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"I just want to give back."

November 7, 2018

The Dinwiddie Mountain Medical Team encountered a few hiccups this morning. Our “Mama Hen” came down with vertigo and wasn’t feeling so great, but we are blessed to have our third power couple, Doctor Joseph “Poppy” Stegman and his wife Debbie “Mimi” Stegman, who was a nurse and then worked in quality control for 25 years. It was quite incredible to be a fly in the room and watch the medical staff jump into action to take care of one of our own. Medication and rest was what Dr. Poppy Joe ordered, so she and her husband stayed behind while the rest of the team headed out to Planes del Picacho, a community in Santa Cruz Yojoa. We saw 226 patients and our new pediatric vision clinic set a new record and saw over 100 children today!

When I spoke with Mimi and Poppy this evening, I was in complete wonder at the incredible life they’ve lived so far. They both grew up in Indiana, attended Indiana University where Joe was attending medical school and Debbie was in nursing school. They met one day after classes in a parking lot. He asked her out on a date for that weekend and 6 weeks later they were engaged. They’ve been happily married since 1977. They were stationed all over the United States while Joe served in the Navy, and then they settled down in Concord, NC to raise their three children. Joe runs a Pediatric Developmental Clinic, which is his life’s passion, and he is also the Medical Director at Jeff Gordon Children’s hospital in Concord. Joe and Debbie are no strangers to missions. They have been on many trips in the past including Costa Rica working mission, 4 medical missions in Panama and 1 working mission in Panama. When I asked them why they kept coming back they both answered simply, “I’ve had a good life and a desire to share what I have with others. I can still physically go out and do it, so I will. I just want to give back.”

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in all the chaos during a trip like this, but if you could watch Dr. Poppy Joe and Mimi work you’d see they have such a calming presence about them. They never seem stressed or frantic, but always calm, cool and collected. Dr. Joe was telling me how there is a large Hispanic community in Concord and 3 times a month he has interpreters come in and assist with treating the Hispanic community at his practice, so being here isn’t very different for him. They approach every encounter with a give it your all attitude, but they also understand how to compartmentalize those feelings and emotions with a patient to be able to give the next patient their all.

God has given them such great gifts to use as they go through this journey, and they love making a difference. When I asked them if there were ever any missionary moments that have stayed with them over the years Debbie told me a story about a working mission in Costa Rica where they were painting a huge cathedral. She remembers thinking how crazy all the colors seemed and how far they had to go to finish before their deadline. The night before the deadline she was so nervous because she didn’t think there was any way it would get done and it would look nice, but she said it was a pure miracle to stand in front of the cathedral at 4 pm the following afternoon and behold a stunning cathedral before her eyes. You never know what God has in store for you and the lessons He can teach along the way.

Joe’s favorite moment took place in Machuca, Panama where he was treating children for developmental issues. A family with 6 children came to see him, one of them being only 5 months old and weighing only 7 lbs. The mother told him she had lost a baby before due to her milk not coming in and the baby starved to death. He remembers wanting to do anything he could to make sure this baby had a shot. The program arranged for the baby to be sent to a facility in Panama City where the baby could be given the medical care and nourishment he needed. The only catch was that the parents could not go with him. The parents had to put complete trust in the facility. The mother knew it was his only chance, so she let him go for about 4 months. Fast forward a year and a half … they returned to the village again and the family came to the clinic to find Dr. Joe. He said he walked out to greet them and there they all were. She was holding the baby who was now 18 months old, happy and healthy. She held out her son to him and said “This is your baby.” It doesn’t get any better than that. Give every encounter your absolute best and amazing things will happen.

FYI “Mama Hen” is doing much better thanks to the medical staff at Alfredo House!

~Laura Noyes

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