Answering the call to help others has taken two Mooresville doctors to remote areas of the world, where they have cared for those in desperate situations and whose lives have been changed because of it.
Drs. Aubrey Calhoun and Stephen Ferguson have jointly and individually been on numerous mission trips that have taken them to remote villages around the world, treating and feeding children and adults alike. Calhoun said he was really unsure how many trips he had been on, perhaps numbering 45 or more, while Ferguson has reached at least 20, he said. At least four or five of these have been together, they added.
Calhoun said he started by going on medical mission trips to Honduras, where he had been at least 30 times, five times visiting the Ukraine, at least four times to Ecuador, and then also to Nicaragua and Haiti.
Ferguson said he had been to Honduras a couple of times with Calhoun, and then he went to Nicaragua quite a few times and also to Ecuador and Haiti, where both helped out with the North Carolina Baptist Men 10 days after the earthquake hit in January 2010, helping to run an ICU for nine days.
It was in February 1988 that Calhoun said he received a call from Kim Fortenberry to go with a medical team to Honduras. At that time, he didn’t even have a passport. However, he quickly got one and he started a journey that he continues today, reaching out to those who have no health care.
“We took our own medicine and treated those poor in the villages. Healthcare, food and water all are issues (where they go),” Calhoun said. The doctors see and treat whatever comes in while in these villages.
A member of First Baptist Church, Mooresville, Calhoun has gone with both members of the local church as well as with teams from Gastonia.
“Being in the medical field, we see needs,” said Ferguson. Wanting to help others, Ferguson, a member of the Mooresville AR Presbyterian Church, joined others, Dr. Mike Campbell, Bobby Brawley and John Kennedy, on a week long fact-finding trip to Nicaragua in 2002.
The need was great and seeing that need to support and feed children, the group of men began the charitable organization Samaritans International in 2002, and it was incorporated in 2003. Throughout the years, this organization has helped support, treat, feed and care for children and their families with their main focus being in Nicaragua but also reaching out to other areas around the world including Malawi, Honduras, Peru, Liberia, Haiti and Kenya. In addition to Nicaragua, current areas where the group is actively serving are Haiti and Kenya.
Samaritans International has also branched out to working in Ethiopia, partnering with Lifewater to teach hygiene and funding the building and providing of wells.
Calhoun noted that “some of the areas where I have been are not safe to go back to. You see such desperation with these people, and homelessness.”
Much of what they have seen emphasizes the need around the world; however, this hasn’t stopped them from going and reaching out to help. It actually spurs them on to continue going and serve more.
“We are blessed and need to share it,” said Ferguson.
Every trip has something memorable about it, Fhe added. However, there was one memory that particularly stands out in his mind.
It was on a trip to Nicaragua with Samaritans International and the group was prepared to provide clinics. Staying with their sister organization, they asked for “the poorest of the poor to give help.”
It was there where the people were living at or on the trash dump and using whatever was at hand for housing or to meet their needs. After providing clinics near the dump, they still had time and actually provided a clinic on the top of the trash heap.
“Within five minutes, 100 people came,” Ferguson said. “You would see kids peeking around Mom, wanting to high-five you. They were happy.”
He said they tried to help them and provide housing away from the dump; however, in time they went back because they missed their families who were still there.
It was through this Ferguson said that he “learned to not change them, but help them.”
From the many trips he has been on, Calhoun cited one event that remains memorable to him.
It was during a trip to Honduras, and the busy day had calmed down. They decided to take a walk, still in their scrubs, down a dirt road where the Mexican circus was in the area and setting up. Seeing them, a woman waved at them to come, wanting them to help her 10-year-old girl. Stricken with hydrocephalus, the child had the body of a 3-year-old but a very large head. White lace was around the little girl, reflecting how the family cared for her.
Calhoun said they were unable to do anything medically for the child, but members of the team supported this family, showing them care and concern.
Not only have the mission trips over the years changed the doctors, but the doctors have witnessed change in others. This was realized when Calhoun said he went to Haiti after Hurricane Mitch had hit the area. He traveled with the Baptist men into the villages for a week conducting medical clinics.
One day, Calhoun said, “A pastor keep looking at me.”
It turned out to be a man by the name of Salvador who five years before had been standing in line waiting to be seen as a patient. Now here he was, a pastor serving over five villages.
You may never see the fruits that come about from serving on these trips, Calhoun said. However, on this particular occasion, he was blessed to witness that fruit.
Both doctors added that they would encourage others to step out and go on a mission trip.
However, Calhoun stressed that those going for the first time need to “know it won’t be what you expect. It’s going to be different. Anything can happen. You will come back changed.”
Both his wife, Linda, and his daughter Rachel have accompanied him on trips, and now Rachel, who started at the age of 13 going on those, continues serving in Peru.
Ferguson said people should “step outside of their comfort zone, step out of what they know.” His wife, Amy, a pediatrician, has likewise joined in traveling to help on some of these trips.
“The trips have changed my life,” Ferguson said. He realized while on one trip in Haiti that the parents especially want their children to be seen by the doctors. That is the most important thing to them.
Sarah Allen, who was on one of the trips to Nicaragua with Calhoun, cited an incident where he was checking a young boy’s fingernails and noticed that the shape and color were different.
“Based on his keen observation, he realized the boy had a heart defect and was able to get additional help for him,” she said.
Many stories and memories have come from their journeys, and more will be made as they continue to serve and help where needed. Additional trips are already being planned for the future.
Both Calhoun and Ferguson are physicians at Lake Norman Medical Group Internal Medicine Mooresville, at 137 Professional Park Drive, and they can be reached at 704-660-2634.