In The Book of Mormon, King Benjamin, king of the Nephite people in the Land of Zarahemla, in addressing his people for the last time, spoke to them about serving their fellow man. He concluded that part of his address with the words, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17).
A little over 150 years later, and halfway around the world, the King of all, even Jesus Christ, told his Apostles, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)
As disciples of Jesus Christ, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints strive to follow the Savior’s admonition to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, take in the stranger, clothe the naked, and visit the sick and those in prison.
In July 2016, Sister Amber Kosubovich and her daughter Natalya, of Greensville, Ontario, following these teachings travelled to Ecuador to serve a 10-day humanitarian mission. This is their story.
Amber: For many years, I dreamed of serving a humanitarian mission. As a registered Physiotherapist, I wanted to use my skills to help the less fortunate. After graduating from University, though, I was busy starting my career and then raising a family. My husband, David, and I were married in the Toronto Temple while I was still in school.
Finally, in 2014, I went on my first mission trip with Medical Ministry International. My son and daughter were teenagers and my physiotherapy practice was doing well, so I was able to take the time and go to Peru for 10 days.
When I signed up, I did not know anyone else that would be going. Soon I met 2 nurses from my area and we travelled together. We met with many Americans and local Peruvians. It was a lifechanging experience and one that I wanted to repeat as soon as possible!
This past July, I was able to take my then 17-year-old daughter, Natalya, on another mission trip to Ecuador. It was a much smaller team with only five Canadians and a few local people. I provided physiotherapy services to 145 people and Natalya did 50 fluoride treatments on children as well as helping to organize the mobile clinics and demonstrate exercises that I prescribed.
It was such a blessing for us to travel together and serve the poor and needy in a hands-on way.
Natalya, who just graduated from Grade 12, said she wanted to take part after hearing about her mother's experience in Peru. 'She had a really good experience and it's always been something I've wanted to do as well,' she said in an interview with the Flamborough Review. 'l wanted to go help her out with it, experience the culture and make a difference.'
Amber said the trip offered Natalya a great opportunity to learn about another culture and provide some volunteer service. 'She's interested in healthcare as a career, so she'll get to observe the different team members and what they're doing.” (Article, Flamborough Review, Jun 13, 2016)
Natalya: Having travelled only as far as the United States prior to this trip, it was a total
difference in culture for me. However, I quickly felt at home thanks to the kindness and welcoming nature of the people we met there. Our team was small but prepared to work hard and make a difference in Baños and the surrounding communities.
On our first clinic day, I was at a different location than my mom. I was nervous at first, but there was a lot of work to be done so I focused on helping the patients who began to line up outside our makeshift clinic.
We set up in a schoolhouse in one of the rural communities surrounding Baños. It was amazing how this schoolhouse was swiftly transformed into a functioning health care clinic, equipped with a doctor's room, pharmacy, and counselling station.
I helped lead the local patients from station to station in the clinic with the little Spanish I learned. I also worked together with the amazing Canadian doctor on our team. If a patient needed exercises or stretches, I would demonstrate how to do them while someone translated. The locals all seemed to enjoy participating in these quick exercise lessons and we experienced many laughs together. I felt blessed that I was able to contribute to our clinic in such a meaningful way.
Every day that week we woke up early, had breakfast together, then travelled to our next clinic location. I met so many wonderful people in each community and it was such a joy to have been able to serve them. Many were hardworking farmers who, although suffering from body aches and pains, had a beautiful smile on their face. One of my favorite tasks was giving fluoride treatments to the young children. I gave each of them a sticker and a little toy afterwards and they were very thankful.
One clinic day, in particular, there were many children. They were all playing together and wanted me to join in with them. I blew up balloons for them and we played outside in the warm sun that the afternoon brought.
During our lunch break, one boy stuck around. His name was Leo. Leo was four years old and wore bright yellow crocs. He sat with me while I ate my lunch, so I offered some to him and he was very happy.
Leo was extremely polite and such a spirited little boy. He kept asking me, in Spanish, to pick him up and carry him around.
I walked with him after lunch to see his home, which was one large room with several beds. He was proud to show me which bed was his. I left a special toy truck for him to find when he came home later.
Leo hung out at our clinic for the whole day. When I was busy working, he would come and find me. When it was time for us to leave, I was holding Leo and he refused to let me put him down. He kept repeating a phrase in Spanish that I did not recognize. A nearby translator said he was saying 'I want to stay with you'. As we said our goodbyes he gave me a kiss on the forehead. I was in tears as we left the village.
It was amazing how much one child could impact me so much. Although it was heartbreaking to leave little Leo, I was thankful to have been able to help him and the people in his community.
God reveals himself to us in mysterious ways. Leo was that revelation to me. He showed me that not only was I making a difference in the lives of those we served, they were also making a difference in mine.
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught:
“If the world is to be improved, the process of love must make a change in the hearts of men. It can do so when we look beyond self to give our love to God and others, and do so with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.
“… If we would claim to worship and follow the Master, must we not strive to emulate his life of service?
“… My beloved brethren and sisters, the challenge is great. The opportunities are all about us. God would have us do His work—and do it with energy and cheerfulness. That work, as He has defined it, is to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” (D&C 81:5.)
“It is to minister to those in need. It is to comfort the bereaved. It is to visit the widow and the fatherless in their affliction. It is to feed the needy, to clothe the naked, to shelter those who have not a roof over their heads. It is to do as the Master did, who “went about doing good.” (Acts 10:38.)7
“My message to you today … is that you resolve to dedicate a part of your time, … to those in distress and need. Your skills are needed, whatever they may be. Your helping hands will lift someone out of the mire of distress. Your steady voice will give encouragement to some who might otherwise simply give up. Your skills can change the lives, in a remarkable and wonderful way, of those who walk in need.
“May the real meaning of the gospel distill into our hearts that we may realize that our lives, given us by God our Father, are to be used in the service of others.” (Losing Ourselves in the Service of Others - President Hinckley)
Amber: Medical Ministry International is a non-denominational Christian organization that is committed to bringing compassion and health care to a world in need. Each day starts with a devotional and the volunteers also pray with the people that they are serving. While I was asked not to proselytize my Latter-Day Saint beliefs, I was asked on both trips to lead the team in prayer and also lead morning devotionals. This gave Natalya and I the opportunity to share scriptures that were meaningful to us and relevant to our service.
Links: Article, Flamborough Review, Jun 13, 2016