Rush says she gained more than the Peruvians she served
Imagine living in a house with dirt floors, a ragged tin roof, no insulation and no heat in the winter months.
Imagine living in a world with no television, few automobiles, no running water and inadequate medical care.
For people living in the mountains of Peru this is a middle-class lifestyle.
Naomi Rush, an advanced practice nurse at Salem 1st Care, recently provided medical care to Peruvians living in these circumstances; she said she will cherish the memories forever.
"It's just an awesome experience," Rush said. "It was hard work, but I think we got more out of it than the people we helped."
Rush, along with 20 other area Christian missionaries, went on a mission trip to Peru Jan. 12--22.
The group provided medical care and other services for residents in the northern city of Cajamarca and three rural villages outside the city.
Rush said the missionaries administered health care to 500 Peruvians in five days. Headaches, back problems and stomach maladies were among the ailments treated.
In each village a medical clinic was set up inside a community building or school.
Tylenol, parasite medication and vitamins were used to alleviate discomfort.
"Living as well as we do in the United States, we can't imagine how hard our lives would be without something as simple as a Tylenol," Rush said. "But these people live their lives with very few comforts, like medicine."
Medical care was not the only service provided by the missionaries. Brad Wheelis, a dentist from Melbourne, pulled decayed teeth and passed out toothbrushes.
Several of the patients had ailments that medications could not cure.
One young girl had a heart murmur that could be treated in many western nations but may go untreated in Peru, Rush said.
She said a teen-age boy showed signs of bone cancer.
"It breaks my heart to think about those kids," Rush said. "We left some money for that boy so he could go to a hospital (in Peru) but their best hospitals aren't nearly as good as our worst."
This was Rush's third trip to Peru in the last eight years. She has also taken missionary trips to Brazil and Romania.
Visiting exotic cultures intrigues Rush.
"When they (the Peruvians) came to the clinic they wore their best clothes -- just like we would if we were going to church," Rush said.
During their stay, the native Peruvians insisted on cooking meals for the group.
A native dish, quie, caused consternation among the missionaries.
Quie consists of a whole cooked guinea pig placed on a bed of rice. It is served with the guinea pig facing the guest of honor.
Guinea pigs are a staple of the Peruvian diet.
"Fortunately, our host, Larry Johnson, talked them into serving chicken instead," Rush said.
Johnson, an American missionary who lives in Peru, has been sponsoring missionary trips to the impoverished country for several years. Rush said Johnson's goal is to bring running water to towns and villages in northern Peru.
She said Johnson is friends with Don Robinson, the pastor at First Baptist Church in Melbourne. It was at First Baptist that Rush first learned of Robinson's missionary trips abroad.
"I thought I'd do it just one time," Rush said. "But now I can't stop."
Two of Rush's children, son Matt and daughter Mirinda, have traveled with her to Peru.
Her other daughter, Maggie, hasn't gone on a mission trip, but she will someday, Rush said.
Besides providing medical care, Rush said her group distributed Southern Baptist Christian literature.
"We didn't force it (religion) on them," Rush said. "We passed out Bibles and showed films about our Christian beliefs."
Catholicism is the predominate religion in Peru. Catholic priests converted many of the natives in the 1500s after Spanish Conquistadors crushed the native Incan rulers.
Rush said even today Peruvians with Spanish ancestry are easy to differentiate from those of Incan origins.
Incan descendants wear loose fitting, brightly colored clothing. Spanish descendents wear western style clothing.
The trip to Peru came at a special time in Rush's life. She married Steven Roper of Melbourne in November. She said he was unable to make this trip, but he might make a future trip.
Rush said the trip to Peru, which cost her $1,450 was worth the cost.
"It's the best money I've ever spent," she said. "I would encourage anyone to go, no matter what their background is. You will certainly get more out of that $1,400 than if you spent it on something else."