We Made It!
Greetings from Antigua!! Surprised? So were we. Our first day of travel was one exciting series of events after another and by the time we reached Hotel Santa Clara in Antigua, we were worn out! For much of our team, 4 am that morning was a very long time ago. Many of us began our journey in Savannah and met up with other members at the Atlanta airport. Things were going smoothly when we boarded the plane, not expecting the hour delay on the ground. For you avid “Friends” watchers out there, there must have been something wrong with the plane’s phalange. Four (or so) hours later we landed in Guatemala City! We passed through customs unable to take the trunks full of medical supplies that we had checked. (hopefully we will get them today!) We got on the bus prepared for the four(ish) hour ride from Guatemala City to Reu. About an hour or so outside of the city, any nappers in the back of the bus were abruptly awoken by the sound of the back tire blowing. We pulled over and faithful Pablo got busy replacing the tire but that wasn’t our only concern. We were also informed that our bus had an issue with the battery that affected the lights, and we were running out of daylight. We got back on the road fairly quickly but after about five minutes the bus came to a stop just before a tollbooth, and this time it was not so easily remedied. The team gathered their belongings and ventured inside the convenient (indeed!) store while we waited for the replacement bus, which was an hour away. In America, we call it loitering but our team kept that “7-11” busy so the store owners didn’t seem to mind. Until this point, most of our team had been strangers, but for many of us, this was the point where we started to become friends. God was already at work, taking what we saw as interruption and turning it into an opportunity for community. God wastes nothing. Two hours later we loaded our new bus and that would transport us the additional two hours to Antigua where we spent the night. After a late but much needed dinner together we all gratefully turned in for a restful night under the hospitality of Hotel Santa Clara.
The Journey Continues
The day began with the smell of Guatemalan coffee! After a meaningful devotion, we boarded the bus for a “3 hour tour” but as this trip would have it, we got more than we bargained for. Our travels are the gifts that keep on giving! Not even an hour in, we hit a road block- literally. We were forced to turn around in order to avoid lava from a volcanic eruption…only in Guatemala. Naturally, what was supposed to be a 3 and a half hour bus trip turned into a 5 and a half hour bus trip. Ray Maddox’s motto “be flexible” has been put to the test this trip. But as everyone departed the bus they were still all smiles. Finally we made it to Reu! Our first order of business was to get a look at both of the buildings we would call home for this week. We unloaded the few trunks of medical supplies we had at the hospital (prayers have been answered, we got word that the others were to be released from customs!) and took residence in the waiting room to be greeted by the hospital staff and discuss our duties for the next day. We were given a tour of the hospital, an exciting thing for those of us new to Reu, operating rooms, or both. Tomorrow promises to be a day full of new people, new opportunities, and abundant blessings as we begin triage! Prayers for the journey.
How is it possible to fall in love in less than five minutes?
To quote Shakespeare “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” She tackles with grace, a hemangioma protruding from her jaw. Even amidst this pain with maturity beyond her eight years, Catarina manages a smile. She loves to write and play basketball and when she grows up she wants to be a doctor, no doubt to help children like herself that suffer from illness. Unfortunately, our team will not be able to treat Catarina this week because her condition is so intricate, but we will continue to pray for her and are hoping to bring a surgeon on the next mission who is specialized for such a malady. Even after waiting in the hospital all day only to get disappointing news, Catarina and her family were very grateful for our presence in Reu and pulled on our heartstrings as we said goodbye.
After a long day full of triage and prayerful encounters, we have more than fully prepped operating and recovery rooms to show for it. The dentists jumped right into seeing patients and were able to treat about sixty cases today. While our team worked relentlessly preparing the hospital for the week’s surgeries, God had preparations of His own. Our Spanish-speaking team members were stretched thin, so it was nothing short of extraordinary when Samantha, member of the Peace Corps who happened to be assigned in Guatemala, showed up with our friend Catarina and volunteered her communication skills for most of the day. Broken places provide an opportunity for healing.
The Healing Begins
Her name is Flor and she’s in pain. She speaks with Shelly and is examined by the surgical team. Flor has been in pain for at least two and half months. Doctors discovered her gall bladder is the culprit and it’s got to go. But even in pain, one cannot miss her kind eyes, strong spirit, and incredible smile. She may feel battered, but she’s far from broken. Twenty-four hours after she arrived at Hilario Galinda Hospital, surgery successful and husband by her side, she’s on the road to recovery. She’s feeling better and if she continues to improve, she’ll be released soon to return to her busy life. Devoted wife and mother of five, her dreams for her children are much like any mother’s and they are what brings light to her face. A typical day in her shoes is extremely busy. She’s up at dawn making breakfast for six and only eats once her family is on their way to school. She moves without ceasing from one task to the next; cooking, cleaning, and caring for her large family. When asked about the dreams of her kids, she names each one and tells us their ambitions of architect, English teacher, veterinarian, firefighter, and doctor. Her husband stands by, silent protector and supportive partner. Flor, along with the other Guatemalan women in the hospital this week have shown the strength and the depth of a mother’s love.
Progress Report: Dentist- 17, Gynecology- 9, General Surgery- 7, Recovery- 16, all- 12+ hours filled with praying, laughing, crying, and hand-holding. The healing begins.
God's sense of humor
Of all human emotions, I would not choose “excitement” to describe going to visit the dentist. Uncertainty, anxiety, dread; these are the words I might select. For someone who does not have access to dental care, this list might include excitement. On his ninth birthday, Javier celebrated by getting three of his molars pulled. He may have walked into the room excited, but as soon as he saw the needle that Pat was about to inject into his gum, excitement quickly turned into horror. The decay in his teeth was severe and he had infections in his gums. Every time Pat would change instruments, Javier would reach for me and squeeze my fingers as tight as he could. I may have learned a thing or too about pulling teeth, but my purpose was to be a professional hand-holder. Completely absorbed with dental work going on, I hadn’t noticed that Javier had grown strangely quiet for such an animated kid. Pat started talking to him and when Javier didn’t respond, Pat, Judy, and I looked at each other in complete terror and our hearts stopped. When Javier indicated that he was only pretending to be asleep, we heaved a sigh of relief and realized that God does indeed have a sense of humor.
Progress report: Dentist- 17, Gynecology- 6, General- 7, all- 11+ hours at Hilario Galindo Hospital
Wrapping Up Trip 328
"You laugh because I am different. I laugh because you are all the same."
We cry the same. We laugh the same. The words to our songs sound different but they come from the same place; and it beats the same.
I may not have been able to tell her everything that was on my heart, but I have this feeling that by her tears of gratitude she could understand the thing I really wanted her to know was that she wasn't alone. Maria Isabel showed me how important it is that wherever you are, be all there.
I speak for the entire team when I say we have had a God-filled week full of encounters of volcanic proportions! May the memories of this special time continue to teach and grow us as we return to our individual lives. We are better because we have shared this time together. We will continue to pray for the people of Reu, even as they pray for us. Today our world is a little smaller but our hearts have grown bigger. Thanks for sharing the mission with us!