What started out as a small idea and passion for one local physician has led her and other lake area residents to the Dominican Republic.
"I felt on my heart for a long time that we should do a mission trip. I wasn't sure how I should plan that. I wasn't sure how it should go," Angela Clay said. Clay is currently an ER doctor in Lebanon and Rolla. She and her family attend the church in Osage Beach.
Clay and her family visited the Dominican Republic two years ago, which for her was an eye-opening experience.
"While we were there as a family, we went up into some of the mountains and saw some of the people that live there and everything to see some of the culture," Clay recalled. "I got home and it was just on my heart to do a mission trip."
When Clay returned home, she began doing some research. If she was going to organize a trip, she would need to do her homework. That was when she discovered Solid Rock International, a non profit organization that is focused on "transforming the body, mind, and soul of the poor in the Dominican Republic."
The organization coordinates medical mission teams, sponsors schools and helps provide the Dominican Republic with clean water.
After speaking to a few local physicians and residents and finding out that they had gone to the Dominican Republic through Solid Rock, Clay followed her heart and began organizing a trip.
At the time, Clay was working at Lake Regional. Columbia College Lake of the Ozarks campus alumna, Philana Vanskike, was also working at Lake Regional and heard that Clay was planning a mission trip.
"I have always wanted to do medical missions. It is what I have always felt in my heart," Vanskike said. Vanskike and her family attend First Assembly of God church in Camdenton.
Impact Medical Missions was founded and they took their first trip to the Dominican Republic last summer. The first trip included 17 adults, most of whom were medically trained. Of the 17, three were doctors, the rest were nurses and spouses. This year, the group expanded to 21 and included a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Three children under the age of nine were among the group along with three teenagers. The rest of the group were adults including a few pre-med college students. Two adults in this year's team helped with construction at a local school while the rest focused on medical care.
One of the young children who went along this year was Clay's son, Austin.
"What was neat for that age group was that they played with the kids from the Dominican Republic during the day and they interacted with them and saw some of their culture," Clay said. She added that even though the children could not communicate through words due to the language barrier, it was encouraging to see how they still could play and interact so well.
Page 2 of 3 - The group flew out of St. Louis on Saturday, June 2, but not without some challenges. When the team arrived at the airport at 4 a.m. that day, they received news that because of inclement weather the night before, they could not leave on their scheduled flight. The next available flight was not until the following Tuesday.
Even though the trip was now up in the air, the group remained hopeful.
After using some of their contacts, three hours later, they received news that a new plane would get them on their way. Since the delay would cause them to miss their connecting flight, a new plane would also be sent to meet them in Miami to bring them to the Dominican Republic.
The group saw the situation as nothing less than a miracle.
"Our timing was off but it still worked out. He provided us with two planes," Vanskike said.
Late that night, the group arrived in the capital, Santo Domingo. The next day, they traveled to San Juan, where they stayed the rest of the week. Solid Rock had set up and arranged day clinics in the mountainous neighborhoods called barrios.
Each morning, the group gathered for a devotion and breakfast around 6:45 a.m. After packing their lunches, they would head out for the day around 8 a.m. Clinics began around 9 a.m. each day and lasted until about 3:30 or 4 p.m. The group traveled back to their guest house in San Juan for dinner. In the evening, the group attended church services and even joined the locals in a baseball game. The team focused on giving medical care to the residents of the area but also were able to dive into the Dominican culture and interact with the people there.
According to Clay, the team treated everyone that came to the clinic — babies up to adults. She recalls treating a probable aneurism leaking in an adult and a baby with pneumonia. The more serious illnesses were referred to the capital in Santo Domingo for surgery. During their busiest day, the team treated 210 individuals.
For one local teen, this trip was was a learning experience.
"I felt like this is something I should do because I have felt that being a doctor is what I am led and called to do in life and I knew this would be a very unique opportunity to both serve and learn about the medical field," Steven Stanton, School of the Osage Senior, said. "There are not even enough words to describe how much I learned from the trip. Not only did I learn a lot about my self and the medical field, but I also had the opportunity to learn Spanish, the Dominican culture and the true meaning of the word, 'serve.' "
Page 3 of 3 - "I think the biggest surprise of the trip is how close our group became after a week. We all knew Doctor Clay, but we didn't know each other very well at all. After a time as short as a week, I felt I had known those people my whole life," Stanton continued.
A trip like this can change a person.
Vanskike and Clay recalled a surgery that was performed last summer on their first visit to the Dominican Republic. The surgery came with its own risks. The woman involved in the surgery needed blood. The team happened to have the right amount of donors matching this woman's blood type. Vanskike was one of the donors. The surgery was done the night before the team left. They were unable to keep in contact with the woman during the next year, but Vanskike never forgot about her.
Before the group left the Dominican this year, Vanskike got to see the woman she help save for the first time in over a year.
"The moment that I saw her, it sunk in. This is why I am here, this is why I got to come," Vanskike said.
Moments like that are what trips like this one are all about.
Impact Medical Mission is planning a Fall 5K and golf tournament to benefit next year's trip which is tentatively scheduled for May 31 through June 6, 2014.
The group welcomes anyone who would like to get involved or donate. You can contact them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.