Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Reflections: Prisoners, and a Boy Named Bastri

    by Emily Crowe | Sep 17, 2015

    Dr. Henry, a pediatrician, began serving with Medical Teams International during the Kosovo War in 1999. Since then, he's served on four continents and impacted many lives. His upcoming book, Seasons and Sojourners, shares his insights and experiences. We're honored to share his experiences here-- volunteers like Henry make such an incredible impact on vulnerable lives around the world.

    The following story describes his bittersweet time in Kosovo after brutal violence left many homeless, wounded and vulnerable. Read the entire post here.

    "Mourn with those who mourn,”
    Romans 12:15 (ESV)

    Dust clouds billowed in the foothills of the distant blue-gray mountains, announcing the approach of more trucks filled with refugees from Kosovo. For a month the daily convoys had come to the Mjede train station. Filled mostly with women and children, the misery index was high after the six hour trip over mountainous roads. But their ordeal was not over; after resting and recovering, they were loaded into ancient train cars for an overnight journey south to an unspecified destination, sojourners in a foreign country.

    No home to return to: 16-year-old Bastri, used drawings to share his heartbreaking experiences with Dr. Henry after losing his father and home to violence.

    Today’s convoy of trucks from the border was different. Not only did it contain only men, they had few belongings. As they walked into the ancient warehouse in groups of twos, their eyes were downcast. Their walk seemed robotic. Once inside, they sat on their meager belongings with expressionless faces.

    Bastri Reitzug
    Bastri's drawing.

    One young man, sitting on the floor, head in his hands, never looked up for six hours, refusing water, bread, or Spam. We learned the men had recently been released from the horrors of a Serbian prison.

    Some, like a man with shrapnel wounds, sought medical care. Two elderly brothers, wearing vests and coats over their shirts, apparently deemed too old to kill, related in heart-breaking fashion how, before imprisonment each had lost their sons in one massacre. Their loves, their joy, and their family name had been eradicated in one afternoon on a hilly meadow near their ancestral village. Facing the heartbreakingly personal reality of ethnic cleansing, it is difficult not to cry.

    Victims of ethnic cleansing: Before imprisonment, each brother had lost his own son to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo.

    Two dark haired men, with countenances free of guile, but eyes speaking of unthinkable pain, want to sit next to me and tell me their story. Keep reading >>

    Learn more about Henry's experiences serving vulnerable people around the world: Check out the other stories on his blog, Seasons and Sojourners. Interested in volunteering internationally with Medical Teams International? Learn more about how you can get involved.

  • Days become years for vulnerable Syrian refugees

    by Emily Crowe | Sep 14, 2015

    Three years ago, they had a peaceful home in Idlib, Syria.

    But then - at the onset of the Syrian civil war - her middle class hometown descended into brutal conflict. Fearing for her children’s lives, she fled to a settlement in Lebanon. One week later, her home was bombed to the ground.

    Najwa's face carries the heavy burden of a refugee mother.

    While they had narrowly escaped certain death in the conflict, Najwa and her family continue to struggle to survive in the nightmarish conditions of the refugee camp.

    In those early months, the overcrowded camp was a horrible place. Living conditions were filthy - there weren’t even latrines. Her family crowded into a mud-covered tent, packed next to other fearful, displaced families. There was no clean water and no food. At times, her hungry little children were so desperate for food they ate bugs to fill their empty bellies.

    One of Najwa's Daughters, Alaa

    One terrible day, a car struck Najwa’s daughter Doaa on the road running through the middle of the refugee settlement. Not even 7 years old, she suffered a severely injured leg and lung damage. What little resources the family had left, Najwa invested in caring for Doaa.

    Thanks to your gifts, Najwa and her children are receiving the medical care the desperately need. You provided an inhaler for Doaa’s lung condition, and she now receives care and monitoring of her disability. You sent emergency dental care to her three oldest children for teeth badly decayed and infected due to years of neglect and inaccessibility to care in the camp.

    For Najwa, the future is uncertain. Living in often unsanitary conditions and with no home to return to and no means of financial stability, your support is helping provide light through the darkness.

    Thousands of families have stories just like Najwa’s – often worse. Days have turned into years for Syrian refugee families, struggling to get food, water and medicines in the packed camps. You are touching the lives of so many people in their hour of desperate need. It's a privilege to witness God's love through you. Thank you.

    Want to help even more families like Najwa's? Share her story on Facebook or Twitter, and pray that children like Doaa will receive the care they need. Also, consider donating to help Syrias refugees so that we can continue to provide crucial medical relief in Najwa's camp. 

  • Relief at Ground Zero: Remembering 9/11

    by Emily Crowe | Sep 11, 2015

    On September 11, 2001, the world changed.

    Deadly terrorist attacks in New York City killed thousands-- and left many more vulnerable and suffering. Our disaster response volunteers provided trauma counseling to local students and rescue workers at Ground Zero. The volunteers also trained pastors and church leaders in grief counseling.

    NY 911 response praying

    Today, we reflect on this heartbreaking time and take a moment to give thanks for your support and the life-changing relief it brings to disaster victims around the world.

    "I know that just our presence in Ground Zero during those initial days after the attack made a difference," said volunteer Todd Pynch.

    "We served as chaplains and counselors and talked and prayed with these rescue workers. Those emergency workers needed to know that God had not abandoned them. When I saw life come back into their eyes, I knew I had made a difference."

    NY 911 response church

    Please pray with us for those affected by this tragedy, and give thanks for the generous supporters and volunteers who took action.

  • Syrian Refugee: Hoping for a happy life

    by Emily Crowe | Sep 09, 2015

    Turkia had a good life. She was happy on her farm in Homs, Syria-- the farm provided everything she needed to live a comfortable life.

    She didn't understand how it could all be taken away so suddenly.

    Turkia was home when the bombs hit. In seconds, everything she had worked so hard to build was destroyed. She managed to survive the bombings with just an injured leg; her young nephew was killed.

    She knew "home" was no longer safe. Immediately, she fled with her family to the refugee camps in Lebanon. There were no bombs-- but, in the early days at the camp, there were also no beds, no tents and no money.

    Vomiting, dizziness and fatigue-- your support brings Turkia much-needed relief in the refugee camp where she lives with her family.

    Turkia felt overwhelmed. How was she, an elderly, middle-class woman, supposed to survive? Soon after moving to the camp, the stress became too much: she began feeling dizzy and was vomiting frequently. 

    These new symptoms threatened her ability to survive in this new, hard life. Something had to be done. Turkia visited a hospital and got the diagnosis: hypertension, caused by trauma from the war. Without treatment, the problem could go from bad to worse: causing weakness, heart problems-- even stroke.

    Trauma-induced hypertension is not rare in the refugee camps-- and it has serious consequences. Mothers may become too weak to care for their children, threatening families already struggling to survive.

    Luckily, you brought the treatment she so desperately needed.

    Every month, an MTI mobile clinic visits her camp and checks her blood pressure. Now, Turkia receives monthly medications and follow-up treatment-- and she's feeling much better.

    Turkia is relying on God for her future. There's no going back to Syria-- she only hopes for a good life-- a happy life-- with her children and grandchildren.

    Although life in the refugee camp is still hard, Turkia knows MTI is there for her. You bring a happy life that much closer.

    Your support sends resources like medicine and health workers to Turkia's camp. Share Turkia's story with your friends on Facebook or Twitter and consider donating to provide relief for refugee families around the world. Pray for safety for refugees as they seek relief during this crisis.

  • Compelled by compassion, students make a difference

    by Emily Crowe | Sep 03, 2015

    After witnessing the stark reality of poverty and disaster around the world at Medical Teams International's Real. Life. Exhibit, students from Hillsboro First Baptist Church felt called to make a difference. Although the suffering was heartbreaking, they were inspired by just how much impact they could have on the lives of vulnerable people around the world.

    Hillsboro First Baptist Donation
    Hillsboro First Baptist students present their check to Medical Teams International at our headquarters in Tigard, Oregon.

    Compelled by compassion, several students decided to act. Working diligently in their community, they raised and donated $800 for life-changing preventative tools. With their donations, MTI will be able to provide clean-burning stoves and anti-Malaria mosquito nets.

    This donation means families will be protected from dangerous respiratory infections and malaria. Children will be less likely to die from pneumonia and grow up strong and healthy-- better able to thrive for years to come.

    These passionate students worked hard and made a difference. We are inspired by the love they are demonstrating for vulnerable people around the world.

    Thank you, Pastor Bruce and every single student at Hillsboro First Baptist Church, for your compassion. You are truly making a difference.

    Want to join these students and help their compassion do even more? 

    1. Make a donation in honor of these inspiring students and bring support to even more vulnerable people.
    2. Share their inspiring story of generosity on Facebook and Twitter
    3. Visit our Real. Life. Exhibits in Tigard, OR or Redmond, WA and get a hands-on look at MTI's work around the world.