Getting Ready - Eight Weeks and Counting
WOW! In less than eight weeks we will be in Guatemala for our 2014 Mission trip with Faith in Practice. The team is coming together and we have a great representation of returning, as well as new volunteers. Much detail to coordinate in ensuring travel, lodging and general logistics are being finalized. But all on the team are looking forward to this important mission work.
Down to Four Weeks!
It doesn't seem possible, but in just over four weeks we will be winging our way to Guatemala for 2014 Mission trip. Much background work to be done in coordinating flights and housing, submitting credentials for the medical team, ensuring we have medical and passport information on file, and dealing with an multitude of trip details. We want to thank all of those who have made a donation to support the work of Wells390 for 2014. We could not do this important work without your support. More to come!
Arrival in Country - Three Weeks Away!
WOW! Three weeks from today we will be winging our way to Guatemala for our eight day mission trip to Guatemala. It has been an a much different experience for me this year, serving as the team administrator; and learning all of the details that go in to coordinating the trip both before departure, as well as when in Country. Definitely an amazing experience of ensuring that travel plans have been made and loaded in the database, that transportation is coordinated, rooming assignments are made, meals are scheduled. Thank goodness for our expert Team Administrator, Gerald Teel, who is teaching me all there is to learn. And, thank goodness for our in Country Faith in Practice staff who provide such amazing in-Country support. Much still to do - but the excitement is beginning to build!
Living the Adventure
Departure in less than three days - and so much still to be done with last minute details, both at home and for the trip. We are definitely living the adventure with the eruption of the Pacaya volcano yesterday, which is located just 24 miles outside of Antigua. Faith in Practice is monitoring the situation and at this time we remain good to go with flights to the area having been resumed. The villages where we are deployed this year are in the opposite direction of the ash fall. But we are preparing by taking a newly developed particulate mask. Thankful for my Providence Health System Employee Health colleagues for their donation of these to our team. Many prayers for our local Faith in Practice staff and volunteers, who are in Country, and for the residents in the path of the lava flow and ash fall. Prayerful that we won't face a last minute cancelation. But also appreciate that Faith in Practice would not put any of its volunteers in harms way.
Why Do We Live This Adventure?
And so the adventure begins…
“This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow” (Archbishop Oscar Romero). As our 2014 Wells 390 Village Team prepares for departure at the end of this week, I am reminded of the profound teaching of slain Archbishop Oscar Romero. Our team of 40 healthcare and dental providers from around the country, but the majority from the Portland area, will depart on Friday, March 7th to serve the people of Guatemala.
Faith in Practice was born out of a response to God's calling to serve the poor and vulnerable. In 1991, Rev. Todd Collier was traveling in Guatemala and identified a significant need at the Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro, a 500 year-old Franciscan hospital and home for incapacitated and abandoned children and adults located in Antigua, Guatemala. The Franciscan friars who ran the facility had few resources to help their residents or the injured and sick of Guatemala who came daily for help. In response to God's calling and to Jesus' admonition in Matthew 25 to minister to the least of these, Rev. Collier returned to Houston and organized the first surgical team to go to Antigua in 1993.
The mission of Faith in Practice is to improve the physical, spiritual, and economic conditions of the poor in Guatemala through short-term surgical, medical and dental mission trips and health-related educational programs. The mission is based on an ecumenical understanding that as people of God we are called to demonstrate the love and compassion that is an outward sign of God's presence among us.
Faith in Practice was incorporated as a non-profit in 1994 and that year sent two surgical teams to the Obras. Since that time, the surgical program was expanded to accommodate surgical teams from throughout the United States and from throughout the world. In 2003, the guest house Casa de Fe was opened and currently provides 23,500 bed nights and more than 48,500 meals annually for patients being seen and cared for at the Obras and their family members. The Casa de Fe is a safe haven for patients and family as they await and recover from surgery in Antigua. Faith in Practice has also established public health initiatives that include the development of the VIA/Cryo Cervical Cancer Screening Program designed to train Guatemalans to identify and treat pre-Cancerous cervical cells. Faith in Practice has also developed and implemented a Preventative and Restorative Dental Program, a Hearing Program, and a Pediatric Orthopedic Program.
Over the years, Faith in Practice has expanded to provide continuity of medical care to the poorest of Guatemala. In 1997, the Village Team program was developed, through which teams from across the United States travel to the most remote and poorest parts of Guatemala, setting up temporary medical and dental clinics in the rural villages. The team I travel on is one of the Village teams, and has been in existence for about ten years with this being my second year with this team. The first year I traveled as the photojournalist, and this year was asked to serve as the team administrator, which at times seems like a daunting task; but, in the end with great reward at the blessing of being a member of this team.
Combined with the surgical/medical and dental programs, 35 volunteer teams involving over 1,100 US and nearly 700 Guatemalan dedicated volunteers serve more than 25,000 patients annually. Last year in clinic we saw close to 3000 combined medical (adult and pediatric), gyn and dental patients; and, are expected to exceed this number this year during the four days when clinic will be conducted.
Guatemala has one of the highest poverty rates in Latin America, and its income distribution is among the most unequal in the world. More than half of the 14 million Guatemalan people live in poverty, defined as less than $2 per day. In addition, Guatemala is home to 23 indigenous Mayan groups, each with their own language. Poverty weighs even more heavily in this group, many of whom are served in the Faith in Practice clinics. Of these people close to 75% live in poverty, with 25% of these living in extreme poverty of less than $1 per day. The vast majority of Guatemalan people have not access to any form of basic healthcare.
When we arrive we will encounter a line of patients waiting outside the clinic area. Patients, young and old, all waiting to be cared for. In a community where 90% of the population has virtually no access to healthcare, the demand is tremendous. We will see the faces of innocence among the children, the faces of hard lives in the adults, rugged with character, male and female; and yet, faces of gratitude, hope and appreciation for the care they were receiving. And yet, we each know, as Archbishop Oscar Romero noted, we are barely touching the surface of the need that exists, as he cites in his prayer The Long View
We lay the foundation that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It maybe incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
As we wind down to the last three days before departure, all of the members of our team face the common realities of needing to pack, calling credit card companies, picking up currency, preparing the family for the next two weeks, work projects are wrapped up, bills are paid and the neighbors know to keep an eye on things for the coming days. Time for a new adventure, for long hours of hard work, and equally long hours of knowing that at a basic level we are each prepared to make a difference in the lives of those we touch and who will be touched through this experience. And today as we prepare, we are facing a new aspect of the adventure with the volcanic eruption of the Pacaya volcano located just 24 miles outside of Antigua, where are trip will originate.
And so the journey begins….
And as it begins, I find myself returning to the first words in our volunteer handbook contained within the letter from Rev. Linda McCarthy, CEO of Faith in Practice, and I am struck by both the power and meaning of these words. In this letter, Rev. McCarthy cites the words of Guatemalan poet, Julia Esquivel, which reads:
When it is necessary to drink so much pain, when a river of anguish drowns us, when we have wept many tears and they flow like rivers from our sad eyes, only then does the deep hidden sigh of our neighbor become our own.
As I read this, I am reminded of the gravity of the work that lies ahead of us and of the lives we will touch in the coming days. I find myself praying for the members of our team and that we will each have the capacity to fulfill the mission that lies before us; that we will each have the strength of purpose and the capacity of offering healing love for those we will serve; and that we will fulfill this mission with humility, grace and dignity.
Day One Travel - Fulfilling our Purpose
And so the adventure begins... The kindness of the United flight attendant asking about our trip, and then giving a hug and a blessing of acknowledgment for the work was the start of our travel. A simple gesture of support for the service we are about to undertake, our willingness to look outside of ourselves to those in need, our sense of commitment to provide. It makes one wonder what a different place the world would be if more were to undertake a life of service. Would we have the same strife, the same wars, the same seemingly uncompromising positions? Are we as a "globalized" community willing to set aside our own interests for the lives and the health of another?
On the flight out of Portland, I also started reading the book Bitter Fruit, the story of the American Coup in Guatemala. I thought to myself, when was the last time I was able or had the time to focus on reading for pleasure, which includes reading history, and can honestly account for this being in the early 1980s when I was rapt in learning all there was about the Eastern theater of WWII. This book provides a compelling account of the history of US involvement in Guatemala looking back to 1954, interestingly the same year I was born. The Forward of the book sets the stage as it notes, "at the dawn of the 1990s the United States Government had an opportunity rarely granted in politics of righting a wrong. Having launched a Cold War in the Western Hemisphere... the United States might now through its support for a peace process contribute to the ending of four decades of civil conflict" (Schlesinger & Kinzer, 2005, forward xxi).
While we will not be undertaking a peace process of the same magnitude, we do provide the people of Guatemala a small fraction of the care and compassion they so richly deserve, after years of strife, uncertainty and struggle. If we in some small way are able to plant the seed for others who are influenced and affected by our work, beyond those we will care for, then maybe we will have brought about the planting of important seeds of service in the lives of others.
A Time to Humble Oneself....
A humbling day... our first full day in Antigua, which started with a visit to the Obras Sociales for a tour of the services being delivered at this location. While Faith in Practice provides necessary surgical services at this location, the Obras historically and even now remains the location where the disabled and abandoned of Guatemala, adult and children, reside. A place where the seemingly forgotten are loved and cared for with amazing compassion. A day that left one humbled by the magnitude of the need, but also the love demonstrated by the care givers at no cost to the people.
This time was followed by our Team Orientation at Casa de Fe, Lunch at Frida's and then a walking tour of much of Antigua with Elizabeth Bell. An incredible look at the sights, sounds and history of Guatemala. The evening ended with a team dinner in preparation for our travels tomorrow to El Progreso, where we will begin our clinic work.
But before the evening ended, there was time to check email and post a quick blog of the day. I had intended to write more, but in checking email discovered the following sent to our team from Linda McCarty, our Faith in Practice President and CEO. Her words, powerful and articulate, seem fitting to share as this day draws to an end and we prepare for our time of service. Blessings to one and all...
Bienvenidos a Guatemala! This morning I turned to my Lenten Reflection and thought of all of you. The reading is Isaiah 58:9b-12 and the following jumped out at me as I thought and prayed for all of you as you stand on this threshold of something new.
“If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness ... and
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden….”
You come to Guatemala only a few days after Ash Wednesday, the day when we acknowledge our deep and abiding need for God in our wounded places, our places of pain and brokenness. All the places where we believe ourselves to be ‘not enough’. The day we gratefully acknowledged that even in the places where we cannot love or accept ourselves, where we believe we are ‘not enough’, God loves and accepts us, still. To acknowledge that even in the darkest places in our own lives and in the world, there is life-giving light in the Love that will never, ever let us go.
In this Lenten Season, you have come to Guatemala to bestow bread to the hungry. To satisfy the afflicted. To bring your gifts. But, as you come to offer your gifts, I hope that you will see that your brokenness, your ‘not enoughs’ too can be a gift to those in need. To offer them your vulnerability, your brokenness, is a gift to others and that in those moments of vulnerability, surely God will be present in a life-giving way.
It is my hope and prayer this week that you offer both of your gifts, your expertise and strength and your vulnerability and weakness. For surely, as you offer your whole selves, you will see the face of Christ in the faces of your patients in a new way. And it is my hope and prayer that you will see Christ bringing healing to you in the places you laid before him on Ash Wednesday, just as Christ is bringing healing to your patients.
It is my hope and prayer, as you lay down your ‘not enoughs’ that you will feel in the depths of your being a light rising within you. That you will feel God renewing your strength. That you will feel blessed and renewed, fresh like a watered garden. That you will see your ‘not enoughs’ somehow being transformed miraculously into more than enough in a very special way.
Thank you for risking your whole selves, for reaching out to those in need, for being open to the transforming and life-giving love of God in this vulnerable way. Thank you for witnessing to the love that shall never, ever let us go.
Rev Linda L. McCarty
President & CEO
Thus says the LORD:
If you remove from your midst oppression,
false accusation and malicious speech;
If you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
Then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday;
Then the LORD will guide you always
and give you plenty even on the parched land.
He will renew your strength,
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring whose water never fails.
The ancient ruins shall be rebuilt for your sake,
and the foundations from ages past you shall raise up;
“Repairer of the breach,” they shall call you,
“Restorer of ruined homesteads.”
Your Life as a Guest House
Another full day as we traveled the miles from Antigua to Rio Hondo where we will be staying for the next five days while providing care in the villages. A very warm day with temperatures close to 100 degrees, so different from the homes we left where the temperatures are very winter-like from the low teens to the fifties, where there is rain and snow, with only a glimmer of the dawning Spring. So different from the desert-like environment with a warm breeze, but thank goodness there was a breeze, that is forcing the need for all of us to down many, many bottles of water to ensure our hydration.
The team is coming together well and we are eager to get started in clinic tomorrow. About two-thirds of the team are seasoned veterans, with two to ten-plus years of service with Faith in Practice. But in the new faces you can see both the excitement and the awe of the journey that awaits us as the day unfolds tomorrow.
We are blessed to have Beth Barsotti, a gifted spiritual leader and guide back with the team this year. As we gathered for our first official team meeting, always started with a devotion, she shared the words from Linda McCarty's letter and followed this with a reflection based on the words of Rumi and Your Life as a Guest House. She asked us to reflect on the words as she read these once, and then again, and then asked us to call out what had touched our heart, our soul. My words were - "be grateful for whoever comes" - this seems so fitting to me as we fulfill the mission to care for all those wo enter the gates of the clinic doors to receive care from our team.
As we prepare for our first clinic with a 430 wakeup, 530 devotion, on the bus at 645 for arrival at the clinic for set-up by 8am and to commence seeing patients soon after we are reminded of the words of Rumi as we begin the next step of this journey.... Your Life as a Guest House....
This being human is a guest house
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out for some new
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
May This Day be Blessed...
Our first day in Village of Sansarate began with the blessing of the hands. A powerful experience for the team led by our spiritual leader, Beth Barsotti, an important reminder that we are each blessed in different ways through our hands and by the lives we would touch as the day unfolded. Through this devotion she shared five passages... the Scripture from March 5:27-31,the words of Mother Teresa, the reflections of Alden Nowlan, a stanza from Bob Dylan, and a Zula prayer - each conveying the meaning and spirit of laying one's hands on another - each with their own poignancy - each to touch the heart and spirit of those on the team. Of these the words of Mother Teresa were a reflection carried by many as the day unfolded and we convened for the first clinic. She had uttered...
There are many medicines and cures for all kinds of sick people.
But unless kind hands are given in service and generous hearts are given in love,
I do not think there can ever be any cure for the terrible sickness of feeling unloved.
~ Mother Teresa
The clinic was as expected fast paced and filled with the sounds of both uncertainty and potentially fear of those coming through the doors, but also filled with the great sense of gratitude and appreciate for the care being given. The tenderness and caring of a smile, a hug, a sense of warm compassion that transcends cultures and language barriers. The reaching out of a hand upon another hand, on a shoulder, on the head of a small child, the hand demonstrating connectedness and caring of one human being for another. Hands that only minutes or potentially hours before were blessed in preparation for the day. And as we had been reminded by Bob Dylan earlier that morning...
In the fury of the moment
I can see the Master's hand
In every leaf that trembles,
In every grain of sand.
The statistics for the day are yet to be reported, but it is estimated that over 500 lives were touched by the hands of the Faith in Practice volunteers. More will be reported in the morning. What we do know that it was not only the lives of those coming to the clinic today that were touched, but also the lives of those who were providing the care. Stories yet to be fully processed or even told, but will unfold in the coming day as each volunteer begins to recant a special moment with a patient or their family - a special hand they held or a life they touched... Much more to be told in the coming days.
As We Live Our Faith in Service to Our Neighbor...
Our second day in Sansarate - continuing warm temperatures greeted us as we arrived to the clinic location with over 600 patients waiting to be seen. Young and old each coming in the spirit of Faith in Practice to receive necessary care from our team of nearly 50 providers and support staff.
The day started with a devotion at 530am the centered on a Litany for Faith in Practice. Words that were particularly meaningful focused on the people we would be seeing this week, for those who hunger for food and nourishment, for those who are blind and cannot see, for those who think they are worthless and beyond the love of God, for those who move slowly due to accident, illness or disability, for those who are deaf and cannot hear, who have chronic illnesses or for those who are afraid, for those who are alone or lonely, and for those who volunteer and are a part of the Faith in Practice mission it was asked that God in his mercy, hear our prayer. Prayers of support for the people of Guatemala, that we may share our abundance, helping us to truly see one another, to accept each other in love and compassion, to heal, care and be present for one another, to change our lives and through us the lives of those we may touch.
The stories from the clinic were numerous - of the young eight year-old child with bilateral cataracts, the young 30-aged women who had lost two infants and now faced chronic disease that was newly diagnosed, the 38 year-old with sever gouty arthritis, or the lovely man who was told that he had end-stage COPD and yet ensured that we were each offered a blessing before his departure from the clinic. Stories that each carried meaning, some to tender to so quickly discuss as time is needed to process the magnitude of the feelings that were experienced. But in time, it will be important to talk through these stories to offer one's personal reflection and to come to terms with the sense of limitation that we can only do what we can do in the present and that may not be everything. But as slain Archbishop Oscar Romero would have imparted - "it is a beginning..."
The day ended in celebration as each member of the team was offered hand-knitted shoulder bags with an emblem of Guatemala. Each in an array of colors. A way of offering thanks for our presence in their community, and yet as we departed it is us who our thankful for the opportunity to come in and be a part of their lives if only for a short time.
Tomorrow the team heads to a new village, with new lives to touch and patients to care for. For now we are reminded of the prayer that ended our time of devotion this morning....
Loving and Merciful God,
Be with us, help us, guide us
As we live our faith in service to our neighbor.
May the works of our hands bring healing,
Blessing, comfort, and help to your people.
Make us your humble servants,
Grateful believers, loving disciplines.
We ask this in your name.
Listening Amid the Silence
Today, our third day of clinic, took us to a new village - San Agustin Acasagaustlan on a hot and very muggy day. Before heading out we had a hearty breakfast on the hotel terrace, under the morning sun with the local peacock and guinea hens roaming about within inches of our table. This followed a powerful morning reflection focused on the importance of silence, something that many of us so rarely experience in the bustle of our busy lives or in the cacophony that surrounds us when in the triage and clinic areas as hundreds of patients wait being served.
As we sat in still reflection we considered the words of Psalm 46 ~ Be still and know that I am God. We were asked to consider the events of the first two days in clinic, our time with patients and our times with one another, as often in the silence comes the rawness of the day, of a word spoken or a feeling experienced. As we reflected we each had the opportunity to consider the works of others who had written on the perspective of silence. For many the focus turned to the words of Mother Teresa as she spoke...
I shall keep the silence of my heart with greater care, so that in the silence of my heart I hear His words of comfort, and from the fullness of my heart I hear His words of comfort, and from the fullness of my heart I comfort Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. For in the silence and the purity of the heart God speaks....
As we reflected on those we had cared for or would care for over the next few hours, we were reminded of the young mother who was anxious for their child who was not eating or gaining weight; the man who came in for new glasses and was elated to be able to see so much better; for the woman who learned that she had both diabetes and high blood pressure and was concerned as to how she could afford medications. The stories that were told, but potentially and more importantly the stories that were not told and yet are imprinted in the silence of each of our hearts...
And so another day unfolded, patients were seen, families were cared for, tears were shed and smiles were shared. A day for quite reflection amid the cacopohy of human noise.. Another day to remember, to savor and to humble ourselves before.
Morning Came Early on Our Final Clinic Day...
The alarm sounding at 0445 Guatemalan time seemed to come even earlier this morning, as we rolled out of bed on our final day of clinic. With nearly 500 patients being seen yesterday, and anticipation of at least another 500 today, there were moments when our task felt nearly daunting. The heat and humidity had taken its toll on some, and there was a constant need to remind and push fluids even for the most seasoned volunteer. Today as we walked out our hotel door headed to devotion the humidity was even more present as the sky went from dark to a pink hue with the obvious sense of thunderstorms and rain in our future. The reminder was made at breakfast to grab raincoats as these would surely be needed, and by noon they indeed were used.
But while tired this morning there was also a sense of purpose and exhilaration as we faced the last day of clinic. The devotion this morning offered the perfect reminder of why we were hear as it began with the words... "Our Father, who always stands with the weak, the powerless, the poor, the abandoned, the sick, the aged, the very young, the unborn, and those victimized by circumstance who bear the heat of the day.... " While we may have felt tired and a little ragged from the three days in clinic, and looking to the fourth, we also recognized that our lives were far different than the lives of those we had come to serve, and we moved into our day with a sense of gratitude for the work we were about to undertake..
As the devotion continued it focused on the words... " Help us to create a world where, beyond our own needs and hurts, we will do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with you (Our Father) and our neighbors...." and continued with the words, "Give us life and love; teach us to receive your life so that we may in turn give it away. Give not just to our own but to everyone, including those who are very different than the narrow 'us'. Give us this day and not tomorrow. Do not let us push things off into some distant future so we can excuse our passivity and apthy. Unveil to us the Presence of your Kingdom..."
And so the day unfolded - patients being triaged in the neighboring Coffee Warehouse of the town's principal leader, and clinic being held in a small private setting with cement walls and old lighting. Rooms hot with little ventilation and the humidity breaching from our pores. Bee stings, bug mites (likely mosquitoes, thank goodness daytime mosquitoes are less virulent than those that bite in the night), and possibly ants... blisters on our feet, weary bones, but still a sense of exhilaration as the first patients arrived in triage, and then arrived in clinic. Amazing work by our providers who saw patient after patient with no complaint and always a welcome buenos dias or buenas tardes, as the hours progressed - ensuring that each was treated with the same sense of dignity and caring, as those who had been seen on the first days when minds and hearts were likely fresher.
To see the team work as a clock caused one to pause and reflect at the gift that was given to be included as a member of such an incredible team. And as 4pm came and the last patient was seen and the trunks were being packed away, there were hugs from the locals and a sense of both joy at the work performed, but also sadness to leave the lives we had touched. But it off to the Coffee Warehouse for a local celebration and thank you, which in many ways was mutual and then back to the hotel for a final celebration dinner knowing tomorrow would take us back to Antigua for a final day to refresh before we each headed our separate ways home. Bonds formed that will not easily be broken.
Readying to Leave Guatemala.... Mixed Emotions
Today and tonight, were our last hours in Guatemala... We traveled from the El Progreso region, through Guatemala City to Antigua for a day of respite and of course, some shopping. The Casa de Jade may never be the same as many on the team landed on their doorstep eager to take home a small jade round to symbolize the completion of another year, as well as some other beautiful jade pieces.
But before leaving Rio Hondo we first took time for important reflection. Revisiting the reflection from the first day we took stock of the week and how it was reflected in "Your Life as a Guest House". One by one, members of the team stood to light a candle and share a word or passage from the poem that was meaningful, and to share a story from the week that touched them. Many, including myself found silent tears, as each member of the team shared their words, each heartfelt and poignant, each very personal, each brave and yet safe among many that they had just met.
This was a profound reflection and time of sharing, deeply personal with an amazing sense of gratitude for one another. But more importantly for the opportunity to serve those from Guatemala and whose lives were touched this week. The words I chose from the poem were "crowd of sorrows" as I was reminded of the noise of those gathered in the waiting area to be seen. Unlike the calm quite of an American waiting room, no person was silent as they waited for the American doctor. But the noise in many ways was that of uncertainty, anxiety and potentially even fear of what to come. Persons that they had never met, who didn't look like them, certainly for the most part didn't sound like them, and yet they were here with open arms and open hearts to help care for them - total strangers. As each was seen you could see them relax and many visit, if not all ended with a hand-shake, a touch on the arm or a hug to say thank you. Definitely humbling and profound moments that touched each of our hearts.
The evening brought the team back together for one final time before we each go our ways tomorrow. A wonderful dinner at Epicure, filled with laughing, sharing and togetherness. This team has come together coalesced well. With nearly one-third of the 50 members on the team new, it still ran very much like a team that had worked together for many years. There were only a few good-byes tonight as we bid farewell to our Guatemalan colleagues, a bitter sweet time, as we are each at the place of being ready to depart and yet, our hearts are pulled to want to stay. Further good-byes will come tomorrow as we will head back to our respective homes in Minnesota, New Mexico, Las Vegas, Texas, Utah, Florida, California, and Oregon. It will be another year before we rejoin - but rejoin we will - to once again serve the people we have given our hearts to.
Another Mission Trip Draws to an End
Members of the 2014 Wells 390 Village team have now been home for close to 48 hours, but there are moments when it seems like we left Guatemala only hours ago. I have been reflecting on the right words to share as our mission trip has drawn to an end and then realize that there are likely no right words. I find myself challenged to truly articulate the feelings and experiences that we each encountered during our eight days in Country. Times when we saw sorrow, heartache, pain and times when we saw joy and laughter, and time after time when we saw and experienced gratitude from those being served - a smile, a handshake, a hand on one's hand, or a hug.
We each enter into these mission experiences with different perspectives and different expectations. We may each likely wonder whether we are fully prepared for these times and what we will and often do encounter, and can we even begin to do what needs to be done. We may ask ourselves whether we have what it takes to serve those who cross the threshold to the clinic, with few resources other than our considerable years of clinical experience and practical knowledge, our past experiences that help inform our capabilities.
But then I am reminded of the words of Corrie ten Boom (from The Hiding Place), as I was today from a fellow nurse colleague and I have to smile at these words, which capture the essence of our preparation and are a reminder of how we are indeed each prepared to do the work we have been placed in Guatemala to do. These words are simple and yet profound...
“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
And so, we bring a close to another year of service and to our Wells 390 team for 2014. We were indeed each prepared to face the challenges and the uncertainties of the week. It was natural that the 49 members of the team came together as one throughout the week, as we served so very many, just as we were intended to do. We set aside our own comforts and conveniences to live for eight days in a place and time so different from our own. But without any sense of what we were giving up, but instead with a sense of humility of the profound opportunity we had each been given to be present at this time and place.
Now we sort through photos and prepare these to be posted, both here in the blog and on our FaceBook page; we make lists to remember what is needed for next year (before we forget); we prepare to survey the team to learn from the experiences of this year, which will improve future years; we rest and recuperate from a lack of sleep and potentially from GI symptoms that have additionally exhausted us; but mostly, we express our gratitude for the time and opportunity to be involved in such very important and meaningful work. A blessing that few can fully understand and appreciate, and a blessing that we will again welcome come March 2015.