Gabby's Entry #10

"Unplanned Moments"

I don’t think I have ever been on a trip with so many things planned and an equal number accomplished.  The Hillsboro group came ready to get stuff done.  We had one group investigating healthcare in the area and providing small health clinics at each of the communities we visited.  We had another group painting the Center in Sayaxché.  The Center is a dorm for students, ages 10 to 20, who are unable to continue their studies in their home towns or villages because there is no school for them past the 5th grade.  This was a possible assignment for Scott and I for this year – to be administrators of this dorm.  Spending a week there, I don’t really know what we would have done except cook and clean, so I think I am glad that we got the assignments we did.

 Jan nursing                                               

Karen in kitchen with girls & new kitchen goods 

Another day we went shopping with Olivia, the cook and administrators wife, and the students to buy kitchen supplies.  Karen was in the kitchen checking out the wood burning stove and all the utensils.  She asked them how many serving spoons they had and Olivia said one.  She looked around for 17 sets of bowls, spoons, and cups and didn’t see them.  So we went on a shopping spree.  The group bought all kinds of kitchen supplies as well as an electric mixer for making refried beans and a special lunch menu that included chicken.  The girls were ecstatic.

The next day we took all the kids shopping for new shoes.  We went into one store but it apparently wasn’t cool enough for them because they looked around for a few minutes and then said, let’s go to el Mercado (the market).   There we found the jackpot of shoe stores for the teenagers and set them free to spend up to $24 on a pair of shoes.  Some got one pair and others opted for cheaper ones so they could have two.  The next day, in the mud, were a whole bunch of new shoes and smiling faces.

We were also visiting a number of communities and attending church services and meetings often followed by a light snack.  In Las Camielas, we were told there was a very sick man and the congregation asked us if the nurse, Jan, could visit him.   Well after some more fact finding, we discovered that this very sick man, was indeed, very sick.  He was dying.  He had already been to Guatemala City where they told him he needed an operation. They gave him some medicine and told him to go home and rest.  After a week he was to go to the local hospital for Xrays of the mass in his throat.  He refused to go.  He refused to eat.  So now it had been four weeks since his hospital visit and he wouldn’t even go to the local clinic for fear he might die during the 30-minute ride.  But since we had already said we would visit him, we did.  We let the family know ahead of time that there was nothing we could do but pray. 

The bus stopped on the highway and a Guatemalan man was waiting for us in the rain.  Seven of us, two K´ekchi and five Americans, got off and began trudging through the mud towards his home.  We passed the usual chickens, houses, cows, turkeys, piglets and dirty children with no shoes before we got to his house.  It was a stick structure with a dirt floor.  The roof was made of palm fronds.  We tried, somewhat senselessly to wipe the mud off of our feet before entering the home.  We greeted the dying man and his family. 

He was lying in a hammock and there was a special fire burning by his bedside that had been made on the floor.   We were told he was 63.  He was very thin with sunken cheeks and weathered skin.  His hands were like a paper dolls, so fragile and small.  He couldn’t speak but communicated to his son that he wanted to be moved to his small bed close by.  The bed was a wooden plank on four legs.  It had a piece of cardboard on it for a mattress.  He was easy to move because he couldn't have weighed more than 85 lbs.  As he was placed on the mat, he sighed.  His son tucked his body under a light blanket.

The women of the household stood back near the wood burning stove, looking both curious, pensive and grateful for our presence.  In this moment, I thought about the future of this family.   How much income had they lost with this loss of health?  How many people was he supporting and would they be able to manage with only the son's agricultural income?  Was our presence a blessing or only a cruel reminder of the wealth they don't have?  It was in these thoughts that I heard someone say, "Oremos" (Let us pray).

So we did.  We all stood around him and his warm, small fire and prayed - like the K'ekchi.  We all spoke aloud our individual prayers to God for him and his family simultaneously.  There was a hum of K'ekchi, English and Spanish.  After the amens, we each took his hand or touched his shoulder gently and said goodbye and things like God bless you.  At times like these you realize these are the most sincere words you can think to say.  I was also reminded of words like mercy, compassion, and loyalty.  I hope he is resting now without the worries of this world but in the glory of the next. 

And so it was the smallest of unplanned moments that made this trip special for me.