Beginnings – How the Mission of Miracles came to be
In November of 2003, a small group of eight co-workers (3 physicians, 4 nurses, 1 lay assistant) traveled to El Salvador as a part of a diocesan relationship between the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York and the Iglesia Anglicana de El Salvador. The focus of this trip was a trial medical mission designed by Bishop Barahona, bishop of El Salvador, and Bonnie Adams, RN, spouse of Bishop Gladstone Adams III, bishop of the Diocese of Central New York. Bishop Barahona explained to this first medical group that his congregations were made up of the poor; therefore, the church must serve the poor. He said they are hungry and sick and the church must first feed and heal the congregations before any other work can be done. In 2003, immigration, human rights, poverty, and gang violence were at the forefront of social issues and infectious disease at the forefront of health, with prevalence of chronic illnesses such as heart and kidney diseases on the rise
As a result of the positive impact the first group had on the communities, Bishop Barahona called for continuing such a mission annually. The Bishop stated that the small medical team had provided a tremendous service for the diocese not only in assessing and treating illness but also by showing compassion to communities which felt isolated and forgotten. His hope was that the Diocese of Central New York would work together with his diocesan medical personnel to coordinate health campaigns in underserved villages of his diocese.
Bonnie Adams organized a planning team and in February of 2005, a team of over 20 health professionals and lay assistants was formed including dental and vision teams. It was during this second trip that one pediatrician on the team diagnosed a young girl (Flor) with a form of Rickets which was progressing to a point where she would be unable to walk. The medical program provided funding for her to be seen by doctors in San Salvador, but no one there could offer the surgery she needed to straighten her legs or the medicine she needed to halt the progression of her disease. After a year of communication with physicians in CNY and the US embassy, Flor and her mother came to Syracuse for treatment. Through the generosity of countless people, approximately $60,000 was raised for her care. After 6 months, they returned home with a life changed. It was at this point that the medical mission officially took the name of Mission of Miracles (MoM).
MoM has expanded in size and scope over the last few years based on dialogue with the Salvadoran health team. Teams include health care providers, nurses, dental assistants and hygienists, nutritionists, clergy, medical students in various health fields, and lay assistants. As real needs are expressed, MoM attempts to provide a team with skills and expertise in order to walk along side with the local health team. For example, one year the campaign included a pap smear campaign at a local clinic. One year a veterinarian accompanied the team and offered expert animal care. Another year the campaign was solely a public health initiative. The program is fluid and open to changes as requested by the local team. Our fluidness allows us to be adaptable to the requests and needs of those in whom we serve. Although the medical mission works in the same 5 villages each year, on occasion the campaign is asked to visit other areas if they have suffered recent traumatic events such as natural disasters.
The program has also added pastoral care and nutritional counseling to its focus. Along with medical, dental, and vision, these 5 areas make up the continuing mission of MoM. The mission is also designed to work alongside our health team partners in El Salvador thereby resulting in a sustainable initiative. The program continues to offer a week long campaign providing opportunities for community screenings, health education, and treatment; however, the bulk of the medical care is performed all year long by the local diocesan health program, currently led by Dr. Daniella Flamenco. It is this local team that offers yearlong care to the villages in which MoM only visits one week out of a year. MoM supplements the local program by providing medical supplies, medications, and funds to supplement the salary of the local team dentist. The two teams have built lasting relationships and developed a professional, trusting camaraderie.
The question often arises as to why we go each year instead of sending money. We go to touch. Touching allows us to embrace those with whom we serve and to whom we give and receive care. Touching puts us back in touch with poverty and human suffering. We become one with those of our companions in El Salvador who all suffer from the effects of poverty and gang violence. We touch the effects of natural disasters and civil war.
The individuals waiting to see us in line truly carry miracles with them. They have survived a bloody 12-year civil war, countless floods, mudslides, earthquakes and hurricanes, poverty, human rights abuses, and brutality at the hands of gang violence. But they hold on to the miracle of hope, love and faith. It is a miracle of God that we can have such friends and relationships with people in a small country in Central America. Lives are changed within this mission and beyond. It is truly a mission of miracles.
Our Mission Statement
As we are called to be the passionate presence of Christ in all we do, the purpose of the Mission of Miracles is to be a voluntary organization in relationship with the people of our Episcopal Companion Diocese of El Salvador, with regard to health promotion, education and treatment of disease by providing medical, dental, vision, and mental health support to the ongoing mission of the diocese El Salvador health team.
Our vision is to provide access to quality health care and improved quality of life for all who live in remote villages served by the Episcopal Diocese of El Salvador.