By Rick Cousins

The Galveston Daily News

No one would ever suggest a repeat of the terrible trials Hurricane Ike brought to the island, people of faith consistently have reported benefits that followed the ordeal. Churches accelerated their efforts to feed and clothe the needy, historic worship centers were repaired and made safe and interfaith efforts blossomed.

Also, a good-sized group of busy medical students began investing some of their scarce weekends away from thick textbooks. Instead, they are medically ministering to hundreds of the poor who live along the Texas-Mexico border.

This Christian group of health students, known as Hands and Feet, is comprised of volunteers from both the UTMB and Texas A&M medical schools and is sponsored by the Baptist Student Mission.

Medicine with a heart

“It’s a faith-based, student-led organization that focuses on the delivery of health care to marginalized populations,” said Dr. Ben G. Raimer, UTMB senior vice president of legislative affairs. “Hands is reaching out and into communities around both Texas and the world to provide holistic health care.”

The students display an incredible amount of energy, spending Friday nights, once a month, driving seven hours to Laredo, opening their clinic with devotions Saturday morning, and seeing patient after patient.

Medical student Brian Dillon weighed his weekend options and his academic commitments and still chose service.

“Giving up an entire weekend of my time can be a significant sacrifice — there is always something to study,” he said.

“I have to constantly weigh the importance of each extracurricular activity. I chose to become a physician in order to help people, so why not begin now? Participating on these mission trips has become a way for me to demonstrate my faith by bearing fruit from the gifts I have been given, as we are all called to do.”

No lazy afternoons

The drug war in Mexico has taken a dramatic toll on both sides of the border. Dillon and the other students have eschewed lazy afternoons on the peaceful beaches of Galveston for, among other things, gunshot wounds and other products of violence.

“I once ministered to a patient who had been caught in the middle of a gunfight,” he said. “Her daughter had witnessed it all from a distance.”

Ophthalmology student Joshua Lord agreed that the long weekends with Hands were worth the investment.

“The trips give us a chance to interact with patients,” Lord said.

“They have both unique illnesses and unique spiritual needs and are in true need of medical care but would not otherwise receive it.”

The future physicians offer spiritual encouragement, medication, physical therapy and vision correction and count themselves blessed to see some of the results of their labors.

“Patients who couldn’t walk now have the ability to come to church, and those who couldn’t see can read the Bible again,” Lord said.

Hands and Feet is collecting donations for a future trip to Peru as well as a special scholarship fund. The group is accepting checks by mail to 413 8th St., Galveston, 77550.