Today I am republishing a post written by my friend Laura Hershberger. Laura is working in El Salvador with the SHARE Foundation, and is sponsored there by the Volunteer Missionary Movement or VMM. (More about VMM below). Laura's blog post is titled Back pain:
This is a reflection on the week in June that I spent as a medical interpreter at the clinic at Maria Madre de los Pobres Catholic Church in La Chacra, San Salvador. The medical professionals who I interpreted for come to El Salvador everyone on a SHARE delegation from Visitation Parish in Kansas City.
She was a street vendor who walked around carrying a giant tub of juice cans. The pain in her heals was unbearable.
He threw his back out six years ago. He still has horrible pain. He thought it was cancer. But really it was the fact that he lifted tires everyday and put more and more strain on his back.
She lost her arm during the war. Her husband just had a stroke and is paralyzed, she now does everything for him and work to support them. She can't sleep from back pain.
She was hit by a motorcycle two years ago. She and her daughter and grandson received death threats until the boy fled the community. They cried when they talked about being afraid. They both have knee and back pain.
She didn't know that there is no pill for her mother's alzheimer's. I explained it to her as best as I could.
His knees are shot from arthritus. But he needs the factory job, and so he continues to climb up steps and lift stacks of metal plates.
She can't afford the medicine for her Parkinson's. She came to see if we would give her a cane.
One by one, they sat down with us. Soy Laura y voy a traducir. Supposedly a translator is just a tool for the doctor, but the pain they carried stuck to me and I couldn't forget after they left. Everyone was carrying some kind of pain. We taught them leg, knee, back and neck exercises. To strengthen and stretch. To give some relief. Something that could possibly be more sustainable to a pill. We were able to give some of them canes. We hoped it would work. But we couldn't give them new shoes, new floors to walk on or beds to sleep on. We couldn't give them access to a swimming pool to do their exercises. We couldn't give them new jobs or new homes. We couldn't take them out of La Chacra and the poverty and violence. We could teach some breathing techniques but we couldn't take away the stressors.
On Friday, after all the patient visits, we went with the group to the UCA to see the sacred site. On the wall there was a drawing I had never seen on previous visits. Stick figures going through their day to day life. Working in construction, repairing cars, walking through the market. Each one was drawn with a cross on their back. The cross that the poor person carries as they go through their day. No one is going to give them a break, a win. The cross gets heavier and it weighs them down. No wonder they all have back pain.
Laura is one of several lay missionaries who commit to spend two years in Central America or other parts of the world (including poverty-stricken areas in the US) with VMM. Their purpose is to act out the call of their faith to serve those who are poor, oppressed and suffering. I support VMM and serve on its board. I encourage readers of this blog to learn more about VMM on its website at www.vmmusa.org, then consider supporting VMM by getting involved, volunteering, or making a donation. You can help Laura and others like her to alleviate some of the pains of the world.