MUKACHEVO, Ukraine -- For Austin DeAngelo and Tyler Nelson ('19), the summer holds much more than preparing for their junior season on the Sabercats Men's Soccer team.
The duo from North Carolina joined 30 people - a mix of medical professionals and members of a church in North Carolina - and, through Operation Renewed Hope, went on a medical mission trip to Ukraine, where they operated a medical clinic for the people of Mukachevo.
Free of charge.
The team reached over 600 Ukrainian people in three days.
CONNECTING THROUGH MEDICINE
DeAngelo was responsible for translating and transcribing, which included a crash course in the Ukranian language and giving people directions based on their needs. Nelson was in charge of delivering medications to patients and accompanying patients to the pharmacy to receive prescriptions. Nelson also did some shadowing of the team doctors.
The word about the team spread quickly, as local TV stations picked up the team's story from day one. The team leaders - including Jan Milton, ORH founder - were also invited to the Mukachevo Governor's office and were interviewed for local radio, newspaper, and television.
"There were about 100 people waiting in line to get into the clinic before we even got there," Nelson said. "We opened at 9 a.m. and people were waiting to get in as early as 4 a.m.," DeAngelo added.
People came for anything - a second opinion, eyeglasses, even scoliosis.
"American doctors are perceived as the top," DeAngelo said. "So the people were willing to trust what Americans had to say about medicine."
The clinic was set up in three sections: dental care, eye care, and general medical care. Each station kept the team busy, as patients came to each section of the clinic with a specific need.
But there was one potential need that the medical team saw in every patient that came into the clinic: the need for a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The physical set up of the clinic meant that every patient was directed to a room where they had the opportunity to hear the gospel. According to DeAngelo and Nelson, about 95 percent of the patients chose to listen to the gospel, and some 500 people responded to the gospel message in some way.
"Christianity is viewed as a cult in Ukraine," DeAngelo said. "The people are dedicated to the traditional Russian Orthodox Church. So I think the team laid some good groundwork because the people generally responded positively."
CONNECTING THROUGH SOCCER
DeAngelo even used the global "language" of soccer to connect with some young soccer enthusiasts. DeAngelo and his newfound friends played some soccer on the street, and DeAngelo's freestyling tricks even attracted a small crowd from a nearby field. DeAngelo took the opportunity to invite the kids he played with to the local Baptist church.
"We didn't even speak the same language, but we all knew soccer," DeAngelo noted. "Soccer is like an international 'language', so it's cool how you can use it to connect with people from a different culture."
MORE THAN MEDICINE
The pair of North Carolina natives both see medicine in their future. Nelson plans on going to physical therapy school once he graduates from Maranatha. DeAngelo is thinking of going to Europe through a medical route of some sort. DeAngelo entertains this European idea because of his experience on the trip.
"You need to look places and try new things," DeAngelo said. "Actively pursue your passions and see what opens up."
"This trip reminded me not to take things for granted," said Nelson. "We are blessed with our medical care in the U.S., and we should use medicine to help people. Christ didn't just walk past blind or sick people, so we should use our skills in the medical field to help people."
"Humans crave a human connection, and as Christians, we are commanded to love the people that come into our world," DeAngelo said. "With this week, the people that came into our world just happened to be people in Ukraine that needed medical care. So if you look at it from that perspective, it takes the fear away of being able to connect with them."