We were treated to a late breakfast and so happy to be up after the sun today. We were thrilled to see that our 3 ailing team members had recovered and were. back with us! I thought this a good time to see if anyone had some last thought to share.
Dan and Cam signed on to their first Faith In Practice trip in 2005. Until this year, they were part of our Plastic Surgery Team and transformed lives by doing such things as repairing cleft palates, cleft lips, improving scars, and even taking fused digits on hands and feet and creating fingers and toes. I have been blessed to see them in the OR working together without needing words at times, focused on bringing the best outcome to each patient tiny stitch by tiny stitch. They have also led many medical mission trips to Honduras. Without a Plastics Team on this trip, both were wondering how God would use them. Soon, their question was answered as Dan was instrumental in helping in General Surgery (one of the reasons so many procedures were completed) and Cam applied what she already knew and learned some new skills in David’s Vascular Clinic. “We wondered why were here, but knew God had a plan!” We are glad God whispered in their ear and Tom asked and asked and asked ‘til they said yes!
We have all enjoyed the “newbies” on our team. We have been blessed with our “California Girls” , Charlie, Crystal, Jenna, May, and Therese who worked as nurse circulators, nurses in the Recovery Room, and as interpreters. They all agreed they wanted to do a mission trip for years, but hadn’t found one that fit ‘til Team 651. “We were welcomed with open arms. We received as much as we gave—more than we gave!”. They had especially kind words for Sue, our OR Director, who responded, “All you all were great. We need young folks and hope you all are coming back!” Our CA girls responded, “100% we’ll be back!” They added they also enjoyed learning to speak Southern!
We were also blessed with Steve, from NH, and Brie and Kourtney, both from TX. Steve who has traveled, but never on a medical mission trip, signed up after hearing co-worker Robin talk about the great experience she had last year with our group. He was pleased to see how well organized the trip was and how everyone did their jobs well and then some! I can tell you Steve did an excellent job on our Anesthesia Team and as my personal IT advisor! Big Thanks! Brie and Kourtney added it was intimidating at first when they saw the years of experience many team members had and heard some (like Tom, our Mission Coordinator) were making their 22nd Faith In Practice trip! They felt quickly enveloped by our FIP family, “all were friendly, kind, and so patient explaining what needed to be done in our new roles”. Kourtney ended with, “Thank you for showing us Guatemala. If ever someone is thinking about embarking on a mission trip, DO IT! You will come away with so much more than you left.”
Monica and Pat are returning members. Monica was happy to see new organizational steps taken that reduced scrambling, looking for needed equipment, in the Obras. She was happy to work with “newbies” and familiar faces. Pat, who oversaw the planning, buying, preparing, serving, cleaning up of 11 outstanding meals had a wonderful week! I asked Pat if she was worried coming into this big role for the first time? Her response was, “Worried? No, I went straight to PANIC!”, but she was blessed with a Cooking Team that bonded immediately and worked tirelessly to feed all of us. Notes of encouragement from Cathie, who has always headed up this team, were greatly appreciated and placed with magnets on the fridge.
Finally, our most senior, and most beloved, Jose had a message to share. “At 83 years old, I feel privileged to work every year with this wonderful group of people. I look forward to seeing you again next year!” Equalimente, querido amigo!
At our last morning meeting, Tom announced our final tally for this amazing, difficult, exhausting, thrilling week at the Obras:
Audiology Clinic 50 people helped
Dental Clinic 80 patients (at least)
GI Clinic 71 procedures
Vascular Clinic 29 patients
ENT and General OR 120 patients
Total for 4 Days 350 people helped by Team 651
350 prayers answered by those of us who heard God call and came. 350 prayers answered by our friends, coworkers, and Dear Ones through your support and donations. Our 350 patients can now return home whole to their family members, to their jobs as contributing members to their community—all because a prayer was asked, God listened, and He sent each of us to do what we could to help Him answer these prayers. Steve added,” God called us, He knows who we are and what we could do with His help. Despite our sins and failings, God takes us, He calls us out to go do this, to help do His work. We listened and look what was accomplished!”
With our medical responsibilities complete, this was a day for us to relax, explore… and see an Angel! A busload of us headed to The Christ Child’s Nest. This is a special home for children who have been left, abandoned by their family. In this harsh country, rife with poverty and devoid of opportunity for many, where there are no services for special needs, there are no safety nets like food stamps or government aid, where most indigenous families of 6 live on about $1 a day, sometimes this is an only option. Two nuns, who are biological sisters, love and care for all the children who are left at their doorstep. Sister Betsabe and Sister Elvisa emote a quiet inner strength and holiness, it is something special when one is in their presence. They are mamas to 80 children, college age to newborns, many with special needs. Each child here is a gift from God whom the Sisters are raising to be the voice of their generation. In one year I saw a little girl go from empty eyes, unresponsive, unsmiling to “one of the gang” running, jumping, playing, shouting, laughing with her many brothers and sisters. I would never have believed such a transformation could take place had I not seen it myself. The children here are loved, they are given chores and responsibilities which make them proud, they go to school here and enjoy a childhood without tv and junk food, but run in the sunshine, care for the chickens, and always have a hug to give. It is truly like what I imagine heaven to be. For many years, my family has sponsored 13-year-old twins Angel and Auro. We send sponsorship money (which is used to cover costs at the nest) once a year through The Isle of Hope United Methodist Church in Savannah, GA and are asked to pray for these two precious children. Angel and Auro do not know they are sponsored, but I know they enjoy seeing the photos I bring each year from the previous year’s visit. Every year, this is the highlight to an already amazing week, getting to see our Angels! Our whole group is taken with the children and their spirit of love and fun! We are amazed that Sister Betsabe and Sister Elvisa have the energy to be mothers to 80 children, but they do because it is the reason they are here…God whispered and they came. When it was time to leave no one was ready, we took a few last pictures, waved from the bus and wiped tears as the little ones called out, “Gracias and Thank You! Adios and Good bye!” in English and Spanish. We thank the Sisters for inviting us into their home and sharing their beautiful family with us! Should you like to learn more about The Christ Child’s Nest and wish to sponsor a child, please contact:
Our day ended with a magnificent Farewell Banquet. We were welcomed and thanked by Brother Guermo from the Obras. Jaime translated Brother Guermo’s kind words, “I am happy and thankful for the work you do for the people of Guatemala. No words I use can thank you enough, only God can reward you for your service.” We were each given a certificate and Team picture to take home. We gave Tom a standing ovation when he received his. Without his hours and hours of preparation none of us would have this chance to come to Guatemala and be healed by the beautiful people we have met. The banquet is bittersweet as we know tomorrow we will scatter to all parts of the United States. Imagine God has a summer camp and tomorrow is the last day! We will need rest and time to digest what we have seen and learned on this journey. We will fight hard to hold onto the simplicity of life here, to listen for and look for God as we return to our “real” world and continue to be thankful for our blessings we have to share.
Our first full day here, Janet came to me with a story. She had just been walking the grounds of our hotel Quinta de Las Floras. She wandered from the grounds to an area where only the gardeners frequent. As she was admiring the unusual flowers, she saw a gardener and began asking questions about the beauty which surrounded her. The gentleman was startled that a guest would take such an interest in his work, in what he loved, in who he was. He cut two stems for Janet, as a thank you, and handed them to her as she wandered back to where the group was gathered. The stems were magnificent Bird of Paradise flowers, so unusual and complex. It was then Janet realized, we are in paradise on this mountain, closer to God, having heard His call, being asked to use our hands as His hands to help those in need. Being here reminds me of the bible story of the Transfiguration. We, like Peter, James, and John, feel the warm and loving light of Jesus on this mountain as we open our arms, lift our heads, to let His love pour over us, drench us, fill us for our trip down the mountain. It wouldn’t be right to stay here, we need to make room for others to come and feel His radiance. We need to travel home to our Dear Ones and share what we have absorbed, tell what we have seen, live what we have learned, and listen for God’s next whisper.
Thank you for taking this journey with us. Love to all Team 651 and special thanks to Ed for providing the pictures to illustrate my words, and the many, many who made this trip possible for us to heal and be healed. God bless you and go with you until we meet again…on this glorious mountain next year!