Dr. Karen Smith, MD, a family medicine doctor in Amarillo, has a passion for going on mission trips each year. She currently works for BSA Urgent Care, and has regularly taken trips over the past few years to go with large groups to El Paso and along the border for medical mission trips. This year would be a different mission trip for her entirely. “I was asked by a small non-profit aviation ministry organization called Judah 1, to be their medical director for their next mission trip to Mexico,” Dr. Smith shares. A pilot with the vision to use commercial airplanes to deliver missionaries and pastors along with cargo to mission fields around the world founded Judah 1. “I got to know the founder personally, so I said yes to going on their mission trip this past August.”
The decision to travel to Mexico for a medical mission trip was made because of an invitation Judah 1 received. “Two mayors of small fishing villages near Morelia and Michoacán in Mexico invited Judah 1 to come because water, sewer and lake contamination had caused many health issues,” says Dr. Smith. Judah 1 decided to put together a medical mission trip to those two locations to conduct a medical clinic, street evangelism and hand out food and water purification systems to families. Once Dr. Smith confirmed she would be going on the trip, she set to work finding organizations that would donate supplies for it.
“I reached out to BSA Health System for support, and they were wonderful,” shares Dr. Smith. “The BSA Urgent Care also asked if there was anything I needed and when I mentioned how dusty the area would be, they supplied us with masks and breathing treatments. I was so overwhelmed and grateful for everyone’s generosity.”
As Dr. Smith and Judah 1 prepared for their trip, they decided to hire local nurses from around the villages in Mexico to help with their medical clinic. “Normally a team of nurses would go, but we thought hiring nurses from around the area would help empower the locals,” says Dr. Smith. “The only other nurse I took with me was an LPN nurse from Louisiana.” A few weeks prior to their trip, Dr. Smith and the team at Judah 1 found out their budget for the trip had been drastically cut. “We prayed about whether we should still go or not. We still needed five volunteers who spoke and wrote Spanish before we could go. At the last minute, members of a church in Texas volunteered to come on the trip and help, so we were all able to come together as a team and go.”
Once Dr. Smith and her team arrived in Mexico, they traveled to both villages. Over the span of a week, they saw more than 400 patients and transported 400 pounds of supplies and food. “We had our medical clinic set up for six hours each day and then would have church afterward, followed by a meal,” says Dr. Smith. “We came up with a 10 question medical history survey in Spanish to ask each patient, so the volunteers who spoke Spanish set up three tables and interviewed each patient. Then we had nurses who took each patient’s vitals and sugars and then they would come to my table to be examined and treated.” Dr. Smith saw patients every five minutes on average during her clinic hours. “I saw a lot of children with parasites, so we set up an educator who was a local missionary and really good at teaching proper hygiene and proper food preparation to families,” says Dr. Smith. “She helped show the locals how to prepare food properly so they wouldn’t get sick. All in all it was a great week!”
Dr. Smith also shared how she was able to connect with the local medical staff there. “There was a medical school and nursing school next to the hotel our team was staying at. We did not have any connection with them and prayed we would find a way to connect before we left,” says Dr. Smith. She found an opportunity to introduce herself on the last day of her trip, when the hotel where she was staying held a medical conference. “I went and introduced myself and the leader of the conference asked me to speak to the medical group gathered in the auditorium. I shared why our team was there and how it would give students a chance to show compassion if we worked together. I saw several doctors begin to cry, it was very powerful.” Dr. Smith is now working with the medical school to set up another mission trip. “I was happy to have the opportunity to make that connection and help create a team effort that will have a lasting effect.”