Going to Guatemala
Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. I Chronicles 16:24
This year I will be again going to Guatemala for a medical mission trip. Messiah has a long history of supporting this worthy cause. We will be serving in Antiqua, Guatemala with Faith in Practice (“FIP”). FIP is a non-profit, ecumenical Christian organization that seeks to improve the physical, spiritual and economic conditions of the poor in Guatemala through short term integrated surgical, medical, and dental mission trips and health related educational programs. Each year, more than 1,200 medical professionals and support personnel from across the United States and the world travel to Guatemala.
Going this year from Messiah, in February for either one or two weeks, are Pat Cooper (food prep and presentation), Eric Gilster (OBGYN), Jim Hazel (food preparation and presentation), and me (Chaplain).
Imagine a group of 30 Americans who work in healthcare and other fields, taking time oﬀ from work to do the same work as their day job, but in Guatemala. Nurses, dentist, surgeons, pharmacists, and so on, all drop what they are doing to go south for a week to help people in need. Many go at their own expense. It is a remarkable thing to witness.
A Day in the Life
This being my second year, I know now what will be expected of me. My morning starts at 5:00 a.m. with devotions. I lead the team in prayer and song. I am not a morning person, but as long as I get a cup of coﬀee in me, I’m good to go.
After devotions and breakfast, we go to perform the surgeries for the day. Everyone has a role. One important function I have is to pray with those who are about to go into surgery. With the aid of an interpreter, we hear the stories of people who are hurting. Moms, children, seniors, all come and wait to be seen. They are grateful to get the care they so desperately need.
As the day goes on, I meet with staﬀ, discuss what surgeries are coming up, and followup with those who have gone through surgery. The day is covered in prayer. As the week goes on, I get to know the American staﬀ, their hopes and struggles. My time with staﬀ is almost as important as the time with the patients. All in all, my role is much like that of Father Mulcahy in the television series in M*A*S*H. I quickly go from counselor to helper to dispenser of spiritual ideas within an hour. I enjoy this role, being part of a team and learning about the art of medicine.
Ten Facts about Guatemala
- Roughly the size of North Carolina
- Famous for its 33 volcanoes
- The most populated Central American country
- Blue denim comes from Guatemala!
- Some 5-10 people are killed by falling bullets at Christmastime, when people shoot skyward in celebration.
- Guatemala is ground zero for chocolate. The first chocolate bar was invented there during Mayan times.
- Guatemala has the second-highest concentration of ozone in the world, according to The Economist magazine’s The World in 2007.
- The native indigenous have a statue they worship called Mashimom, a little guy with a mustache dressed in a suit who wears hat. The locals give him cigars and alcohol so he will bless them.
- About 60% of the population does not know how to read or write.
- Instant coﬀee was invented by a Guatemalan.
- The majority of the Guatemalan population lives in extreme poverty and has virtually no access to medical care.
The Guatemalan Connection
Over the years, FIP has developed a deep respect for the medical, clergy, and administrative Guatemalan staff as they seek to meet the needs of the poor. We are honored to join them in this mission. Each year, nearly 900 Guatemalan volunteers work beside FIP volunteers in this endeavor. FIP Practice teams see more than 25,000 patients annually. FIP volunteers serve through a variety of teams that are connected, providing a continuity of care in the context of short-term medical mission.
How you can help
Perhaps you can’t go to Guatemala, but you want to help. Please pray for us. A blog will be kept of the events of the day, a link will be provided in the Messiah Minute. Although some supplies are donated, each medical mission trip costs about $30,000. If you would like to contribute toward supplies, Faith in Practice is a 501(c)(3) organization, and contributions are deductible for tax purposes. Faith in Practice has been rated a Four Star Charity by Charity Navigator. All contributions go to the mission.
If you would like to donate to this cause, there will be an informational seminar when our Messiah Lutheran missionaries return. Thank-you for sending me on this mission trip. It is inspiring to see God’s work in the world. I look forward to my return February 16 when I can share what Messiah is doing through this ministry.
Pastor Jason Talsness