Written by Jackson May, age 13
Today we woke up at 6:45 so we could brush our teeth, take showers, and get dressed for the 7:30 breakfast time. It may seem like a lot of time to you, but my family doesn't like getting up early so it takes us a while to get going in the morning. We (my mom ,dad, and I) have to get some coffee and a shower before we are awake enough to speak to others. As I heard from others, it was a delicious meal of pineapple, mango, watermelon, eggs (with ham of course), and beans (I wasn't feeling well so I didn't eat). They ate at 7:30 so we could be ready for the people from the medical clinic to pick us up at 8:00. As we have learned, everything is more laid back here. When someone says they will be there at 8:00 they could be there at 9:00 and think nothing of it.
Our translator Darvy picked us up from Art and Lisa's house. He had another friend named Danny following us in his truck, which was filled with enough wood to build five beds.
It was a short drive there, with breathtaking scenery of the mountains and farms along the way. It was cool to see how they grew crops on the side of the mountains. We realized we were really a world away when my dad saw men digging on the side of the road and thought, "wow they could do this in a few hours with a bulldozer." However, they just don't have that kind of money here.
We got to the clinic and were immediately greeted by about 100 women and children who were crammed into the clinic like tuna in a can! We went straight to work after a short prayer with the staff. Darvy taught my dad and me how to build the beds. So for the first bed we were helped by both Darvy and Danny, but after the first bed Darvy, the professional carpenter, left us to fend for ourselves in the scary world of building. After the second bed, we finally got into the groove of building and started to pick up the pace.
While we were building those first two beds, the women were doing lice treatments for the kids. After completing the second bed, we loaded the beds on the back of the truck and drove into the next village. As my mom said multiple times, "thank God for Danny." He is a 245-pound body builder who leg presses 1200 pounds and bench presses 500. Danny did most of the heavy lifting. The beds weren't all that heavy, I mean my dad and I could carry one on flat ground, but when you have to tip it up on its' side, (while going up a steep hill for a couple hundred yards) that's a whole nother story!
The people were beyond grateful and everyone was very friendly when we delivered the beds. We had a translator that spoke Spanish and the indigenous language. Teresa translated from the indigenous language into Spanish and Jenni or Danny translated into English. The kids and women who lined the dirt roads waved to us along the way.
When we got back from the clinic we realized that all of the lice patients had been treated. We were all tired and sat down for a lunch of egg salad sandwiches, cookies, apples, bananas, which was made by Darvy's mom. It was delicious! I even had two sandwiches and I don't like sandwiches very much normally.
As we were taking our second trip out to deliver two more beds, we saw a bus driving through, and though the bus driver didn't know it, some kids jumped on the back of the bus and were skiing with their bare feet on the ground. We drove off and once again rode in the truck bed. At one of the houses we delivered to, there was a disabled old man outside their house that couldn't use his legs and was in a wheelchair. My dad and I wondered how the man could get around in this country, because they depend on the man to work in the fields, there aren't many desk type jobs for people in those villages in Guatemala, like there are in North America. It is amazing how much someone's life can differ based on what family you're born into. I could just as easily been born a Guatemalan orphan.
It felt like a great accomplishment to build those beds. We all loved it and felt really tired in a good way.
Written by Marlene Eckert
If I didn't look too closely, the hillsides containing lush crops that our team observed from our jam-packed vehicle while ambling along a dirt road on our way to serve at a medical clinic in an indigenous village appeared to resemble the Tuscan countryside. However, upon closer examination, we were definitely not in Italy! Women dressed in costumes unique to their village ambled along the road with loads balanced on their heads, babies slung on their backs, and small children in tow. Once we even saw one of the little girls carrying a baby on her own back. Men worked in crews digging trenches and extending the concrete portion of the road, while clusters of children played along the roads. What I didn't see until later when we were delivering the beds was that there is a whole "nother" world that lay beyond what is visible from the road--clusters of many one-room houses with dirt floors, bamboo stick walls, and tin roofs that become visible only by hiking steep, muddy trails. Most of the homes probably have no electricity, but late in the afternoon I did observe a light bulb dangling from a doorway, attached to a frayed cord that was tied to a tree, when we were delivering the last of the 5 beds.
My first impression upon arrival at the clinic was that women and children filled the waiting room to the brim. The clinic operates on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and serves 4,000 people in 3 villages. There is a nominal charge for most of the services (typically between 5 to 10 Q--approximately one dollar; Q stands for quetzale, the Guatemalan currency which is worth about 12 cents each). The fees motivate the patients to take their medical care more seriously, and of course nobody is turned away for lack of ability to pay.
The one service that is totally complimentary is the one that we assisted with--lice treatment for the children. Our typical clients were girls between the ages 3- 10 with long, thick hair, but we served a few little boys as well. The procedure consists of rinsing the hair with cold water (since there is no hot available), shampooing, and then applying a lice treatment . The child then sits for 10 minutes to allow time for the lice to come to the surface, and then we rinsed it out, applied conditioner, combed the hair, and finally used a lice comb to attempt to remove the unwanted bugs. The final touch was braiding the hair and securing the braids with new, clean hair accessories. We were amazed at how still and cooperative the kids were (my granddaughters would never have got past the initial dousing with cold water without putting up a fight that I would have lost!)
The sad and frustrating aspect was that it was impossible to remove all of the lice due to extremely limited resources (e.g., the children had to share towels and the product used was not on the same order of magnitude as effective as what we use in the states); more significantly, even if we were able to completely eradicate the lice, they would quickly be back again since the children immediately return to unsanitary living conditions. The volunteers at the clinic reminded us that we are there only to provide temporary relief because the root cause is not easily solved--as Katie Davis says in "Kisses From Katie", it feels like we are trying to solve an ocean of problems one eye dropperful at a time, but God only asks us to help the one in front of us, and yesterday these little ones were the ones in front of us. While I am in agreement with this, right now my heart yearns to find a way to return to educate these beautiful, loving people on how to introduce cleanliness into their homes.
Upon returning to Art & Lisa's home, we found Florita, one of the ladies in Lisa's Bible study group, waiting for us. We learned that she had come in the morning to greet us and was disappointed that she missed us, so she made a second trip in order to say good-bye to us face-to-face. She presented all of the ladies in our group with roses to express her gratitude for our having travelled so far to visit with the Guatemalan people (we feel terrible that they give us gifts when they likely do not have food on their tables, but unbelievable generosity is part of their culture).
If that wasn't enough, I was moved to tears when Florita's 9-year-old daughter Tiffany gave a homemade card and stuffed bunny rabbit to our 12-year-old teammate Morgan, who Tiffany had bonded with at the party last Thursday. I, too, had bonded with Morgan, who agreed to be my temporary granddaughter for the week, so I am especially touched because I know that the love that Tiffany showed Morgan will have a huge impact on her for the rest of her life. After Florita and Tiffany finished sharing their encouragement and faith, we had 2 more similar rounds with the Camarenas' gardener Augusto and their cook/housekeeper Eufy. We are grateful that funds from our trip fees were available to make food and monetary gifts to Eufy, Augusto, all of the ladies in the Bible Study, as well as to the Camarenas in support of their ministry.
After dinner we gathered for our final team meeting. We were able to share how we had each been impacted throughout the week. We also processed the potential challenges of "re-entry" back into our "normal lives." We have all been changed by the love, faith, hospitality, gratitude and warmth we received this week. We came to bless the Guatemalan people, but they truly blessed us beyond belief.
The final thought that I want to share is that though we have much in terms of cleanliness, health, education and material blessings, we met many Guatemalans who taught us about faithfully relying on and being grateful to our Lord, even in the midst of tragic circumstances.
We want to share our deep gratitude to all of our supporters. Thank you for your prayers, donations, encouragement & financial support! May you be greatly blessed through your eternal impact on the people of Guatemala.