Thursday, March 26, 2009

Coming together.


It's pretty darn cool to see how each of us on this team work together. Seriously, we've got the perfect mixture of personalities and skills - strengths and weaknesses - going on here. Every necessity has been covered without us even consciously trying! Some of us a born leaders and some of us are the git-er-done-ers. No stone has been left unturned. Pretty cool if you ask me.

After two days of hard work, Bryan took us to one of the villages that he has been seeing and teaching for a while now. Their health has improved greatly since he first started visiting them. There were more people going through the line that didn't even need vitamins, whereas everyone we saw in the last two villages needed them. The people were also more accustomed to seeing Americans and they were therefore more open with us. There was still a language barrier, but they joked with us and laughed when we started goofing around (this happens to be a well-shared gift on our team, haha).

Ryan provided great entertainment while he was trying to fix one of our tarp ropes that kept coming undone in the wind. Every time he fixed the rope onto the nail and then went to tie it onto the stake, the rope would slip off the nail and a group of villagers near by would start giggling. The more he tried, the quicker it came undone and the louder the group would laugh!

During a lull in the line for skin treatment and worm medication, Kristin and I started playing a clapping game and tried to get a group of young boys to join us. I would clap a rhythm and Kristin would echo me. The boys didn't seem to want to join in, but after they went around the corner we could hear them immitating us. Kristin went to find el bano later on and the same group of boys were playing the game together on the other side of the hill.

I really enjoyed playing with the children today. Some of the toddlers and babies cry when they go through our line because they don't like having the worm medication squirted in their mouths with a syringe. I had a great time trying to get these kiddos to stop crying. I carried around Alana's "jungle peep" in my pocket and made it dance and peep for them. I was wearing a bright scrub top and my huge goofy purple sunglasses and I think the combination of that and seeing this big American lady bouncing around made them forget why they were crying in the first place. It worked like a charm and pretty much made my day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A bigger picture.


I'm going to try to put into words part of what has been on my mind these past two days.

We've spent the last two days handing out vitamins and medicines to people in remote villages. These people have no electricity, no running water, and the majority of them have only corn tortillas and coffee to eat every day.

Our team saw some severely malnourished children today and yesterday. Bryan explained that if a mother isn't able to breastfeed her baby, she'll give that baby soda in a bottle if they can afford it and if they can't the baby will drink coffee from a bottle. These people don't realize that there is no nutrition for a baby in soda or coffee so that is all the baby will get. This is one of the reasons for the high mortality rate for children in this area. Bryan comes in with his teams to educate the people but even with the knowledge of what a baby needs to survive, the majority of the people can not afford to provide it. So Bryan gives those people baby formula and liquid vitamins.

Another big problem is worms. Bryan explained to us tonight that the people here get the parasites from walking through animal feces and being in and drinking contaminated water. So many of the children we saw had distended bellies and Bryan tells us that these distended bellies are filled with worms. If the families are fortunate enough to have enough corn tortillas to feed all their children, the very little nutrition the child receives from the tortillas is consumed by the worms before the child can digest any of it. I can go into further, horrible detail but I will refrain from doing so on this blog. If you want to know more, ask me.

The good news is that Bryan is able to give these people worm medication that kills the worms and keeps them away for six months. We saw about 400 people both today and yesterday and gave out worm medication to all who needed it. Bryan visits about 137 villages with different teams throughout the year. Some of these villages he visits every six months, some of them every three months if the conditions are bad, and some of them only every year if their conditions have improved enough. So this means that Bryan and the teams that come help him are making a huge impact on the health and ultimately the quality of life of the people in this area.

I feel so grateful to be a small part of this. I've realized over the past two days how incredibly desensitized we really are in the states. We are so busy with our day to day lives that we don't have time to pay attention to what happens in other parts of the world. Many of us put ourselves in extreme situations of stress just so that we can have a nicer car or a bigger house or the latest technology or this or that. Now I realize this is a huge generalization, and we are going through tough economic times in our country, but I think you'll agree that we as Americans are still very fortunate despite our current economic difficulties. Unfortunately, it really took coming here and actually seeing how those living in this area live for me to realize how extremely fortunate I am to have all that I have at home. Every time I look at a child here all I can think about is my daughter and how very, very fortunate I am to have the means to give her everything she needs to be healthy. It opened my eyes to a much bigger picture and I will never take what I have for granted ever again. That is why, as much as this is a ministry for the people here in Guatemala and even though I came here to serve them, this really has been even more of a ministry to me.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Speachless

I am so grateful to have been able to come down here to Guatemala. I can't even explain how this is moving things around inside me.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'll never forget it.

awesome [aw-suh m] -adjective 1. inspiring awe: an awesome sight. 2. showing or characterized by awe. 3. Slang. very impressive: That new white convertible is totally awesome.

Today was truly awesome.

We spent the morning and part of the afternoon preparing for tomorrow. We had to go through the pharmacy kits and take inventory of what was in there. We did a lot of counting pills and restocking.

After we finished, we all loaded up in the pick up and Bryan took us to do some sight seeing, Jungle Medic-style. We drove many, many miles down a bumpy dirt road (which they are actually in the beginning stages of transforming into a paved road) until we came to a small river in the middle of the jungle. Bryan had asked two boys from a neighboring village to meet us there with canoes. The canoes were hand made, hollowed out tree trunks. The boys paddled us up the river, which was flanked on both sides by cliffs so high you could swear they were touching the clouds. It looked like something from Jurassic Park, with vines hanging from the trees and monkeys jumping from tree to tree overhead. Bryan explained that the area had once been a giant cave with water flowing beneath it. Over time the water eroded the cave so much that it collapsed. There were giant boulders everywhere; once jagged fallen pieces of cave rock that had become smooth and unevenly worn over time. We came to some land and most of my team members opted to float back down the river with the current while three of us remained in the canoes for the ride back, keeping everyone's cameras and towels dry (the canoes were a little leaky).

We took a shorter, soggier ride to another spot where we did some light hiking to a beautiful, tropical waterfall. The water falling down was from a hot spring - Bryan said it was probably around 108 degrees. The pool of water beneath the waterfall was perfect bath water temperature. We swam out to the waterfall and in the small cave behind it. Bryan said the hot spring water above is filled with sulfur and is known by the locals as having a quick healing effect. It was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been in my life. It was somewhat surreal; I couldn't believe we were actually there! While half the group checked out some other pools and caves, the rest of us hung back and soaked in the amazement. Bryan baptized three of us in that pool before we hiked back to the pickup and saw the returning scenery with a new perspective of God's awesomeness.

The great Scorpion King

Here it is, friends. Enjoy!
video

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Amazing.


This country is absolutely beautiful. I've never seen such lush green in my life. We saw some gorgeous sites during the drive from Honduras to Guatemala.

Our journey from the U.S. to Guatemala went smoothly. I got a little nervous when Bryan told us he needed some hydrocortisone cream to give to the police officer at the Honduras/Guatemala border to get us across, but it all worked out. He stopped at a pineapple stand on our way to his home and he bought us all some fresh pineapple to try. It was absolutely delicious - right off the tree!

Bryan's home is amazing. It overlooks a beautiful river. The girls' dorm is on the second floor and the guys' is on the third. On the first floor is the emergency room that Bryan operates out of, so if any emergencies happen in the middle of the night, we'll be right here to help. This will be our home base for the week.

We had a relaxing night to recover from the long day of travel and prepare for the work ahead. We shared a dinner of Guatemalan style tacos, which consisted of a hard tortilla, lettuce, and a mixture of chicken and I'm not sure what. You could top it with ranch sauce, mayo, and/or home made salsa, which is nothing like salsa in the states. It was good! For dessert we had frozen bananas (grown in Bryan's back yard) dipped in chocolate/peanut butter sauce. Bryan said he got a great deal on peanut butter a few months ago from the states...LOL.

After dinner Marlini, the nurse who works and lives at the home base, took me, Kristin, Ryan, and Pat to the town in Rio Dulce to pick up some groceries. Marlini told us it was her first time driving. I think she was joking. But seriously, all the people down here drive like they're drunk and I haven't seen a seat belt yet!

To top the night off, when we returned Matt awed and disgusted us all by eating a live scorpion. Pat captured it on video. I'll try to post it tomorrow but I'm wiped for now and it is going to be an early morning! We can't wait to get into the villages and meet the people.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Don't drink the water.

My doctor loaded me up with six different prescriptions. "Take this one just in case this happens...take that one just in case that happens...and don't drink the water!"

I took a malaria prevention pill early this week, but don't tell my trip leader. She swears they'll make me wicked sick. But I figure it can't be worse than actually getting malaria, right? I'll take my chances. ;-)

This week was a challenge with fighting a sinus infection. I was able to get a lot of really good sleep last night though so that made me feel like a new person. Now my mind is focused on getting finished what I want/need to do before I leave...and of course on my baby girl and husband. I don't want to leave them. I'm experiencing some serious separation anxiety and I haven't even left yet. I know it will all be okay and we're all safe in God's hands, but being away from my baby girl for nine days is going to hurt.

I'm trying instead to focus on the mission and on keeping my mind and heart open to whatever God has in store.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Seven days.

It's becoming more real now. In seven days I'll be on a plane to Honduras and then on my way to the jungle in Guatemala. It's a strange feeling. Mostly because while it's my first journey of this sort and required some stepping out in faith, there's also the understanding that this really isn't the most arduous or formidable form of mission work. While I am so grateful to have the opportunity to serve the people in Guatemala for this short while and receive a slap of reality in how our southern neighbors live, I find myself pondering how I can take what I learn in Guatemala and make a difference in my every day life. In other words, I don't want to leave what I learn and experience in Guatemala for the next short-term foreign mission trip.

More than anything, what is most real to me right now is the conviction in my heart that I need to make some serious changes in the way I live my life. I suspect that the next three weeks will reinforce that conviction in a way I can't yet fathom.