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.
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 in 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,
Sent: Monday, April 13, 2015 10:36 AM
Subject: Love from Guatemala
Dear family 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!
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!
The 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!!
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!
Sent: Wednesday, April 15, 2015 11:41 PM
Subject: Guatemala news
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 : )
The 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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
Sent: Sunday, April 19, 2015 1:51 PM
Subject: Guatemala team update
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.