I often read about the existence of millions of hungry people in Latin America. When I am there, no one appears starving because of the easy access to corn tortillas which are incredibly cheap. They fill the hunger pains but not only do they not do much for nutrition, they also contribute to the massive level of type 2 diabetes.
So mostly the people don’t complain of hunger.
But I started asking more about it on this trip. What do you eat for breakfast? “Tortillas y sometimes frijoles” For lunch….the same. For dinner….the same
But I was particularly touched by one of the very lovely and exceptional students in our program.
“Did you eat breakfast this morning?”
Her eyes got really big and she said...
“Because we don’t have any food. Ni café, ni azucar, ni nada” (not coffee, sugar or anything).
Thinking she may be exaggerating a bit, I asked “So what do you eat?”
I eat the food that you give us everyday at the school.
I recently read an interpretation of the parable of the multiplication of the loaves (Mark 6:34-44) written by Father Frei Betto, a Brazilian priest, journalist and theologian who was an activist for the cause of the poorest in Central America
In this gospel story, 5000 men had just heard Jesus’ sermon. The disciples suggested that Jesus buy them something to eat. Jesus’ response was that the disciples could “give them” something to eat. (In reality, there was plenty of food to go around). Jesus didn’t ask how much money the disciples had…he asked how many loaves they had. Throughout the gospels, the distribution of bread symbolizes the Father’s kindness and food is associated with life’s abundance. At this event, Jesus realized that of course there were all kinds of vendors at that event selling food. In reality, there were many fishes and many loaves. Does this mean there was not a miracle? Of course there was a miracle. But there was not magic. Magic would be the spectacular action of taking the loaves and fish and saying “abracadabra” and suddenly food appears. The miracle was to alter the natural course of things….changing people’s hearts so that now they were willing to share their goods so that no one would be hungry.
If you are reading this and you would like to help us send more food, please do so. We need your help. It’s not easy to help a whole lot of starving people.
Today a pretty amazing thing happened....one that I've never had happen in my office in at home. A 59 year old woman arrived who I've seen several times before. I've been following her for "carcinoma-in-situ" of the cervix. While this is something that is not quite cancer, it's pretty close. Anyway I did a procedure on her a few months ago and not all the problem cells were removed so I told her I thought she should have a hysterectomy.
So she came in today and said she just really didn't want to have to go through surgery because of all the risks and she really thought I could take care of it. She said "I'd like to pray." So I said "of course" and the next thing she stands up and raises her arms in the air and starts crying and begging God to work through me to take care of the problem.
She continued to pray for about 5 minutes and then she stopped and looked at me with complete peace and said "Go ahead and do whatever you need to do. I'm sure you'll be able to take care of it!"
Anyway, the procedure went well and we'll see. Somehow it felt really wonderful to think that she realized that I can do what I can do but ultimately it's up to our God. It really, really felt comforting to be surrounded and supported by such faith.
A huge "abrazo" when she left. I like being a doctor here!
"Poco a Poco" is what Ismael said today as we marveled at all the things that have happened in the last few years. Every time I return, I continue to be amazed at all that has been done in a short time and with our limited resources.
We now have 2 outstanding Guatemalan nurses who clearly function at the level of a nurse practitioner in the U.S. I find myself asking them for advice as often as they ask me. I might have a bit more training but they have the years of experience of dealing with the illnesses common to tropical places.
I fall in love with the children in our school more and more with each visit. Their eagerness to learn makes me so very happy. This week I met with three of the older students for a couple of hours to talk about ways we can improve the program and find even better means of encouraging the children to achieve.
Our agriculture program continues to grow. Tomatoes, peppers, corn, herbs, watermelons, different fruits...all thriving on our land. The children participate in the projects and benefit from the food provided. Today, we had one of the project coordinators from "Friends of Guatemala" join us to look for ways that we can collaborate in the area of agriculture.
Ismael just finished planting 150 Ramon trees which you can read about here...http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/kids/species-profiles/ramon-tree as well as 75 yucca plants which there are lots of nutritional plans for.
The cervical cancer prevention program is continuing to work so very well. All the women return for treatments and we continue to get more and more referrals from the Ministry of Health. Yesterday, I did a minor surgical procedure on a woman with carcinoma-in-situ of the cervix. Without this treatment, she would have developed a cervical cancer which is almost incurable in this country. When I finished, she was crying uncontrollably. Not knowing if she was in pain, I finally got her to calm down and she said she was crying because she was so very appreciative. She had been worrying about this condition for months and didn't know what she would do. She couldn't believe that we would come here to help and she just kept crying and hugging me. Really, how much more can you ask for in life!!
Construction will be starting in the next few weeks on our new hostal which will give our teams a safe and close place to stay and will enable some to stay for extended periods of time.