Whew—Busy, interesting week!
Karen & I worked the last few weeks with local leaders to schedule screenings for a private charitable LDS children’s foundation to fight hunger (Liahona), we mentioned a week or so ago. Well, volunteers from the U.S. flew into town on Monday and we had them jam packed scheduled for 4, 2-hour screenings on Tuesday-Saturday + travel (we wanted to get as much exposure to this program within the Mission as possible). We worked with them on Tuesday—we started at 6am and got home Tuesday night at 10pm and Saturday—started at 6:30 am and got home at 8pm. Anyway, it went very well—the good news is that we had way more children show up than we anticipated. Problem was, there were more non-LDS children (73% were non-LDS) and the foundation funds the areas for 1:1 LDS to non-LDS (this is a pretty amazing story in and of itself because the members did most of outreach to their communities). That’s why the missionaries don’t knock on many doors here; the members provide referrals.
|Children Waiting to be Screened|
Here’s one of the Cultural Halls filled with children waiting to be screened.
Over 1,900 children ages 6-Mo. to 5.5 Years old were screened over five days across the mission and 1,250; or 65% were found to be malnourished, or below the lowest 1/3 of the malnutrition standards from the World Health Organization. The President of the Foundation told us that it was the worst malnutrition rate than what they experienced in Guatemala (apparently bad). It was very humbling to be there; some children were obviously malnourished—very thin, small for their age (weight and height) or their hair was very thin. Often we saw sores on these young children and rotting teeth. These are children who survive on breast milk and a diet of largely rice broth. For $100/year, the Foundation can put children on a daily, high-density, caloric supplement (200-300 calories) per day until they reach six years old.
Here’s the process of screening a child. First they are measured for height and weight. Here’s a picture of the wonderful member Doctor Mom works with to help the missionaries (for free). She and her husband donated their time/travel expenses for the first 3-days of screenings. Once measured, Karen & I (and others) then calculated how the child compared to the WHO standards for their age. We then scored them for qualification in the program. We would have more pictures, but we were literally slammed and often sat for hours to score the measurements so people wouldn’t have to wait and we could move on to the next screening.
|Waiting for Results|
Some of the participants were cheering when they heard their children were “qualified for the program”. In essence, they were cheering that their child was found to be in the lowest percentile for malnourishment. Of course, it meant free food supplements for their child, and they thought that was good. Instead they should have cheered when a child was found to be healthy.
Anyway, two other couples in the Mission went out and helped with the screening on three of the days. In addition, the members in the wards/branches were marvelous. They welcomed everyone who came, provided free snacks for the children, etc. The missionaries were there and brought their investigators and helped in various ways. It was marvelous exposure to the Church; many were in these beautiful Church buildings across the island for the first time and could see Christian outreach at its best.
We feel very fortunate to have been involved in this effort and were blessed for the two days of screenings that will help the lives of many children. We don’t see much in the way of government helping people here, but several of the local municipalities came and brought children in buses to take advantage of the program—and of course they were welcome! We felt the Lord’s hand in shaping and blessing this effort. The effort was capped by a luncheon at the Mission Home today attended by an Area Authority and other leaders who helped organize the effort, hosted by President and Sister Lopez.
|Pineapple Growing on Side of Road|
We attended Church at the Manta-agan Branch. When we parked today, there were pineapples growing along the side of the road.
We walked in and the primary children were practicing, the song, Mother, I Love You. They sang it over and over and I caused quite a stir when I looked in and smiled. They were waiting outside the Sunday School class we attended, and presented me with a beautiful flower they had picked.
Today is Mother’s Day and I have received many thoughtful texts from missionaries. It is amazing how much we love our young Elders and Sisters. They are in our prayers. We have felt the love our Heavenly Father has for them. They are looking forward to calling their mothers today and tomorrow (depending on time zones).