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Saturday, February 15, 2003

Happy Valentine's Day!

Greetings from the Caribbean Mercy! We are in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic.

The Lord has shown favor on the Caribbean Mercy and we have cleared customs, now our vehicles, equipment and supplies are released. Our customs clearance was quite delayed and it held up the beginning of the outreach by about 10 days. After our customs clearance, we spent about a week getting the optical clinic and Dock Side Units cleaned and ready. We also had to get the surgical units sterilized and ready. None of this could be done until the equipment and supplies were released from customs. Now our different teams may traverse the country in conjunction with the Dominican Republic’s Government and visit the prospective villages into which the Lord is leading our ministries.

The officials from the government met with many of the crew to help determine where the greatest needs are. Phil Wilson, who directs the water well drilling aspect of the Community Development Department, initially identified 30 different sites which needed water wells drilled. Phil has traveled to 5 of these villages which were in the most desperate need of fresh water and has taken the well drilling equipment to the first of these villages and has installed a well for the village. The Lord is good all the time! The well-drilling truck, however, got stuck in a river and now needs a transmission. The team has worked out a solution and is renting a truck to continue the work and we will get the truck’s transmission replaced when we get back to the states. There is no way to get a new transmission here for a Dodge truck...they are afraid it would get tied up in customs.

The doctors have been out to many villages conducting clinics and screening for the eye surgeries. There are many Haitian villages and Dominican villages to reach with health care. The nurses and doctors go into the villages, set up clinics to help the people and look for eye surgery candidates. Many patients are helped and information is passed out to educate the people in basic health care.

When the prospective eye surgery patients are identified, they are given appointment cards to come to the ship for further testing and possible surgery. Visiting the villages is only one way that eye surgery patients are identified. We also had a screening day on January 31st at the optical clinic and about 600 appointments for eye screening and testing were given out. Some of these appointments also identify eye surgery patients. The optical clinic is set up at a local Dominican army base here in Puerto Plata, about 20 minutes drive from the ship.

Our Dock Side Unit (DSU) is up and functioning, this is the area directly off of the ship where the pre-op and post-op procedures are conducted; from here the patients are brought aboard and escorted to the operating room for their surgery. Amazingly, the cataract surgery process takes as little as 20 minutes and the patients are released with a patch over their eye and asked to return the following day. This outreach unlike previous ones we have been blessed to have two surgeons. They are performing an average of five to seven surgeries daily. In addition to cataract surgery they are performing surgery to correct crossed-eyes and to remove pterygiums (growths that form on the eyes from too much sun exposure) And the blind shall see! A lot of education is also done at the optical clinic to inform the people of the importance of wearing sunglasses and how to care for their eyes. At the optical clinic, almost every patient receives sunglasses and most patients receive glasses. If we can not provide glasses due to the limited supply of prescriptions available in 20,000 pairs, we write them a prescription. How do we know all of this….Denise was able to take a week away from her busy job as the Director of Human Resources and serve at the Optical Clinic located at the local military base in the base chapel. She led one woman to the Lord and also gave a Spanish Bible to several others, who did not have one of their own.

Rob spoke at a local church last Sunday and was warmly received by the people. One of the crew (Smirna DeJesus, from Puerto Rico) translated for him. Rob challenged the congregation to ask the Lord what God’s will is for their lives. The pastor of the church asked for those convicted by Rob’s message to come forward and many people came forward and we (the team from Mercy Ships) prayed for them individually. God is working among the Dominican people!

We have added a website to go along with our newsletter. To view the pictures that go along with this newsletter, visit our site at . If you have any questions or want us to include other information, please email us. We’d be glad to hear from you!

We trust that you are encouraged by the work being done here, physically and spiritually and that you know that you are a part of what is happening here. We appreciate your support spiritually, emotionally and financially! We praise God for the close relationships we have with you! Please know that you are in our prayers daily and that we miss you! We are blessed to be in the center of God’s will for our lives! May your life be as wonderful as it was in the mind of God the day he made you!

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Isaiah 61:1

God’s blessings!
Rob and Denise

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