Steeleville | Kathy Van Ness’s voice breaks when she remembers the line of people waiting to be seen at a makeshift medical clinic in Rio de Janeiro. The registered nurse went to Brazil for the third consecutive summer—a result of long-term relationships her pastor, Scott Foshie, has established in the country.
“I had been praying for years to go on a medical mission trip, but nothing just felt right,” Van Ness said, describing the time before her first trip to Rio. “When I heard him announce [the opportunity] from the pulpit, I thought, ‘This is it. This is it.’”
Van Ness joined three others from her church this summer to work with medical professionals and volunteers from seven fellow churches. The team, representing Illinois, Indiana, and Tennessee, partnered with a local church in Rio who hosted the clinic. To start their ministry week, volunteers hosted a “Children’s Day” celebration, inviting the community to the church for games and food to kick off the clinic.
On day one, patients lined up for two blocks to see a doctor or a dentist, and to visit the eye clinic or pharmacy.
“It kind of broke my heart,” Van Ness said of the line. Over the week, she worked as a triage nurse, taking patients’ vital signs and sending them where they needed to go. She also shared the gospel and asked how she could pray for them. Many mentioned their families, and the financial difficulties common in the area, where many workers receive vouchers instead of paychecks.
One woman Van Ness prayed with had been working for a year and a half without a paycheck, receiving a weekly basket of food instead. “She said, ‘I can’t support my family like this,’” Van Ness remembered. “That’s the kind of hardship these people are going through.”
Altogether, workers in the clinic served 300 medical patients, helped 1,272 people at the pharmacy, extracted 336 teeth, and checked 285 sets of eyes. Throughout the week, 152 people accepted Christ as Savior.
While in Brazil, the volunteers were encouraged by the members of the local church they partnered with, Van Ness said. They were the bulk of the workforce at the clinic, arriving early to organize the line and preparing meals for the volunteers throughout the week.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a church pull together and work so well together,” she said. “God has definitely had his hand in this.”