Bill and I recently returned from a wonderful medical mission trip to rural Guatemala with Houston-based Faith in Practice. We joined a team of Oregon doctors, nurses, dentists, physical therapists, translators, and wheel chair assemblers and spent five days in Retahluleu treating indigent patients, many of whom have never had access to doctors or clinics. We set up clinics in schools in two villages for two days each. Classrooms were emptied of desks and areas were draped off to make exam areas. In addition to general medicine, pediatrics, gynecology, dentistry, and wheelchair clinics, there was also a pharmacy to dispense drugs the doctors prescribed.
This was my 12th trip with Faith in Practice and Bill’s first. I usually go on surgical teams as a translator, but I had been on a village team that had a wheelchair clinic, and I was excited that Bill would be able to share the Faith in Practice experience with me as an assembler.
In the closing words of our liturgy we pray “And now, Father, send us out to do the work you have given us to do, to love and serve you as faithful witnesses of Christ our Lord.” Our mission trip sent us to love and serve some of the Lord’s neediest people, many of them indigenous Guatemalans. We go to serve and to give, but, in reality, we receive MUCH more than we give. In our four days, we saw and treated 2025 patients. Those we could help, we did. Those that were beyond our capability were referred for surgery at one of two hospitals that host Faith in Practice surgical teams.
I would like to share one of the many stories of transformation we experienced in the wheelchair clinic. A young mother (in the photo she has a black blouse) came in with her sister and her 8 1/2 year old daughter, Alisson. Allison was large for her age, probably 80-90 pounds, and had to be carried by her mom. Her legs hung down almost to the ground when she was held. She had little or no cognition, and her body was completely flaccid — she had no muscle control. Caring for this child is the 24/7 occupation of her mother. Her mother had developed back problems carrying her large body. They were hoping for a wheelchair to be able to transport her more comfortably. It was clear that Alisson was well cared for and well loved.
Because she lacked muscle control, her head and body flopped to one side. We had the ability to assemble a custom chair for her which included an apparatus that held her head up straight. This one wheelchair made a HUGE difference to Alisson and her family. She was able to be seated upright which helped her breathing and eliminated the choking reflex she had lying down. The dentist even came down to the clinic and removed two teeth, which in her mouth were just nubs.
When they found out we could give them a chair they both burst into tears. She and her sister were so thankful and appreciative. There wasn’t a dry eye in the clinic when she was wheeled out. The visit to the clinic absolutely changed their lives. Thank you, Lord, for allowing us the privilege of serving as your hands and feet!
-- Kathy Van Wie