More than just a game

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By Ryan Butler

Sometimes a game of baseball, and five days of care, can overcome language barriers, poverty and even hatred. 


Dr. Robert Balbis gave a presentation of his mission trip to Nicaragua during the Chiefland Rotary Club's meeting on March 28. Balbis, doctor of a family practice at Southeastern Medical and a teaching professor at the University of Florida, explained how the care given by the trip's volunteers, and a pick-up baseball game, helped the group of American doctors relate with the impoverished Nicaraguans. 


"A bunch of skinny Nicaraucan kids beat us pretty good," Balbis said at the meeting. Baseball, the nation's most popular sport, was a quick and effective way to attract the attention of the locals. The medical care was another. 


Balbis was part of a group of 64 from the Christian Medical and Dental Association (CMDA). Each member of the group, which included doctors and 10 University of Florida medical students, brought over 100 pounds of supplies. More importantly, they brought hope. They aided nearly 2,000 people over five days, helping them physically, emotionally and spiritually. 


Balbis said many of the injuries treated were work-related maladies like arthritis pains. Spiritually, over 100 Nicaraguans committed themselves to Christ because of efforts from the group. 


Poverty is a major issue in Nicaragua. It is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Nearly 80 percent of Nicaraguans live on under $2 a day. Balbis said sex trafficking is another major issue. Children, some as young as five years old, are abducted to live in "hotels" where they are forced into de facto slavery. 


Others are ignored by their parents, mistreated or even sold into slavery. Many parents view their children as a burden. During the trip, Balbis met a child named "Basura", which in english means "Garbage".  The group from the CMDA gave out candy at night as part of a children's ministry and gave them the care and respect many never received at home. 


 And a group of children got to win a game of baseball.