Serving with Lipscomb Missions in Guatemala was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my college career.
I always expected service and missions work to be physically challenging or difficult, but I was unaware of the incredible experiences that happen working far outside your comfort zone with an incredible team of individuals.
The images below were shot on film during our spring break missions trip in Guatemala.
Saturday, March 10, 2018.
We were already on a bus by 2:31 a.m. this morning. Each member of our team took a pre-packed bag of medical supplies to check and took what we needed for our week abroad in our carry-ons.
The first image of our group leaders was taken during our first layover in the airport at about 10 a.m. We didn’t end up in Guatemala until after 3 p.m. that day.
Our group split into two groups, one of nursing students who went to Clinica Ezell, and one group who went to the mountains in Chichicastenango to work in mobile clinics in rural Guatemala. I was in the Chichicastenango group, so we had an additional multiple-hour bus ride up the mountains. Upon arrival, we enjoyed our first group devotional with the local mission team, and then we went to sleep.
Sunday, March 11, 2018.
We rode to church in the backs of pickup trucks today, where we got to worship and spend time with the locals. We played ninja with the children at church and got to eat pizza and socialize with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
That evening, we returned to our hotel and spent time in devotional and team bonding, and closed the evening with a lengthy card game of MAU.
Monday, March 12, 2018.
Breakfast time. We met as a team, ready to go, and we ate a hearty breakfast of pancakes, the best Guatemalan coffee and fruit.
Soon after, we were herded outside in our scrubs and split into two groups: one going to Clinica Caris and one to Clinica Pachote. I’m sorted into the Clinica Cares group and am informed I’ll be doing dental translation.
Upon arriving at the clinic, I find I’ll be working with Dr. Tim McConnell and Macy Glassco for the day. We ended up seeing about 15 different patients during the day, doing dental work like cleanings, extractions, and fillings.
Dr. McConnell only speaks English, and the dental assistant speaks only Spanish and Quiche, and often the patients only speak Quiche. Navigating a long game of telephone to relay a question from doctor to patient takes patience and practice, but by the end of day one we were running like a well-oiled machine.
That night, we had devotional together as a group again and discussed assignments for the next day.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018.
The parrots outside our window woke me up again. Our team again met in our scrubs for breakfast and headed out immediately after to our mobile clinic.
This day we weren’t at Caris again, but we traveled out further to set up a mobile clinic. After being loaded into vans, we arrived at the local site and set up all the dental equipment running off of generators in the back of the trucks we arrived in.
We saw many patients throughout the day, mostly children. I got to do my first dental cleaning and extract some teeth, along with dental translating throughout the day. Half of our team was next door, taking vitals and running some standard tests.
Since we got back early, we spent time by the pool team-building and playing more card games of MAU. That evening, we had devotional and walked through the beatitudes, discussing where we had seen them in each other or our patients during the day. It was beautiful to hear our team’s stories of their interactions and each other.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018.
We met again for breakfast at 7 and were back to Clinica Caris by 9 a.m. Today, we saw wisdom teeth patients, and one man broke my heart.
A man and his wife walked in with their infant daughter, who instantly attracted the attention of everyone in the room with her adorable pink hat. The instant the man walked in the door, he gave off terrified body language, his nervousness was palpable in the room. Immediately, I start speaking to him in Spanish in a soothing voice, letting him know who his doctor is, and trying to calm him down.
He maintains a posture of nervousness and refuses to look at me, but suddenly replies to me in flawless English, to the surprise of everyone in the room. At this point, Dr. McConnell walks over and introduces himself in English to the patient, to try to calm him further, and he’s still a nervous wreck and not looking at anyone. After we all start using English with him, he informs us he doesn’t understand it, he only speaks it, so we all laugh and go back to translating to Spanish.
We inform him we need to remove his wisdom teeth, and so we need to insert ramps into his mouth so he doesn’t bite down on us while we’re working on his teeth. 20 minutes later, we have his two bottom wisdom teeth out, and the dental assistant stands up to take a break and promptly passes out, so everyone pulls back from the patient and goes to help her.
As the clamor and rapid English overtakes the room, my instinct is for the patient. He’s up on the table and can’t see what’s happening (in addition to not understanding English), so he doesn’t know the clamor isn’t about him. Immediately I run over and rip off my gloves and place a hand on his shoulder and start talking to him, letting him know this is just an issue on our end, and it has nothing to do with him.
And the nervousness that’s overtaken him since the clamor began starts to subside. I explain that our dental assistant fainted, since she had locked her knees and not eaten breakfast, and I see the patient exhale and begin to calm.
Eventually, we were able to resume removing his teeth, and it only took a few moments to remove his top two teeth. We lowered the table, and prayed over him, and thanked him for coming in and let him know he could leave. The man stayed put. So we thanked him again, and let him know he could leave. He still stayed, not looking at us.
Mikaela, our dental assistant, returned with his wife and daughter, who came over and took him by the hands to lead him from the room. This is the moment when we realize he is blind.
Not only was this man brave enough to trust his medical care to foreigners he doesn’t know, doesn’t understand and doesn’t know their credentials, but he trusted his medical care to people he couldn’t even see. Suddenly, his nervousness makes sense. But he was silent, peaceful and strong.
The grace and strength in that man moved me more than I can even say.
After that patient, we took some time outside to breathe and rest before finishing up with the rest of the patients of that day. We saw several more patients, and that evening returned to our hotel and had our traditional nightly devotional and worship.
Thursday, March 15, 2018.
Once again, we’re up at 7 dressed and eating before going to Clinica Caris. We were loaded into trucks and got ready to see patients for their teeth and basic medical care.
Today was similar to Monday, following Dr. McConnell and translating for him, along with attempting to use the little bits of Quiche I’ve learned throughout the week, so we don’t have to rely on Mikaela as heavily for translation. When we weren’t in with patients, we were counting pills to be distributed by the clinic. We saw about 12 patients this day, and the gratitude and strength of these people never failed to impress us.
After clinic today, we got to go play soccer as a team. It was one of the most joy-filled moments of the trip, where everyone was free and childlike. It was beautiful.
We closed the night in devotional again, as we started packing and preparing to meet in Antigua on Friday.
Friday, March 16, 2018
Getting up at 5 a.m. suddenly makes getting up just before 7 a.m. seem like sleeping in. We’re up and on a bus to Antigua incredibly early in the morning with all of our luggage. In Antigua we get to meet the other half of our team again who have been at Clinica Ezell all week, and their stories are just as God-filled as the experiences we had in the mountains.
Friday was a free day for us to see Antigua and reconnect as a team, so we spent the day exploring the city, finding fresh fruit and coffee, and seeing ruins. We spent Friday relishing the team we built over the past several months and enjoying the close personal relationships this trip has fostered among us.
I couldn’t be more grateful for this team of people. They showed me genuine community, and what faith should genuinely look like. If you have the option to serve with Lipscomb Missions, do it. It has the possibility to create relationships you couldn’t have dreamt of.
Saturday, March 17, 2018.
Today is the day we go home. We’re all mourning having to separate, but we know this isn’t the end of our community. Over the next several months, we will continue to meet for dinners and trip meetings, enjoying the community we’ve spent time building.
The author shot the following images on film during the mission trip, and they can be viewed in conjunction with her story.