Christian Science Nursing in Argentina (Full Report)

By Sharon Strong

FOR MORE PHOTOS, CLICK HERE.

Last January, George and I, together with our translator, CS nurse Carlos Ley, visited South America to answer the questions we had been receiving for several years about how to establish a nursing facility and how to provide CS nursing education to interested and qualified individuals in South America.  This journey made me look at this quote of Mary Baker Eddy’s in a new light (insertions are mine).  “From the interior of Africa [South America] to the utmost parts of the earth, the sick and the heavenly homesick or hungry hearts are calling on me [us] for help, and I am [we are] helping them….Faithfully and more than ever persistently, you [we] are now, through the providence of God, called to do your [our] part wisely and to let your [our] faith be known by your [our] works. All that we ask of any people is to judge our doctrine by its fruits” (My 127).

We were overwhelmed by the love and graciousness expressed during our journey! We stayed a week at El Arca, The Ark. It was purchased for the purpose of providing a place for Christian Scientists to receive nursing care.  However, there were no CS nurses and no patients.  The two story building is situated in a quiet neighborhood, and would serve very well as a care facility.  Here we interviewed ten individuals from Buenos Aires and two from the Santa Fe/Rosario area.  Later during this trip we interviewed six individuals in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, and returned to Argentina for three more days to interview most of the church members in El Bolsón, a community southwest of the very famous resort city, San Carlos de Bariloche, located some 20 miles from the Chilean border.

We were deeply impressed and inspired by the sincere desire each member had to serve mankind. Four children from the Sunday School in El Bolsón, (ages 6-12),  asked to meet with us.  As we sat in a group the 12 year old asked, “So…. what IS Christian Science nursing?” What a precious discussion that was!

We continued praying and listening for divine Love’s direction about how to develop a program to meet this desire.  In the past, many US facilities have brought over individuals on religious visas for three years to attend classes here, but after being here, these individuals generally want to stay.  So we were pondering different ways to meet the need which would, in essence, teach them how to then teach their countrymen.

Stella Ibarra, a CS practitioner and the chairperson of the board of El Arca, visited Fern Lodge in March for 2 months to improve her English and see how a facility operates.  During that time, I contacted several Spanish speaking Christian Science nurses about the idea of teaching a class in Buenos Aires, but none could leave their jobs or families for one month to teach this class. One day, near the end of May, God spoke to me quite loudly after I asked who would teach this dear group of people. He said,  “You.”  I protested, but the answer kept coming that it was mine to do.  I was excited and concerned at the same time: excited because my heart was full of love for the individuals I had met in January and yearned to help them, but concerned that my Spanish was not fluent enough and that I might not be able to communicate adequately. I had taken Spanish for 6 years between junior high and college, but I had never been in a situation of total immersion like this would be.

As I prayed about the class, it occurred to me that there were two dynamic women we interviewed in El Bolsón who were proficient in English.  I made sure they would be attending this class before we enrolled anyone else!  In preparing for this experience, I began reading the Bible Lesson in Spanish and writing letters to applicants with the aid of computer programs for verb conjugations and rough translations.

There were 10 students in the class, six of whom we had met and interviewed in January.  From Argentina, from Palomares, there was Isidro Alzamora, a veterinarian, and Lucas Vidal, a young physical education teacher; from Quilmes, Juan Carlos Jabloñski, a retired salesman for Peugeot; from Buenos Aires, Norma Cordero, a former medical nurse; from El Bolsón, Dolores Caride, a hospital social worker, and Marion Frusteri, a housewife and former bank clerk who has been helping members with their personal business for many years. From Colombia, Shirley Gonzalez Rubio, a lawyer with nursing experience in caring for a family member and others with special needs.  From Lima, Peru, Rubén Dario de la Sota, a human resources trainer and leadership consultant.  Shirley and Rubén had been communicating with me for several years about nurses training.  From Santiago, Chile, Maria Teresa Fuentes Bórquez, who takes care of her parents and mother in law in the evening, after working in a high school with scheduling and curriculum for the teachers during the day. Also from Santiago, Sandra Luzio, a dentist.  From the first day they met, they were amazed at the oneness of Mind evident in this class. They felt as if they had known each other forever.

Pioneers

The Saturday of the first week, we made our first trip into the big city to First Church, Buenos Aires, for a viewing of the Longyear production, “The Onward and Upward Chain,” in Spanish subtitles.  The Sunday School room was crowded, and there was an excitement in being together to see this video.  Los Pioneros—The Pioneers—became a recurring theme during the next three weeks.  Because this was the first class of its kind to be held in Argentina with students from other countries, they then realized that I was also a pioneer for having the “vision, love, and courage” to undertake this project. After the video and refreshments, we all walked upstairs to the church to sing four new hymns from the Hymnal Supplement.  Marcos the organist had translated the hymns into Spanish and was teaching the attendees how to sing them.  Not everything available to Christian Scientists in English is translated immediately into other languages.

Communication

The first rule of class was: Habla mas lento—speak more slowly.  This is like asking a mouse not to scurry! It was difficult for some in the beginning, and if you have ever heard Latinos speak, you understand completely.  But they would remind each other to speak mas lento and most of the time I could understand the ideas they were conveying.  Whenever I wanted to be completely sure, I would ask one of my interpreters what was said. There were a few precious instances when I would ask one what the person had said, and she would begin telling me very slowly—in Spanish!  I would have to say, “¡En Inglés, por favor!” (in English, please). But I always understood them completely whenever they spoke with deep conviction. How they love CS and Mary Baker Eddy!  This love was in the very fiber of their being.

We talked a lot about true communication and how it comes from Mind, God, and from the heart. So many times I understood what a student had said, even though I hadn’t yet learned all the words. It was reminiscent of Frances Thurber Seal’s journey into Germany. “She [FTS] started to speak to them all, [and] the words of Jesus were fulfilled: “..take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12: 11-12) …After some time my attention was attracted by a man with a very intelligent face who looked as if he wished to speak. I asked my host if the gentleman wished to ask something, and he replied, “He knows no English.” I requested that he ask him what he wanted to say. He did so, and then began an animated conversation between them, three or four others joining in. With a look of awe, our young host said: “But they have understood you. They do not know a word of English, and yet they understood what you have said about God.” All rose and stood with bowed heads, and Miss Bentinck Beach, one of my English companions, said reverently, “And every man heard them speak in his own language” (Acts 2:6) … I cannot think of it without a feeling of awe, a sense of the Christ presence.”

Sharon, projector, Marion, Sandra in the classroom

I brought a projector with me, and projected my texts and the bilingual Science and Health from my computer onto a 20 foot wall.  I was grateful for this technology!  Installing wi-fi for the month was absolutely essential, and this was done a day after my arrival.  Not only was it a necessity for me to be able to be in touch with Fern Lodge and my family, but it allowed the out of town students to keep in touch with their families.  Several used Skype to talk to their families. The Internet also allowed me to display products, such as mechanical lifters, which were not easily available for our use, and which might not be used in a home setting.

Argentine Spanish is different from Chilean, Peruvian, and Colombian Spanish.  Early on we agreed to use “tu” and not “vos” for the familiar form of “you.” We had to listen carefully to the Argentines because of their interesting use of Castilian Spanish, which sometimes sounds like a blending of Spanish and Portuguese.

Sacrifice

It was no small thing for these individuals, especially from outside Buenos Aires, to give up their salaries or to use their entire year’s worth of vacation, just to attend this class.  I know what it took for me to be away for a month, and in a non-English speaking country, but their sacrifice was even greater.

Nursing Course

Nicely made bed, walker as a bed rail

They explored the basis for CS nursing, from its Christian roots to its practice today.  They had the opportunity to practice pure 1908 CS nursing, since there are no laws regulating it and no government funding issues to interfere or compromise it. We had intelligent questions and lively discussions about the ethics of CS nursing, including professional conduct and the handling of confidential information and the need to refer to themselves always as CHRISTIAN SCIENCE nurses to avoid any misunderstandings with the public or the law. They loved discovering the metaphysical basis for all the activities and skills of a CS nurse.

All that we consider to be the “basics” of CS nursing skills were learned easily, and I loved watching them reason through the “whys” of certain procedures. Manos suaves [soft hands] was a key element for each skill. The entire approach considered what is appropriate for a Christian Scientist to give to another Christian Scientist.  The students stayed up till midnight  (sometimes later) each night practicing their skills, helping and correcting each another, often with much laughter.  It was precious to witness their dedication and enthusiasm.

Norma explaining how to use a kitchen chair to support a patient sitting on the bed

Many ways to improvise proper positioning were revealed, and we all learned a great deal from Norma, who I dubbed the Queen of Improvisation! Norma has been working in homes for a number of years with patients who have very little money so she has learned how to “make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.” I also developed a deep love of improvisation from my many years as a visiting CS nurse.

In some of these pictures you can see a walker placed beside the bed. This most often served as a bed rail. Our bed was very basic, did not have a mechanism for raising the height, the feet, or the head.

Shirley shaving Rubén

Personal care included the usual skills: dressing, bathing, shaving a man, nail care, and oral care. I bought small hand towels for them to practice making mitts with. They were a little longer than a wash cloth, and easy to find at Coto (the local K-Mart type store). The class took to them instantly, made them perfectly, and loved using them. When we were going to demonstrate a shower, the entire class, without any prompting, cheerfully told Lucas to bring his gym shorts to be the model, because he was the youngest! In these cultures, the elders are the respected authorities, and young people still follow the “advice” of the previous generation. We were blessed to have Sandra (the dentist) in the class, and she gave us many useful pointers in dental care.

El tripode or the tripod cane

We used mobility aids such as walkers, canes, and wheel chairs. Instead of a “quad” (quadruped, a cane with four feet for more balance) cane, I taught the same principles using a “tripod”—a three pronged cane which I had never seen before.

For care in bed, the students practiced giving each other bed shampoos, using several different methods. They also learned how to bathe a person in bed, place bed pans, and give personal care with skill, dignity and discretion.

Many different ways of moving and position patients were practiced, including manual lifts, gently turning and properly positioning patients in bed, making a patient comfortable using pillow arrangements and other comfort items.  The cloth ladder I brought from Fern Lodge was adapted as a trapeze.

I came close enough to a major faux pas one day, which sent us into gales of laughter. I was starting to speak about placing cushions, which is cojines (the j with an h sound).  I heard myself beginning to say the word, but then getting mixed up on the ending.  As I heard myself get this far—Co-jon—everyone looked at me and someone quickly said, “coJINes,” but alas, the damage was done.

Adapting the ladder to serve as a trapeze

Norma showed us an improvisation of the lifting belt using a sheet. We demonstrated the “ladder,” which is attached to the foot of the bed and the patient can pull himself up to a sitting position unassisted–both with the purchased one and the one made with knotted sheets. Then Norma showed us a variation of this, which is placed across the bed (this was new to me), and I loved it!

The class also learned how to cleanse and bandage wounds, and they especially loved practicing the bandaging!  Several in the class came with professional skills in cleansing techniques, and were able to assist their classmates.

We learned ways to modify foods including cooking meals that would be easy for a patient to consume.  I was blessed to be in the presence of ten very fine cooks who were no strangers to modifying and preparing food for those with special needs.  One day I bought some packages of gelatin to use for the foods class and explained at the time what it was for.  But apparently I had not made myself as clear as I’d thought, as the woman who shopped with me came back and made us dinner, including the largest bowl of jello I’d ever seen!  And she proudly announced to everyone that it was all for me!  No one wanted to help me eat it, since it was “mine!”

Lucas and Rubén

The assignment for foods class was for each one to choose a food that was simple to make for a person who might not feel well—and the follow-up assignment was to modify the food. They all know how to do this already. We didn’t have a powerful blender for modifying foods, so it took a bit longer to make the foods into smoother textures.  One student excelled at soup making and another at baking tortes (cakes).  Our Colombian student made changua for breakfast one morning. It was a hearty but bland meal consisting of eggs poached in a water and milk with chopped scallions and cilantro poured over toast points. A mild white cheese can also be added. Shirley also made arepas, which are made of corn flour and fried or baked. Mmmmm! She used anise seeds in ours!

We spent a whole day discussing very earnestly how to care for individuals with mental needs. We covered topics from so-called developmental needs, to differing forms of confusion and forgetfulness, to so-called mental illness.   Norma remarked at the end of that class that so many of the ideas we discussed were appropriate for any patient.

Since we agreed that much of their nursing care at this time might be given in a church member’s home, we practiced to removing a patient from the bed to the floor and draging them to safety on the bedding in case an emergency evacuation would be needed.

Rubén used a Franklin electronic translator to help him learn certain words, and every once in a while we would hear a strange man’s voice out of nowhere.  We discovered it was “Franklin.”  The sound of it always made us laugh! Another honorary member of the class was Alejandra.  She was a good cook, but had a difficult time with el orno—the oven.  It did not have temperature markings on the knob (but then only the most expensive models did) nor was there a temperature gauge inside. One just had to learn from experience where low, medium, and hot were and pay attention to timing and previous experience with a recipe.  Upstairs during class we sometimes would sniff, sniff, sniff…recognize that something was quemando (burning) downstairs, smile very widely and say knowingly and lovingly, “Ahhhh…Alejandra.”

Rubén about to demonstrate assisting Maria Teresa to her feet

The Sunday of the fourth week, we rented a van and traveled to the branch church in Quilmes (pronounced Keel’-mess), an hour’s drive southeast of Buenos Aires to present a two hour care workshop to the membership.  The students instructed the members in ways to give simple Christian assistance such as one church member might give to one another. We discussed and demonstrated: how to assist those who temporarily cannot see; how to use wheelchairs, including assisting people in and out of vehicles and up and down curbs; how to read aloud; how to handle money; how to think through the ethics of working with another Christian Scientist; how to perform simple lifts to assist a person to stand; how to assist an uninjured person to get up off the floor, etc. These skills were shown to be based on Biblical examples that illustrate the simplicity of caring for one another. Remarks

Petite Sandra wheeling Lucas

made to us directly after the meeting told that those two hours changed some members’ lives dramatically and made them feel closer to each other as a church. They loved seeing the practicality of divine Love meeting the human need and to see that it didn’t need to feel awkward.  One woman said she likened the preparation for the meeting to the account in Matthew 26 of Jesus sending his disciples ahead, telling them, “Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.”  The members fed us well, and the drive home to El Arca was filled with so much laughter that our sides hurt!

The last week of class, we held a recital of selected skills for the CS public in a three hour presentation at El Arca. As each one performed a skill, they described the important aspects of it.  Comments from the attendees included how gentle and loving the nurses were, how organized, graceful, confident and joyous they were.

L to R: Sandra, Norma, Juan Carlos, Isidro, Sharon, Eliane on the computer, Shirley

Many helped to make this class possible, especially those who served as my translators at times when my Spanish failed—the students from El Bolsón, Marion and Dolores, and Fabián Smara, C.S., of El Bolsón (who translated several articles into Spanish for use in the class). The largest assistance came from Eliane, [El-ee-ah’ nee] a most remarkable and precious woman from Rio de Janiero, whom we interviewed in January and had wanted to attend this class. But things began developing for Brazil through the vision of Le Verger, the CS nursing facility in Switzerland. For information on CS nurses training in Brazil, click here. Eliane translated several of my nursing texts into Spanish and “attended” the Wednesday presentation by Skype as a small reward for the countless, selfless hours she gave to our project. And Stella Ibarra, CS, the president of the El Arca board, made sure we had food to cook throughout the week and drove us to church, sometimes in two trips. Other members of the board behind the scenes contributed time and resources, and precious metaphysical support.

All the students had a deep desire to serve mankind, and the qualities they exemplified were exceptional.  To continue encouraging and nurturing this growth, we are planning conference calls and video calls for questions, experiences, and reviewing skills and demonstrating some new ones. When the class was half over, they began discussing where and when to meet for the next class!

One wrote, “We leave as new persons, because of the love and consecration you’ve put into this course. We can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done for us. We have grown spiritually, and we’ve awakened and further developed the desire that was in us to give and serve. We are also enriched by the divine qualities that we learned and see in each one of us. Thank you very much! We will be obedient to the mission that God has placed in us. Congratulations for being such an excellent teacher, and for the love, integrity, and valuable knowledge you have given us. With all our love,”

Mt. Piltriquitrón (photo by Fabián Smara)

We have an opportunity, and we believe a responsibility, to nurse the world. It seems so important at this time in the history of Christian Science nursing to have it develop in the world’s various cultures and neighborhoods. The basics always will be the same, but Mrs. Eddy says, “Love is impartial and universal in its adaptations and bestowals.” Love adapts. It is not appropriate to impose Western cultural procedures on individuals in countries who do not have the same habits, use the same materials, or have access to the equipment we take for granted. Much like Paul, who took the good news of Christianity all over the Eastern world, we have the opportunity to help our neighbors learn CS nursing and make it their own for their countries and cultures. The ethics and principles remain the same. The Bible, Science and Health and Mary Baker Eddy’s other writings always are the primary source of education and inspiration for Christian Science nursing, and they are perfect textbooks.

Thanks to the visits from Carlos Ley over the last two years, individuals interested in CS nursing identified themselves.  Their yearning hearts and prayers helped form the class. We have five CS nurses from Peru, so we had a connection with South America and knew of their desire to learn CS nursing.

Magdalena

Stella Ibarra, Shirley, Norma, Sharon, Maria Teresa, Dolores, and Sandra in front

During our visit to El Bolsón in January, we were told about a founder of CS churches in Argentina who was living in a “Hogar Por Los Ancianos”–a Home for the Elderly.  We felt impelled to see her.  Her joy at having our visit brought tears to our eyes. Magdalena recounted some of her past with us.  She told us the CSBOD recently had visited her, and she was literally moved to tears.

The Albert Baker Fund truly helped to make this class possible. These dear ones have been praying for CS nursing in their countries for many years. Our hearts yearned to help, and we listen for ways to continue this support until CS nursing is able to stand on its own there.  We may hold another class in the future for the other individuals who could not attend this class. Several from this class are interested in coming to the US for one month to practice their skills with a mentor.

Isidro, Rubén, Sharon, Lucas, and Juan Carlos

How these initial steps will develop depends on the metaphysical support of the field and the individual students.  They feel “on fire” as pioneers, and do not want the flame to be extinguished by circumstances or lack of interest. The Argentine students feel some type of communication to the churches and practitioners could be made, with a list of the students who could be called on when assistance is needed. And Norma, the former medical nurse is a great resource for going with any of the students to give instruction and assistance when needed.

Already Maria Teresa and Sandra, the two students from Chile, have taught a care workshop in Santiago, which was very well received.

God has begun a great work here, and we are certain He will continue it. Thank you for your prayers and your support of this Manual-based expression of divine Love.

FOR MORE PHOTOS, CLICK HERE.

One Response to Christian Science Nursing in Argentina (Full Report)

  1. avatar Jenny Solorzano says:

    I am a Christian Science Nurse in Toronto Canada, I am from Ecuador. I would love to get in contact with Sharon Strong I will really aprecited.

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