It was good to be home, reunited with my husband and back in my own bed last night after having such a long day of traveling back to Minnesota. Thanks to Doug Peterson and Don Linder for meeting us at the airport last night to drive most of our team back to southern Minnesota. It was good to sleep soundly without the call of an early morning rooster or the barking of all the neighborhood dogs!!! However, I did miss the smell of the wood stoves early in the morning, the early morning walk down by the lake with Jim, Katy and Sara, the sound of the motors grinding corn for tortillas and the other sights and sounds of the city of San Lucas during the morning hours. I missed the morning prayers and devotions we had together as a team on the roof of the hotel surrounded by early morning clouds, the nearby volcanoes and the beautiful sights of the nearby Lake Atilan. There was no fresh coffee aroma coming from my kitchen, and no breakfast waiting to be consumed like it was at the mission. There were no ladies outside on the street trying to sell me their goods, and no cobble stone path to walk on. There was no one to ride to work with today- an old pickup truck filled with our team members, volunteers and suitcases full of medications for the day in Guatemala was replaced with a lonely car ride to work. A desk full of papers and a staff eager for my return to work here in Minnesota replaced the primitive clinics and grateful people who had awaited our arrival into the village clinics in Guatemala. I actually missed having a cheese or peanut butter sandwich with warm bottle of soda for lunch. I missed the ride in the back of an older pickup truck on the way home from clinic with a group of amazing people surrounded by the beautiful tropical countryside of Guatemala. Instead, I rode home alone thinking 45 degree weather is cold; the earth looks so black after a fall harvest and the day somewhat dreary with no sunshine. I missed the warm smiles of the people of Guatemala, the grateful blessings of a patient we served, the playful interactions of the little children and the humble house calls we attended.
To the 2011 MDP November team: may I say our trip was a job well done and I appreciate the sacrifices you made to be part of this team. I appreciate your talents, your hard work and your love and compassion for what you have done these past days for the people in Guatemala!
For all of our families and friends: we appreciate all of your support and prayers before and during our mission. Know that all of you were in our daily prayers as well.
As Mother Teresa said “Kindness is a language we all understand. Even the blind can see it and the deaf can hear it. In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love. Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand” God Bless all of you, as he has blessed me with your presence this past nine days. Keep in touch!
On Monday evening, November 7th, our MDP November 2011 team safely arrived back in Minnesota. Where did the time go? During our short stay, our team served nearly 300 people in the San Lucas area.
On Sunday morning after Mass followed with our last breakfast at the mission, we headed by van to Antigua for an afternoon of shopping and sight-seeing. The town was quite busy, as this was the election day of the Presidential race in Guatemala. With the help of Carol and Terri, I was able to meet up with my Guatemala Spanish teacher Ana. She spent the afternoon with us. Later that night, the team had supper together for the last time as we reminisced over our week and talked about our upcoming transition back to our lives in Minnesota.
Upon our arrival into Minnesota, we were all well and in excellent spirits! Our group became a very close cohesive group- united in spirit, with a common purpose, and definitely “Moved to Serve”! We have grown closer together by our experiences, our work, our love for the people of Guatemala and the good times we have spent together. Old friendships have been reunited, and new friendships established. We have grown spiritually and have developed a deeper understanding of what it means to be called to serve the poor and the sick.
You are all very special people. I feel honored and blessed to have been part of this team and to have worked by your side during the past eight days. It was an honor to co-lead this team with Bridget- you are very talented. Your love and compassion for the work you do is contagious! Dr. Jim and Dr. John- it was an honor to work with you and consult with you on our more difficult patients and situations. Your talents and patience are abundant and I thank you for sharing them with our team, the people of Guatemala and with me! Our nurses Katy, Sara and Colette have shown much compassion and love for the work they do. They were always willing to lend a hand wherever needed and of course, didn’t mind the benefit of holding those little babies!!! Our new “pharmacist” Chuck became exceptionally proficient in counting pills and organizing medications and labels. Even more important, he brought humor and entertainment to the children who waited so patiently, to the health promoters and especially to our team. Where would we be without a little humor in our life? Chuck and Carol (one of our interpreters) reminded us often that sometimes laughter really is the best medicine.
The interpreters Carol, Terri and Bridget worked very hard all week-both at clinic and all day long helping those of us with little or no Spanish speaking skills. I always felt you had the toughest job on this team because most days your jobs never ended. You were interpreting (working) nearly all day! Your patience and talents were greatly appreciated by everyone on this team!
As a team, your compassion and love for the people we served and the people of Guatemala was admirable. Again, it was an honor to have served with each of you. You are truly exceptional examples of faith in action!
Last night (Friday) after a supper of delicious carrot soup and cheesy fried guisquil we went back to the hotel for a presentation from the spoon guys. They are 8 guys who are very poor and for additional income carve wooden kitchen utensils . These are carved from wood that has fallen down. None of the wood is cut from trees for these utensils. About 20 percent of the proceeds go to help students with their studies and widows with no family to support them. Some of our group were able to watch a “real” basketball game at the town square. They were high school age kids who participate in these tournaments.
Today (Saturday) started as usual with morning devotions on the rooftop with the sun starting to peek over the mountain top. After breakfast we headed to Quixaya (kee-shy-ah) for a short, hot busy day of clinic. Our 40 patients presented with gastritis, parasites, scabies, and the usual respiratory problems. We saw many adorable children in clinic that enjoyed the comedy of Chuck and his amusing antics. Since this was our last day of clinic we took all the medicines to the bodega (parish pharmacy warehouse) for use throughout the year.
Tonight after a team debriefing and a sharing of stories that have touched our hearts, we will pack up and prepare to leave San Lucas in the morning after Mass and breakfast.
While most of us were at the bodega, Sara and Chuck were given the tour of the projects that the San Lucas Parish mission is involved in. They visited the hospital, the Women's Center, the coffee area, the gardens and the reforestation project. This is always a meaningful tour to be a part of.
Each day we are aware of the caring thoughts and prayers from our family and friends from home. We are truly blessed both by the people here and you at home who keep us in your thoughts and prayers,
-Colette, Carol, Sara, Nancy, Chuck
The past two days have certainly been challenging for the group, both physically and emotionally. We have had two very busy days in clinic. Yesterday we spent the day at San Jose-Nueva Vida. There are actually two villages, separated by a deep ravine. There is a very nice walking bridge across the ravine that connects the villages. Below the bridge were many houses as well. Our clinic started out slow in the morning, as very few people knew we were there. So Bridget and Nancy along with two of the young volunteers from the parish set out on foot to let the local people know we were in town to provide health care. The young men went one direction and Bridget ad Nancy the opposite direction. This was truly an example of “I had to walk up hill both ways” as the village itself had multiple small hills and a deep ravine. At one point the road ended, and it was necessary to walk through very primitive paths and even peoples yards to get to the homes in the remote areas of the village. Bridget's hiking skills were put to a test as she slipped on a couple occasions sliding down hill on her bottom, but be assured, she did not get hurt. Some of the houses lacked running water and access to the roads. At one point, the only way out of the ravine was to walk through the yard and part of the house to get to the road on top of the ravine. Our efforts proved successful, as the clinic was suddenly full of patients needing our help. By the end of the day, we had provided health care to 77 people. We also provided several house calls during the day to patients who were unable to walk to the clinic.
Today, we were at San Martin. Again, it was a bit of a challenge but everyone cheerfully walked the last mile up the mountain to the village, as that part of the road was being repaired. We were greeted by a very organized local health promoter Gloria and several patients waiting to be seen. Today was a shorter day at clinic, but again met with the challenges of meeting the needs of the people and sometimes wishing we had more of the modern medical technologies and conveniences we have back home. We served nearly 40 people.
Over the past several days, we have treated patients with scabies, lice, dermatitis, chronic pain, ear infections, gastritis, diarrhea, giardia, respiratory infections, and a few other problems. Today we had two women who had very different medical problems, but both needed the assistance of an ultrasound to help us better diagnosis their problems. With money donated to MDP from our generous donators back in Minnesota, we were able to arrange for these women to have an ultrasound and pay for the transportation to a neighboring city to have further testing done. We thank the Presbyterian Women of Winnebago who made this possible.
After clinic today, the entire MDP team met with Dr Tun, the local physician who provides care for the Parish hospital and clinic. This Parish hospital and clinic here in San Lucas provides services to 28 surrounding villages. Dr Tun updated us on the present health care projects and the current and future needs of the clinic and hospital. This morning, Bridget met with the parish officials and clinic officials to discuss our continued support and presence here in San Lucas and the surrounding villages. MDP has donated money to provide the local village health care promoters with medications for the people here in the San Lucas area. We thank all of our donors to MDP who have helped make this possible. Know that you are providing medications to people who otherwise may not have received the help they need. As team, each of our hearts are affected by various situations or individuals that we have encountered during our days here. It may be someone´s story of the hardships they have encountered, the playful interactions with a small child, the humbling experience of a house call or the blessings a patient gives us at the end of a visit. Whatever the situation, all of the members of our team have had our hearts touched by the people we have served. We have been changed by our experiences. We have definitely gained more than we have given. Yes, we have been changed!!! To our family and friends back home, we appreciate your continued support and prayers as we continue to serve the people of Guatemala. God Bless, see you soon! - Nancy & Colette and our MDP Team!
A special thanks also to Hap & Eileen Trio (parents of Nancy) for their generous donation to MDP to provide patient index cards and plastic boxes to organize patient medical records in the villages and other related MDP expenses; to Elsie Pace, RN for her generous donation for the purchase of medicines, and to Dr. Bob and Patty Christensen who bought and sent soccer balls for the children. We are most grateful to these and all of our donors who make it possible to serve the people of Guatemala (and Mexico).. Please look back to the beginning entries of our blog on this trip for the names of additional recent MDP donors. Thanks to all who remember us in prayer too and who walk with us in sharing our mission to bring free medical care to those in need!
We spent an interesting, challenging, exhausting, and fulfilling day in the small town of San Juan Mirador. The scenery was gorgeous--right out of National Geographic. The ¨clinic¨space left a bit to be desired, with no lighting, two windows and very little draft. But once we got going, there wasn´t much time to think our own comfort. We saw 72 patients with respiratory ailments, skin problems, a knee gone bad, and lots of darling babies with runny noses. Jim, Carol, and Sara made a ¨house call¨ to a woman who was in terrible pain. Using cell phones and ingenuity, we sent her by car to a hospital ER for testing. At times, it was a little crowded with complete families needing to be seen by our medical personnel. On the trip back to San Lucas Toliman, we ventured onto the ¨Paseo Misterioso¨ ... Mysterious Pass... This road is one for the for Ripley´s Believe it or Not as we experienced a magnetic phenomenon where the driver stopped, put the car in neutral, and let go of the brakes. We were on quite an incline, yet the truck rolled backward uphill by itself. All Soul´s Day prank? We actually don´t think so, because all 10 of us witnessed it. Last night we sang to Nancy´s proficient guitar strumming on the balcony of our hotel. We sang lots of songs--some even with rather nice harmony, if we do say so ourselves. Jim says we´ll soon be in the studio to record. Just kidding. And speaking of kidding, Guatemala brings out the best/worst jokes and humor, and we laugh whenever we´re not sleeping. Thanks for being here with us in spirit! We can feel your prayers and support as we are ¨Moved to Serve.¨- Carol.
Hello to our Minnesota friends and families back in Minnesota! Please be assured our team is well, safe and enjoying our time together in San Lucas Toliman in Guatemala. Today is a Holy Day- All Saints Day. In Guatemala, this is a holiday, therefore businesses are closed so families may enjoy this holiday together. Because this is a holiday, we were not able to hold clinic today. On All Saints Day, the Guatemalan people spend the day celebrating the souls of the dead. They elaborately decorate the cemeteries, specifically the grave sites of their deceased family members. There is much music around the town. The church bells are rung continuously all day manually by parish members. The families will have picnics at the grave sites of their family members and fly very big kites throughout the day. Today our day started at six a.m. with very loud fire crackers. The fire crackers here are as loud as the fire works back home! Needless to say, we certainly did not sleep in on our day off from clinic! Part of our group stayed here in San Lucas for 10 a.m. Mass and a special lunch at the parish called Fiambre. Fiambre is a mixture of many vegetables, few meats, and cheese served on a tortilla . Desert was a type of green sweet squash with corn. The shell of the squash was included and needed to be removed before eating. Dr Jim realized this after trying to eat the shell. Needless to say, his desert was a little crunchy! Dr Jim, Dr John, nurse Katy and Teri did a fantastic job of organizing the parish bodega (in English, we would call it the hospital pharmacy). The rest of us: Bridget, Nancy, Sara, Chuck, Colette, Carol and an oral surgeon Dr. Chuck met at the parish and spent the day touring Lake Atilan. When we first left the shore, the lake was a little rough, but got better later in the day. Of course, our Guardian Angels kept us safe throughout the day. We stopped at San Antonio, then Santa Catarina where we had a very nice lunch, then off to Santiago. We toured two of the churches, and of course did a little shopping to support the local economy! (at least that is what I always tell my husband when shopping in Guatemala!) The weather has been perfect! Warm during the day and cool in the evening. Tomorrow we will pack up into the back of the parish Ford pickup truck to head out to a nearby village to hold clinic for the day. Please continue to keep us all in your prayers as well as the people we serve. We continue to keep our family and friends back home in our daily prayers here at San Lucas. God Bless all of you! Those of us here feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to serve the people of Guatemala. To our co workers back at UHD clinic and hospital, we hope you are doing well in our absence-wish you were here with us ! Thanks for your continued support to all family, friends and co-workers! Nancy, Colette and Sara
Good Morning from San Lucas. We arrived with no problems at the airport in Guatemala City. Everyone made it through customs like a pro. We arrived in San Lucas in time for evening Mass. It is great to see the church full and overflowing. The Mass is meaningful even to those of us with no Spanish.
Monday morning we held clinic in Totolya which is a small village in conjunction with two other villages. This is a relatively new village which has been built after a mudslide destroyed the three original villages. The people in this village work for a finca or coffee plantation.
We saw just under 40 patients with multiple issues. Many like us have coughs and fevers. Most of our patients were women and children because the coffee cutting had begun. The leaves are cut back on the coffee plants so the sun can reach the beans and ripen them.
Our drivers are most courteous in getting us everywhere we need to be. The roads are still in need of repair, so the speed is a bit slower than normal. We ride in the back of a pickup with benches and rollbars. So that is 10 people and 5 suitcases full of supplies. We are hoping to consolidate and get fewer suitcases in the mix.
We have received many blessings and joys from just one day in clinic. Games have been played with the children who are so happy. It is so fun to play and interact with them. Doc Jim had a small concert sung for him after one of his clinic patients. We have learned so much from the many people we have been in contact with in one. day.
We will try to send another message tonight when we are done with our day.
Tonight at 2:30 AM TEAM MDP NOVEMBER will meet in Wickersham parking lot and make our way to the MSP Airport. We fly through Miami and arrive in Guatemala City at 12:30 PM Central Time. It always amazes me how close San Lucas is to our US border and yet how different it is and how the people have so little to call their own. I feel honored and privileged to be able to lead another MDP team to San Lucas, Toliman, CA. This team of 10 is made up of 8 members who will be serving on their 3rd or 4th trip to Guatemala! My job as co-team leader will be a breeze! We are bringing approximately $6000 of medicines with us which we will use in our clinics each day. We hope to serve where we are needed and to walk with the people of San Lucas in their struggles against poverty. We will be blogging throughout the week and are trying out a new MDP FaceBook page which you can "like" and send to your friends on FaceBook. - Bridget Coughlan Hermer
As our team heads out to Guatemala, MDP would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to The Mankato Clinic Foundation, Inc. for their generous grant which helps us to purchase many of the medicines for our clinics. In addition, special thanks to The Amboy Presbyterian Women's Association, The Mount Carmel Catholic Women of Easton and to Dorothy Coughlan for their recent donations which will help MDP teams to serve people in need in Guatemala and Mexico!
MDP Team Members