1:50pm: After just about 24 hours of traveling, some rest and a little more traveling, we are here, and we are ready. The group boarded two small buses from Guatemala City this morning at 10am. After about an hour and a half, Team Stempel arrived in Antigua. As a team, we headed straight to Casa de Fe, the patient guest house for Faith In Practice in Antigua. There, we got a quick tour and went through a brief orientation with Jaime and Maria, our Faith In Practice guides.
Today I truly learned the scope of what this week entails in a way that I had not realized until our orientation. Our team is about to embark on four days of surgical procedures that will impact lives forever, and the Guatemalans that our team cares for are not just from Antigua. The majority are actually traveling from every end of the country – taking anywhere from a two to twelve-hour trips just to be here in Antigua to receive the care they need. They'll arrive first thing in the morning, even though their surgery may not be until the afternoon. They'll travel with friends or family who can translate their Mayan to Spanish and possibly their Spanish to English. They'll sign their forms with their thumbprints because they may have never written their names before. They'll commit to their travel time just as much as our team does, and a place like Casa de Fe exists a haven of hope for those who made the journey to Antigua. They can stay both before and after their surgery. It’s a place to welcome those Guatemalans and to give them a full and genuine experience of care and hospitality.
What’s also important (for me and for all of you!) to learn is that the medical system in Guatemala is not broken. It’s non-existent. The Faith In Practice teams that serve all of the communities of Guatemala are not here to fix but rather, to help in ways that otherwise would never be addressed. The impact of teams and trips like ours changes the narrative forever and provides health care for people who otherwise would not know that it exists.
We just checked into La Quinta de las Flores, our stay for the next seven nights, and I’m here in my casita, feeling blessed. For a new member of this team and a first timer to Guatemala, walking into La Quinta was an experience I’ll never forget. What an beautiful representation of Antiguan culture and kindness. The courtyard, the garden, the décor and the wave of comfort that impacts anyone as they walk through the gate here at La Quinta de las Flores – it’s magical. I can tell for those returning that this place holds a familiar place in their heart, an unmatched memory that coincides with their past trips of compassion. For us new ones, it almost immediately feels the same. I feel welcomed, and I feel cared for – in the way that only prepares one to care for another in the same way.