I’m in Antigua, Guatemala this week serving on a mission team from an organization called Faith in Practice.
It’s not associated with any particular church or denomination but it is a ministry organized around delivering medical services to the poverty stricken in Guatemala.
The ministry occupies a suite of operating rooms 42 weeks a year and provides free medical care to people who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Our group has over 80 surgeries scheduled this week. For the most part, they will be women receiving hysterectomies, gall bladder removals or hernia repairs.
You might be surprised that I am on a medical mission and that would be appropriate. My wife is the real missionary. She puts her nursing skills to work. This is the seventh consecutive year that she had made the trip. She says it is the best week of the year for her.
My wife describes her experiences in such a glowing fashion, I tried to figure out how I can serve. Turns out every team has a financial manager who also serves as an errand runner for the doctors, nurses and technicians who do the work.
So, I shop for groceries and other sundries, wash the dishes after the meals and watch in awe the work that is completed.
All during the week, all of us who are here are reminded how lucky we are to be American.
First, without this mission, most of these folks would die of their ailments. The government here provides no services to the indigent at all, period. If you need help and can’t pay, that’s just too bad. More than half the people live off $2 per day.
Second, the people who are served are very grateful for what occurs.
Yesterday, all the potential candidates for surgery were visited to determine whether they were able to benefit from surgery.
One woman came from a Mayan village up in the hills some eight hours away from Antigua. She spoke neither Spanish nor English so she brought along someone who could interpret her ancient Mayan dialect to the doctors on hand. Thus, it was Mayan to Spanish to English.
As the consultation ended up, it was determined that her surgery would be performed – scheduled for today so the doctor could watch her for the entire week before she took the eight-hour trek back home.
As the conversation was ending, the woman reached for a bag she had with her. She had no money, she explained. So, she couldn’t pay. Thus, she offered what she had to the surgeon – eight apples.
Humbling isn’t it? In America, we call it a “right” to have health care for all. Down here in Guatemala, it is not even close to a right.
Thanks for watching the store while I’m working with these folks down here. We are comfortable and safe. These medical professionals are down here pouring their skills out as a measure of grace. It is cool to watch.