Joyful Fellowship in Guatemala
Our church has been leading the Guatemala medical mission team for many years. This year I joined to the team for the first time. From our church Dr. Marybeth, Doug and Betsy McLeod, and I went with the 15 other people from all over the country. Before I went to Guatemala, I did not have any idea about our mission. One day, one of our church members asked me, “Which airline do you take?” I said, “I don’t know.” Then she asked again, “Are you going directly from SF to Guatemala or change plain somewhere?” I was blank. “I don’t know!” “Well, then how long does it take?” I just scratched my head and she gave up and said, “Are you really going?¨
Yes, from time to time, it is good to be a follower. I just followed Doug and Betsy, our team leaders. I did not know all the team members. I just knew those three others from our church. By the way, let me answer those questions first. We took United Airline which supposed to leave 10:42AM. The plain was delayed and we could leave 1:00 PM. We changed plain at Houston. We almost missed the connection flight but it was also delayed and we could catch it at 7:30 PM. Finally we arrived at the Guatemala city around 9:00 PM, which was 8:00 PM in California. I left home around 5:30AM July 29th. So, it took about 14 and half hours to get there. Then we spent one more hour to go through the customs. We arrived at a hotel in Guatemala City around 11:00 PM. Then we all went to bed.
On Saturday, July 30th, after our breakfast, we left Guatemala City to go to our mission base, the city Mazatenanga. We stayed Mazatenanga while we went around the villages to serve the people. It took about 4 hours to go there. The scenery was beautiful and we saw many interesting things. One of the interesting things is a way of transportation. We could see a truck which carried more than 20 people standing. Some people were hanging on the side and back of the truck! There were also small taxies that can carry only two or three people. It looked more like a scooter to me. However, they were really efficient because the roads were narrow.
The place that we stayed in Mazatenanga was called Bambu Resort Center. It is a Christian retreat center where no alcohol or even noise is allowed. Gospel songs were played all the time in the dining area. We saw many Christian groups that had meetings there. The largest group was HIV and AIDS education conference. I was impressed because the audience was mixed with youth and elderly people. They said to me that because people became sexually active fairly young, they had to have education at an early age. Saturday was more relaxed time for us to settle down and team building while we counted pills. We put vitamins and calcium and iron in small bags for distribution. We also got to know each other. Finally I learned everybody. Doctor from Carlson city and occupational therapist (Phil and Chris), Pharmacist and Nurse practitioner from Carson City (David and Kelly), Doctor and Nurse from Ohio (Ed and Georgia), a pharmacist from Kentucky (Judy), Physician Assistance from Carson City (Sydney), Doctor from Concord (Marybeth), a nurse from San Diego (Nathalie) those 10 people were medical team. We had a photographer from Rossmore (Wolf), young adults from San Ramon (Iris, Amy, Jim, Glen), team leaders from Concord (Doug and Betsy), an interpreter from Nevada (Lilian), and one pastor (Sungho). Total 19 people from USA and one bus driver (Joshua) and four interpreters (Angie, Luis, Raul, Omira). We are a team of 24 people.
On July 31st, we had Sunday service. I preached based on 1 John 1:1-4. “Jesus came down to us in flesh so that we could experience God´s love in a concrete way. We could touch him, hear him, see him, and live with him. God´s love was practical and experiential. So, we will do the same thing. We will let them experience God´s love in a concrete and practical way. That is why we provide medical services. The results would be fellowship with the village people and joy in our heart.¨ After I shared those words, we had Holy Communion. We broke the bread and shared the juice. One young man said to me that it was the best tasty juice that he ever had. Of course, that was the local fruit juice that we could get from the dining room! Sunday afternoon we took rest. I know we even did not start work and already took rest! It was a day of rest, isn´t it? Believe it or not, we worked hard from Monday. So, please be nice to us.
Early in the morning on August 1st, we left our hotel in Mazatenanga to a village Nueva Covadonga. We rented a bus, which was called “chicken bus” because it looked like the local buses used by local people, so it didn’t draw attention to us, but it was owned by Joshua (the driver)’s cousin who runs a transportation business. It took about 3 hours to get there by bus. All over the streets and buildings, I could see political posters and advertisements. I found out that they have presidential election in September. About 18 candidates were running for the president. Among them the president´s ex-wife was included. She divorced the president to run for the position because the law does not allow the spouse of the current president to run for the office. So, here she is! Guatemala is still a male dominant society but female leadership is growing everywhere. Actually the leader of the Fundacion Herencia Via (Living Heritage foundation), which worked with us during the week, were also single ladies, Angelica and Carla.
Angelica and Carla started working with UMVIM (United Methodist Volunteers in Mission) 14 years ago when they were 19 and 16 years old. They worked hard and gradually developed their own ideas how to serve their own people better. Last year they started their own foundation to enhance the living condition of the village people. They choose one village as a model case and started working on four areas: Clean Water, Small business development, Environmental conservation, education, and health. Our mission team was welcomed because we were working on one of the four foci: Health.
When we arrived at the village, we set up registration table, triage table, medical clinic, pharmacy, and photo room. When a client came in, we got the basic information and the triage people took the blood pressure, weight, and basic symptoms. Then the five medical providers made the diagnosis and wrote prescriptions. Then they were sent to the pharmacy and given medicines. While they were waiting for the medicine, we took photos and gave gift (school supplies and health kits). I was at the photo and gift section and pray for the people loudly whey they asked prayer and pray silently when they did not ask. The work usually started early in the morning and ended late at night. When we came back, we had debriefing and shared our thoughts together and prayed before bed. Every day was like that. We served 76 people on the first day, 152 people on the second day, 192 people on the third day, 150 people on the 4th day. We served total 570 people officially but there were others who stayed home and got the medicine by mothers or fathers. We served about 600 people total.
(To be continued)