Friday, February 23, 2007


i know that my posts are becoming few and far between, although this is not my intention. this past weekend, we were able to do a clinic in a town north of here called saquixpec, and i again am awed at the God we serve and humbled by the fact that i will never be able to convey this to you fully with mere black and white words.

15 of us left for saquixpec in two different groups, half of us leaving on wednesday (valentine's day) and the other half leaving early thursday morning. it was a good 5 hour drive with the vehicles that had 4-wheel drive, and as we drove, i watched us slowly leave behind many traces of the familiar life we lead here, make our way up and down and through mountain passes that seemed surreal, and enter into what felt to me as a corner of guatemala that has somehow remained almost untouched from the rest of the country. these roads are only passable by land for part of the year and the other part of the year, they have to be reached by airplane. although the roads are getting better and this area seems to be actually getting some attention from the government, it is still a testimony to the years and years of neglect that these people have faced due to the isolation that they have found themselves in. the nearest government (basically free) hospital is 2 hours away and has less equipment and ability to offer medical assistance than quiche hospital, the one a couple hours from us. if you do not remember my description of the inadequacies and frustrations we have found with this hospital, you can see my early post titled "santa cruz de quiche."

i was confronted with two people asking for "consultas" the moment i stepped out of the truck, both who were truly in need of medical attention. as i was walking to see one of the patients (a lady who had been in labor for a couple days without progressing), the rest of the team arrived and we started clinic about 45 minutes later. (one of the arrivals was the OB GYN - heidi bell - that we work with, and she thankfully took over the care of the lady in labor!) we worked until that evening and got up the next morning to continue caring for the 650-700 people that we saw and treated over the course of the day and half of clinical work. we gave out mostly tylenol, ibuprofen, tums, and vitamins - rare commodities to these people - although we also treated many acute conditions or conditions that should have been acute, like a little 12 year old who had perforated her ear drum years ago and was now deaf in one ear due to a condition that could have been easily treated when it first happened. we showed the jesus film at night, which over 200 people stayed for, and we are also blessed to be witnesses to 12 people coming to accept Christ as their personal savior during the clinical time, one man who told us he had been longing for someone to come and tell him about this God and how he could live for him. after prayers with a guatemalan pastor we had invited along with us, the man looked at us through tear filled eyes and said, "my heart is now content." as leslie said, so is ours.

and those are just the logistics that come to mind that are easy to tell people and important in their own way. however, what is less easy to write about, but just as important, is the underlying currents that a place carries, the history that makes their present the reality that it is, and the stories that each of these people bring with them. the very first lady i saw was five months pregnant with her 8th child. i did her ultrasound and she asked many good questions during it, which kind of surprised me. as i was finishing up, she sat up on the bed and said, "okay, so everything is okay with my baby? the head is in the right place (a common question since there is a lot of fetal/mother death due to breech births)?" etc. and after reassuring her again that everything was okay, she looked at me and said, "so many women here die during childbirth" with a kind of hollow look in her eyes. and it wasn't a lighting bolt moment or anything, but that has stayed with me since we left there as a reminder of two of the underlying currents that seemed to run throughout most of the patients i saw: fear and isolation. these people have lived without basic medical care for so long, and they have watched friends, neighbors, family members die from conditions that could be easily treated under better circumstances. another patient i saw had a blood pressure of 160/100 and we were reluctant to start her on blood pressure meds since we are not sure when we will be able to return. so, all i could do was ask her to buy some aspirin in the local pharmacy and suggest that she get her blood pressure checked the next time she goes by a centro de salud (local government-run health center; again often lacking in equipment and meds). however, as i was telling the translator this to tell the patient, he cut me off mid sentence and said, "oh, we don't have a centro de salud here... the nearest one is a puesta de salud (an even smaller one) and it is in the next village." so, i was left sending a patient off with a "prescription" for a med that i didn't know if she could afford and without a way to continue to check her high blood pressure.

and so, i end this post a little differently. i bring before you tonight the people of saquixpec and i ask for your prayers for them, knowing that God can work in the hearts of these people spiritually and their physical ailments as well. i ask that you will join us in praying for the 12 people that have come to know Christ... that they will find the discipleship and fellowship that they desperately need. that you will pray for the people that we saw in clinic... that they may have left with more than simply ibuprofen and vitamins, but a glimpse of our God as well. we do not know what our future role looks like with these people, but we know that prayer is always the first step and we are reminded of the importance of this especially at a time when we cannot physically be with them.

i cannot get pictures to upload to my blog here, but please visit these two websites: is the blog of heidi and matt bell, the doctor and her husband that traveled up there with us and work with us here. they have much insight into the trip and have also helped chronicle it all with pictures. rachel has also started a blog at the website that offers yet another perspective and glimpse into her heart and the heart of the people we serve here. these are both "must-reads."