Local pediatrician Lynne Fruechting and her 16-year-old daughter Anna didn't take a typical summer vacation this year. The mother and daughter recently went on a medical mission trip to El Salvador, providing an opportunity to help others in need and learn the importance of service.
"I was really blessed," Fruechting said of the experience.
Fruechting traveled to El Salvador June 7-15 with Global Health Outreach, the mission arm of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations. The 24-member team had representatives from across the United States, including physicians, nurses, dentists, physical therapists and other volunteers.
El Salvador is a developing country in Central America. The country has a population of about 6 million and a homicide rate of 12-15 per day. Poverty and drug trafficking are other struggles.
"It's a very violent country," Fruechting said. "We had paid security guards with us everywhere we went."
The volunteers operated a walk-in clinic for four and a half days, treating 964 patients. While those living in El Salvador can receive medical care in the cities, paying for that care can be a challenge.
The clinic site was at what is known as "the volcano school," located on a mountain that had a volcano erupt in 1917. A team of high school students from a Christian school in El Salvador served as interpreters. As part of the trip, volunteers also had opportunities to share the Gospel, taking teams into classrooms to share the Biblical story of David and Goliath.
Fruechting said the last mission trip she went on was in 1985, and she was excited to share this experience with her daughter. She said her daughter summed up the trip well:
"It's not uncommon to go on a mission trip to a poorer country feeling like you're better than somebody else just because you have more materially. But you need to have the mindset of service, not charity. We're called to serve in the name of Jesus."