and fresh fruit). Keegan began by leading everyone in worship – setting a mood of reverence and right priority. We then devoted ourselves to studying just what God expects of His people when they ‘enter a new land’ – learning in Joshua 3 that if we consecrate ourselves and follow His lead, amazing things will happen. So we did… and it did!

Today was our only Clinic day – assessing and triaging 75 patients for potential surgery this week. Your kids were absolutely impressive! Each taking a role of either starter, scheduler, runner, historian, or closer; they each excelled in their undertaking. The joy, maturity and focus they demonstrated was something I wish each parent could have witnessed!

I watched Matthew & Karissa become the vitals-taking king and queen, donning their stethoscopes with pride. Dominic & Alex quickly lost their trepidation for touching an actual patient when they were asked to stick their pinkies in a patient’s ears to palpate her advanced TMJ. Noah took it upon himself to see that all the children were cared for and comfortable – at times sitting on the floor to color with them while making astute observations. Ally was proactive – at times literally running from room to room as she delivered medications to needy patients. Olivia, Amy and Kris (the one who professes no interest in medicine) quickly picked up the ‘art’ of taking a patient’s history all while delivering compassion – presenting me with succinct information and learning how to establish a differential diagnosis better than most first-year medical students! Not to be outdone, Christina & Kennedy became great sleuths as they accurately interpreted their patients’ signs and symptoms. My two surgery schedulers – Kate & Brynlie – were continually at my side, putting together a ‘killer’ OR plan for the week (and mastering some really big words at the same time). As she called each patient back to be seen, Kolbi witnessed firsthand their fear and trepidation. She marveled that any sense of grumpiness for waiting several hours was completely trumped by their desperate expectation and hope! We met patients who spent three days journeying to Valladolid just to be seen – putting into right perspective any sense of supposed sacrifice we might have felt.

As a special surprise, a group of students were given the opportunity to travel to Yalcoba – a nearby Mayan village – to attend a ‘sweet 15’ birthday party of a local peer. Despite the language barrier, they were able to celebrate alongside an entire village, witness the beauty of the celebration (despite the poverty), and ignite new relationships with a joyful and curious people. MacKenzie & Elaina were rocked by what they witnessed: incredible joy and “wrinkles from all their smiles” in the midst of dirt-floor homes, windowless dwellings, and a lack of “things.” Agreeing, Sam opined that it would be nice for all of us to move here and get our priorities right. PTL – these kids are wise!

Over dinner, the students stood up to present the many ways they witnessed God do amazing things this first day. Ms. Williams implored the students to journal all these life-changing emotions they were feeling and so freely sharing so as to never forget. Along those same lines, the students and chaperones then got together to create a memorial – just like the one created by the Israelites as they crossed the Jordan river to enter a new land. Each one found a stone, wrote their initials and favorite verse, then crafted it (and crafted it... and crafted it!) into a beautiful cross-shaped memorial near the hospital. Our goal: to return someday and remember the way God moved in and through each one of us. Maybe, to one day show it to our children (I know - a privilege beyond compare).

This evening, the chaperones were all struck by the way these 'kids' grew up today! It was crazy to observe them on the first day yearning to return even before next year’s mission week. And yet still being all kid – dancing around the beautiful Valladolid city square to the sounds of the a traditional Mexican band playing in the streets (Sam really knows how to groove!) while eating fruit popsicles, or cheese & Nutella crepes.

Tomorrow kicks off our first day of Surgery. In fact, the students will have the unique opportunity to take part in either head & neck surgery, eye surgery, or general surgery. We would covet your prayers for:
1. The continued transformation of these precious students as their comfort zones are annihilated.
2. A supernatural peace over our patients (many of whom have been told by local doctors that they would die if they underwent surgery).
3. A true understanding amongst our healthcare team that we are just “middlemen” for the Great Physician.
4. Continued health (and some rest).

On behalf of all the Valladolid leaders and chaperones,
Jeff Dyer
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