Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Down to the River

Last week we were invited to a baptism of three people in the Mactzul IV church.  This congregation is new and was established by some members of the church from Mactzul V.  They continue to impress us with their zeal to grow. They would have started with less than 20 people and probably have close to 40 now after 2 years. Some members of this church brought a patient in last February with some serious health issues.  They were concerned for him both physically and spiritually.  Over the following months we were able to get him referred for treatment and the church continued ministering to him and last week he deciding to commit his life to following Christ.  They also had two young folks come forward to identify themselves as followers of Jesus.  It was a great day to see these news brothers and sister start their lives anew!

What a beautiful place to be baptized!  About 1 hour and 15 minutes from Chichi back in the hills, but a small warm water spring.

 3 people for a baptism - Tomas, Josefina and Tomas.  Bigger Tomas looks 
like a whole different person than when he came to clinic.
 Members of the church from Mactzul IV
 Praying before the baptism which was officialed by members from the Mactzul VII church

 Raised into new life!

Bonus - This is a previous ABC student, who had to leave the program to help support the family.  He is now 18 years old, baptized and leading singing in the church.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

All Saints' Day--Everyone's Invited!

Traditional giant kites from Sacatepequez, Guatemala to celebrate All Saints' Day (Photo Credit: Prensa Libre)

It's  a major holiday around here--Day of the Dead or All Saints' Day--and we are enjoying being at home catching up after month-long trip to the States.  We were more than blessed to be able to visit friends from our supporting congregations at Eastside Church of Christ in Colorado Springs and Meadowbrook Church of Christ in Jackson, MS.  Every time we go back to visit we are a little afraid that we will no longer fit in or not know anyone, but we are always made to feel like celebrities and family by these two churches.  We were loved on, fed like royalty and spent hours just talking and catching up. In our travels around the States we also got to rest and see family in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas and even friends from my (Lisa's) high school days. We have come back renewed and more driven to do the work here in Guatemala.

Being separated from friends and family like we are makes traveling to see everyone so exciting for us.  It reminds me a lot of this holiday that is celebrated here in Guatemala and in other Latin American countries where people have traditions of reuniting with family that have preceded them in death.  The celebrations involve preparing favorite foods to enjoy together, kite making to guide the spirit of the deceased back to the family home for a short visit and a belief held by many that the spirits and the living get to come back together, if just for a day. Although there are many pagan and questionable spiritual overtones to this holiday, it is easy to see that we all have a desire to be with loved ones both living and dead and it reminds us that God also wants us to be reunited with him and enjoy endless time of fellowship.  I wonder what kind of foods God will serve at the Feast of the Lamb?

Traditional foods enjoyed in the harvest season and during the All Saints' Day celebrations. (Photo credit: Prensa Libre)

Friday, September 16, 2016

Life Lately

Work around here has been nice and busy with the clinics full and churches active. Some of our clinics have grown to the point of the churches asking for another clinic day in the monthly rotation.

Photo taken in 2008 while Gaspar and Juan met with Sebastian from Chutzorop.  They are ready to expand to every 15 days when they finish the new building.

Clinica Caris in Lemoa / Sepela continues to grow and we are seeing up to 40 patients or more on some days.

We are thrilled to be that busy, but we are facing some changes next year when we lose Dr. Sara Castellanos when she and Mario move their family to Mexico.  Needless to say, we are sad to lose Sara and Mario and anxious to see how things work out as we look for someone new to join our team. We have two great scholarship students in medical school, but they are still 3 years away from being able to work with us.  Please be in prayer with us about this, that we will find someone with a love for God and for people.

Mario and Sara and their daughter Sara Alejandra - they will be missed

As we rolled into September, we could feel the excitement build as the 15th or Independence Day grew closer.  We live among a people who love a good party and a parade is even better, as it is just one big street party making it's way through town!  Traditionally and officially, the 15th is the holiday, but we have noticed that the 13th and 14th might as well be too, as the numerous schools in the areas have to all have their part.  Not only do we have parades, but also Antorchas or torch team running to commemorate the announcement of independence throughout the countryside.  Some of these start hundreds of kilometers away with buses and trucks riding behind them announcing their origin and destination.  Crazy road travel these days!

Still have crazy bus drivers!

Today, is the 15th of September and we are enjoying a day at home, catching up on things and listening to fireworks and festivities around town.  We walked up to town early this morning and took advantage of the good market selection of veggies and wandered around town to look at the parade preparations and section of market that burned down this week.  Before we could get too far, we started getting rained on, so we took off back home--in the rain!  All the tuc-tuc taxis were full of families heading to the parade.  

See Sheri's blog for pictures of parades at http://sheriinguate.blogspot.com

Friday, August 19, 2016

Enjoying Good Company

We had a great couple of weeks of visiting with family and friends here on the mission field.  Our first team was from the Church of Christ in Hennessey, Oklahoma and included my sister Anna and her husband Charlie and niece Allie. What a great group of Okies!  They did some clinical work, some veterinary consult visits and planted around 3000 vetiver grass plants.

We both lack the ability to smile and keep our eye open!

Kemmel escaped the picture!

Sheri with Emma who is a recently graduated pharmacist and helped run pharmacy here and even went on some cattle visits during the week.

The following week we hosted Dr. Quinton and Ann Dickerson and their granddaughter Sarah for a quick visit and cardiology consult for scheduled patients.  Dr. Dickerson is a board member for Health Talents and came to spend time with our staff.

Each week started off with worship with our church family in Chijtinimit.  We had some baptisms while the Hennessey group was here and visited the church with Quinton, Ann and Sara.

 Cristina getting baptized

Chijtinimit Church Family

Clinic - Sorry no pics!
Clinics with our Hennessey were our regularly scheduled medical and dental consults with some added in ABC kid checkups. We were honored to have my sister Anna working dental clinic, and Sandy (Anna's mother-in-law) and Jayme and Vanessa in assistant mode.  Emma jumped into pharmacy to show off her new pharmacy degree!  Great work guys and thanks for all the pill counting as well!

Erosion control project
Our brother-in-law Charlie headed up the team of Allie, Addie and Hudson to plant 3000 vetitver plants around several test communities with high risk areas for land slides and erosion. Several of our coworkers and church members from different communities that have offered to let us use parts of their land to grow and later propagate vetiver grass for soil erosion control projects. We need these test plots to be able to show other people the benefits of the grass and to also be able to divide off the plants when they are big enough to share with others.  So we put this team to work and they did a great job.
 Difficult to see but this is looking down the hill from Tomas's house where the lost about 15-20 meters of dirt a few years back with the rains.  Hopefully we will just have normal rains for a year or 2 to get this part set up.
 Did not get pics of the group, but you can see how dirty Tomas is which means the groups was dirtier.  :)  Too much squating!
 At the Mactzul V church where they was a landfill prior to the building of the church.  Planted grass to help the ridge.  Probably planted 100-200 plants around this area.

This is below the latrine at the Chijtinimit church.  Do not want this one to break open with a mud slide!

Veterinary Consults - sorry no pics but quite the adventure especially watching Sandy and Ed grab those animals!
This always fascinates us and the Guatemalan families!  Dr. Ed and Sandy were real troopers and tirelessly went out to see livestock and answer questions and vaccinate.  Kemmel and one of our health promotors, Enrique spent the week with them soaking up info and learning how to wrangle sheep and cattle!

Cardiology Clinic - always great having Quinton and Ann around!
Dra. Sara and Sheri and I have been collecting patients with heart murmurs and questionable cardiac histories.  Since there are no local services for cardiology consults and patients have to travel to Guatemala City 3-4 hrs. away and pay about a week's salary for an echocardiogram, we try not refer patients unless they are truly symptomatic.  So we were so excited to be able to have Dr. Dickerson and local missionary Sally York (a real live echocardiogram tech) with us to evaluate our patients.  We not only saved several patients from unnecessary travel and cost, we confirmed that two patients would need further workup.  Also, we got to practice our cardiac exam with a cardiologist pointing out what he heard and helping us pick up subtle sounds. It was a great day and we are so grateful for the time that the Dickersons and Sally gave us.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New Medical and Dental Clinic in Town of Chajbal

Today we started a new clinic in the Church of Christ of Chajbal, Quiche.  Chajbal is located just north of Santa Cruz del Quiche on the highway and this church is a church plant from the Zone 4 Church of Christ in Santa Cruz del Quiche.  The church here opened within the last 5 years, but may have been meeting in a home for some time before that.  We came here for clinic the first time about 12 years ago when we were on a scouting trip with the HTI Board and Dr. Feliciano Lux.  During that time we only had clinic in the home of one of the local brethren.

We have wanted to try a clinic ministry here for quite some time and received a phone call from one of the elders about 4 months ago that they would be interested in starting a clinic in Chajbal.  They had not in the past as there were some other services being offered through another church and they did not want to be in competition.  Apparently these other services have stopped which provided an opportunity for the church to offer services to their community  We were not ready to start at the time, but since we have stayed in communication and met last month to set the date and here we are.  So far so good and there appears to be good interest in the clinic.  They had requested a once a month clinic which is pretty standard in this area.  If it works out and the need and want exists we pray that we can make this twice a month or even weekly as it would be a good location and central to a few larger communities including Santa Lucia La Reforma which is on the border of Quiche and Totonicapan.

Please join us in praying for this community, future patients and future people interested in hearing the gospel.  This clinic will be a primary clinic for Sheri and for Andrea and Lisa will fill in as needed when Sheri has other activities scheduled.

 Apparently no one wanted to stand to close to each other!

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Action Bible Story Books

Recently we had some Action Bible Story books donated via a christian organization here in Guatemala.  We met with different churches to ask about the interest in using them for Bible Classes and most everyone was pretty interested.  So we created a small list of guidelines on how they should be used and asked all the churches to agree to use them in the same way.  Over the last 2 months we have distributed close to 800 of these story books to about 15 different churches here in the highlands, most with an ABC program and a couple that are not in ABC yet.  These story books will be used in Bible classes, reading assignments, dramas, etc.  Many of these classes are now taught by previous or current ABC students and/or scholarship students.  Please help us pray that this will be a successful program and will provide enthusiasm in the church to learn more about the life of Jesus.

Part of the program is that each church must submit a report and also photos on the program demonstrating progress.  We are currently entering the reporting period and hope to have more to share later.

Here are some photos from one of the congregations, Paxot II.

This is the picture with the Bible class teachers Tomas (white shirt - ABC 10th grade), Manuel (hidden in the back - ABC University) and Tomasa (back right - ABC 11th grade).

Another picture with teachers Hector (sitting in front - ABC 9th grade) and Heidi (ABC graduate).

In another news, this month we hope to start our first book box distributions to 4 churches.  This is another effort to improve the reading and language of children in ABC communities.  Each church will receive around 50 books with different selections for the age groups represented in their church.  This our answer to a book mobile since we cannot afford another truck (and we do not want another truck).  Each church will keep the book box for 4 months and then we will pass one to another church.

Thank you for your continued support and thanks to all of you who have helped donate books to the book box program.  Please keep sending books!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Rural Medicine

We had a clinic full of interesting cases yesterday including psoriasis, chest pain--sent in to the hospital to rule out an infarct, cervical cancer--the patient hadn't gone for her consult in the hospital yet after getting diagnosed 4 months ago, thyroid cancer ( a large thyroid mass and multiple large lymph nodes on the ultrasound, probable chronic lymphoma, and a baby with imperforated anus and colostomy needing money for her family to take her back for her follow-up in the capital.  It seemed like just when you had a "normal" sick patient, they would throw a curve ball at us.  They students have been busy helping in clinic and getting to experience the bread and butter cases and also the interesting stuff.  Part of studying/practicing medicine is realizing that common things are common (and boring) and recognizing the out of the ordinary stuff as it gallops by.  Yesterday we got our fill of interesting!
Favorite stand by task - Counting pills!  
Probably not really, but someone has to do it!
Also, planted some bougainvillea today at the clinic...

Today, our clinic was canceled in Mactzul I due to an inauguration ceremony for the new junior high school that was just built next to our clinic site. It is in it's second year of classes and we are hoping more area kids will take advantage of the opportunity.  Prior to it's opening, kids from these towns had very few options for continuing past 6th grade.  The local Catholic parish and a Catholic foundation provided funding for the building and teachers for 3 years and the eight Mactzul communities contributed the labor.  It was a full-scale celebration (the major even showed up) with worship service, fireworks, civic presentations, traditional dancing and recognition of people involved in the project, including Health Talents for helping to promote the school in the communities.  There are several local area church of Christ members on the school board and they were instrumental in helping unify the communities to work together in this project.  It was an honor to be a part of this celebration and see the fruit of work from so many churches and organizations and government representatives.  I think Jesus was enjoying it.

Church band - loud and full of life!  Head still shaking after it finished!

Very well attended Inaugaration - Maybe upwards of 700 people.

 Students from Middle School performing traditional dance.

Everyone was quite interested in the dance. 

 Included the fireworks!
Jonathan, Ethan, and Jessica taking it all in. 

 One of the representatives from the organization who financed the building.  We have known him for about 5 years now.  Very respectful towards the communities and helping them work in unity.

 Kemmel receiving a token of appreciation in the name of Health Talents.

 Priest from the Catholic Church who had the vision and started getting 
the communities together to work in unison.  

 One of the ABC program girls name queen of the school.
 Another named the queen of sports for the school.

Good day - tired at the end but good day.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Life Lately

We have passed the one month mark with the students and life is settling into a routine of sorts.  Our interns are seeming to feel more comfortable with their host families and getting sick is no longer the unexpected outrage that it felt like in the beginning.  We have kept them busy in outpatient consults, dental visits, surgery, church events, English classes and family activities.  Ethan even reports spending the night with 100+ other people at a wedding engagement ceremony on Sunday night. They got to sit around and do the pre-wedding counseling and gift delivery arrangements and then spent the night on pine needles.  Jessica and Miranda were dressed up in local garb for church, and Brittne was invited to use the sweat house one night.  Johnathan and Mackenzie are busy learning Kiche' and hanging in there with no more illnesses for which they are grateful!

On Monday we had Gringo Day part two which was a rainy, gray day filled with sitting around talking, listening to 80's music Safety Dance  (their playlist, not ours) and trying to watch movies.
 We got through half of Avatar and realized we didn't have the rest downloaded, then after much discussion and coin flipping settled on the Count of Monte Cristo, which had subpar sound.  Our cookies were kind of a flop as well.  Welcome to Guatemala!  All in all it was a good restful day.

 Lounging around...
 Enjoying some red chile burritos and macaroni salad!

Coin toss to see what movie wins...Count of Monte Cristo, 
followed by Emperors New Groove. 

On Sunday, Kemmel and I went to church in Pacaja Xesic, where Kemmel was invited to give a class to the youth group. It was a great turnout and Kemmel talked about actively following Christ by going out and being involved in people's lives as Jesus did, rather than sitting back waiting for them to come to us. By taking chances and trusting Christ will be with us as he promised, we will be more successful in making disciples for Him. It was a great class, and we enjoyed worshiping with this church.