WBU Nurse takes healthcare expertise, servant's heart to Brazil

PLAINVIEW – Though she normally sees dozens of Wayland Baptist University students and employees in a typical week, Josie Gomez recently had a rash of patients to treat. Thankfully she wasn’t alone. 

The university’s full-time registered nurse, Gomez recently took a week off from her job at Wayland to travel to Brazil for a medical mission trip with other area medical professionals. A member of the First Baptist Church in Hale Center, Josie found out about the coming trip through a presentation by Dr. Gene Meacham, director of missions for the Caprock-Plains Baptist Area based in Plainview.

“I felt like this would be where I could use the talents God gave me for Him,” said Gomez, who has been at Wayland nine years. Though mission trips were nothing new to Gomez – she has been to Mexico and even Brazil on medical missions – this trip held a new twist for the longtime nurse.

The mission was conducted almost exclusively aboard a boat as part of the Evangelistic Mission Assistance to Fishermen project. The team of 12 short-term missionaries – which included Lubbock physician Dr. Hugh Wilson, formerly of Hale Center, dentist Donna Winchester of Slaton, two other nurses, a speech therapist, a physical therapist and several others who came for support and assistance – traveled each day from Isla Grande off the coast of central Brazil to remote villages where no medical assistance is regularly available. Luiz Alcantara, a physician from Brazil, traveled with them to provide translation and additional medical help.

Docked a short ways from the shore, the boat would become a clinic for the villagers who traveled to wait for help. The lines formed quickly and stayed long for most of the day. 

“It was very busy. People were in and out all day long for four days straight,” Gomez said. “We used every part of that boat to see people and treat them. We treated lots of intestinal worms, anemia and some scabies, and the dentist pulled teeth left and right because their dental hygiene was not good.”

Gomez noted that while the medical team stayed on board to run the clinic, others traveled into the villages to meet people and share the gospel message in various ways. Flexibility and creativity would prove to be valuable for the team.

“One day the wind was too high and we had to move the clinic into an elementary school on the island,” Gomez recalled. “When we heard that morning we might not get to stay on the boat, we prayed and prayed for God to calm the storm. But we ended up in the school anyway, and it was such a blessing.

“I think God had already planned this ahead for us.”

While the clinic continued on more solid ground, the rest of the team made good use of their time closer to the villagers. Ron Hanby of Plainview, a CPA, did a paint talk for a gathered group, using an illustration on large canvas to share the gospel story.

Though it was a whirlwind trip with lots of long days and hard work, Gomez said the time was an amazing experience and she was humbled to be part of God’s work using her nursing skills.

“The biggest blessing for me came from giving a shot to one lady who could barely walk from painful arthritis and had been that way for eight months,” she recalled. “She said through the interpreter that it was the first shot she’d had that didn’t hurt, and the next day she came up to me and was saying, ‘Thank you’ and hugging me and telling me how she didn’t hurt anymore.

She also noted one woman who brought her 14-year-old daughter to see the speech therapist, saying she had never spoken. Within a few hours of therapy, the girl was making simple noises and moving toward speech for the first time, a miracle to behold for the visiting Americans.

The incident, along with the whole trip, made an impact on Gomez.

“I think we just take it for granted here, that we can just go down to a clinic and get medicine for any little thing. They can’t do that there.”