Spring 2020 Medical & Construction Service Trip

Dates:   April 25- May 3, 2020

Application due by January 25, 2020

Application

Leaders: Linda Brewster & Mike Davis

Trip Sponsor: Works of Grace

Teams are filled on first come first registered.

Cost:  approx $2000.00

Projected trip cost, excluding medical preparations such as immunizations and prophylactic medications, for which the individual must take personal responsibility is around $2000.00 per person.   Trip cost includes pick-up and drop-off at the airport, transportation in a minibus or bus the whole time we are there, hotels, translators, tips at all meals and for baggage-handlers, most  meals, and some misc. expenses. Airfare also included.

Checks can be made payable to: Works of Grace

Fee Payment Schedule:

Deposit of $1000.00 with registration (deadline is November 23, 2018).

Contact Linda Brewster at guatemalagrace1@gmail.com

This is a hands-on service trip.  We will conduct medical clinics in rural villages as well as construction work  at direction of someone from Salud y Paz.   No special skills are necessary -only an attitude of openness and acceptance and a willingness to serve.  We go to do whatever is needed.  Safety is always a priority.  Prior to the trip we will develop together a more informed knowledge and increased sensitivity to the complex historical, cultural, religious, socio-political and economic issues found in Guatemala.  During the trip we will interact with the residents of this region and learn more about these people and their culture.

For more information 2019 Medical Team Information

PRE Departure:
All team members will be asked to read recommended materials, view videos and engage in other activities to help prepare for the time. These readings and ensuing team discussions gives the team a deeper understanding of the experience and culture of the people we will serve.

All pre-mission  gatherings will be a time for the team members to become better acquainted as we answer questions, share trip details and engage in discussions.

About Salud y Paz:

During the Guatemalan Civil War in the 1980’s and 1990’s, dentist Phil Plunk spent several weeks serving in Guatemala. On each trip to pull teeth, Phil became more and more aware that the need for dental care in Guatemala couldn’t be solved through week-long service trips. What the people of Guatemala needed was easier access to regular care. So Phil packed up his dental practice and moved to Guatemala.

In 2001, Phil founded Project Salud y Paz and opened a small clinic in Camanchaj, Quiché, Guatemala. For the first time,  comprehensive dental care, including cleanings, extractions and fillings, was available to people in the rural highlands. Phil worked with the local bomberos (firemen) to spread the word about the American dentist providing free dental care. Slowly, news of Salud y Paz reached more and more and people and the number of patients began to grow.

Since 2001, the clinic in Camanchaj has grown from one American dentist seeing less than 10 patients a day to one full-time Guatemalan doctor, two part-time doctors, a dentist, and a dental assistant seeing more than 50 patients a day. In addition, Project Salud y Paz operates a second clinic in Quetzaltenango (Xela-Urbina) and began partial operation at a third clinic in Cunén in early 2014.

Salud y Paz doesn’t just provide medical care. In 2009, Salud y Paz opened an early education center called Susanna Wesley School. Susanna Wesley School provides education, nutrition, and medical care for more than 50 children preschool through first grade.

Salud y Paz is now a joint project of International Hands in Service (a U.S. based 501c3 non-profit organization), the Iglesia Metodista Nacional Primitiva de Guatemala, and the United Methodist Church in the United States.

For more information see the Salud y Paz website, www.saludypaz.org

Why Do They Come?

An astonishing number of persons are arriving at the southern border of our country every day. Many of them come from Guatemala. It is hard to imagine what motivates them to take this arduous and dangerous journey. We can understand the concept of poverty, the lack of opportunity and the fear of violence as motivators. In the abstract they are ideas which make sense. But their reality becomes real and more understandable when we actually see the living situations and meet the people. Our service trips offer such an opportunity. Once you have witnessed the reality of the highlands of Guatemala the answer to the question will take on deeper meaning and understanding. Why do they come? Join us on a service trip and find out for yourself.
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News from Medical Team in Cunen, Guatelamala

February 24, 2019

Hola,
Yesterday most of us had uneventful trips to Guatemala. We coordinated flights from Boston (2 different flights), Denver, Louisville, and Houston. Polly got stuck in Houston for the night due to flight mechanical issues.  She is now in Guatemala and headed to Cunen – a bit behind us.  We have secured safe transportation for her.

Last night was dinner and bed for most as we had gotten up around 2:30am for the flights.  I think everyone is better rested today.  We stayed in Hotel Santo Tomas – a real delight to stay in with courtyards and flowers and parrots : ) It was a convent in the day but a wonderful place for respite today.

This morning breakfast was eggs and breads and fruit and oh yes – can’t forget the refried beans!   Coffee is wonderful here (so I am told) – but it is definitely stronger than Dunkin Donuts! Folks will have a chance at the end of the week to buy coffee to bring home.  It is always a best seller.

After breakfast everyone had the opportunity to go to the market which is across the street from the hotel.  It is the largest open air market in Central America.  It is an experience that is unlike one I have had in my travels! There is a large Catholic Church that many visited at the end of the market. It is a unique blend of Catholicism and Mayan faith beliefs in one place and at one time. There are “tables” raised off the floor by a few inches in the center isle where Mayans can worship their Gods, spread flower petals and light candles. I love the sense of oneness in our differences.  And I bet God doesn’t care how we worship but that we worship.  The priests actually stop at the various tables and offer blessings according to the table they are at.

We had a wonderful lunch with delicious Guacamole and are now headed on our bus to Cunen – another 4 hour ride.  Riding through the mountains always makes me realize how thin the veil between heaven and earth is.  The terrain is mountainous and rugged and so amazingly beautiful.  And it stretches for miles and miles.  Definitely God’s country. 

The cemetery was the last stop before lunch. There the Mayans care wonderfully for the graves and often visit the dead. There is a chapel in the cemetery and places where the Mayans hold there own ceremonies.  Today there were three ceremonies being performed.  Often ceremonies involve fire, light (candles) and flower petals as well as many prayers. (Maybe I should do a blog about the Mayan traditions!)

We are still driving so I will write again later.  Just be sure that all your loved ones and friends are safe and well and are soon to experience a journey deep in the heart of Mayan country that will touch their hearts and open their souls.

Blessings,
Linda 

February 26, 2019

Dear family and friends, 

We survived our first clinic day.  Actually, the team did more than survive it, they rocked it!  We left the hotel at 7:45 am and arrived at San Antonia around 8:20am. 

We unloaded the bus and had the clinic set up and running with a pharmacy, lab, triage station, and registration by 9:00am. It was a thing of beauty to watch.

Throughout the day people cared for one another and cared for the folks who were seeking care from us.   We have 4 providers on this trip and they saw so many varied illnesses and chronic diseases.    We saw a total of 108 patients today.  Not bad for day #1!

 Stephan, Terry, Hallie, and Nancy did a great job seeing patients who had not seen a provider in a year.  Marilyn worked in the lab today and she got really good at doing finger sticks as she checked the blood sugar on every patient over the age of 30.  

Laura and Polly worked with interpreters to triage patients – taking vital signs and asking questions about why they were there.  The did amazing – keeping the patients flowing all day.

In the pharmacy, Chris was amazing.  I love having him come on these trips. He is a pharmacist and lends so much to the pharmacy aspect – but more than that he lends a deep sense of spirituality in his work. 

Peter and Rae and Kendra worked in the pharmacy giving patients their medications and offering them instruction in taking their medications as well as whatever instructions the provider wanted the patient to have Peter has done this for many years and he too brings a wonderful sense of call to this work that brings him closer to God. Kendra and Rae worked with Peter explaining things to patients and also did an excellent job. 

The kids today were out of control.  There must have been 100 kids that showed up when color books and crayons came out. Tammy and I had to lock ourselves in a classroom with abut 40 of the kids to get a sense of control in the coloring.  They were all over us and it was overwhelming.  But we did it and they laid on the floor and colored.  Their teacher was out sick, so they had no one in the classroom with them.  Imagine that back home. 

Christine and Kerry also helped with the kids – playing soccer and football and some volleyball as well as tug of war with the kids as the rope and other games the kids came up with.  It was a crazy day with the kids.  So I hear, they climbed up in the bathroom stall and squirted Marilyn over the top with water : ). Ingenious!

The Pharmacy did an awesome job counting the pills and packaging vitamins for distribution. It was a fine working machine.  

Last night as we gathered, we shared stories of the day.  For me that is  a moving time.  A time when folks share their witness of God at work in their day.  Today we shared our love for one another and our love for our Guatemalan brothers and sisters.  The people here are kind and patient and gracious. They are such a gift.  We are all blessed to be a blessing.  

We are off for another village this morning.  We are going up 55 minutes on some dirt roads.  So, I am going end for now.  It is a bumpy ride and a beautiful vista as well.  All is good here.  Hold us and the people we serve in your prayers.

Blessings,

Linda

February 27, 2019

Hola!
Today we spent the day in a beautiful village an hour from our hotel in Xemanzana.  It is a village that has more rolling hills (at 8000 ft) than other villages that are on the side of the mountain.  The village has much farm land with more goats, horses, cows, and cats than we have seen.  It is quiet here and the people are much more reserved. 

The day started slow.  It was a steady pace all day with no craziness 🙂 Sometimes that is just what is needed.  There was plenty of time for playing with the kids, interacting with the interpreters, enjoying the beautiful sunshine, teach the game of marbles, drawing on the concrete with chalk, playing soccer in the yard and more team building.  We saw 64 patients in all.  

We did have a tour of the school. The classrooms were quite barren of decoration and supplies.  The kitchen that cooks the kids lunch had 3 open fire cookstoves – only one really vented to the outside. It was dark and smoke stained inside.  It is something that we are constantly working on in these villages – venting fires outside so that respiratory disease is less of an issue.

At the end of the day we saw an elderly couple – age 84 and 91.  They came walking across very uneven terrain, down dirt roads and then down concrete steps that are anything but even to get to the clinic.  They were accompanied by their great great (?great) granddaughter who looked to be 4 or 5.  She said she was taking care of them.  We were able to inject the woman’s knee to give her some pain relief and send them off with medications they needed.  And off they went down the dirt road side by side each with their cane and their “caretaker”.  That couple touched each of our hearts. 

We had time before dinner and drove to a beautiful waterfall near the Cunen clinic.  It was an 8 minute walk down to the falls…. and it was straight down!  As I walked down – I though “O Lord, help me to get back up to the bus”.  It was well worth the walk down and the hike back up.  The falls were beautiful!  It was the perfect ending to the day.  I am always so grateful for the beauty of the land – especially here in Guatemala.

I am so grateful for this team and their ability to care for one another and for the people in these villages.  There is so much love flowing!  After dinner – we were challenged to find showers that worked but we are working together to get people clean for the next day : )  No grumbling – perhaps some laughter – and some goosebumps as water comes and goes and is hot and cold.  Par for the course in Cunen.  I figure it only lends to the experience.  Warm beds awaited us and Wednesday we will work out of the clinic in Cunen! 

Thanks for taking this journey with us!  It is helpful to know we have friends and family home taking this journey in their own way. 

Blessings on your day,
Linda

February 28, 2019

Greetings from Guatemala!

We had a great day yesterday at the Cunen Clinic with 119 patients!   The clinic is an awesome place to work from.  It is a building that was built by 14 construction teams and finally finished by a New England team in 2012 (I think).  We have exam rooms and a pharmacy and a beautiful waiting room.  The clinic is currently staffed a few days per month by a Guatemalan doctor who drives 4 hours to get here.  


Cunen feels more like a town than a village. It is in a valley at 6000 feet and has the population similar to Portland Maine.  Here however there is no health care (although there are shamans) and no reliable transportation to get places, and no clinics or hospitals except the one we are in. 

We saw all kinds of patients – an acute abdomen who had to go a couple hours away to a hospital for a work up – and then came back with an order for an Ultrasound and labs.  Why they didn’t or couldn’t do them – not sure.  We had tons o babies and little ones. We saw a brother and sister who 13 years ago (they are 31 and 34) started developing a progressive motor weakness in the lower extremities.  It is getting much worse and they came in for evaluation, the oldest was in a really old wheelchair and the sister ha to be carried in. They had had no range of motion done and were unable to do much with their lower extremities which were very tight. 

We can get them in to see neuro and talked with them about having someone do mild range of motion with them and were able to provide them both with newer wheelchairs. 


We are also seeing lots of other things!  Dr. Stephan who is a physiatrist has done a ton of injections here for musculoskeletal issues. The people work hard and their bodies feel the pain of that work. 

At this point the team is gelling well and I can’t tell you who worked where because they step in wherever needed. I can say lots of kids were played with!  We had the parachute out and they had a blast with that. 

Last night we talked about where we saw God’s love today and everyone spoke…. and God’s love was everywhere!  We are one family as a team and one family with our Guatemalan brothers and sisters. It is amazing to watch – especially for me.  It is so easy to discriminate and harm one another and yet here we work to remove the barriers to inclusion in life.  The wheelchairs are a gift that allow the young adults to more fully be integrated into activities of life.  God’s love is abundant and extended to all.

After dinner and some conversation last night we went to a soccer game a 10-minute walk from the hotel.  The bombaros (firefighters) in Cunen challenged us to a game.  What a blast to watch Stephan, Kerry, Wyatt, Laura, Rae, Chris, Hallie, Nikki (our host) and some of our interpreters and our bus driver play the bombaros.  They won but we scored 9 points!  Laura, Wyatt, Rae, among others scored!  That game was a gift of relationship and fun after a few days’ work. To be invited to play was a real honor and testament to how much our relationship with this community has grown. 

I am happy to report that only minor scrapes were had by a couple and that everyone is healthy and well!  No illness on this team!  So grateful. 

I am sure we had some tired team members last night but everyone is up and running this am. We are back at the clinic and on arrival there were 30 or more patients already in line. Sounds and looks like a very busy day.

Will report later on today’s clinic.  For now – I am back to work in the clinic!  Thanks for your prayers and good thoughts. 

Blessings on your day!
Linda

March 1, 2019

Works of Grace Guatemala Service

Hola!
As we get ready this morning to leave Cunen for Panachajel with a stop in the village of Chontola, I look back of the grace filled clinic days we have had here.  

We saw 110 patients today in the clinic in Cunen yesterday. When we arrived there were already people lined up waiting.  We had left the clinic set up from the day before and so we could get right to work.

It was a day in which people could change positions if they wanted, play with the kids a bit more and it felt more relaxed.  The pharmacy had lots of pills counted out so not as much help was needed there. 

This week I would say we saw more chronic issues than acute although we certainly had both.  

For me the grace in this day was the way the team was relaxed and comfortable with the local people. They laughed with them and played with them.  There were mutual hugs and handshakes all around.  Many of the patients today went from person to person shaking hands and offering gratitude. 

I love having a medical team that is half medical and half non medical. People learn new skills and are able to interact in ways that might not be the same in another situation. They talk with lots of people, the hold their hands, they paint their nails, they explain how the medications will help, and they find love in every interaction.  

This is a beautiful country with beautiful people and I can’t imagine it any other way.  We talk about the people as our brothers and sisters and truly they are that.  There is mutual love and respect.  Playing soccer with the bombaros was an amazing example of that relationship.  

Patients can wait for hours to be seen but they never moan or groan. They sit with their children waiting their turn.  My mind often goes to how we would be at home in this situation.

We have so much privilege and so many things that I know I take for granted.  Coming here reminds me that I don’t need all the things I have to be happy.  

We said goodbye to most of our staff – translators and Odilla who did our referrals, and Ruben who provided registration for patients and Pastor who was a wonderful presence every day. They were part of our family this week and we could not have done what we did without their help.  Together we worked side by side.  Today we will say our goodbyes to Nikki our host and we will have Jose with us to drive us to the airport on Sunday. 

At dinner we had an amazing cake to celebrate Roger’s birthday on Tuesday.  If we don’t have a birthday to celebrate, I make one up because the cakes here are so delicious!

We are now on the bus heading for Chontola.  I am grateful for the service we provided and for this time together. 

Thank you for your prayers and for taking this journey with us!

Will write later about our day today!

Blessings,
Linda

Later on March 1, 2019

Greetings from Guatemala!
Today we traveled from Cunen to Chontola to Panachajel.  

We stopped in the village of Chontola to visit the women’s co-op which was formed after their village was burned to the ground and their men and boys killed by the militia in the Civil War. 

The women formed the co-op to have a way of earning money to survive.  They taught their daughters how to weave and make beautiful textiles.  We were showed the various steps of weaving and were able to purchase some beautiful textiles from the women.

We were able to see their home which was very basic. A kitchen with a wood stove – no table or chairs, two small bedrooms, an outhouse bathroom, and a steam dome.  The steam dome is a dome made rom peat or adobe. Inside the dome, there is an area you cam get into that has a fire burning on one end and the person lays on the other end. They clean via their sweat.  According to Maria the steam dome is also used for pregnant women to take steam baths – hence the shape of the dome like a pregnant belly. 

The area of Chontola is striking in the beauty of the mountains around it and in the small peat homes that are rustic and dusty. 

We then traveled to the Salud Y Paz clinic in Camanchaj.  We had a tour of the medical, dental and surgical areas as well as the school – which is preschool, K and 1.  The school allows for children to learn Spanish and go to school. If they only speak quiche they cannot attend public school.  

The clinic is open Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday for medical care. The docs travel to the outlying clinic on the other days. 

We are now in our hotel Casa Tex-el.  It is a nice hotel.  We went to dinner at Penguinos and learned about the culture of the Mayans and listened to wonderful Marimba music as well as tried our hands at making tortillas. Terry won the prize for the best tortilla and Stephan and Kerry also won prizes. 

After a good nights sleep we will travel to Santiago for breakfast – across the lake on a boat!

It has been a day filed with learning and interacting with the people here.  The grace of the people is everywhere.  Thanks be to our God who is a loving and giving God.

Blessings,
Linda 

March 3, 2019

Hi friends and family,
I write from the airport in Guatemala City as we wait for our flight. We are departing – Polly to Houston and then Boston; 7 team members with Chris heading to Miami now and the rest of us (11) will head for Miami in an hour.  

Yesterday was an amazing day in Panachajel.  We started the day by taking a boat across lake Atitlan to Santiago where we had a wonderful breakfast lakeside.  We then walked through Santiago, watching women wash their clothes on the rocks in the lake and visiting the church where Father Rothner was killed during the Civil War protecting the Mayans and Guatemalans. He was from Oklahoma and came to Guatemala as a young priest – staying and serving the people.  He is martyred in Guatemala and we were able to visit the place where he was killed and see his belongings etc.  We were there during a worship service as well.

We then walked through the streets making our way to where the boat was docked.  That is no minor feat.  There are vendors on both sides of the street just waiting to sell us something – anything.  We did our fair share of purchasing!

We made our way back to Panachajel and Hallie, Chris, Kerry, Gwenne, Rae, and Stephan went over to the zip lining.  Chris and Stephan climbed up with the group but then walked back down while the rest did the ziplining.  They had a lot of fun!  The rest of us shopped and ate and rested and shopped some more : ). We had to juggle some things around to help some fit everything they bought into some suitcase. 

When we arrived at the boat there were vendors there trying to sell us more things while we were waiting on the boat. 

We had dinner at Guajimbos where we said goodbye to our host Nikki.  She was a great host and leader. 

Today we left early and arrived early in the airport.  Now the journey home!  On the way to the airport we saw Volcano Fuego give off more steam.  It is an active volcano that a few months ago put out so much ash that every village on the side of the volcano was buried in 3-4 feet of ash.  Every member of the villages were killed.  A few weeks later it flowed lava.  It is now off limits for climbing and has been designated a burial ground. Today it was a bit steamy again!

I am so thankful for this team.  Your loved ones and friends were an amazing team.  They worked well together and it seemed so seamless all week.  New relationships were formed and I am sure hearts were opened to the moving of the Spirit.  I am continually being transformed by the Spirit that moves through this place with the beauty of the mountains and the lake and the people who touch me deeply over and over. 

Be kind to your loved ones.  They have experienced deep poverty and deep gratitude of the people here.  There may be a transition as they return home to a place of abundance and lots of material things. 

Thank you for sharing this journey with us.  Til next time…

Blessings,
Linda

Medical Team in Cunan April 2018 Travelog

Check out this video created by Nikki Gensmer , Team Coordinator at Salud y Paz, of the trip:  Works of Grace Video

Daily Updates from team leader Linda Brewster

Hola from Guatemala! Day 1

Dear friends and family,
We have had a full and gracious two days already!  Yesterday most of us left around 2am for the airport. For the most part we had pretty smooth flying. We had a flight from Boston, one from Louisville, KY, and one from Albuquerque, NM and we all arrived within a hour of one another in Guatemala City!  We had to go through customs with 24 mission bags filled with medications and vitamins and toys and toothbrushes  with Peter and Polly at the helm of that process.   You can only do that process once every 3 years as you have your passport stamped in a special way.  So we rotate the honor! The customs process was much less arduous than it has been in the past. That was one of the major gratitudes of the day.

We then loaded the bus with luggage and people and drove 4 hours out of Guatemala City through smoke and smog. The bus is like a small school bus (holds 32 passengers) but it is all decked out on the outside with Guatemalan decor.  Jose is our bus driver.  He is a great driver and has driven us on many teams.  He safely navigated Guatemala City and got us to Chichicastenango before dark : ) I think by then we were all exhausted!  We stayed at the Hotel Santo Tomas which is across from the open air market that happens on every Sunday and Thursday.  We ate dinner and went to our rooms.  I was asleep by 8:30 pm and slept til 6am.  A much needed rest.

I am grateful for this team.  They have gelled as a team and despite being tired had smiles on their faces and excitement in their voices.  It was fun today to get to show them some of the city and give them some history.

This morning after breakfast we went into the market.  It is a large market and filled with people.  It can feel overwhelming and close. I think everyone had a great time seeing the sights and sounds and smells of the market.  Some spent money. Some were there for the experience. The colors are vibrant.  The things to buy are endless and the number of kids pressuring you to buy is crazy.  Everyone got good at saying “No gracious” and moving on.

We visited the Catholic Church and experienced a Catholic service in progress.  We witnessed the candles and flowers that adorned the steps of the church and the servant outside the church burning incense and swinging smoke at the entrance.  I believe that they do that to ward off evil spirits.

We then ventured to the primary cemetery in Chichicastenango.  It is on a hill and a bit of a walk.  The mausoleums above ground are colorful and adorned with flowers and other things.  We also saw the graves of folks who had little money and many graves of children.  The crosses were numerous ad colorful. We saw a Mayan ceremony in progress and talked about the differences in our traditions and theirs. They believe in a bodily afterlife and continue to burn incense at the graves and visit frequently.

We then went to lunch at Los Cofrades. Food was good and with full bellies we have boarded the bus for Cunen.  We have our interpreters with us as well as Jose – our host and Nikki – the team coordinator for SAlud Y Paz.  We are getting a look at another part of the country with mountains and clean air – and yes tight corners and narrow streets and very bumpy roads.

Our hotel last night was luxury. Tonight we will be in a clean, safe hotel with no frills.  We might have hot water and electricity and we might not on any given day.  I will connect daily when I can!  I am going to send pictures via a separate email as in the past the pictures have hung up emails on this end.  The internet is not like to is in the US!

Know that we are already having an amazing experience and I look forward to introducing the team to the beautiful people in the Mayan villages. We are blessed to be a blessing and I know for sure that we will be on the receiving end of so many blessings during this time away. We thank you for your prayers and good thoughts.  They are so welcome.  Know that we are thinking of you everyday and praying for you as well.

Blessings from Guatemala!

Linda (for the team)

Day 2

Dear family and friends,
We made it through our first clinic day with amazing grace.We were in Xetzac – a village that has not seen a medical team before.  It was up 2000 feet from our hotel in Cunen.  We had just amazing vistas!  We drove through several villages before arriving in Xetzac, a village that spoke mostly Quiche.

When we arrived, it was around 8:30 AM and we had the clinic up and ready to roll before 9:30 AM. Not bad for the first clinic day! Exam rooms were made from strung rope and sheets for walls.  We had a pharmacy that could rival any pharmacy around.  They organized the medications and went to work counting and bagging the pills.  It really is a sight to behold.  With Chris at the helm, and Roger, Loren and Peter in the pharmacy, things got ship shape pretty quickly. Polly bounced back and forth between the pharmacy and the lab and Karen, Parker, and Sabelle helped out as well.

In the afternoon Parker and Sabelle took on the kids and a lot of kids at that. They played their hearts out and the kids were all over them – yoyo’s, fingernail polish, frisbees, coloring books and so much more…  It was amazing to watch them take on the kids with such maturity.  Parker also had Kate and Karen out there playing jump rope with the kids! There were  more than 50 kids there at any given time.

Kate and Meagan mastered triaging patients and getting the right info to the providers.  Today we saw 96 patients which is great for day.  We did turn away 20 people which is always heartbreaking. Nancy, Cathy and myself saw a lot of different ailments but all came to the same conclusion – they don’t drink enough water, they drink too much coffee and the kids should not be drinking coffee all day! Lots of heartburn and headaches.  But some serious things as well.  It was not unusual to see women who were 17 or 18 with one or more children. Birth control is not a topic of conversation in a lot of these communities. I’m always struck when I see some one who looks 80 but is 69. It makes me sad for what could have been with some health care and education about healthy living.

We left the community around 5:45 which is later than usual and returned to the hotel for dinner and worship filled with conversation about the places where God was at work in the day. Was there a place where he wasn’t at work?

I didn’t get this finished last night and so we are now en route to Chiul for another full clinic day. We ask for your continued prayers and please know that we are holding you in our hearts as well.

Blessings from Guatemala!
Linda

 Day 3  Guatemala grace to you.

Hola!

What a day yesterday was! We went to the village of Chiul – we have been there nearly every year.  There are always lots of kids who come to play from the community.  So there were tons of kids and everyone had a chance to play with them. Marbles, duck duck goose, jump rope, coloring and drawing and making paper flower were all happening things yesterday.

We saw 78 patients yesterday but did not turn anyone away.  We saw lots of children with many significant ailments ranging from  a 10 year old with deep depression from the death of his dad ( not uncommon) to inability to see and hear, to parasitic bellies and so much more. It is truly work that is heartfelt and emotional for everyone. Each team member interacts with these patients in some way. I think my pictures will tell more of the story.

In the afternoon it down-poured!  We were inside although there were some leaks in the roof here and there !

Kate learned how to do blood glucose’s and urinalysis’ and pregnancy tests! She did a great job. Karen and Polly tried their hand at triage. The guys hang together in the pharmacy :). Our translators are amazing. I can’t imagine the brain fog they must experience at the end of the day. Most of our patients speak quiche and so the translators hear English and move through Spanish and quiche…. back and forth!  We are so blessed with this group of translators.

After returning to the hotel we had dinner and then our time together where we talked about being servants of God, the hands and feet of Jesus and what that looks like. The team talked for an hour in very holy space.

Shorty after retiring to our rooms there was a knock at my door. Reuben- the bombero (fire dept person who travels with us and registers the patients at the door) had called and his 4 month old granddaughter was having a seizure and they could not find anyone to see her. So the mom and dad brought the baby to us and we cared for the baby as best we could. The baby had had a fever at noon and the mom had given her ibuprofen which we determined by texted photo was actually a decongestant/expectorant at 2pm. She started seizing at 6pm. It seemed a remote possibility this was a febrile seizure but a seizure started again soon after they arrived And lasted at least 20 minutes. She did not have a fever then. The baby stiffened and tremored her arms and legs and rolled her eyes back and arched her head back. It was a bit tense. She was also crying loudly so we knew her airway was good. Eventually the seizure stopped and she fell asleep. Chris went to the bus to hunt through 15 or more suitcases for infant Tylenol while I dug up a syringe in which to give her the medicine. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to give Tylenol every 4 hours through the night. We have her She had one more prolonged seizure 2 hours later and slept the night.  They are taking her 5 hours to Santa Cruz today to see a neurologist. Guatemala City is 10 hours away.

So everyone was up late listening to the baby cry while Kate and Chris and I were with the baby. I think it took Kate and I TIL midnight to be able to fall asleep.
By the grace of God she will be seen today and they will know what is going on.

We are now on the way to the village of Chutuj. We have been there before. I am looking forward to another full day with this team and the people of this village.

If you could pray for the baby – Laura and her family and keep us in prayer we would be grateful. You are in our hearts and prayers.

Blessings from Guatemala!
Linda.

Day 4  Buenos días

Good morning friends and family,
It has been a busy two days!  Lots of patients and little sleep! On Wednesday we visited the village of Chutuj. Someone described it as being on top of the world. T  he vistas were breathtaking and the people beautiful. We were at a school and when the younger kids got out in the morning there were so many kids that it was overwhelming.  Parker tried to use the parachute but there were so many kids under it and around it pulling on it we had to put it away!  We saw 75 people in this community – and did not turn anyone away.  Again we saw lots of headaches and stomach aches poor vision, poor teeth, poor nutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, parasites, scabies, depression and so much more.

This village was high at 8000 ft and it was beautiful farm country. Gods country filled with sheep and cows and horses, fields, and valleys. The dress of the women and girls is amazing. Each village has its own unique print of the dress.Yesterday we spent at the clinic in Cunen. It is a walk from the hote. We rarely go there and it is a special place for me. We were privileged to be the team that finished the clinic 5 or 6 years ago and it was opened shortly after to the public It is a beautiful clinic with tiled floors and exam rooms and a pharmacy and running water!    We saw 103 patients there yesterday and so I did t get a ton of pics because I was so busy seeing patients!! But it is such a blessing to work with teams that always gel together and I get to be in an exam room and not worry about who is doing labs or pharmacy or triage or playing the kids. Chris ran the pharmacy all week and does an amazing job keeping things in order. People rotated spots like it was a natural thing. God equipped them well this week and that is a gift to the whole team.Last night we were tired but we talked and shared and prayed together. We did have a bit of loud music from a church a distance away till after 10pm. Every church here has crazy big speakers and amplifiers and keyboards and drums and someone who tries to sing with their whole heart.

This morning we are headed to camanchaj to see the main clinic and then after lunch we will visit a home and school and finally reach Panajachel for two nights before heading home. Tomorrow will be a fun day on Lake Atitlan going to

Santiago and perhaps San Antonio for shopping and visiting Father Rothers church ( check him out on the web).  Some may zip line in the afternoon and other will rest or shop more. A bit of downtime before reentry.

Everyone has been touched in life giving ways this week!  Thank you for journeying with us and for your prayers. Know you are in our hearts.

Blessings, Linda

 

Hola! Day 6
 Dear friends or family,
Yester

day we left Cunen – said our goodbyes.  Pastor De alejandro prayed for us before we left.  The mountains were again beautiful!  We stopped in Sacapulas and got black salt – the one place in the world where it is mined in the Black River.  While there we happened upon a boys soccer game and found a sleeping baby in a hammock. We continued on to visit the home of Tomasa. Tomasas home was recently built anew by 2 teams. Her husband was killed leaving her with 5 small children.  They had no real home and their property
is a long walk up and down the mountain. It is cool and beautiful there. She tearfully told her story and it was so moving. She was weaving when we arrived and such beauty from her hands. We then went to Saludy Y Paz for a tour of the clinic and school. No pics – my phone was in the red zone . We arrived in Panajachel to Casa Texel Hotel. It is a beautiful new hotel that we are enjoying. We went to Penguinos for the experience of marimbas, hearing the Mayan cultural story, and having fun with making tortillas and learning about the dress of the people. We shopped a bit on the way back to the hotel. Kate was swamped with people trying to sell her things. We had to help extract her.

This morning we took a boat ride to a place across the lake for breakfast. It is one of my favorite places. Peaceful. Quiet. On the water.  We then walked to the Catholic Church in the town of Santiago. This church is the one where Father Rother of Oklahoma was killed during the civil war for helping the Mayans. We sat in on a worship service and visited the place where Father Rother was killed.

We then slowly made our way to the boat as we ran the gauntlet of people selling goods. Our return boat was heavy laden with goods!

Chris, Sabelle, Parker, Peter, and Meagan went zip lining this afternoon while the rest of us shopped. The shopping here can be addicting with the negotiating as well as all the beautiful colors.

Tonight we went to the sunset cafe for dinner. The food was okay. The sunset was clouded but present.

Tonight we have packed and will leave at 6am for the airport.  We will each make our way home over the next 24 hours.

We are tired but our hearts are full. We have experienced much in the past week and I hope that as team members return home there will be patience as they process all they have been through. I have thoroughly enjoyed this team. It has been a week filled with much laughter and with tears of compassion. God has been good to us.  I pray we have made a little difference in the lives of the people whom we met.

Pray for us as we travel. We will see you soon!

Blessings,
Linda

God’s Presence in Guatemala

Jean Grant, 2016 October Trip, wrote this article for her church, Wesley UMC, Worcester, MA  following her trip.

God’s Presence in Guatemala

How can I describe our mission trip to Guatemala in less than 500 words? How about 11 words? Let’s start with that.

* memorable * vibrancy * motion * painful * smiles  * opening *

*heartwarming * humbling * happy *  friends * amazing *

Being in Guatemala is like a trip down the coffee aisle at the grocery store or to a coffee shop. It arouses all your senses and presents itself on many levels:

The sweet, nutty aroma; the bitter or rich dark roast; the visually stimulating colors of bags, cans, or cups; the sounds of grinding beans, dripping coffee-makers, or frothing of steamers; the smooth feel of beans or the coarse gritty grounds…

I could have chosen any analogy but coffee stood out (and not just because Guatemalan coffee is superb!) because I can taste, see, smell, touch, and hear it…much like I could experience all my senses while in Guatemala. There is no one way to experience this unique country, just like there is no one way to experience coffee (or tea) – to each their own. Each of the nine team members was asked to use one or two words to describe their experience this week. We all chose different words, as shown above by the eleven words.

I will let those words sit with you for a moment.

How do they describe an endeavor, project, event, or experience you have had here at Wesley or in the community (near or far)? What were your observations? How did you feel during or after it?

Although our team all shared in the physical journey, we each experienced our own spiritual journey. We took home different “God Moments” that affected us during our preparation, our time in Panajachel and Camanchaj, or upon our return home. I will boldly go out on a limb and say that we all felt, saw, tasted, smelled, and heard God’s presence in our team and in Guatemala.

Our trip took us from the speckled autumn of New England to the mountainous, rural, green highlands of central Guatemala (specifically Camanchaj, a Mayan village nestled in the Quiche state). Here resides a medical clinic and preschool (ages 5-7) created by Salud Y Paz for the purpose of fostering health and education of the mind, body, and spirit. Our primary project involved painting classrooms and furniture, painting and tiling/repairing the kitchen, digging a driveway, and other construction work. Our Guatemalan hosts worked beside us and we shared in a week of friendship-building. We shared joyful moments with the children. We joined in fellowship with the staff.

We experienced Guatemala.

…the culture, the life, the landscape, and the heart of a gracious people filled with God’s presence.

We take home not just the big picture but the beautiful, emotional, memorable details of this journey. We look forward to sharing our experience with the community of Wesley UMC. Just like not one word or one Herald cover can show the full picture of our time in the “land of the corn”, not one photo can either. But a gal can try with a few! As you view these images remember the eleven words I shared earlier. There is a different story behind each photo, but God’s presence is in all of them.

“Ut’z Ipetik” – all is good, all our welcome. {from the Mayan Quiche language}

Jean Grant, Dir. of Children’s Christian Ed.

With Gerard Piscitelli & Christian Grant

To learn more: http://www.saludypaz.org/

 

2016 Medical Trip Travelog

In April, 2016, 18 persons traveled to Cunen Guatemala to provide medical clinics in neighboring villages.  Linda Brewster provided daily reports back to family and friends at home.  This is her travelog.

 

April Team Day 1

Day 1

Dear friends and family,
It has been a very long day of travel. We were up and off to the airport by 3am and arrived in Guatemala City around noon (2pm home time).  We had 17 mission suitcases filled with medications and vitamins and other assorted items.  Getting through customs was fairly easy with the help of the local attorney we hired.  They did go through every single bag checking expirations etc.  We met up w team members from Kentucky, Indiana, and Tennessee and with our host and bus driver around 1pm and headed for Chichicastenango.  We did stop for lunch and a bathroom break, arriving in Chichi around 6pm (8pm home time).  So a long travel day!
As we made our way through Guatemala City in the bus, I again was confronted with the reality of life in a large city in a third world country… The rich and the poor.  The concrete walls are built high around each home and business with the barbed wire on the top. Separation that keeps you from knowing your neighbor. And in start contrast, the tin roofed shacks that people live in side by side by side.
When we started to see the mountains, I felt like I could breathe again.  The air was cleaner. There were children on the side of the road playing, or walking with mom.  The poverty is perhaps a bit out of sight but still very present.  There were many people walking on the very busy road we were traveling , women and men carrying heavy loads on their backs and heads. Dogs, donkeys, cows, goats, sheep and other animals by the roadside added to the vibrancy of all that was happening around us.
The beauty of this country is enormous.  The mountains are grand and the views spectacular as we drove up and down them.  I think today we reached 8500 ft and are staying at about 6000 ft.
Starting the morning with a gorgeous sunrise and experiencing the country as we drove to our destination had me thinking about what God had in mind for all of God’s people when it was all created.  Rich. Poor. War. Peace. Black. White.
I am sure as we head into this week of caring for hundreds of Mayans in the villages in the Highlands, we will all be thinking about why we are here and how God can and will use us to help others. It is a privilege to be here and I never want to forget that.  I am blessed. We are blessed.  And even as we bless others this week, we will be blessed 10 or 100 fold.  I am excited for this team to experience the love that I have come to know here in this beautiful country.
For now… Everyone is fast asleep I pray and tomorrow will be another day of experiences that will give us reason to pause and be grateful.
Blessings on your sleep. Know that your loved ones are safe and doing well.
 Blessings, Linda
Day 2
Team outside Cunen
Dear family and friends,
Today was an amazing day in Guatemala!  It was warm and sunny with.    A breeze as we headed for the mountains.  This morning we went to the market.  The market in Chichi is one of the world’s largest open air markets. It is a crazy place – filled with people, colors, sounds of bargaining and chickens and kids saying “good price for you”, smells of food cooking, flowers, and so much more.  A few of the team got good at bargaining today while others found it a bit overwhelming and just took it all in – knowing there will be more opportunities for bargaining in Panachajel and Santiago next weekend.
image1We also found our way to the Catholic Church and was privileged to be in attendance for some of a Sunday morning worship.  The church is a large church and it was filled!  The music was lead by a cantor and I found it to be particularly moving. There was something powerful about listening to the music being sung by a church full of people led by a cantor who kept the music in a rhythm. Perhaps it was also the candles that were lit by the people and left burning during the service and the flowers purchased by many from the front steps of the church to adorn the chancel area.  It was definitely worship – pure worship.
We then headed to the very large local cemetery where we saw the colorful above ground tombs and the burial spaces of the poor covered with dirt and adorned with a simple cross.  We also witnessed Mayan rituals in the cemetery which involves burning of incense with a lot of billowing smoke, lighting of candles, and spreading flower petals – all while chanting and praying.  The small chapel near the Mayan ritual site was open and for the first time I entered the chapel to find a large tomb with a cross in the center of the floor (I assume that means the chapel is not Mayan) and candles burning in front of an altar table.  It was rustic and plain and clearly had meaning.
We then walked back through the market for a wonderful lunch before we headed to Cunen.  I will just say that the Guacamole was great!
Our bus ride through the mountains was long (4 hours) but we were blessed with more spectacular views of the mountains.Driving to Cunen always raises the reality for me how deep into the mountains we are.  Cunen is a town in a valley surrounded by mountains and people are pretty isolated. I love going to Cunen because the need is so great there.  On the way, we did stop in Sacapulas for some to buy black salt.  You will have to ask them about it : )
image9Tomorrow, we head to Chiul for our first day of clinics.  We will set up the clinic in a public building.  We plan to arrive by 8:30 and start seeing patients by 9:30 or 10:00am.  It always amazes me how a team that has never worked together and who mostly don’t have a lot of medical experience can set up a fully running clinic in such a short time!
Tonight I ask that you hold us in prayer as we start the week.  And hold the people of Chiul in prayer as they come to receive much needed medical care.
Everyone is well and enjoying each other’s company.  Thank you for sharing them with the people of this beautiful country.
Blessings on this night.
Blessings, Linda
Day 3 clinic b
Day 3
Hola from Guatemala!

We survived our first clinical day!  We were set up and triaging patients before 10am and at the end of the day we had seen 85 patients!  It was a good first day.

I love seeing teams come together like they have known each other for years.  I am so thankful tonight for their flexibility in moving around in the afternoon as we tweaked the process in the pharmacy area.

Most of the patients today spoke Quiche’ which meant translation from English to Spanish to Quiche’ and back.  Our translators are great! We saw a lot of sick children and adults.  Lots of fever, “gastritis”, and upper respiratory things as well as knee pain, back pain, a bit of scabies and eczema, and parasites…. To name a few.

Our clinic was a bit of a hike from the bus today.  It was in a good size community building that was airy (not too hot) and already set up with some rustic wooden tables and chairs.  We hung sheets to define the exam rooms and each room had a square table and some chairs.  Not exactly the comfort of home exam rooms but we had everything we needed.  After people were given numbers they waited for their number to be called to have their vital signs taken. Once that happened, they sat in chairs and waited for a provider.  At some point they might have found themselves at the lab having a urine checked or a blood sugar.  After they saw the provider they went to the pharmacy to wait for their directions and medications if needed.  We gave every person who came through vitamins for themselves and for their family.  And many received toothbrushes and tooth paste as well.

So let’ see – Marilyn learned how to check blood sugars and give nebulizer treatments and what HCG meant. She rocked it in the lab! Sally stepped it up as she stepped in to help out with dispensing medications and working with an interpreter to give patients their directions. She and Peter did an awesome job!  Britney was awesome in doing vital signs and working in the triage area.  Carole helped out in triage getting patient histories, doing a great job! Sue, Terry and I saw patients all day – diagnosing and treating ailments.  Brandy worked with me in seeing patients. She is an NP student doing her clinical!  Why didn’t I think of this when I was a student?

Lorie – a dental hygienist – worked with some who had tooth issues and was a tremendous help with those patients!Day 3 clinic meds

And then Melissa, Meredith, Lorie, Laurie Beth, Savannah, Ben, Roger, Jim, and Chris all worked in the pharmacy in varying jobs. The pharmacy is by far the most complex area to be and day 1 is always a day of working out kinks.  Meds need to be counted out and bagged as well as labeled.  They then need to be dispensed and instructions given. That is no easy task! These folks did a great job today!

Honestly – every member of this team shined today.  They stepped outside their comfort zone to offer people they didn’t know a bit of kindness, love, and care they would not have otherwise. I am forever grateful.  The Cunen area sees 3 medical teams per year.  The rest of the time their access to care is very limited.  Today we made a difference in the lives of 85 people and we felt blessed.

As I write this, it is very quiet here.  Not a peep from the rooms.  I think folks were tired after a day that was physical (setting up things) and emotional (seeing sick people all day). Spirits are high and we are all looking forward to a new day tomorrow caring for another 80+ patients!

Thanks for your prayers today!  Tomorrow we return to Chiul.  It is a small town that generally has a large turnout. The folks we turned away tonight are first to be seen tomorrow.

I hope your day was as blessed as ours.  Please continue to hold us and the people of Chiul in your prayers.

Blessings on your rest.

Sent from my iPhone
Blessings, Linda

 

image2Day 4

Dear family and friends,

This was last nights note but I have been trouble getting an email out so… I am texting it to my son to email to you.

Today we spent a second day in Chiul and saw 106 patients!  The building where we held the clinic was off the beaten path – down a hill, through a back yard, up an incline, then down a dirt road.  Easy in the morning but a bit more difficult at the end of the day with heavy suitcases filled with medications. I thought folks would be exhausted but there was a spirit in the air tonight that was  fun and lively.

Today was a busy day and a day filled with kids everywhere!  Oh.my.gosh.  I think every kid in town came to play at the clinic today.  I don’t always get to see what goes on outside the exam room, but I hear they had the parachute out 3 times and played with the kids!  The kids always love the parachute.  I also know I came out of the exam room to see a “swarm of kids” in a circle and upon closer inspection I found Lorie in the midst of them all teaching them how to brush their teeth! The kids were fascinated with her demonstration and were really paying attention !image3

The clinic ran so smoothly today.  We have an amazing team that is working so well together.  It feels like I have known everyone for years and years!  I think the team bonding is one of the things I look forward to on every team.  It always happens and I am always amazed and thankful.  We do have an awesome God!

Today I saw a 19 month old girl who was there because she had knee pain.  I wasn’t sure how mom knew she had knee pain until I examined her. Both knees had fluid on the knees.  They weren’t tender.  She seemed to be comfortable until she stood up. When she stood it became apparent that the left leg was considerably longer than the right.  And she was in pain. She started crying and didn’t stop until she was picked up. She had to bend the left knee to stand. When she walked she had a limp. Further exam revealed nearly a one inch discrepancy with the right hip higher than the left.  The right knee was also higher than the left.  And when she laid down the legs immediately dropped into an external rotation of the hip.  All this to say that she needed to see an orthopedic doc who could do tests and determine the proper course of action for this beautiful little girl.  And it turns out there is a podiatrist a little distance away who screens patients and books them for a group of orthopedic surgeons who come to Guatemala to do surgery on children twice a year. What a gift! I will be praying for this little girl – Ashley – that things work out for her to be seen and treatment allows her to be whole and healthy..

Terry saw a patient who was having significant gallbladder pain.  The woman had spent all her money going to the national hospital and being worked up only to be told that she had stones but she could not have surgery.  She has been in increasing pain x 6 months and was sitting at the clinic in obvious pain. Evidently it is not unusual for patients to be turned away at the national hospital (where care is free).  So many systems are very corrupt in this country. Health care is one of them.
Our team talked tonight and we will take a love offering in the am and provide this woman with the transportation she needs to go to the hospital in Shela for another opinion and the testing that she will need.  She will go by ambulance in the morning.

Please hold these patients and so many others we have seen in prayer.

image1God showed up today and blessed patients but also blessed each one of us.  It is a powerful blessing to hold the calloused dirty painful feet of someone who walks miles each day and doesn’t have the means to have adequate footwear.  It is a powerful blessing to meet shy children who soon are hanging off your back because they want to be with you and play.   It is a powerful blessing to hold babies whiles moms are being weighed.  It is a powerful blessing to be able to provide some relief of an ailment – even if only for a short time. It is a powerful blessing to be in Guatemala on this team, sharing these experiences together and loving one another through the highs and the lows.

Tomorrow we head to the village of Trigalles.  I look forward to sharing more experiences.

The team is healthy and well.  As I have been writing to you, I am listening to the laughter of others who are still in the “dining area” playing cards, sharing stories and having a great time.

Thank you for going on this journey with us.  Perhaps some day you will find yourself in Guatemala sharing your stories and love with others.

Blessings on your night!

Linda

Day 4 clinic set up

Day 5

Hola from Cunen!
It is 9pm and everyone is in bed.  We had another amazing day – one filled with patients – 138 of them.  Our team was like a well oiled machine today.  Honestly every single member of this team was needed to make today happen.  There is not an unimportant job!  We have used our God given gifts and then expanded our gift bank tremendously : )  It is really hard to put into words how it feels to take a step back and see people who didn’t know each other a few months ago laughing together and working together and helping others – together.  I feel a deep gratitude.
Today we had some tough cases – a 5 year old with dwarfism who is unable to obtain any specialized help.  He is a cute smart boy whose body is growing in abnormal ways.
We also saw a boy who is autistic and who has Cerebral Palsy. His mom is a school teacher and Melissa spent time with mom guiding her to Internet resources that might help her to help her son.  There are 5 children in Los Trigales who are autistic (although there is not a term for that in Quiche).  Because it is not a recognized disorder, there are no resources.
Day 4 clinicI had a woman with a trigger finger today. It was quite significant – she could not bend her finger without it getting stuck. She really needed surgery to correct it but there are no hand specialists and therefore no option for surgery. So I injected it with cortisone and hope that she will get some good long term relief.  Maybe next time I find myself in Los Trigales I will inject it again!
We saw diabetes and hypertension and foot pain and back pain.  We saw a fractured clavicle and ribs, chest pain requiring cardiology work ups, ears plugged with wax, lots of cataracts and blurry vision, headaches, and so much more.
I think we all found ourselves doing a ton of education with patients, helping them to understand what was going on and why we were recommending the treatment we were offering. Many of the people we encounter can’t read and have a first grade education.  They often don’t follow through with medications and recommendations perhaps because they don’t understand. That can vary though from village to village.  Today we were working in 2 classrooms in the village school.  I loved seeing the fruits and vegetables on the walls as well as many other lessons. And I loved hearing the kids playing outside.
The weather has been beautiful here.  It has been in the 70s with a light breeze.  Today was a bit more humid maybe.  The nights have been in the 50’s which has been great for sleeping.  Some of the team are sporting some new skin color. The sun is hot and it is easy to burn here.
Suntan lotion and sunglasses are so important!  And yet few villagers have either.  We have given away a lot of sunglasses this week.  Chap stick too.
One of the places were our team has shined this week is in playing with the kids.  They have colored and painted nails. They have played ball and parachute games as well as given away clothing and hats and toys.  The kids bring a ton of joy when it is difficult dealing with so many sick people. And I can say that the kids here – while they can act like kids when playing, they are very well behaved.  They will sit with mom for hours waiting for an appointment without much fussing or whining. Day for children
Tomorrow we head to a new village.  I can’t tell you the name – yet.  The village has never had a medical team so I am not sure what to expect.  We could be inundated with tons of patients or not.  Sometimes it takes a few brave souls in the morning to come to the clinic and then when word gets out that they were treated well, the afternoon is crazy! t remains to be seen.
Again thank you for journeying with us.  I have had difficulty with getting emails out. The Internet is soooo slow that email often can’t go. So I will again text this message to Seth and ask him to email it by replying all.  Where there is a will, there is a way.
Know that God is blessing this place and this team mightily.  We are safe and working well together and developing friendships that will last a lifetime.
I pray you are blessed by hearing our stories.  May your day be blessed!
Blessings, Linda
image10
Day 6 (Written the following morning)
Dear family and friends,
I am attempting to write from our moving bus this morning.  We had such a full day yesterday that I didn’t get a note out to you. We are currently headed back to Panajachel.  We have a lot of fun surprises in store for the team today. I am hoping that I will be able to send you some pictures when I get to Pana.  I should have a much better internet connection there.
Yesterday  we went to the village community of Chutuj. It was off the main road – up a mountain on a dirt road some distance.  The vista from the village was breathtaking.  The village was very remote. We saw a lot of sheep and goats and pigs and chickens.  We were privileged to meet a grandmother and her granddaughter who were sheep herders.  They had a flock of sheep and one goat. The relationship between the grandmother and granddaughter was sweet and endearing.
The people of Chutuj were wonderful. Their spirit was one of patience and kindness. The children were wonderful to engage. Everyone had a great day! We saw 114 patients in this village and had we had more time we could have seen more.  We were on a time limit because we were an hour from our hotel and we had to get off the mountain before sunset.  As we were coming down the mountain we were treated to an amazing sunset over the mountains.  image7
Last night at our team meeting we decided to provide the funds for the little girl I wrote about earlier who had one leg longer than the other.  We contacted a local orthopedist who also feels it is probably her hip.  He wants X-rays and then he will see her next week.  If surgery is needed it may be a few months before that can happen but it will happen.  Had we not seen her, it is possible she would not have received the treatment she needed.  We will provide the funds for their transportation to the doctor and the X-rays and any other things that she needs.  The surgery itself will be free.  National medicine.  The problem is that the national hospitals are in the big cities and the people in the villages don’t have transportation and they don’t always know how to access the resources.   We also will be providing the transportation and funds for any testing for a family with a mom and 5 girls. Three of the girls including a 2 year old I saw yesterday have an eye condition where there is constant strabismus which interferes with their vision.  The are very light sensitive and have a hard time seeing outdoors.  Their vision inside is poor as well. We have contacted a private eye hospital in Guatemala City (which is a huge distance – 10 hours – for this family to travel).  It is a premier eye hospital though and they will see the girls for 50Q (about $7.00) each.  They have a system where a portion of the money from those who can afford to pay actually provides care for those who can’t.  We will cover the transportation and hotel and food to and from the hospital.  The family will cover the 150Q for the 3 girls.
image8At our team gathering last night we were blessed as we talked about the ways in which we have been the hands and feet of Jesus and the ways which we were blessed by the people of Chutuj.  Everyone had a great last day of clinical.  We could not have provided the care we did without each and every team member.  Every job is equal in it importance.
Our team of 18 has 3 providers and 2 OB nurses.  Everyone else works outside the medical field.  So if you are reading this and thinking that you would love to do this but have no experience…. All you need is an open heart to love the Mayan people.  From counting pills, to playing with the kids, to doing a blood sugar or a urine dip to listening to hearts and diagnosing to triaging to dispensing medications – every person on this team is vital. You could be one of those team members.
As we continue to drive and I finish this up, I am hearing conversation and laughter.  There is a rumbling as the team is requesting Archie (our driver) to put on tunes like Sweet Home Alabama so they can sing and dance (in their seats).  This is a great group- like every group that has ever gone!
Thank you for lending your loved ones to this mission.  They were used mightily this week and the people here are so appreciative!
Hopefully the next email will be from me with pictures of our experience!
Blessing on your day…
Linda
Day 7image2
Good evening!
Perhaps it is morning by the time you open this as it is bedtime here in Guatemala.  Today was a travel day and we are now in Panachajel.  This is a wonderful town to be in.  The beauty of the lake, the people, the culture… I really do love Pana.On the way here we stopped at a school in the village of Chulumal. We were able to go into the classrooms and see the kids work as well as interact with the children. They loved showing us their work and they were learning English so they could say a few words here and there.  We met with the superintendent who talked with us about the school. They take first students who can’t afford the public school in Chichi.Then they take anyone else. It is grades 1-9. Grades 1-5 meet in the morning and then grades 6-9 meet in the afternoon. They share the space.image10We then went to visit a family of 11 children and a mom.  It was a hike from the road to get to the house – up dirt roads and then paths.  The father died one year ago from alcoholism which is a huge problem in Guatemala.  The team got to see first hand how many of these families live.  The house was made up of 2 bedrooms with a total of 6 beds and a tiny kitchen. The beds were boards with blankets on top. The mom talked about how 5 of their children had finished 9th grade before dad died and she was working to keep the rest of the children in school.  Public school costs money in Guatemala.  Most children in these villages do not attend school.   We had taken food with us to the home and we left that with some money. Before leaving the home we prayed with the family asking God for blessings on the family and the home.We.arrived in Pana on schedule and went to dinner.  Everyone is now in bed (I hope).  We plan to take the boat across Lake Atitlan to have breakfast in Santiago which means an early morning!So as I head to bed I will finish this with pictures and send it off with our blessings to you.
Day 8Day 8 dinner
Hi folks,
Short note tonight as we leave early in the morning for the 3 hour drive to the airport.Today we took a boat to Santiago on the other side of the lake for breakfast at Los Posado. We all have a great breakfast!After breakfast we walked to the church in Santiago where Father Rothner was killed during the civil war in 1981. He was a catholic priest from Oklahoma who helped the Mayans during the war and ultimately lost his life.  They have restored the chapel in which he was killed.  It is a heartbreaking story of the war.We then worked our way to the boat via the shops. Lots of great things were bought by all. Let’s say the economy was helped out here!Day 8 fishingWe then took the boat to San Antonio Polopo where we saw weaving and had an opportunity to buy some pottery. It is the one place on Lake Atitlan that has pottery.After leaving San Antonio we went back to Pana. Terry and Sue went zip lining while the rest of the crew rested or shopped. I’m not much of a shopper but I walked with others who were, until I was significantly worn out. Today was an overcast muggy day. So by the time we got back to the hotel we were all hot and sweaty And tired.Tonight we went to dinner and after dinner Clarissa from Salud Y Paz came and talked with us – showing a video. We made do with the furniture from our rooms.Day 8 volcanoI think everyone had a great trip and felt their hearts expand a bit. I know I did. I am eternally grateful to the entire team for their commitment and hard work as well as the love they gave to the Mayans.  They made a difference this week!  And as a result found the blessings to be 100 fold.

Thank you for traveling with us.

Sent from my iPhone
Blessings, Linda

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April 2015 Trip Travel Log

Travelog from our April 2015 Trip to Cunen, Guatemala 

This travelog is taken from the daily emails sent out to family and friends by the team while on the trip.

Day OneDY 2 Team

Sent: Sunday, April 12, 2015 9:52 AM

Subject: Arrival in Guatemala

Dear family and friends,
We have arrived in Guatemala safely and made our way to the beautiful Hotel Santos Tomas in Chichicastenango.  We started our day somewhere between 2 and 3am and arrived at the hotel at 7pm Guatemala time or 9 pm home time. We unloaded the bus and had dinner and retired to our rooms for a solid nights sleep.  I can speak for myself and say that I was exhausted!  Travel is not always easy especially when you spend 4+ hours in a chicken bus : )  We met up with Roger from Indiana and Rupert from Georgia in Miami and Carole met us in the lobby of the Guatemala airport.  Customs went very easy with the help our of local lawyer who made the process smooth. That was a huge thank you God!

We stopped at the clinic to pick up the supplies we needed from there.  The family home in the clinic inDy 2 Chichi church Camanchaj is finished and they are living in it.  Next starts the work on the surgical suite  so that both medical and surgical teams can be present in the same week.  I was amazed at the work that had been completed there by other teams since I had last been there!  I have attached a picture.  I am very excited about this team.  We are a family already (that seems to always happen – may it is a Spirit thing : ).

I am sitting waiting for the team to arrive for breakfast.  We will spend the morning in the market in Chichicastenango and perhaps find our way to the Catholic church with Mayan influences as well as the cemetery.  We will then have lunch together and travel another 3 hours to Cunen where we will spend the week in mission.  Thanks to all of you for your love and support and prayers.  Our journey here has just begun!  Stay tuned for more updates as the week moves on.
Love and Blessings from Guatemala,
Linda

 

Day Two

Sent: Monday, April 13, 2015 10:36 AM
Subject: Love from Guatemala

 

Dear faDY2 Marketmily and friends,
I write as we drop off the team that will begin the water unit installations and we head off to LaBarranca for our first medical clinic.  Yesterday we spent the morning in Chichi and headed off to experience the market first thing in the morning.  It is always an experience of colors and sounds and smalls as well as an experience of close contact with people of all ages. For some  it is a stimulating experience and for others it is a bit too much stimulation!

Many of us made our way to the big Catholic church where a mass was going on. It is almost impossible to describe the experience of a priest serving communion while candles burn and flowers lay on low tables in the center aisle – prayers of celebration and desire to gods of fertility and harvest and marriage…  The smell of burning incense is everywhere warding off the evil spirits.

We then toured the local cemetery, an interesting mix of Christian tombs with Mayan burials sites and ceremonies.  It always strikes me how many people are in the cemetery placing fresh flowers on the graves and really honoring their deceased.  Our cemeteries are vacant in comparison.

We then had a wonderful lunch at a buffet at the hotel.  It was just what we needed as we started the 3 hour drive to Cunen.  The country side is amazing.  Very mountainous and vast.  We are so blessed to have the opportunity to visit this beautiful country and the beautiful people. Traveling with us are several of our local interpreters. It is one way the the mission gives back to the community – hiring local interpreters.  And it is a delight to work with them.  We have worked with most of them before:)

So – we settled into our new hotel, worshipped together, dined together and then spent time talking, playing cribbage, and just enjoying one another’s company.  I feel God’s blessing already on this team.  I can’t wait to work with them today.

Lastly we celebrated Robin’s birthday Guatemalan style with fireworks (they look like a red snake), song, and a cake!

We are now at our first site and i need to help set up the clinic.  Continue to hold us in your prayers especially on this first day of work.  We will we entering into new relationships, experiencing the Mayans trust in what we offer, and knowing that what we offer is small compared to what we can access at home and small compared to what we will receive in return from the people here.  More later….
Much love from Guatemala!
Blessings, Linda

 

Day Three

Sent: Tuesday, April 14, 2015 10:20 AMDy 6 water unit
Subject: Blessings from Guatemala

Dear family and friends,
Day one is complete and what a day it was! It was a day filled with experiences and encounters, and stories we will remember for a long time.

The water team installed one unit and have scoped out where the other two units will be placed. They have designed the plans for the installation. They also started stuccoing the exterior wall of the clinic.  Today Todd joins Roger, Steve, and Gerard in that venture.  I think there is also a ram to be built this week! They had the experience of helping to carry the pastor’s daughter up the steep hill to their home from an ambulance and then spending time with the family. Such an honor and blessing for everyone, I know!

dy 3 MedsThe medical team saw 69 patients in LaBarrucca.  We were at a school and I think Sharon and Meredith polished 200 sets of nails as well as a ton of other activities with the multitude of children.   We had to turn away 14 people at the end of the day and it was heartbreaking.  Setting up the first day takes more time and getting into the groove of a medical team who has never done this together before can take time. By the afternoon we had seen many patients and people were settling into their roles.  By the end of the day a medical team had formed and we were feeling good about the work we had done, the relationships we had formed with our local interpreters (who do a fantastic job), and our work together as a team. As I write this there is an excited chatter on the bus as we head to the next site – Chiul.

Last night over worship we shared the celebrations and the difficult moments of the day. I am always amazed at how God can be present in so many places at once, but God was present everywhere yesterday.  The issues here are not much different from home but our resources to handle them are more limited.  I think many came to a realization of how blessed we are to have what we have at home.

We are handing out lots and lots of vitamins and that is such a blessing from many of you!  Thank you! Pregnant women who are not on vitamins graciously accept the gift as do all of the people.  We saw a lot of children yesterday!  We had a little girl who was albino and had no sunglasses – and it was clear the sun bothered her eyes tremendously.  I wish we had had some sunglasses for her.  The family had no access to them for many reasons.  We talked with mom about the need for shielding from the sun for her. No one had talked with them before about that.

There were many many coughs yesterday. But they burn wood in their homes and are exposed to dust and smoke.  Lots of educational opportunities : )

I am excited to see what this day holds.  I am sure God will be ever present in all things – guiding, leading, blessing.

We are here so I will sign off asking for your prayers and blessings for our work today and for the people of this community and the water team. Thanks for being with us on the journey!

Love and blessings from Guatemala!!

 

Day Four

Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 10:16 AMDy 4 Kids
Subject: Greetings from Guatemala

Hola from Guatemala!

We are off again to our work sites. The construction team continue to work on water units and stuccoing the exterior of the clinic.  Todays pictures will be from that team (I finally got some of their pics).  They seem to be having some fun and getting much work done. Clarissa (exec dir of Salud Y Paz) was with them at the beginning of the week and she swapped out with John yesterday. I met John last night – he was covered with cement : )  They have the pleasure of working with the Pastor as well. He is a Godly man.  I am sure his presence offers much grace to their team.  Mike D. joined the construction team today as well.

The medical team is headed back to Chiul.  It is market day in Chiul today so we expect to be even busier today.  We saw 72 patients yesterday which is amazing!  The town of Chiul is very poor and patients don’t have money to get the medications they need or to get the care is recommended.  We give as much medication as we can but it is hard when they need eye care and can’t afford to get to the clinic in Camanchaj for the care.  In this town we saw more diabetes and hypertension.  I also saw a lot of eye conditions from sun exposure.  They don’t have sunglasses.  The team continues to offer and receive love in so many ways. God is very good and is using every member of this team as a conduit of His love.  God is also using the people of Chiul in mighty ways to give back to us – a tear, eye connection, a touch of the hand, a heartfelt thank you…

As we drive I am glancing out the window at the beautiful mountainous countryside in wonder and awe at the beauty of creation!  Thanks be to God for all that we are experiencing here in this beautiful place with beautiful people.

I should mention that the entire region was without power yesterday and so we worked (both teams) without power and ate dinner by candlelight.  The power came back on in time for worship and then went out in the midst, so back to worship by candlelight and flashlight. This is not unusual.  Power can be potty at times.  Looks like we have power today!.

Will write again soon.  Keep the love and prayers coming!

Love from all of us to all of you.
Linda and Team!

 

Day Five

Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 11:41 PM
Subject: Guatemala news

Hola!
It is hard to believe it is Wednesday evening already.  We have had 3 great work days here in Guatemala!   Tomorrow we head out to a community that is only a 15 minute drive so I though it best to write tonight – if I can stay awake long enough to write it : )

Dy 4 stuccoThe construction team (Mike, Roger, Steve, Gerard, and Todd)  continues to stucco.  Seems there is a process of layering with some sanding or scraping in between – so it takes time!  The third water unit was installed today as planned.  The construction group has been small in number but mighty in work!  And yet – Gerard has found time to support the locals through having his shoes shined!  And shine they do!!

The medical team saw 105 patients today. How crazy is that!  Rupert and I saw some sick folks today and a ton of crying children!  Although we could not have done it without the support group we have had.  Our local interpreters have been great.  Wanda and David have done an amazing job at triage. Peter and Carole handed out the medication prescribed for folks and used their Spanish to give instructions.  Jim, Sharon, and Eileen were behind the pharmacy, counting and bagging and pulling to fill the orders while Robin tried to shepherd the motley pharmacy crew : )  Meredith was flexible today – working in the lab, handing out toys, counting pills, putting labels on bags etc.  It is all about working together as a team so that the patients who need to be seen can be seen!  I never felt rushed or pushed. Patients waited patiently to be seen.  Rupert and I took time with patients and listened to their concerns and offered them what we could. Somehow that translated into a lot of patients being seen in one day!Dy 5 lab

I always have a day where the realization sinks in that my desire to offer the patients so much more than what I have to offer weighs heavy on my heart. Today was that day.  We had some very sick children and often I felt inadequate.  No meclizine for vertigo. No antidepressants or medications for folks who had lost babies recently, who were alone and scared.  No counseling.  No ability to deal with a baby with a 104.7 temp and a history of one month of diarrhea and a 10 day cough as well as being so lethargic I had to look closely to see if she was breathing. (We sent her to the local “hospital”)  And then I get over myself and realize how much we have as a team offered.  And tonight I was reminded that God takes all of that and makes so much more of it – so much so that we may never be in the place to know the impact of offering ourselves and the meager offerings we brought! I needed that reminder tonight and was grateful for it!

So we are all off to get some much needed rest so that we can head back to our work sites tomorrow feeling refreshed and renewed.  I am offering prayers tonight for each of you – thankful that you are on the journey with us and support us with your prayers – and prayers that you too are refreshed for a new day tomorrow.

We all send our love and feel the love you send us!

Love and blessings from Guatemala!

 

  Day Day 4 kids 2Six

Sent: Friday, April 17, 2015 12:39 PM
Subject: Guatemala Grace

Greetings this morning from Cunen Guatemala!  It is our last morning here. We are soon to have breakfast and head out on an immersion experience – visiting homes – and then to Panajachel for a day of relaxation before heading home.

The construction team yesterday (Mike, Todd, Steve, Gerard and host John) finished some of the stuccoing they were working as well as testing the water units – water tests were perfect.  Mike gave an idea last night of the things they did – sifted gravel until the sand was fine enough to make the stucco material, mix concrete by hand, hand up pail after pail of sand to the top of the ladder, climb the hill to the pastors house too many times to count to work on the water units, and much more intense labor.  I am grateful for their ability to do that work and willingness to work in the hot sun.  The people of this community really are grateful for the clinic – a clinic that is open in part because of the work we did last year to make it ready and the money we have given graciously to help hire the doctor and staff needed to run the clinic as well as the medicines to give out to the patients. (We still continue to collect donations for the Cunen clinic to keep it open). You have all been a part of the clinic through your generosity.Dy 6 kids

The medical team finished the week at a clinic in Aldea Los Trigales. We were at a school and there was a multitude of children everywhere!  Oh. My. Gosh. Do they have excitement and energy.  We set up the clinic quite quickly and saw 98 patients.  Roger joined the medical team and worked in the pharmacy.  It was an easier day.  People were not as sick.  There is a ton of heartburn in children and adults – I assume because of the consumption of spicy foods and coffee at a very early age. Many women work in the fields and wear very flimsy flat shoes and so I saw a lot of knee and leg pain as well as back pain from bending over in the fields. One man I saw was sent to the hospital for a work up for chest pain. He is 43 and has had 3 months of pain in the chest and shortness of breath with exertion. It is so bad that he can’t work to support his wife and 7 children. So his wife and some of the children have had to work to feed the family. I pray for all of the folks in all of the places that we have visited.  Each person touches a part of my heart and my heart retains a piece of them.  Good thing hearts can overflow without pain : )

Last night we ate dinner together for the last in Cunen and worshipped together.  Today we have visited the clinic that we have all worked to open – you and I.  It is amazing to see the doctors name on the door and see the set up that reveals a working clinic!  We also visited some homes and met the families and saw how they lived. We prayed with them and have made arrangements for food and supplies to be delivered.  It was a blessing and an honor to be invited into their homes.  We visited the pastor’s daughter who broke her leg and she was in pain so we left pain reliever for her.

We are now on the road to Panajachel with a brief stop in Chichi and at the clinic in Camanchaj. I love
the beautiful vistas as we travel!  We have been blessed over and over on this trip and we have given of ourselves in body mind and spirit.

I will write more later when we are in Pana. The curves in the road are making it hard to type on my phone because every curve flips the orientation of the screen!

We send our love and have prayed for you every night!
Blessings and love from Guatemala!

 

 

Day Seven

Sent: Saturday, April 18, 2015 12:37 AMdy 7 dinner
Subject: Panajachel Guatemala

Greetings family and friends,
We have made it to beautiful Panajachel and are settled into our rooms at the Rancho Grande Inn.  We arrived late afternoon after taking a tour of the Salud Y Paz clinic in Camanchaj.  Phil Plunk (founder of Salud Y Paz) spoke to us and told his story so we got a look at the history of the organization.

We had a couple of hours before dinner to settle in, make our way to the ATM or take a nap before dinner at the Pinguinos Restaurant in Pana. This restaurant provides a decent meal and a lot of entertainment.  We were serenaded by the marimbas throughout the meal.  We got to see how marimbas are made and what they are made from.  Meredith helped demonstrate the result and was rewarded : )  We then got to try our hand at making tortillas.  Trust me – it is not easy to do.  Not a skill I have learned! Robin won the contest for the best tortilla!  Next we had a singing contest and Peter sang “Guate, Guate” the loudest.  Lots of fun for everyone.

We are now back in our rooms, soon to get rest before a fun day tomorrow. The entire team is taking a boat ride to Posada de Santiago for breakfast. It is a beautiful setting on the water and an excellent breakfast. We will then take the boat to Santiago for another shopping experience like the market : )  The church where Father Stanley Rother – an Oklahoma missionary – was killed during the civil war is in Santiago and is a reminder of what it means to love sacrificially in difficult times and places.  Henry Nowen wrote a wonderful book about Father Rother’s story if you are interested.

After visiting Santiago we will take the 30 minute boat ride back across Lake Attilan and then rest, shop, zipline, play cards…. whatever we want to do.  I’m excited that the entire team is going to Santiago!  They are in for a treat!

We are well and tomorrow will give us a day to decompress before we head home.  We are looking forward to seeing each of you soon!

Blessings tonight from Guatemala!

 

Day EightDy 8 Team breakfast

Sent: Sunday, April 19, 2015 1:51 PM
Subject: Guatemala team update

Hola!
We are sitting in the airport as I write waiting for our flight.  Roger and Carole have boarded their flights and the rest of us wait until 2:52pm this afternoon to board ours.  I imagine there will be reading, roaming, rummy, and cribbage before long.  We don’t arrive back in Boston until 12:21 am and then will drive home from there.  So a very long travel day!

Yesterday was a wonderful day.  We took a boat across the lake to Santiago and had breakfast at the Posada de Santiago.  It was a great breakfast. Everyone enjoyed the ride over and the breakfast.  We then went into the town of Santiago and visited the Catholic church where Father Stanley Rother was murdered for his work with the Mayans during the Civil War.  It is a moving experience to visit the church and to see where he was killed and many of his belongings.  For me it offers a heart mind connection to what we are doing here.  When I am in the church I always pray for the compassion, courage, strength, and love that Father Rother offered to the people in the area.

We then experienced the market in Santiago and spent money on gifts : )  We boarded the boat around 11:30 to return to Panajachel.  Some went back to their rooms and rested.  Eileen and David went ziplining!  And many went into the Pana market to spend what Quetzals they had!

Dinner was at CasaBlanca which offered a great meal.  Juan and Manuela and Marcos joined us as did Clarissa (exec director of Salud Y Paz) and her family and Hannah – our host for the week.  Archie was with us too of course! Then it was time to pack and get ready to leave the hotel at 6am.

I am sure there will be many tired folks tomorrow.  I know I won’t get home until 3am if all goes well.  Some won’t get home until later on Monday if they spend the night somewhere.

Be kind to the team when they return please.  It is often a difficult transition to see what people have available here and then to return home to the excess we have there.  Some folks will be quiet.  Some irritable. Some emotional.  It is normal.

I think we are ready to return home to our families, friends and work. We have had an incredible experience here filled with God moments and a real sense of a Spirit that has filled our team and pushed  us to new limits and new experiences.  We have been a blessing to many here in Guatemala and have also been blessed by each person we have come in contact with.

So we return home leaving a piece of our heart here…   until next time.