Joyful Fellowship in Guatemala (3)
On the next day, we moved to a village in a palm tree plantation, San Juan Seritos. I have never seen so many palm trees. We went through the thousands of palm trees. They said that they would make palm oil from them. I remembered that I saw palm oil in the market. The owner of the plantation is Hugo, a successful business man in Guatemala. He is a Mestizo and an exceptional person. Still in Guatemala most power and riches are in the hands of Tritos (A white person whose mother and father are also white. Uno, dos, Tres, all three are whites, Tritos!) Sometimes a Mestizo (A mixed blood between a white parent and a Mayan parent) has a chance to be successful. Most indigenous people still live as day laborers in plantations. In this situation, Hugo is a legendary person in Guatemala.
We also saw rubber trees. Thousands of rubber trees had buckets hanging around their trunks. People made scars around the trees and let the trees bleed their liquid. And they put the buckets around the trunks to collect the rubber liquid. Workers walked around and collected those rubber buckets and replace them with new ones. We saw also many pigs walking around freely with hens and dogs. Cows are also raised freely in a wide open pasture. It seemed to me that people live together with all kinds of animals and plants without any division or boundaries. And pigs were so fast and running! I did not know that pigs could run that fast!
In this mission trip, many of my assumptions were altered. For example, I had this image of a medical doctor: An elderly man with gentle and kind smile. Dr. Ed, one of our team members was fitting to that image. However, our Dr. Mary Beth, she was playful and energetic like a kinder garden teacher. She taught us our theme song which she also learned at a Methodist camp when she was a young girl! It goes like this: Quick Quack Quani Ani Mani Das ni Quick Quak Quick Quick Quack Qho (X2 repeat!) Oh nicko demo oh Chalie olly umbo, oh nikko demo, oh challie olly umpa umpa… It does not have any meaning but we just laughed and sang together. Dr. Phil said with a voice of anthropologist that it was an old Mayan song that they sang at a human sacrifice! Who could argue against it? By the way, this Dr. Phil was also changed my image of a doctor. He was handsome like a movie star! I did not know that a doctor can be so handsome! And there was a pharmacist whose name was David like King David. He looked so holy and acted so holy and I thought he was a pastor. In many ways, our team members were all characters. And characters welcome!
In the village San Juan Seritos, we did the same service. By now, I was used to what I was doing and became an expert. However, the room that I was in had no air circulation. We had two fans but still it was so hot. I was sweating and most of the volunteers had heat stroke. The strongest man, David, fell sick at the end of the day. One of our young volunteers, Amy was sick also the whole time but she never missed a work. She was a dedicated and committed as other young volunteers. I saw hope for our future in those committed young volunteers. One of the young volunteers, Nathalie was a traveling nurse who could speak Spanish. She was helping at the counseling desk in a pharmacy. She cared for each patient with love and compassion; she looked like a family doctor. She read the Bible on the commuting bus all the time. She is in her twenties and she already found the purpose of her life!
After we finish our service for the day, we came back to our lodge. We again counted pills. The first day when we arrive we counted pills. We brought pills in bulks we had to put them in small vinyl bags to give out. The liquid medicine, pharmacists give in a measured bottle at the time when they see the patients. We put 30 vitamins in a small bag. We did same thing for iron and calcium. Many of them were chewable in the consideration of the children. After our services we counted pills again! This time we made inventory because we wanted to give our left over medicines to the local hospital in Santiago.
The Santiago hospital was founded by the Catholic Church, originally by the diocese of the Oklahoma City. It served the people in Santiago for 15 years before the thirty years war between the Guatemala Government and the opposition military coup group. After the war, the hospital resumed its function and the Catholic Church started remodeling the building. In April 1995, the remodeling was finished. In October, 1995, big hurricane destroyed the area and mud slide killed 250 people. The hospital had to be evacuated even though the building could endure the disaster. The board of the hospital found out that the area also had similar mud slide fifteen years ago and decided to look for a new location. An anonymous donor gave a generous donation of 1.5 million with the condition that people had matching donations. They succeeded to collect matching donations and now they build this beautiful new hospital in a safe place in Santiago. Now they are receiving other donations to run the hospital. When we arrived at the hospital the next day, we saw that they already had emergency room and 4 clinics with pharmacy. They finished the first floor and started the second floor. The doctors and nurses were all local people. The board and volunteers was English speaking people, many of them were volunteers. The volunteer who welcomed us was also retired person from USA to move to serve Guatemala. She was a board member who was in charge of the public relations. She showed us all the donors and we saw some United Methodist Churches among other donors.
When we compare those villages that had no clinic at all with the Santiago hospital, we had this vision and prayer that all the villages in Guatemala should have a constant medical care like Santiago. I found out that the Catholic Church was popular among the local people because of its positive impact on their community. During the 30 years war, the Catholic churches were hiding places for the refugees. The Catholic priests were leaders and advocates for the lost people. When we visited a Catholic church in Santiago, there was a tomb in the middle of the church square. It was a tomb of the priest who was killed during the 30 years war with the other community people. When a church or religious community stand up for the people and shared the life with them, the church became the center of the life of that community. I saw many people in the church everyday praying and confessing their sins, having fellowship with God and with others. That experience reminded me of the purpose and mission of a local church again. (To be continued)