08/03/11 — Goldsboro man: Trip to Nicaragua was 'life-changing'

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Goldsboro man: Trip to Nicaragua was 'life-changing'

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on August 3, 2011 1:46 PM

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Brad Jenkins, center, helps bag rice, which was given out to people going to the medical clinic he worked at for four days while on a recent mission trip to the town of Leon in Nicaragua.

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Brad Jenkins is shown with one of the children from the Nicaragua Christian School in Leon. He said the little boy ran up to him and jumped into his arms, something he will never forget.

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A crowd of locals lines up at the American medical clinic in Leon, Nicaragua. Brad Jenkins volunteered with the clinic and said there were so many people needing medical treatment that the clinic had to turn people away every day.

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Looking at the bracelet he got in Nicaragua, Brad Jenkins talks about his mission trip to the Central American country.

Every time Brad Jenkins held a Bible study or just visited a home in the remote village of Leon in Nicaragua -- usually just a wood dwelling with no walls and a partial roof -- he thought of his big comfy bed at home, and his heart began to ache because he had so much while others were destitute.

The mission trip to the Central American country was an eye-opener, the 20-year-old said.

The living conditions of the people there were not anything Jenkins could have ever imagined. The houses were covered with tin roofs and enclosed by mostly trees on each side. The occupants slept in hammocks above dirt floors, and cooked over open fires.

Dirt roads wound their way through the countryside, and when it rained, they became a muddy mess. Animals, especially horses, roamed the land. Most people walked to wherever they needed to go, though some rode bicycles.

Jenkins couldn't imagine anyone living in such harsh conditions.

"But even though there were really bad conditions, but you really didn't see anyone complaining," he said.

The young man said the people's attitude toward life lifted his spirits.

"I don't think people here can be truly thankful for what we have here until they go to a country that's in such desperation as Nicaragua," Jenkins said. "We've got it good here, and most of the rest of the world is out there suffering -- not because they want to."

The people were thankful for many things, including the Americans who were there with their medical clinic.

Jenkins was part of a medical mission to Nicaragua from June 17 through 25. He was with a team from Warner's Chapel Church of Christ in Clemons and Eastridge Church of Christ in Eastridge, Tenn.

He flew from Raleigh to Miami, where he met up with the others going on the mission trip. From there, they flew to the capital of Nicaragua -- Managua. Then they were off to Leon.

Jenkins said the clinic, which was open four days, saw 1,765 people. The group gave out 950 bags of food, 7,337 prescriptions and 582 pairs of eyeglasses.

"A lot of them couldn't see," Jenkins said. "Almost everyone who came through the clinic wanted eyeglasses. We ran out of those."

Jenkins also saw something he'd never seen before -- an infected mosquito bite.

"The doctor had to flush it out with water, use tweezers to get the pus out and flush it out again before he could wrap it," he said. "That man's son came in a few days later and had the same thing."

The medical clinic included a dental office, a pharmacy and a head scrub station to get rid of lice.

Jenkins said he did just about everything at the medical clinic, but his main job was crowd control.

"Basically, people would line up outside the clinic each day," he said. "It was a long line in the heat, which was close to 100 degrees every day. It's also humid over there, much more humid than here in North Carolina.

"I had to make sure people didn't cut in line. I also took patients to the stations where they needed to go. And I took them to get free clothes and food."

That food consisted of beans and rice, which Jenkins helped bag.

He also went out with the evangelism team and did some Bible studies with the people in the village. He said they conducted 200 Bible studies and baptized 13 people.

But it was the medical attention that the Nicaraguans needed the most.

"The clinic was open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day," Jenkins said. "At 4:45 p.m. we would shut the doors and give arm bands to the ones still outside so they could be first in line the next day. Some people walked three and four miles to get to the clinic. But the last day we had to turn people away. It just didn't seem fair."

While in Nicaragua, Jenkins was shocked to discover that the average income was just $7 a month. He learned that 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day.

"It's the poorest country in Central America and the second poorest in the western hemisphere," he said. "Forty-eight percent of the population lives below the poverty level."

Many children can't go to school because they don't have the money for school uniforms, supplies and tuition.

Although Jenkins' group stayed in a hotel while in Nicaragua, it wasn't much better than the villagers' houses. He said they couldn't flush the toilets because the sewage system is bad there. And each night before they went to bed, they had to check for bed bugs.

Add to that the fact that an active volcano overlooked the clinic and Jenkins watched smoke come out of each every day.

But there was one day that the group got to go ziplining through the Nicaraguan forest, a first for Jenkins.

And he'll never forget going to the Nicaraguan Christian school and one little boy running out yelling "Ola, ola," then jumping into Jenkins' arms.

"That was neat," Jenkins said. "I will never forget it.

"The trip was a life-changing experience. It's something I'll always remember."