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Missionaries' skills enlisted in Ecuador

Elders, sisters assist in medical mission

A team of young men and women who offer daily spiritual health to folks in rural southern Ecuador recently played pivotal roles in providing for their physical well-being as well.

Nineteen full-time missionaries from the Ecuador Guayaquil South Mission served as translators in early July for U.S. military doctors and dentists participating in a humanitarian medical mission to the South American nation. The 10-day project — jointly coordinated by the U.S. and Ecuadorean militaries — provided medical service to some 7,000 people living in some of Ecuador's most rural ares.

"[The project] was designed to help people in the country who don't receive any medical attention," said President Lance T. Willis, who presides over the Ecuador Guayaquil South Mission.

Prior to the humanitarian mission, President Willis was contacted by military representatives and asked if the missionaries could lend their language skills to help the American doctors and dentists communicate with the Spanish-speaking villagers. He agreed, assigning 19 elders and sisters serving in Machala and surrounding areas to accompany the military doctors and their support staff. Under the direction of a pair of local zone leaders, six missionaries were selected each day to serve as translators. In the end, the missionaries donated more than 700 service hours.

"The people would line up to receive medical attention," President Willis said. "They would explain the problem and then the missionary would tell the American doctor what the person said."

The medical professionals — who were all military reservists from Illinois — treated a range of ailments, pulled teeth and diagnosed internal illnesses.

"It was a good act of service," said Elder Jacob Owens, a full-time missionary from Wyoming who returned home days after the humanitarian project. "Many sicknesses were treated and people were helped. Our Church is a church of service, and I am just glad that I was able to be a part of this great project."

The missionaries earned the respect and appreciation of both the local villagers and the American doctors.

"They have done an incredible service for these people and the Lord," said one serviceman.

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