As I post these photos, I realize how far we have come. Years ago, upon returning from "short term medical mission trips", I was plagued with haunting questions and doubts about the purpose for and supposed accomplishments of the trip. Though others would complement me on my "sacrifice", I would lie awake wondering if we did more harm than good.
Pictures of desperate faces and far more desperate stories would float through my thoughts as I would attempt to re-aclimate back into my "normal" life. With every trip, I would become more aware of the hopelessness of what we were doing. Articles and books I read about issues in Global Health only confirmed what my soul was already telling me - great issues of poverty, injustice and oppression take more than "a little love" to resolve.
Five years ago, we talked about including lessons learned from the U.N.'s "Millenium Development Goals" in our plans to address these problems of massive poverty. In our prayers, we heard God telling us that we are not here to "help". We are here to share what each of us has and what each of us needs and that is just each other. As we look for ways to end the poverty in someone else's life, you soon realize that you are ending the poverty in your own life. Despair, hopelessness and loneliness are shared among rich and poor and it is indeed in "giving that we receive". It is in giving that we rid ourselves of those things.
These photos are a little glimpse into the ways we ARE giving of ourselves. Yes, there is a clinic. But there are schools where impacts are being made, communities that are dreaming realistic dreams and children that are receiving real nutrition.
And while we are at it, let's give recognition to people from Toledo, Ohio!!! Our country often laughs at our little city as one of the least attractive places to live - well I argue that it is a city with people with the biggest hearts and most loving souls!!
Look at a young man who is using his passion for global energy conservation to build a small energy efficient fish farm! His dream is to live here in Peten in a tent WITH the local people so that he can REALLY learn about their lives. He reminded us the other night at one of our evening chats about how we only have a glimmer of their struggles when we return to our hotels each evening. Look at a very popular hairdresser from Toledo who is lovingly teaching her skills to a very eager group of Mayan women who are searching for ways to raise their children out of oppression. During our trip preparation meetings, Gracie would often let tears flow as she talked about the people in her own life who brought her out of poverty and how she wanted to be given chances to do the same for others. She has surely done that this week!
Look at Tracy and Dina - our 2 fourth year medical students. Just 2 weeks ago, they were doing the usual med student "routine" - feeling worthless as they worked long hours while no one paid any attention to their efforts! Now, with a heavy load of responsibility, they realize the crucial role they play - not just in the health of a patient - but in the health of a world. They are faced head on with the reality that the gifts and education they have been blessed with are actually a call to repair the brokenness of this world.
Look at Annette - a physician who works with dying patients. As she had hoped, she has had the opportunity to see face to face the agony of a dying woman with no hospice, no pain control, no "nada". After just a week, she has been able to "feel" what no book could tell her. Now, she can return with the real knowledge that will enable her to help us make change.
And look at poor Dr. Anne! She thought she was an "Obstetrica". No, now she has to consult 70 year old books about parasites as she studies "poop" under a microscope - talking about being out of your comfort zone!!!
Look at Iris. Little did she realize when we asked her to be our translator that she would have to be the one to tell a mother that she would be leaving her children behind soon as she succumbs to the tragedy of a preventable disease called Cervical Cancer. We marveled at how she was able to say these words with such compassion and love. No University preparation could have taught her a better way to handle such a crucial moment.
And look at my husband! At our meeting, he said that his goal for this trip was to be a support to anyone who needed him. I think that is always his goal which makes me a very lucky wife! As I watched Iris sob as he left, I realized that he did indeed fulfill his goal.
And Sr. Pam - well just read her blogs and you will see how she is impacting lives every moment!
Last night, we drove back contemplating all we have seen while laughing hysterically at each other and our attempts to communicate in a different language and far different culture. We thank God for so much. I have left out big chunks and big stories......more to follow!