Gabby's Entry #6

"Not for the Faint of Heart"

Okay!  Now maybe THIS TIME I sent home a group healthy and happy.  Of course, there were only two of them, so maybe my chances are better this time.  Middle Tennessee Presbytery has been working with the Petén Presbytery for almost three years.  They are interested in a partnership and came to visit all the churches and discuss the plan with the Presbytery leadership.  They found a lot more here than any of us expected.     

God sometimes does that to us, doesn't he?  We're coasting along in our comfort zone, in our car with AC, power locks and leather seats, when all of a sudden he decides we need a new challenge.  So some of us come to Guatemala for a year and others, a couple of times per year.  We could neither foresee or accomplish any of this on our own.  We needed each other and we needed Him.  Lucky for us, we had both because, man, sometimes this mission stuff is not for the faint of heart.                                   

   Jim and Karen after our first challenge

Our itinerary said we would be visiting four churches followed by a meeting with the Presbytery before a final Guatemalan goodbye from Tikal.  It sounds relaxing enough, right?   I actually thought to myself, this might be boring or if not boring relaxing.  I should know by now, that's never the case.  The first day, I found out that the village, Valle Nuevo, was nicknamed "Mudville" last year because the road was so difficult to travel only three of the ten people on the mission trip made it there.  I became increasingly more suspicious when Joe told me we might want to buy rubber boots.  Then, the morning we were to depart, I found out that we were riding in the back of a pickup on a dirt road for an hour to get there. 

Hmmm, this is not what I expected.   

We all jumped out of the truck, wet from the rain, at a break in the fence line.  How anyone ever finds this place once they leave it, is beyond me.  I have no internal compass and surely would have been left for dead if it hadn't been for Martín and our Valle Nuevo guides.  The road was far too muddy for us to take.  This was the downfall of the group the year before - mud up to your knees.  So, instead?  We cut through a barbed wire fence and tromped into the jungle land for our 45 minute hike.  And guess who needed to use the bathroom?  I waited.

The hike to Valle Nuevo

Me, complete with rubber boots, blisters and a walking stick.

But we all made it!  We had a worship service, a meeting, then lunch before we started our hike back out.  My favorite saying during this was, "Casi allá?" (Almost there?) which always made Martín laugh.  Others may not have had as much fun as I did, but we were all proud of our accomplishment and ready for the next day's challenge.

Three-day old baby with cleft palate

Jocelin, the baby to the left was our surprise on our second day.  She was born on October 31st, the same day that Karen and Jim arrived in Guatemala.  God was definitely at work getting a registered nurse to a tiny village in Guatemala to help this new mother and child.  When we found her, she was malnutritioned and unable to nurse.  Karen, thinking quick on her feet, helped to show the mother how she could express milk and use a dropper to feed the baby.  Karen, who has never worked in pediatrics, did an amazing job saving this baby's life.  I was only lucky enough to be along to help translate. We went back the next day to give Sandra, the 16-year old mother, vitamins for herself and Jocelin, a manual breast pump and another dropper that would be easier to use.  Wow.

La Caoba was a different experience altogether but still filled with shocking sites and God's grace and mercy at work.  Since Karen, Martín and I had to return to Chinatál the next day to see the baby again, we missed the worship but Karen took a look around and was pleased to see there were happy, clean faces on all the children.  We drove off relieved knowing that this church was served by a health promoter who had been trained and he seemed to be doing a fine job.

But news travels fast in Guatemala and by the time we returned, there were several children that needed Karen's help from this rural 700-person community.  Conjunctivitis, malnutrition, scabies and ring worm were some of the heartbreaking things we encountered. 

Child with skin condition that could be treated with antibiotic cream

Malnutritioned baby with scabies 
(bugs that get under the skin & 
cause a rash and itching)

Sister with malnutritioned brother
(see thin hair, also had large belly)

Sometimes God knows you're ready for things that you don't even know yourself.  This was a challenging trip for everyone. We saw starving children as we sat and ate chicken the women had cooked for us, we left a four-day-old baby in the hands of a sixteen-year-old and God, and we saw Christ.  We saw Him in everyone we met.  The faith of these people is more than I could comprehend.  I don't honestly know if, in the same situation, that I could be as gracious and faithful.  And for this experience, I was truly blessed.

Will Middle Tennessee sign a covenant with the Petén Presbytery?  We all hope so.  And either way, I look forward to seeing my friends again in June.  

For more pics, click here.

Bible Verse
Romans 5: 1-4
Therefore, since we have been justified in faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.