July 1, 2010
Who went on this year's trip?
This year we had about 40 people – doctors, nurses, surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, and other medical personnel. We also had five guys from the team – myself, my brother, John Gold, Tyrell Higgins, Jamison Berryhill – and then a former teammate and his sister. We were there 11 days. My dad has been going for the past 20 years, and it has just grown every single year.
Did you have any specific goals?
We didn't, our goal is always to give free medicine, but also to touch people's lives for God. That's what we did this year. It was just awesome. I was talking my dad yesterday, and he was saying that this trip was different from other trips, and I felt the same way. I know that usually I bring four or five guys from the team and hope that they are changed, but this year I actually noticed myself being changed for the better by the trip. One of my teachers said it best. She says that it kind of gives you a paradigm shift, where it just changes your whole world perspective.
Can you pinpoint anything about this trip that was different that caused that feeling?
Everybody's spirits there were just open for anything that God was going to do. We saw miracles happen. Obviously with all of the surgeries, and all of the doctors and nurses were doing their jobs by any means necessary. I remember there was a time when all of the lights went out, and there was no generator, so one of the surgeons did the operation by flashlight. We didn't expect the power to go out, and we didn't know what to do because the patient was already open for hernia-removal. The patient actually pulled out a flashlight from his pants, so we finished the surgery under flashlight. That is just one of the many stories and blessings that God did while we were over there.
What was a day down there like?
We woke up around 6 a.m. and had a devotion in the morning. All 40 of us would gather together. Then, we would grab a quick breakfast and all head out at 7 a.m. The first bus would have the doctors and the people doing crowd control, and the second bus would leave about 15 minutes later. When that bus got there to the Isukwuato General Hospital we would get to work. The first day that we got there, there were at least 1,000 people waiting outside trying to get help. As soon as we got off the bus, they were praising God, dancing and singing because they knew that they were going to get help. They knew that there was hope for change and hope for them to receive some medical attention. We walked in and started letting people in and organizing people – Do you have an eye problem? Do you have problems with your teeth? Do you have a medical health problem? A lot of people have malaria, so we were giving them treatment. We were at the hospital around 10 or 11 hours. We would get there at 8 a.m., then at 1 p.m. grab a snack while we were still working, then at 5 p.m. was when everyone left, but still there were a lot of surgeons who stayed until 8 p.m. or so to finish up their surgeries. Dr. Brooks, who was our main surgeon, removed about 50 or 60 hernias. Dr. Gold, John Gold's father who is an ophthalmologist, removed about 80 cataracts.
Do you go back to the same village each year?
What we used to do in years past was to be based in the same village, but travel to different villages. One day we would do work in one village and the next we would drive to another village and do work there. After doing that for a couple years, my dad realized that it would be better to have one centralized location and then, from there, have everyone come. That is when we started seeing the masses come. They knew we were coming, they knew where we were going to be, and they knew they had hope for help.
What is it like to know that all of those people anticipated your arrival each year?
Words really just can't describe the feeling you get when you help people who can't help themselves. I know that I went over there, and it was just crazy to me to see so many people in need that could not get help, yet we were there trying to help them and doing what we could to help them. We helped a lot of people, but there are still thousands of people that need help. You just get this feeling of enjoyment and that that's what life is all about – helping people who can't help themselves.
What are your goals for the future of the trips?
Our three-year goal is to set up a hospital in Nigeria where we can go to a location three, four, even five time a year, and then also have missionaries who can stay there year round. We are raising money. It's estimated to be about $1 million that we need to build this hospital, but we are operating in faith. My dad already bought the land for the hospital, so right now we are just in the process of raising the funds needed. The hospital is going to be state-of-the-art. We'll have everything that you need. In Nigeria, there are different standards in some of the poorer village, so we want to bring America's best to Nigeria. It will be awesome when it happens.
What is it like to have members of the Texas family down there with you?
It's unbelievable. Tyrell Higgins and I have been teammates, but we weren't really close in years past, and this trip just really brought us together like best friends. It just built a different kind of relationship that I don't think could have been built while we were just here. John and I have always been close, and John is close with my brother as well. It's just really great to have members of the Texas family with us and see that burnt orange. Aaron Smith's dad actually also came. He works in construction, but his job down there was taking pictures, and he captured every moment. He gave a testimony at the end of the trip saying how much it changed him to see everything that was going on.