Saturday, July 23, 2016
This is the day we had been waiting for! I was initially told that we’d be setting up our clinic that day, but not actually starting to see patients until the following day, but a few hours later learned that we would in fact open the clinic at 1 PM. I was glad because I was so excited to start seeing people! But first we had a lot of work to do to get things set up. We had a buffet-style breakfast in the hotel restaurant at 6:30 AM, then met downstairs in the lobby at 7:30 and loaded up the buses.
Our clinic was at Planet Kids, which is the ministry run by missionary hosts, Dave and Debbie Amsler. The bus drive to Planet Kids took about 15 minutes, then we unloaded everyone and all the supplies. We had packed bags and bags of supplies which all had to be transported to the site, unpacked and set up before we could begin seeing patients.
Planet Kids meets every Sunday where a couple hundred local children come and worship, learn about Jesus, and get a nutritious meal provided by the Amslers. They meet in a large warehouse donated by a local businessman who wished to give back to his community. We utilized this warehouse space to see patients from Saturday until the following Wednesday.
When the patients first walked in the garage-style roll-up door they would be greeted and get checked in. From there, we had set up a triage area where we took their vitals, and with the help of volunteer translators were able to ask questions and get an understanding of what services the patients wanted to take advantage of. Our team included three practitioners (a doctor, PA and nurse practitioner) and four local dentists who provided their services free of charge. We also offered free eye checks, and gave out hundreds of reading glasses as well as tens of thousands of dollars worth of prescription and over-the-counter medication. Our providers were able to help people with everything from common infections and colds to stomach illnesses such as parasites, high blood pressure to diabetes, dehydration to cavities, athlete’s foot to eye sight problems, and so much more! It was a joy to be able to help with health concerns for which these people might not otherwise have been able to receive care.
After going through triage (where I worked), the patients moved on to a waiting area where they could sit and children could play and color while waiting to be seen. From there they saw a practitioner and got prescriptions if needed. They then went on to a tented area where two pastors were available full time to sit with families, pray over them, and share the Good News message. After that they went to our makeshift pharmacy and were given the medications they needed. All of these areas needed to be set up before we could begin seeing patients. All of the supplies we needed had been packed into a couple dozen suitcases, so it was quite a lot of work to unpack it all, organize and set everything up. Even with as many of us as there were it took half the day to get all that done, but by about 1 PM we were ready to start helping people. At noon our group headed around the corner to get a quick lunch at Pollo Campero, a local fried chicken restaurant, before opening the doors of the clinic.
Here is a video tour of our clinic. I apologize for the low volume, but turning up the sound should help. 🙂
When the patients began pouring in things really got crazy! There was no air conditioning in the warehouse and the only source of airflow was from the garage door. With hundreds of bodies in the building at any given time, things got very hot and stuffy very fast. I sweated more in that warehouse than I ever had in my entire life! Despite the stifling heat, it was all so rewarding. Everyone was so friendly and happy to be there. Word must have spread about our clinic, because the line of people waiting to be seen was nearly always out the door and even around the side of the building!
Of the many patients who passed by me that day, one in particular really touched my heart. Her name was Sayda, and she was a single mother of two daughters. She had been married, but after 13 years with an abusive husband she finally had the courage to leave. Having been a single mom myself, and also coming from an abusive marriage, I really hurt for her and understood where she was coming from. Her teenage daughter really struggled with these changes in life, and Satan was fighting hard for that girl’s soul. She had self-inflicted cuts on her arms in the shape of satanic symbols. Sayda tearfully told me these things and begged for prayer. I was so deeply moved by her story that I laid hands on her and her daughters right then and there and prayed over them. I asked God to place a hedge of protection around her family, to be a father for Sayda’s daughters, fill the role of husband for Sayda, and provide for their many needs. I asked the Holy Spirit to comfort them, give them joy, guidance and direction. I prayed, too, for the battle over her daughter’s life, that the demons trying to capture her would not prevail. I was touched so deeply by Sayda’s story that I know I will remember her for the rest of my life and always continue to pray for and her daughters.
After we closed the clinic for the night we headed to a restaurant called Los Cebollines and enjoyed a super yummy dinner of fajitas and the most delicious pico de gallo that I have had in years. There was a lovely singer providing live entertainment which we all very much enjoyed. She even sang one song in English, which definitely won her lots of clapping and praises from our team! The restaurant had beautiful decor, and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the beautiful lighting. If you ever find yourself in Guatemala City, definitely check them out!
Returning to the hotel that night, we were all absolutely exhausted! I fell into a deep sleep pretty quickly, which is saying a lot because I normally suffer miserably from insomnia. I was particularly excited to begin the next day, as we would be getting to meet the children of Planet Kids. Hearing about those children is what initially touched my heart and made me decide to go to Guatemala in the first place.
To read about Day 3, click here.