Diane Gardiner, grandmother of 11, waves her hand in front of her face, attempting to discourage the relentless Cambodian flies. She and her team have been handing out medicine in the makeshift pharmacy for 6 hours.
Residents of Sydney, Australia, Diane and her husband, Roy, have led medical mission trips to Cambodia since 2006, when they first became volunteers with Cru. They lead teams as large as 100, including medical professionals, pastors, laypeople and anyone with a heart to serve.
Roy’s ability to organize such large groups in third world countries testifies to the gifts God has given him. “It’s never without a few hiccups, but we manage – with God’s grace – to reach our goals and return home safely,” says Roy.
His first trip remains the most memorable because a military general came to the medical clinic. Like all the patients in the village, he had a chance to hear the gospel. He did not accept the gospel at that time, but thanked the team and stayed to observe the clinic.
Throughout the day, the general watched the love and kindness of Jesus displayed in practical ways through this group of Christians. It appealed to him, and before long, he and two other military personnel prayed and received Christ. “He is a key leader who opens many doors for our trips,” Roy says with a smile.
Well into their 60s, this young-at-heart couple continues to serve the Lord by providing medical assistance to Cambodians who otherwise never would receive treatment. Diane is careful to add: “We can’t enter their world trying to force Western values on them. We just come to serve, to offer help within the context of what suits their culture best. That’s what opens their hearts to really hear the gospel message.”
Roy steps over a few chicks and a mangy dog to take water to the volunteers. In this hot, harsh country, the long workdays begin at 6 a.m. With only enough time to treat approximately 200 Cambodians, crowd control becomes difficult at times. The team comes for only one day, and the remote villagers may not see another clinic in the area for 5 years or more.
A triage nurse waits patiently for her interpreter to explain the patient’s symptoms among the noise of the crowd and screaming babies. Situated behind the Gardiners, a doctor performs open-air surgery just after turning away a woman with a goiter. With limited medical supplies, he cannot perform the risky procedure needed to help her.
In another room, 3 dentists pull more teeth than they can count. “Ninety-five percent hear the gospel before they leave the clinic,” Diane continues. “Some pray to receive Christ; some don’t.”
The sun starts to sink. Roy turns away those who arrived too late. Packing must take place quickly in order to be on the road by sunset. The last optometry patient is a young boy. He sees for the first time with second-hand eyeglasses from Australia. A deaf woman receives prayer and suddenly hears. The volunteers clap, praising God.
Covered with red dirt and hair matted with sweat, the exhausted Aussies somehow find the energy to smile. They treat or pray for whomever they can. Then, they must go.
Roy and Diane give each other a subtle touch on the arm and a glance. No words are exchanged. It is the look only a couple who has been together this long can give each other – a couple choosing not to spend their retirement years in rocking chairs but volunteering, giving all they can for the sake of the gospel.
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