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Medical mission concludes with emotional visit to Vietnam


Doctors James Ogden and David Reimche-Vu are back from their whirlwind medical mission to Cambodia and Vietnam, but before returning Ogden filed this last report.

John, Betty, Penny, and I arrived in Portland on Monday, June 10, at about 3 p.m. Gabe made it to his home in Maui, Hawaii, and last Friday the Reimche-Vus all returned safely.

We left Father Thinh’s facility in Tan Heip on Friday morning (June 8) and visited the local hospital where the dental and optometric helpers work. Then we visited David’s boyhood home that he left when he was 11. His uncle and wife live in the house where his family lived at that time, and they met us with their boat along the main road. We had a 30 minute ride up the canal in the rain to their house, and David showed us around. They have a big rice field and a pond where they raise fish. David said that the house had been enlarged since he left, and he showed us where he had written “goodbye” behind the front door just before leaving. We stayed about an hour, and then they took us back down the canal to the road in the boat. Betty, John, Penny, Gabe, Thao, Trinh, and I then went to Saigon and arrived there in the early evening.

Saturday, Gabe, Thao and I went to the Cu Chih tunnels where the Viet Cong lived underground during the Vietnam war. They have constructed some tunnels that are larger than the originals for tourists to crawl through. The route has several exits, and I made it to the second one and then got out. I can’t imagine staying under there for any length of time, especially with the snakes and rats that they said were there at the time. Betty and Penny did some shopping while we were “tunneling.” All of us went for a tour of the Reunification Palace, which was built in 1966 and was the president’s residence and offices until 1975.

Our flight left Saigon at 11:35 p.m., and after the five-hour flight to Korea, we had a 12-hour layover there. These long layovers are fairly common there, so they have an area of the airport with a hotel, large easy chairs, free showers, and a piano that people can play (with permission). I got to play for about an hour, and I got a lot of friendly nods and waves, but no tips. Our flight from Korea to Vancouver B.C. was mostly smooth, and U.S. Customs was easy. On the flight from Vancouver to Portland, I sat next to a Korean man who said that he lived in Vancouver. I told him that I used to live in Castle Rock, and he told me that he had been running the gas station/convenience store there for the past six years.

The paperwork that was required to get into Vietnam to do this project was really extensive. We had to do a curriculum vitae for everyone. The officials wanted to know about work history and lots of other things. Since we were the first foreign medical team allowed to work in this part of the country, I suspected that we would be looked over again after we got there. I suspect that some of the patients were like “secret shoppers”. The first day at Father Thinh’s, there were four men at lunch who were introduced as “party members.” There were three of them there the next day at lunchtime and on the third day, the Chief of Police was there for lunch. He told us (through the translator) how much our work was appreciated and how happy the patients were with the special attention given to them. He wanted to know when we could come back again. I told him that our group were the ones who got to travel and do the work, but that we had a very large support network, and without their help, this mission could not have happened. I told him about how we raise the funds for the in-country expenses and about the time and work involved in getting the glasses inventory measured and labeled. Alcon and Allergan pharmaceutical companies, as well as some of David’s dental suppliers, donated medications and other supplies. Many people donated used eyeglasses. The Methodist ladies made kid packs. Generous people, mostly from Goldendale, donated a considerable amount of money, and many prayed for our health and safety while we were away. I told the police chief that the number of people involved in these parts of the project were uncountable, but those who have helped in these ways over the years would certainly number in the thousands by this time. Thanks again to all of you who were involved in some way.

We plan to give a report on this trip at the Goldendale Public Library in September, and the date will be announced soon. I will soon have my pictures organized and am willing to give a program to any church or other group that would like to hear about the 2012 trip. Please give me call if you want a presentation.

—Jim Ogden


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