Thursday, October 7, 2021

Something New

Although we have had many changes to the work we do here in Guatemala, we can't say that its been all bad. Here's an update of our goings on.

Surgery Teams

We have agonized over not being able to have surgical teams and are working diligently to get our hospital licensing where it needs to be to go forward. The pace is terribly slow, but we see progress and are trusting God to lead us in this. There are updates and new construction and new requirements and newly enforced details that have made things difficult for us. We hope to be able to get through these hoops and start bringing our surgical teams back to work with us!

Mobile Medical and Dental Teams

ABC kids from the Chijtinimit church.

Because of continued high numbers of Covid cases in the country, we have limited our U.S. teams to maintenance crews and dental care for our ABC sponsorship kids. This allows us to schedule patients in the communities and limit the number of people hanging out together before and after appointments. It has gone well, and we have been able to attend the majority of our ABC kids focusing on restorative care (fillings, sealants) and preventive work, rather than just extracting teeth. We feel blessed to have been able to attend so many of the kids already. 

Making progress on the dental front!

Our maintenance team came from our home congregation of Eastside Church of Christ and really knocked out some hospital honey-do's! One of the industrial security requirements for our hospital license involves placement of smoke alarms, emergency lighting, large fire extinguishers and safety signage. 

Emergency lighting and smoke alarms--30 each around the hospital.

One of the 300 "What to do and not do" signs.

One of the 30 fire extinguishers mounted.

Having small teams also gave us a chance to test run the Covid protocols that we have in place for visitors. One of the things that gives us pause is what to do with a team member that tests positive (or gets sick) during their stay here--causing them to have to stay and isolate and retest negative a before being allowed to board a plane back to the U.S.A. We have had one team member in this situation and thankfully, other than having to stay over longer, not being able to check into a hotel or Airbnb in Guatemala City, and the cost of double checking his Covid test and retesting at the end of his isolation, he didn't have any significant complications. This allowed us to re-evaluate our protocols and prepare for future incidents.

Outpatient clinics

Some of our staff visiting our sister Antonia as she mourned the death of both of her parents.

Our Guatemalan staff continue to work full time in our primary care clinics in the Highlands and the Coastal area. We have our central clinics Ezell and Caris open daily and have been able to incorporate several communities into our mobile clinic rounds. 

Mobile clinic team in Chuchipaca.

Patients are grateful and see the importance of prompt care and careful management of chronic disease to avoid complications and preventable hospitalizations when hospital space is at a premium around the country. They appreciate the prayer time in their times of grief and loss and the encouragement from staff and evangelists to keep on keeping on.
Women's Health Training seminar with Faith in Practice.

We even hosted a Women's Health Training week at Clinica Ezell for our doctors and nurses, providing free cervical cancer screening to over 250 women in the immediate area. The conference and was led by our friends at Faith in Practice--Dra. Patty Baiza and Dr. Jorge Mendez. They allowed us to pick their brains and review the principles of cervical cancer and precancerous lesion detection. It was a great blessing to our staff and patients. 

Covid--The Collateral Damage

A familiar sight around here lately--funeral procession.

We continue to have very high numbers of cases and hospitalizations, causing our national hospitals to collapse. We have so many patients waiting to have elective surgery, and the national hospitals will not take non-emergent cases. We get calls from cancer or trauma patients needing additional services but can't get admitted or transferred to higher level centers due to lack of bed space. It is getting hard to purchase common medications due to importation issues, supply/demand, price increases. 

ABC kids from the Las Trampas church.

Kids have been doing virtual schooling the entire time. Most of our rural kids have very little access to internet, so homework lessons are assigned once a week or via messaging, and parents take the work up to school for grading. There will be no senior level testing to close out their high school education and no graduations allowed. Just endless holding...and worrying about the future.

Something New

It's really hard to see the good that can come of difficult situations, trials, and persecutions.
When we are in the moment all we can comprehend is the crisis, the pain and potential consequences to come. We are all living in difficult times right now, be it the pandemic, job insecurity, economic downturn, intercultural strife, political turmoil, struggling marriages, health crises, etc. What good could possibly come from the trials we have, the failures and delays and disappointments?

If we look at Isaiah 43, God works in all of these situations. He makes a way in impossible situations; he sees solutions that we can't fathom; he uses our weaknesses and failures and enemies to achieve his good end. This year has been hard because of continued limitations from the pandemic, the changes in governmental regulations and constant illness and death around us, but God in in it with us. He sees what we don't see and has plans for our future. Let's trust him and be ready to join in.

6I am the one who cut a path

through the mighty ocean.

17I sent an army to chase you

with chariots and horses;

now they lie dead,

unable to move.

They are like an oil lamp

with the flame snuffed out.

The LORD said:

18Forget what happened long ago!

Don't think about the past.

19I am creating something new.

There it is! Do you see it?

I have put roads in deserts,

streams in thirsty lands.

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Dusting Off

Our poor blog has been in abandonment for a couple of months. Not that we aren't busy, but rather it's hard to report on the things that seem routine to us. This week we threw some excitement into the mix!

For the first time since the pandemic started, we hosted a U.S. team. We had a small mobile dental team come to the Quiche area to help us address some of the needs of our ABC sponsorship kids. 

The dream team!

We set up in the Paxot II church all week and had surrounding churches/families bring in their kids by appointment to avoid crowding. We were able to attend 71 kids from 3 churches, offering long overdue fillings, sealants and cleanings. This was in addition  to the regular dental patients that we were able to continue serving because of the help of the team. 

Dra. Silvia Albizures joined us, covering Dra. Aura's normal clinic to free her up to go mobile. 

Holly working hard on dental hygiene. And some interesting spectators!

Julie helping Dra. Aura. 

Glamorous personal protection equipment. Bode felt left out!  

Gary helping Dr. Mark.

Not-too-bad attempt at social distancing.

Waiting room fun

Thankfully our team's pre-travel Covid tests were negative and they made it back without glitches. We hope to continue to bring in medical and dental teams to help with the work here!

Our Covid numbers here in Guatemala are still sky high. But the number of  percent of  tests positive has started coming back down (we reached about 31% positive and are down to 23% now). Unfortunately, the already stressed hospitals are just now getting hit from that peak (Imagine full wards and ICUs and newly admitted patients lined up in chairs in  hallways connected to oxygen tanks, waiting for a bed. Imagine all ventilators occupied and staff ventilating intubated patients by hand until a machine opens up. Imagine a national shortage of sedatives so intubated patients are awake on the ventilators. So keep praying for the overworked and under-supplied medical teams working in the hospitals and the patients who are struggling. 

    "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. Isaiah 43:18-19

Monday, May 24, 2021

Roll the Stone Away

Although we are not currently hosting medical or surgical teams, we are busy upgrading our facilities in preparation for future work. Our surgical facility is in need of a waste water treatment plant in order to comply with environmental law. So our latest struggle has been against red tape and big rocks. The rocks keep showing up as the workers dig the space for the treatment plant. Thankfully there are people whose livelihood is breaking up big rocks--some with dynamite and others with chisels!  We pray that the work crew will be able to work fast as rainy season has started and will intensify. On Saturday we had a surprise scheduling of our first environmental license inspection. Kemmel texted "We got a score of 100%! So poco a poco--we are grateful to God for the progress.

Alfredo, Kemmel and Jorge down at the end pumping out the water that accumulated over night. These are the "smaller" pieces of rock after the dynamite crew got after them.

Our clinics continue to be full at Caris and Ezell and we have even been able to host a few wheelchair distribution clinics with Faith in Practice. We love being a part of such a good work, helping families improve the mobility options for themselves and their loved ones. It always amazes us how much people have endured before coming.

This kiddo is getting a new chair that will help improve his posture.

In our community work we are able to do small group check ups on our ABC families, doing well-child checkups, fixing water filter issues and consoling families during hard times. One of our ABC families suffered a house fire and lost all of their clothes and most household items. Several churches and area Christians have helped raise funds to replace their things and help rebuild. 

Thankfully everyone was safely evacuated.

Another family from church had a baby born at 30 weeks gestation and spent 40 days in the hospital-no family was permitted to visit during that time. At one point they called the family to say there was nothing else they could do and were just waiting to the baby to die. But he survived and after fattening up to 4 lbs. they let him go home. Praise God for his mercy!

This baby is getting fat after two weeks at home and breast feeding like a champ!

 When we are faced with difficult struggles, when our patients are confronted with complicated medical issues, and when we hear about heartbreaking real life problems of our neighbors, let encourage one another to put our trust in God and remember that our Lord has strength to do things we think are impossible.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Recent Happenings

Medical and Dental 

Our clinical work here in Guatemala is still limited to outpatient consults this year. The restrictions locally due to Covid infection rates, hospital saturation and the government requirements for our facility licensing are putting a damper on our surgical groups. Though we are not hosting U.S. teams yet,  we are still offering primary care services daily at our central clinics and are starting to be invited out into the communities for mobile medical clinics. Our mobile work is restricted to sites that have enough space for patients to wait well-distanced and outside. And dental care is limited to our central clinics. We are hoping the vaccine availability here will improve and that we can start getting high risk patients vaccinated soon. 

 Our fans in the communities haven't forgotten us!

Darling and I working at Nahualate. Yes, it's hot with all this gear on!

Recently we were invited to work with the local health department at a nearby health post that doesn't have the staffing to prescribe medications. We are allowed to set up next door in the community center and charge for our consults and prescribe any of their meds from the health post or anything else we might have. The community leaders are very supportive and have been sending a representative to hang out with us. One of our nurses, Darling Ayerdis (licensed in Nicaragua) set up the arrangement as part of her social service year to get her full Guatemalan nursing license. So far things have gone well, and we hope to cultivate this relationship with the local health authorities while sharing Jesus with this town.

ABC Families

ABC kids from Chijtinimit--they are all grown up!

Kids are still restricted to "homeschooling" with homework assignments sent via text message or video chats. Families are frustrated for their older kids who are paying tuition for this kind of learning and hoping they are getting their money's worth. Sadly, we are hearing about more young people packing up and taking off to the States to find work, "because the recent changes have opened up opportunities." It is hard to to be supportive of these decisions and we pray that God will keep them safe and bring them home soon. 

Church Life

Baptisms and new church plant in Xatinap!

Despite the mandates on masking and distancing and room capacities, the churches are allowed to meet and most have started meeting regularly again, which is important spiritually and emotionally for people. We understand the public health concern of having large groups gather in tight spaces, but also see the need for fellowship and community. So many patients that are coming to us are struggling with loss of work, indebtedness, anxiety, illnesses needing specialized attention, worrying about family members who have headed to the States. Our evangelists and church partners are making efforts to be present during times of need and offering prayer, visiting and sharing the message of  Christ's regenerating Spirit. 

New life, new start!

Future Plans

We are busy readying our surgical facility at Clinica Ezell with updates and upgrades as we wait out the red tape of licensure renewal.  Please keep praying for progress, especially as Kemmel works with engineers and lawyers and other consultants guiding us through the process. We are grateful to all of our supporters for the generosity and continued interest in this ministry. Every week we meet patients who comment on the exceptional care they have received and their recognition of God's presence here.  We pray that  we will soon be working full steam and able to incorporate our U.S. team members in this mission work. If you would like to continue supporting the ministry, you are invited to join our Cross Walk Campaign.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Short-term Missions Opportunities During a Pandemic

Many of the supporters of Health Talents International are part of our visiting Medical/Dental/Surgical teams, sometimes coming every year. Since March of 2020 we've been unable to host any teams, and do not plan to have any scheduled until after the midyear of 2021. As you can imagine, there's a lot of restless passports out there!
So what are some ways to get involved for now? Here are some ideas to keep you busy and active with your favorite mission organization until travel opens up more.

This is an obvious but sometimes forgotten tool in mission work. Everything we do is done with the goal sharing the Good News of Jesus' transforming love for us and of growing the Kingdom of God.
  • Pray for our Leadership, our Staff that minister directly to patients and our partner Churches, that we would keep these goals in mind as we work and follow the leading of the Spirit.
  • Pray for our organization as we work to comply with local governmental regulations and changes to our labor environment.
  • Pray for us to be able to host teams again this year, especially much-needed surgical teams.
  • Pray for our patients waiting for surgery!
  • Pray for Guatemala's fight against Covid-19.
Tell a Friend or Colleague
  • If you have been on a trip with us and enjoyed the work, tell someone else about it (Click here for brochures). Or send them our link to sign up for a trip in the future. 

Organize a Fundraising Event
  • For our extroverted, fun-loving friends we challenge you to organize a fundraising event. Maybe a FUN RUN or BAKE SALE or CAR WASH or DINNER. The sky is the limit and your personal experience with Health Talents is what piques people's interest.  Contact us!

  • If you had planned on coming down this year, consider giving those funds directly to be used toward one of the following areas:
  • ABC Sponsorship-- If you already support a child, thank you! Tell others about it too. We can provide you with brochures to distribute at church or to friends. 
  • Scholarship programs--This is a great way to give a one-time gift or find out more about regular giving toward the academic needs of our area children. 
  • Evangelism Activities like transportation costs for home visits, Bibles and study material, seminars. 
  • Operational Expenses--this is a big part of our need. Salaries for full-time staff salaries, medications, surgical supplies, medical and surgical equipment, clinic/facility maintenance, transportation costs.
  • Fundraising Campaigns--Health Talents has periodic campaigns to raise funds for the work. When you see our promotions on social media please prayerfully consider giving.
  • Gather medical supplies--this is a fun way to get your community involved in the mission work. 
Donate Blood
Okay, so you can't donate for our patients right now, but since it's been a year since you were out of the country, you might as well go donate blood or plasma again, right, Debra?

Monday, February 1, 2021

Pandemic Academics

They were happy and didn't know it!

Just as in the United States and probably most countries, schools in Guatemala have taken a hit and have struggled to get back up and running full steam.  Public schools were closed and did not have the ability to reach most of their students by internet. So, lessons were given in work book form to do at home and turn in each week, Of course it wasn't ideal, but we made it through the year and most kids passed, as long as they turned in their lessons. 
This year there are plans to bring students back to class at least partially, so be praying for that.

Homeschooling! A new challenge for students and their parents!

Our high school kids did mostly online classes (at home or internet cafĂ©), so several of them were able to graduate. Same for college and professional students. The down side for our health professional students like medical/dental/nursing is they were unable to do their clinicals, so they are stuck in that phase until the Ministry of Health allows them to start up again. 

For all of you who sponsor ABC kids or contribute to the scholarships, we are grateful for your faithful giving. Economic times are difficult here for most families, and with the added cost of internet and uncertainty of whether students will have a successful year, many families are tempted to pull their kids out of school. So the food supplements and school expense help is vital. Everything we can do to keep kids in school and not wanting to migrate to the States is a win. Thank you! 

Felicidades to one of our high school graduates Claudia!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

What's Happening?

Happy New Year! Our staff at Clinica Caris and Clinica Ezell have been back at work for a couple of weeks now, taking care of sick patients and visiting patients and families in their homes on follow up. Churches are meeting again and active for now, which is encouraging.

Open-air clinics!

Clinical duties may include breaking into a clinic storeroom with a white board fallen against the door.

Baptism celebration to kick off the new year.

Everything seems to be up and running except for our U.S. medical/dental/surgical teams. We have put a plan into effect on when to bring teams in, and the Government has added some hoops to jump through, so we keep working on those. So far we don't know of any mission organizations bringing in U.S. surgical teams either. We've had patients on the  waiting list since last March, and when we try to refer them to other services we get the same disappointing news.  The National Hospitals are FULL of Covid patients and not attending elective cases nor outpatient clinics. The private hospitals and surgeons are working quite a bit, but the prices are too high for many of our patients.

Hoping for some surgical teams soon.

So for the mean time, we pray and work and look forward to sharing this beautiful country of hospitable people and warm weather with you soon! Thank you to those who continue to offer financial and prayer support for this ministry. We and our patients and area churches are so grateful!

We hope to say, "Bienvenido a Guatemala" soon!

New Christians from Antigua Xepocol