Monthly Archives: March 2014
Every single year we are here in Guatemala I come full of energy and the greatest of intentions. I plan and envision myself doing daily facebook status updates, weekly blogs, photo uploads, etc etc. Each and every year I fall behind and berate myself over and over. This year was no different. I came here fully engaged in the knowledge that this is my life now and that I will be doing all those daily and weekly things better than I did last year. And, low and behold…. here I am… hopelessly behind and feeling very ashamed of myself. I’ve decided to just take it as it comes and when I have time these things will get done. The pressure I put on myself is simply that…. pressure I put on myself. This is my life and my Mission. Sometimes the 2 need to separate and I need a little break. This, if you let it, will consume you. You could work 24/7 and never take nor make time for yourself and for family. And thus I am not going to apologize anymore for being late with an update blog… Im simply going to say. Here I am! I have finally found some time!
It has been a whirlwind few weeks here with not much of an end in sight. Dental week… amazing. Dr Laszlo Szoke and his team (and his lovely wife Sophia and their 2 daughters) came and worked hard alongside us to make the 6 day dental clinic even more successful than the previous 2 years. We get better at this clinic every year and have found our ‘groove’ so to speak. The biggest miracle of the week that we have seen evolve over the past 3 years is not the patient count (although that is incredibly impressive : We saw 303 patients from the villages of San Juan, El Rosario, Tasheca, El Terrero, Salitrillo and El Progreso. We completed, 1182 fillings, 489 extractions and 1 root canal as well as full cleanings for each of the 303 patients.). The miracle is actually in the fact that so many Guatemalan dental health professionals are joining in on this week. Dr Jose Juan Ruano Ramos joined us last year, closing his practice for the week to help us. This year he did the same again but brought 3 colleagues along to help for different times during the days. We actually found ourselves with not enough chairs to keep up with the pace of the dentists work. Incredible problems to have!
This is what its about here in Guatemala, not just in dental week, but in every week. Guatemalans are getting involved. Working alongside us. Our Mayor, Marvin Enrique Zepeda has been incredible. He has been helping on projects that are not even in his jurisdiction. He walks alongside us now, helping wherever and however he is able. Every single person here from Canada pitching in to help. The dental week would NOT have been possible without Steeves Guild, a student and friend from Canada who has joined us here for 3 months to volunteer. He took a break from teaching English in the village and picked up the slack by helping clean, cook, and do whatever we needed him to do without complaint because we are all needed at the clinic assisting full time. Without my boys, Zack who acted as translator and driver during that week and Gabe who acted as amalgamator for the dental team, sitting patiently hour after hour waiting for a holler to mix a filling, Luke who helped Gabe and also sat patiently hour after hour and then assisted Steeves in cooking each and every meal, each and every day…. Geoff, who drove endless trips up and down the mountain at all hours of the day and night shuttling patients from far away… and of course without the Dental team from Hamilton. None of this would have been possible….. but…. whats incredible this year is we couldn’t have done any of what we did without the help of the Guatemalan dental teams too. EVERY SINGLE PERSON had their place and their tasks… and nothing was possible without them. This is true during our dental week, and beyond. No skill is too small… No task too insignificant.
Sometimes I find myself worrying. Are our volunteers bored? Are we doing enough? Showing them enough? Working enough? etc etc. Again I put that pressure on myself… I have learned something this past week. Something I have talked about before but realized this week that I don’t think I ever really understood it. There is no such thing as someone who does not bring SOMETHING to the table.
2 weeks ago we had Helena Nyland join us. I knew going into her trip that I had BIG plans for her to pick up where Geoffs mom left off in teaching the villagers of Salitrillo how to crochet. It may sound silly…. These people can barely feed themselves and yet we bring them yarn and hooks and get them crocheting. But this has evolved into so much more. Its becoming a way for this village to make money. Helena was instrumental in making this happen. She blessed them so much… and I know they blessed her as well. Small things, but important things. We have a family here… the Van Loenens. Berry, Leanne and their 2 children Noah and Abby. I think they came not knowing what to expect. Many do. Most people when told you are going to Guatemala to serve ask, “Are you a doctor, a nurse, a teacher etc”. There is some misconception that you have to be a very important professional to do such things. And while we need professionals like Dentists to accomplish things like the above dental clinic, we also need the normal everyday people who simply want to help in some small way.
Our friend and Pastor in Cincinnati, Pastor Zorn spoke in a sermon once, something profound that hit both me and Geoff. He said that very often when he tells people he is going to Guatemala he is asked: “What are you going to build?”. His answer is simple…. “RELATIONSHIPS.” We love this.
You know what the Van Loenens have been doing for most of their time here? Colouring with the kids in the village of Salitrillo. You know what has brought more smiles and joy to the kids in the village of Salitrillo than anything we could have given them or built them? The fact that the Van Loenens spend time colouring with them. TIME and RELATONSHIPS. I spent some time yesterday with 2 girls from Salitrillo. They are teenagers and there was some conflict. I sat with them for over an hour just talking to them and spending time trying to help them resolve what was tearing them apart. In the end, there was hugs all around and even a tear or 2. They were so happy that I took the time to help them resolve something that they couldn’t seem to do themselves. TIME and RELATIONSHIPS. In the past few weeks I have watched Steeves and Zack stand in front of the tiny, cramped, hot schoolroom and teach english to grades 1-6. I have watched the joy and love in the eyes of the kids as these 2 young men take time to spend with them, teaching but also having fun. There is a boy in Salitrillo whos father passed away… Zack sits with him often just talking. The boy told Zack yesterday that he has learned so much through him and Geoff and they are his role models… and he wishes Zack could be his dad. This reduced Zack near tears. One cannot put a value on time and relationships.
By having a village that we are working with…. trying to keep our “North American footprint” to a minimum, but working with them to help them have the basic necessities of life like, clean water, nutritious food and health care, we have built relationships. STRONG relationships. People here visit the village daily and do little things… things like teaching crochet…. things like colouring on the dirty floor of the church… things like sweating through a lesson on the alphabet and counting in English…. things like playing tag…. things like hugging a woman who is old and hurting…. little things….. But things that take time and build relationships. Our volunteers get to know these people. Unlike other times where we jumped from village to village trying to get the most done in the least time. We slow down now… focus on getting to know the people and their needs. Learning who they truly are and vice versa. Its not always huge construction tasks… heavy lifting…. medical clinics… etc. Sometimes we just go up to the village and play… or sit… or listen to people… or hold them when they cry… or share joy and laughter with them over silly things. Sometimes we just be with people. Be with them to let them know we love and care for them…. let them know they matter. Show them the love of God. It may not be for everyone. Some NEED to keep busy building and moving 24/7. But we have learned this is not the way to go about things… at least not for us and what we are trying to achieve here. The little things are so VERY important. Even the boring, mundane things mean something to someone. And no skill is too small… no talent gets wasted here. Helena’s son and daughter in law, Sean and Erin were here last week… Erin can skip… she brought the kids joy by skipping with them…. Sean whittled a piece of wood and made a makeshift yarn wrapper thingy out of a stick and a drill. Ok, its not all they did… but you can see my point here? Every single little thing is important and matters to someone.
In this life, in all we do, its all about the little things isn’t it? I guess I now understand ….. that, together it is through the little things that we can accomplish the BIG things!