Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 1, 2011

Food Poisoning Blues

Home from Cambodia

It doesn’t happen very often to me but when it does it has my full attention. I’m talking about feeling physically ill or getting sick. I have officially logged three sick days over the past 32 years of full-time ministry. Additionally, I have had two sick days while traveling out of the country. That’s not too bad considering all of the places I visit and all of the weird stuff I have eaten over the past 60-plus trips. More than once I have found myself in an awkward situation where my host placed something before me that smelled worse than my locker room in Jr. High school. But, after breathing the missionary’s prayer — “Lord, I’ll get it down if you’ll keep it down.” — I held my breath and managed to eat what was on the plate before me. I am a lot more careful about what I eat abroad these days and tell team members that my days of adventure eating are over. I have a pretty impressive record of eating weird foods and am no longer interested in adding to that list.

I returned from Cambodia on Thursday, feeling absolutely fine. I used some of my miles to upgrade to Business Class on the final 16-hour flight home and managed to get lots of rest and eat some really delicious meals. My intention was to go in to the office on Friday to get caught up on a few things and then to go home to mow my lawn before going to the Living Water Gala in downtown Houston. But, when I woke up on Friday morning I felt as though I had just been hit by a truck. I knew immediately that I was suffering from food poisoning (which has an incubation period) since the symptoms were confined to my GI tract. So, I launched an attack on my cramps and fever with a round of Cipro and crawled back into bed. Later in the day I got a text message from Lee Pullin, one of my favorite traveling companions, who took advantage of the opportunity to have a little fun.

Lee: How are you feeling Miss Omar? Does your tummy hurt? Just remember if you’re going to run with the big dogs you can’t act like a pup!

Omar: Forget the dogs and find the guy driving the truck that hit me!

Lee: LOL. You’re going to get the same amount of sympathy as I did.

Omar: Any amount will do. I can’t recall the last time I felt this bad.

Lee: Not a lot of fun, I remember that.

Omar: True. It’s good to be in my own bed and not feeling this bad on an airplane.

Lee: Yeah, or with a squatty potty. Did anybody else get it?

Omar: No. The eleven women who traveled with me are all fine. Yikes!

Lee: Hmmmm. Too easy!

There is nothing I hate more than having my plans altered because of a stomach bug or not feeling well. But, all things considered, I am very fortunate to enjoy remarkably good health. So, I really can’t complain when I am hit in the gut by a little bug every few years. The experience also helps me to be a little more compassionate and sympathetic when I have team members that get sick abroad and require me to make provision for their care while still trying to accomplish our objectives. Food poisoning is just one of the hazards of going beyond but one that is always overshadowed by the great things that I get to see God do in and through the people I lead. Hopefully it will be a few more years before I have to spend another day sick in bed.


  1. Oh no!!! I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well. Praying for healing for you. 🙂
    Really enjoyed this trip. I’m so glad there was lots of laughter. The joy of the Lord was our strength in a place with so much darkness.

    • Thanks, Shiloh. I am finally feeling better. Enjoyed our time in Cambodia. Thanks for loving and caring for the kids we served. A truly memorable trip.

  2. Looks like you two are up quite early this morning……….. So sorry you were not feeling well yesterday O! Upgrades may not be all they are cut out to be, huh? It was a bit rough here, but feeling much better today. I guess the excitement of our trip kept me from feeling jet lag on the way over, my body saved it all for our return. Not as young as I used to be. As I ponder our adventure, one thing rings true – our Lord was glorified even amongst the Buddhists Festival and early morning chanting. Many children heard the Name of Jesus and my heart was touched in ways that only our God can accomplish…….. Thanks Pastor Omar!

    • Amen, Sheryl. We had an amazing adventure in Cambodia and God was indeed glorified. Glad you were able to join the team. You will feel progressively better in the coming week. Jet lag seems to hit hardest on the return trip.

  3. Yikes Pastor Omar.. What a bummer. Well at least we all know you ARE human 🙂
    Thanks for one of the best experiences of my life. I’m so grateful and humbled to have done done it. I truly believe you will have a very large crown in heaven for putting up with us. I have great memories and great new friends!

    • So glad you were on our team. What fun and a great time we had with the kids in Cambodia. Still thinking about our special little girl there. If you ever do adopt her please put me down to be one of her grandfathers.

  4. You should pack some pupusas on your trip….. Pastor!!!!

    • That is a great idea, Carlos. I have never gotten sick on my trips to El Salvador. I look forward to seeing you again soon to help drill another water well and to eat more of those delicious El Salvadoran pupusas.

  5. Awww! I’m sorry you were sick, Fearless Leader. I know it takes a lot to bring you down. Perhaps you should have sent to Mongolia for some airag (the fermented mare’s milk) to wipe out that bug. That stuff will kill anything!

    • Good to hear from you, Lanni. Yes, fermented mare’s milk would definitely have killed that old stomach bug. Of course, now that I think about it, airag almost killed me the first time I had a glass in Mongolia ;-). As I recall, my host told me to be sure to be close to a bathroom at least one hour after drinking it. He was not wrong in giving that advice!

      Trust you are well. Please give my regards to all the folks there in Irving, Texas.

  6. Wow!! Your track record on illness is just unbelievable for someone like me! I can’t imagine life in a well body with energy, but am so glad you got well so fast and are back in the pink. I have a passion for the pro-life ministry & taught classes for the PHC in Katy for 8 years. Glad to hear your trip with the girls went well. Hope to hear more details.

    • Thanks, Sue Ann. Had a great trip with our team.

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