Little did I know when I met videographer Rich Christianson that it would lead to such an incredible story. It all started last fall in Mexico at Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin Tournament when Rich and I were discussing our upcoming projects with Mexican Medical Ministries. Following the tournament, RLA was hosting a team of 15 volunteers to assist with several medical fairs along with a construction project in an impoverished community outside Cabo San Lucas. Rich recognized the interesting storyline of featuring one of our volunteers on their show, so the wheels were set in motion.
Show host Matt Eastman soon arrived and joined Christenson and other crew members as they visited our initial work site. Sworn to secrecy regarding their quest to find the right person for the guest appearance, I introduced them to our team. To my complete surprise, they quickly turned the tables and invited me to take a couple of days away from the team and join them as their guest! The honor of their invitation along with the tremendous national publicity at stake for RLA made the decision unusually grueling. In the end, I decided that I needed to honor my commitment to the team and our host and forgo the opportunity. Thankfully, Eastman and his crew agreed to take an alternate, and RLA volunteer Keith Russell got the nod. Russell represented us beautifully, taking full advantage of the opportunities to communicate our mission to serve those in extreme need.
Matt, Rich and the “Wanna Go Fishing” crew were very gracious in not only editing the footage to fully tell our story, but also featuring this episode as their 2012 season premier!by Michael O'Neal
Our inaugural trip to Cuba was an adventure in the truest sense of the word. Unsure of what to expect, we began the trip with great anticipation as to how the week in this unique destination would go. Having lost a dear member of our team in the passing of Jose Wejebe in April of this year, the trip took on a very special meaning for each of us. It was an incredible honor to travel to his native country alongside his daughter, Krissy Wejebe, and cameraman, Mike Torbisco, neither of whom have previously been able to visit and explore their Cuban heritage. In fact, it was the heritage, history and culture of Cuba that amazed everyone on our team. The abundance of classic cars, love for baseball, great food and lively music made this trip like no other.
The majority of our time was spent serving alongside local Pastor Eduardo Ortega and his partners, located around 15 miles outside Havana. As we worked to build meaningful relationships in various communities, we found the Cuban people to be kind, warm and generous. Proud of their unique culture, the local residents were among the friendliest of any place we have ever visited. Not only were we welcomed into their homes, but also greeted with a smile, an embrace and a kiss on the cheek at nearly each encounter. Although most maintained a fairly low standard of living, they seemed content and thankful to have their basic needs met. As we shared our faith and motivation for coming alongside them, seeds for lifelong friendships were planted.
Our host explained that humanitarian aid from the U.S. is only able to be carried out through local churches, making it clear that our new connection with Pastor Eduardo and his Campo Amor Foundation will provide us with an excellent opportunity to assist our new friends in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Together with our host, we discussed and explored the possibility of a permanent structure for housing teams and supplies. This structure will someday be named Campo de Amor or “Field of Love.”by Michael O'Neal
Living in the United States, most of us tend to take clean water for granted. The harsh reality is that safe water is a major issue across the globe. Even in areas enjoying the convenience of modern plumbing, the water is often polluted and carries germs which lead to severe illness and life threatening disease. Research shows that around five million people die every year due to water-related illnesses. Even more horrifying, it is said that a child dies every fifteen seconds because of a waterborne disease. Collateral losses also occur, as families spend thousands of hours seeking and hauling water, hours that could otherwise be spent earning a living.
This past June, Reel Life Adventures formed a new partnership with the Christian Medical Ministry of Alabama (CMMA) and SCORE International. Along with several other generous donors, we were able to grant funds for the purchase of several water filtration systems.
In June, CMMA took a team of medical students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and several medical professionals to the Dominican Republic. In an effort to curb the health problems encountered in Santo Domingo caused by contaminated drinking water, the team distributed Sawyer Water Filter Systems. The team interviewed many patients regarding their access to safe water. It became obvious that the limited access was a widespread issue, and many were spending the little money that they had to buy a cheap bottled water product. Sadly, it has been documented that this cheap water is packed with chlorine and chemicals that are also harmful for consumption. Additionally, residents of impoverished communities can’t afford to buy enough water, leading to problems related to dehydration. In a similar case, the medical team was working with a woman suffering from severe stomach problems. After digging deeper, they realized that she was spending all of her money to buy water and to feed all of the children and grandchildren living in her house. Because she could not afford enough food for herself, she faced serious health issues.
The team spent several days distributing Sawyer Water Filter Systems to families within these communities. These lightweight and innovative water filter systems are designed based on the principles of dialysis. As long as the limited supplies lasted, families with the most extreme need were provided filters. As a result, these families are able to drink pure water that is significantly better than the water they were purchasing, enabling them to save money from the cost of water as well as the cost of medicines and the treatment of illness that comes from dehydration and drinking contaminated water.
Thanks to generous donations of various individuals and organizations, the team was able to distribute many filters and train the locals how to use them. If properly cared for, they should provide clean water for an entire family for as long as 10 years! In addition to providing families with water, the members of the team were able to share more than just medical expertise. Working alongside locals, they were able to share their knowledge of biblical truth as well as learn from the strength of community and faith of the residents of the impoverished communities. In the end, both sides were tremendously impacted, and beautiful new relationships with local Dominicans were formed.
Moving forward, there is incredible need still remaining, but for a few families in Santo Domingo, life has just gotten a little easier.by Nicki Cochran
- Bisbee’s Black and Blue
Once again, RLA will be the featured charity at Wayne Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin tournament in Cabo San Lucas in late October. Known as the leading money tournament in the world, the Black and Blue boasts annual payouts well over $1 Million dollars. Last year, the captain and crew of “Tiger Spirit” walked away with over $1.16 Million in prize money!
100% of the proceeds received from this event will go to facilitate assistance for those in need in Cabo San Lucas and the surrounding areas. Specifically, we will be supporting Mexican Medical Ministries and Casa Hogar boys’ orphanage. Watch for our full trip and tournament report in our next newsletter!
- Cap Cana Int’l Billfish Shootout partners with RLA to help Dominican orphans
We are very fortunate to be featured as the sponsored charity for Rick Alvarez’s Cap Cana International Billfish Shootout held annually in the late spring out of Punta Cana. This year, the tournament contributed over $2,000 towards our humanitarian efforts in the Dominican, and 100% of these proceeds will be used to help fund our project with (un)adopted in September.
(un)adopted was created to initiate planning and partnering strategies with orphanages, local churches, government officials, businesses, schools, and homes, seeking to mentor orphans and equip them with job and life skills. In addition to sending a team to work alongside them in September, we are granting funds, including those received by the Billfish Shootout, to help renovate a building to be used as a transition center for orphans. This structure will not only be used to help coordinate the transition of local orphans into society, but it is also planned to serve as a learning facility, where these children are able to learn valuable job and life skills.
Stay tuned for more on this story, along with pictures and a full trip report in our next newsletter.
Special thanks to Rick Alvarez and everyone who participated in this year’s event for “Letting Your Adventure Outlive You!”by Michael O'Neal