Gabby's Entry #9


Thinking back on the Inland Northwest Presbytery visit to the Alta y Baja Verapaz region, certain things remain with me. We were on a whirlwind tour to visit several communities within the APMK (Asociación de Presbiterios Maya K´ekchi).  Just for a little history, there are five presbyteries (groups of churches) in this region and there is a partnership between the Inland Northwest Presbytery and the APMK.  Anyway, we were traveling a lot. 

I met a pastor, Gerardo Pop, who taught himself to read and write when he was young because his parents didn’t think education was important.  He came from this difficult background to teach theology in the Seminary.  He is now trying to learn English from a book and was practicing many of his words with us.   He was doing a whole lot better than I would have if I’d tried to learn my Spanish just from a book.  He is a leader in his community and within the Church. This same pastor was diagnosed with Trachoma by Chris, our doctor on the trip, and was given medicine that likely saved him from eventual blindness.  He has two brothers, Manuel and Martín.  They had it too.  They were treated along with a 4th pastor from the same region.  

Gerardo and Alberto at 
Castillo de San Felip

I learned that all the pastors in the APMK have been encouraged to become government-certified health promoters.  They said, “Pues, tiene sentido.” (Well, it makes sense). “Cuando personas estan enfermos, ellos van a su pastor.” (When people are sick, they go to their pastor).  This is common in communities in Guatemala that are stricken with daily poverty.  In a place where decisions about what to eat today are real.  They go to their pastor.  And this week, Inland Northwest was able to donate a set of medical books to each community we visited: Donde No Hay Doctor (Where There is No Doctor), Donde No Hay Doctor para Mujeres (…for Women), Donde No Hay Doctor para Hombres (… for Men) and Un Libro para Parteras (A Book for Midwives).  I don’t include these to bore, but rather to inform.  These are wonderful resources from the Hesperian Foundation for communities such as these that don’t always have access to adequate health care.

These resources are often the difference between curing scabies and having a baby suffer with it until it slowly goes away.  At least it seems to go away.  We rarely see cases of it in the 5-year-old and up age groups but many of them have scars that seem to be a result of it.  It can mean the difference between recognizing dehydration and malnutrition and death.  Health care is often too far for the poor to walk to the clinics.  Because they have with no vehicles they have to pay for transportation.  Once there, the healthcare is sometimes free and sometimes not.  But more commonly there is no free medicine and what’s the point of a doctor visit if you can’t cure the problem because you have no money for the solution? 


We were also reminded of the problems the indigenous face with diabetes.  We encountered a family with two sisters, both registering blood sugar levels 300% higher than normal.  Because chronic pain and suffering are the norm in countries like Guatemala, it is a difficult for people to grasp the concept of a lifelong necessity for medication.  So these women struggle through each day with no energy, getting up three or four times a night to pee, and continue eating their corn-carb filled diets.  We can only hope that the information we shared and the medications we suggested are available and that Esperanza and her sister, Gloria, will continue to use them.  

I spent a few precious moments laying on the grass under the trees with Josie, a 76-year-old pastor with more piss and vinegar than most terrible-2-year-olds.  As we lie there she told me how she used to like to do this when she was a child.  Just watching the leaves blow and the tree tops sway.  She is an amazing woman.  She was a pastor’s wife for around 40 years before he had a debilitating stroke.  At 60, she felt called into the ministry.  So after finishing four years of undergrad studies, she continued into seminary and graduated at 66.  She is Native American and Mexican.  She was an inspiration to the Guatemalans and to us.  

And then a couple touched me.  Ron and Marianne.  Ron is 80 and Marianne, younger (it’s rude to say, isn’t it? J ).  Anyway, they are still so much in love after 47 years of marriage.  It was really uplifting, watching them.  Sure, they have had their ups and downs but they are looking forward to their 50th anniversary and hope to celebrate it in Brazil where they lived for five years as missionaries with the church.

Every person on these trips gives me a gift, some big, others small.  I hope I do the same in return.  Sometimes the best we can do is be ourselves and hope that it’s enough.  Thanks everybody for the gifts you have and especially for the ones you shared with me!  Ruth, Chris, Gayle, Midge, Pat, Laurie, Leslie, John, D, Ron, Marianne, and Josie.

Bottom L-R: Leslie, Ruth, Pat, Josie, De, Midge, Chris, Ron, Marianne, John         Marianne, Charity, Ruth, John, Josie
Top: Joe, Laurie, Gayle, Gabby