Missioners Prepare for Solidarity Bridge’s 100th Trip
Written by: Catherine Flanagan
This is a landmark year for Solidarity Bridge—we celebrate both our 20th Anniversary and embark on our 100th mission trip! On September 27th, 21 missioners will depart for Cliza, Bolivia, a small town in the high plains of Cochabamba. While this Multi Specialty Mission Trip (MSMT) marks the 100th trip for Solidarity Bridge, it is the first to the municipal hospital of Cliza.
Before our arrival though, a strong relationship has been forming. Puente de Solidaridad, who oversees the work of our year-round programs, has engaged in multiple mobile surgery campaigns here in Cliza, building a relationship with the doctors and hospital staff. Now our U.S. team has been invited to work with the local medical community to provide care and training across a number of specialties, including pediatrics, dermatology, and cardiology. In the O.R., with the help of a US gynecological surgery team and our Bolivian general surgery partner, Dr. Johnny Camacho, we will offer training in complex procedures, and provide surgical care to dozens of patients from the local community.
Before departing, many members of the MSMT team gathered, along with SB staff, board members, and future missioners, at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago on September 14. This annual Missioner Day immersed us in the underlying principles of Solidarity Bridge and gave us an opportunity to prepare both mind and spirit for our upcoming trips. We discussed what it truly means to travel in a spirit of solidarity and explored what makes an effective missioner and some of the common pitfalls of medical missions (pitfalls we will work assiduously to avoid!). One highlight of Missioner Day was our teleconference with two of our Bolivian partners, Maria Eugenia Brockmann and Dr. Carlos Brockmann. They helped us gain a better understanding of the current reality in Bolivia, especially that of the health system and political atmosphere. They also shared with us their distress over the forest fires that are still ablaze in the eastern lowlands of Bolivia.
To prepare us for the reality that transformative medical care doesn’t only impact the lives of the patients we see, veteran missioners told stories of memorable patients who touched their hearts and left them forever changed. We ended this special day with a community Mass presided over by Bishop Ron Hicks, at which our teams were commissioned and blessed to embark on their trips.
As part of the MSMT team standing on the altar during the commissioning, I felt both the weight of the commitment we were making and the uplifting of the blessing and community support. In a few days, we will be in Cliza. We have a full roster of clinic and surgical patients waiting for us, and we are excited to begin connecting with and caring for them. Our preparation has taught us to anticipate being transformed by the people’s lives we will encounter, share in briefly, and remember forever.
We invite you to share in this 100th mission with us through the photographs and blog posts we will share. And we ask for your prayers and good thoughts for us, our partners and our patients. May God bless us on our journey!