There has been a long break between my last post and this. It was due to life becoming crazy with illnesses, hospital trips, family visits, and the general chaos of homeschooling four children. The other part of my reason was, surprisingly, somewhat intentional. I have been actively praying about whether or not I should return to Guatemala next year (as always, financial concerns are the biggest stressor for us). The time has now come for me to make a final decision about whether or not I will be returning, as next month will mark the start of the monthly training meetings. After much careful deliberation, it has become quite clear that I am absolutely meant to return to Guatemala next year. And so, with that announcement, here (finally!) is the post about my final days Guatemala!
Wednesday, July 27, 2016
This was, sadly, our last clinic day at Planet Kids in Guatemala City. We were only open half the day. We spent the first part of the morning packing up all our belongings from the hotel, and then loading up the buses. After the clinic closed, we would be heading to Antigua for two days of R&R before traveling back home to the US.
It started slowly at first with very few patients, but the numbers quickly began to swell. After a couple of hours one of the nurses gave out what she called the “caboose ticket,” which is basically a paper for the last person in line, indicating that he/she would be the final patient of the day. Everyone was surprised when a significant amount of time had passed and the caboose ticket never showed up! Finally someone went to investigate and it was discovered that the people kept on passing the ticket down the line to allow more patients to be seen! As they were all waiting outside in a makeshift waiting area underneath a tent, we had no idea it was happening. We all had a hearty laugh about that – it was quite clever and worked pretty well for a while! 🙂 But, unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and we had to close up the clinic so that we could pack all the clinic supplies back up into the dozens of suitcases they came in. We saw approximately 150 patients on this final morning, bringing our grand total to just under 1,000 patients in 5 days. Everyone we saw was helped with their medical concerns, given free vitamins, prescriptions, and hygiene items, ministered to and individually prayed over. I praise the Lord for the work He did in those we saw both physically and spiritually, and I sincerely thank Him for the opportunity He gave in allowing me to be a part of it all.
There is one particular little girl I saw that day who impacted me deeply. She was a sweet little 3-month-old named Angela. The woman who brought her in was not her mother, but the cousin of her mother. I was told that the mother had disappeared two weeks before and her whereabouts were unknown. She may have abandoned the baby, or she may have somehow been hurt, the cousin had no idea, but she was now left with the baby. I was deeply moved by little Angela’s story, and I felt the urge to pray over both the baby and the cousin raising her. I snuggled her and loved on her for as long as I could, but I had other patients I had to help so eventually I had to pass her along to see the doctor. I thought that was the last I would see of her. However, after the clinic was closed and the last of the patients were waiting on their medications I noticed that the cousin was still hanging around with the baby. Always being unable to resist baby snuggles, I went back over to the cousin and offered to hold the baby for her as she was looking very stressed out. The baby’s cousin began telling me how she was unable to provide for the baby, and she needed milk and clothes and such. They were already very poor and she had her own children to provide for, and the baby was a significant added strain on their family. If I could, I would have gladly opened my wallet right then and there and given her all the money I possessed (that is, unfortunately, against the rules). I went to get Mr. Dave Amsler, the person who is in charge at Planet Kids, and filled him in on the situation. He explained to me that there was not a lot that could be done for the family. Guatemala does not offer resources such as welfare for its citizens as the US does. As Mr. Amsler was speaking to the cousin, the head nurse came over to me and told me in no uncertain terms to give the baby back immediately. I tried to explain the situation to her, but she kept repeating for me to give the baby back right that minute. I did so and walked away, confused and heartbroken for the whole family. A little later that day I inquired about the situation. It seems that the cousin was attempting to abandon the baby and leave her with us. She felt that Angela would be well cared for by the rich Americans. I wish that could be true, but we all were soon to be headed back home and there was no place for us to place the baby. In fact, Guatemala has blocked Americans from adopting Guatemalan children, so even if there were resources for us to do so, it would not be allowed.
It’s been 5 months, but Angela’s story still affects me strongly. I pray for her often. I took these photos of her when I was holding her, and keep them on my phone as a constant reminder to pray for her precious little life.
After we finished the long process of cleaning up the clinic and packing away all the equipment and those leftover supplies that we were unable to donate, we had some lunch. Those who were on the construction and medical teams who had never had the opportunity to go into the villages where the true poverty could be seen were given that chance. A van was filled and was going to be driven into one of the neighboring villages. I initially boarded the van wishing to experience what life was like for the people we had been helping the past several days. As we were about to leave, however, a strong feeling came over me that I needed to get off that bus immediately. I can’t explain it, it was just an urge. I hated to hold everyone back, but I really needed to listen to my gut. I apologized to the bus driver as best I could (he spoke very little English, and likewise I speak very little Spanish), and then got off the bus. What I learned later was that there had been a shooting just seconds before they arrived in the village. In fact, it had occurred so soon before the bus pulled up that the ambulance and police hadn’t even arrived yet, though they did begin to arrive shortly after everyone had gotten off the bus. The team had a short amount of time to look around before the bus driver insisted that they load up and leave as quickly as possible. I will never know if my decision to get off the bus at the last minute played any role in preventing them from witnessing (or, God forbid, being involved in) the shooting, but I rest assured in the knowledge that God was somehow behind it.
Here are some photos shared with me by a friend who was on the bus, depicting what a typical impoverished village in Guatemala looks like. This particular village is built around a garbage landfill. There has been a mudslide earlier that year and a number of homes were destroyed and lives were lost. The images are very moving to see, and really cause me to think about how much I have and how often I take my life for granted.
There was another alarming thing that happened that day. That morning one of the women on the evangelism team was taken ill with what appeared to be a stomach bug or food poisoning. As the morning wore on more people began to experience similar symptoms so that they were dropping like flies. It was particularly hard on them because they needed to board a bus that afternoon for a long, winding journey through mountainous terrain to reach Antigua. Fortunately our medical team came prepared for this sort of thing to happen, and appropriate medications were administered to everyone. Supplies quickly began to dwindle, however. One teammate in particular became more ill than anyone else, and ended up requiring an IV and round-the-clock supervision over the following day and a half. One of the nurses and our P.A. looked after her commendably well, and missed out on sleep, even becoming sick themselves, to provide care for her and keep her from needing to be hospitalized (which, from what I’ve been told, you do not want to happen in Guatemala). Many more people fell ill over the next day two days while we were in Antigua, but by God’s grace everyone was well enough to board the plane and fly home that Saturday.
I wish I could say that was the end of our scary adventures while there, but the two days we spent in Antigua, Guatemala were also very eventful! We experienced several earthquakes, and a nearby volcano, Fuego, that was about 10 miles away from us erupted while we were there! It was alarming to say the least, but once again God protected us and kept us out of harm’s way.
Here’s a photo of our view of Volcano Fuego as it erupted right before our eyes:
Our return to the US was also eventful. Between flight delays and a lack of a flight crew, our one-day trip home extended into two days, with countless hours spent at the Miami International Airport. We all returned home Sunday morning, exhausted but exhilarated by all the ways we had seen the Lord working in the previous 8 days. I can’t quite express what the trip meant to me, but suffice it to say that it was…amazing and incredibly humbling. I’m deeply grateful for the time I spent there, and very much looking forward to returning again and getting another opportunity to see God work in the lives of the people of Guatemala.
If you’d like to donate or follow along for updates regarding my 2017 Guatemala missionary tip, check out this link. Thank you, and God bless!