The team reverend, Silverio G. Sanchez, opened the scriptures this morning to Psalm 41:1, which says, “Blessed is the one who considers the poor! In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him,” and shared with us the spiritual blessings we receive as we help those in need around us. He encouraged us in the ordination of our calling and the beautiful promises we can trust in as we start our week of service.
On Sunday’s, we triage. Triage day is a complex and demanding day. What happens on triage day is the result of weeks and months of work by some of the 1,000 Guatemalan Faith In Practice volunteers along with the over 1,300 U.S. volunteers that visit remote villages all throughout the country healing and diagnose people in need every year. If it’s decided that a person needs surgery, arrangements are made for them and their loved ones to come to Antigua during a surgery week. With a majority of the rural population living under the poverty line, they can’t afford to stay somewhere in the city so Faith In Practice houses the families at the Casa de Fe (house of faith) which is just down the street. The Casa de Fe is not just a place for patients to recover, but it is a place of joy where on Sunday nights it is tradition to have the children whack open a piñata laden with goodies and a few sweets and give out beautiful hand-made dresses to the little girls.
We start our day at the hospital meeting in a beautiful, sunny courtyard packed with all of the families and patients. This is the first time we get to really see how many hundreds of people will be impacted by the work we do this week. No surgery changes just one life. Each surgery performed on a boy or girl affects siblings, parents, grandparents, and visa versa. Not only do we get to see the people, but also this is an important time that we are able to take to intermingle with them and put an arm around a shoulder as Rev. Silverio leads everyone in a prayer of hope for things to come and thanksgiving for the joy and confidence we have in Christ.
Triage begins and over 110 patients get taken through the process of meeting first with their prospective surgeon to determine whether they really need surgery and if they do to get a course of action set and a time-slot secured. After the surgeons give the O.K. patients move on to one of our six anesthesiologists who determine whether or not the patient is healthy enough for surgery and to make sure no existing medications will interfere with their ability to put the patient to sleep. There will be 5 OR’s (operating rooms) active this week – one for our urologist, one for our gynecologist, one for our ENT (ear nose and throat doctor), one for our plastic surgeon, and one for our general surgeon. I don’t have the exact numbers, but approximately 100 surgeries will be performed this week. Each one will be life-changing and unfortunately I won’t be able to write about them all, but I want to just mention one that I was told about today.
Wendy is a 29-year-old woman who has been told her whole life by doctors that she will never be able to have children because of a fibroid on her uterus. Wendy also has a boyfriend who she has been dating for several years but who is afraid to ‘popped the question’ because of his desire for children. Childlessness can be an extremely frustrating, scary, sad, and painful thing to go through as my friend Chelsea Patterson Sobolik talks about in her recent book, “Longing for Motherhood.” Chelsea, like Wendy, was told that she will never be able to have children and she documents how this knowledge has made her somehow feel less of a full woman. She talks about the worry she had that no one would ever be able to fully love her because of her medical condition, and how childlessness is a very lonely and personal struggle. Wendy has been living in this very reality day after day for years on end and came into the triage room with Dr. Huebner today expecting to get the same answer she has been given time after time. After diagnosing the problem and weighing options, Dr. Huebner will be operating on Wendy later this week. Entering through her belly-button, he will remove the fibroid, sew her uterine muscle back together, and if all goes as planned, Wendy will gain the ability to bear children. Upon hearing the news, Wendy wept tears of unimagined joy and hope. This is just one story from a day full of stories just like this, and I think it translates so well to a Christian’s relationship with Jesus. We go around day-to-day seeking for hope in our bareness and so often are disappointed by what we find. We grow accustomed to disappointment and so when we come to Christ and offer up our symptoms we expect disappointment, but instead we find someone touched by our pain and who offers a hope that before would have been unimaginable.
Healing for many of the people we see this week will be something unimaginable.