Mission to Serve

Published 10:23 pm Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When Dr. Erik Lessmann left Demopolis to lead a team of medical missionaries to El Salvador he was treading on familiar ground. Nearly a dozen times before he had left to spend a week in a poverty stricken area of the world, providing free medical care to anyone who needed it. This time was different though. This time he and his wife, Rebecca, brought along four of their seven children.

“This was the second time we took some of the children with us,” said Rebecca. “Two years ago we took three of them on a mission trip to Uganda.”

Lessmann led a team of eight people: one nurse practitioner, one nurse and six volunteer helpers.

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“The purpose of the trip was to host medical clinics in some of the poorest areas of El Salvador,” she said. “Along with two Salvadoran doctors, we saw about 1200 patients in five days.” Lessmann said they treated people for a wide range of medical illnesses and injuries – from the young to old.

“We saw people of all ages with infections, malnutrition and other environmental conditions, diabetes and cardiac disease,” said Lessmann. “Medical care is socialized and rationed. Care is only available to the best-connected people. We saw many who otherwise would not receive medical care.”

“It was obvious the people there were in desperate need of medical attention,” Dr. Lessmann said. “People often walked or rode buses or bicycles for more than three hours to get to the clinic.”

The Lessmanns mostly worked outside in more than 90-degree heat. Emma, the oldest of the children at age 9, and Martin, age 7, helped out by counting pills and taking vital signs.

“They did really well,” Rebecca said about how her children fared during the trip. “We gave my oldest two a couple of jobs that they could help with. My six-year-old, Peter, had fun and played around.

“I was amazed at how easy he adapted to not having TV or any of the other luxuries from home. He played with sticks and rocks and anything he could find, and was happy doing it all day long,” she said. “Even though he didn’t speak their language, Peter had no problem playing with the other kids there. They all ran around and had a great time.”

The Lessmanns stressed it is important for them to teach their children the importance of serving others.

“We emphasized that we were not going on vacation, we were going to help people and do whatever we could to serve,” said Rebecca. “I think it is good for them to get a different perspective on how other people live and how good we have it here. We wanted to show them that what we have here is not a world-wide reality.”

Martin took so well to the lesson his parents were trying to teach him that he didn’t want to stop working on the last day when the family had an opportunity to go sightseeing.

“He asked me if we could cut out some of the sight-seeing and work half-a-day instead,” said Rebecca.

Because the Lessmanns home-school their children, the trip also served as a great field trip for them.

“We had been studying about the Mayans before the trip, and when we were there we got to take them to some of the ruins.”

The Lessmanns slept in a room with three mattresses on the floor during their stay there. They did have electricity, but no hot water and certainly no air conditioner or heater.

Dr. Lessmann commented, “what made the trip really worthwhile was two elderly ladies that evangelized to the people we helped the entire week. The Lord had touched their lives in a special way and they were able to share their personal experiences help 200 people accepted Jesus.”

Dr. Lessmann said he would love the opportunity one day to do this kind of missions on a more regular basis – possibly even full-time. “He likes to work in under-served areas,” she said. Lessmann has previously been to Russia, Venezuela, Guatemala, Uganda, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Peru.