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When our team started this journey, our thoughts were about us. What would we see and experience? How would we do working in this hospital that was foreign to us? What would we learn and take home with us? As our journey came to an end, we realized it wasn’t about us, and never was.
Today we went to Hilario Galindo Hospital for the last time. We wanted to check up on and say goodbye to our remaining patients, most of who were from the area of Jalapa. When it was time to leave, we gathered together with the hospital staff in a large circle to say our goodbyes. Our patients from Jalapa are experiencing increasing level of unrest, violence, and murder due to the government’s recent approval of private mining in the area, which has all but stripped the local Guatemalans of what little they have. The army has seized their villages. Their water supply has been taken over. As the volunteer put it, “their dogs eat better than our children.” To try to ensure a safe return home, we provided the volunteer with a letter stating these people were not insurgents, but rather had just had surgery. We hoped and prayed this would be enough to convince the army to let them pass.
As a volunteer told his story, his eyes welled up with tears, and his voice broke. Looking around, I saw he wasn’t alone. Virtually everyone in our circle was crying over the hardship these beautiful people face, not just in Jalapa, but throughout Guatemala. While we were honored and humbled to be able to help them in some small way, we know that their struggles are not over. In our short time here, we’ve come to love the Guatemalans. They are loving, kind, and generous. They ask so little, and are so grateful.
Returning home, I was struck by the stark contrast of the Guatemalan and American lifestyles. Ironically, as I was driving away from Sea-Tac airport, I heard a radio commercial describing how some of the most impoverished children of Guatemala have to sort through piles of garbage to find food to eat. We may well have cared for some of those children while we were there. Susie Boravina, our Ward Nurse, summed it up on her Facebook page when she returned home: “I left Seattle with a mani-pedi and a ridiculous spray tan. I am home now with humility and knowledge of suffering beyond my comprehension. I am profoundly moved. May God help these people.”
Our team is now home, and likely back to work serving patients at Providence and Swedish. It will take days, weeks, months—possibly a lifetime—to unpack everything this experience has meant for us. We have been blessed beyond measure for this opportunity, and a part of us will always remain in Guatemala. Thank you for being a part of this journey with us.
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