by Beatrice Vandervelde

I have now been on two medical missions to Vietnam. Since I don’t have medical training, I come as team support. What would my role be? That first day, there was a huge crowd so I helped keep order. AT first, by the end of the day I was a bit disheartened. I wished I could be an interpreter. They were in the thick of things. But me? Was what I did helpful?

“Definitely,” one of the doctors explained. “Without crowd control, without order, very little would happen.”

Doctors would be surrounded by clamour and noise. They wouldn’t be able to concentrate on the patient in front of them, or hear the interpreter explain the patient’s problem. My work might not be glamorous, it might seem insignificant, but it was definitely needed.

This is the way things usually worked. Once we arrived on site, each team—medical, eye, dental, pharmacy—looked for and set up in a suitable location. I worked with the eye team. We usually had a small room. We’d move furniture, set up chairs, equipment, medication, tape eye charts on the wall, and line up chairs outside the door. When we were ready, patients were sent to fill the chairs. One by one, I would let them into the room to see the doctor. When he was finished with a patient, I would usher in the next one.

If the patient leaving had a prescription for glasses, I would show them where to go. Some patients needed cataract surgery (supplied later by a local doctor and often paid for by the mission), some needed new glasses (often provided on site), and some needed only medication or eye drops. It was a delight to see the smiles on faces when the doctor had found the perfect lens so the patient could easily read the bottom lines on the wall chart or from a paper.

Beatrice helping the next patient into the room. Photo by Tom Lam

Beatrice helping the next patient into the room. Photo by Tom Lam

Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4: 10 -11 NIV)

What a privilege and blessing to be part of a team, even without medical training, helping those less fortunate.


Beatrice Vandervelde is a member of the EMAS Vietnam Team who serves faithfully with Medical Aid For Vietnam

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