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“Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2: 1-4

In Retalhuleu, Guatemala, amidst the vibrant culture, a team of 48 individuals embarked on a journey that was more than just a medical mission trip- it was a testament of faith, compassion, and selflessness. Inspired by the words of Phlilippians, this diverse group of medical professionals, translators, wheelchair builders, and caregivers united under one common purpose: “Be love with skin on”, spreading God’s love and faithfulness through acts of service and kindness. Jimmy, with heartfelt conviction, reminded us of the essence of our mission on the first morning: “Jesus is all you need”. While we understand our path to heaven is through Him alone, loving Jesus compels us to embody His love in tangible ways to the people we encounter.

Led by Jay Mirelez, whose journey began in Guatemala in 2009 and culminated in the establishment of the San Angelo team in 2015, we set forth with a mantra of being F.A.T.: Faithful, Available, and Teachable. Our team comprised OB/GYN surgeons, general surgeons, surgery teams, physical and occupational therapists, nurses, translators, wheelchair assemblers, and many others, each fulfilling crucial roles with dedication and expertise.

The days were long, yet filled with purpose and gratitude. Doctors meticulously evaluated patients, addressing ailments proactively and going beyond the call of duty. Time was no barrier as we worked into the evening and rose early each day, trusting in God’s provision and guidance. Devotionals and worship songs began our days while we ended our day with a team meal and laughter. We even celebrated a birthday that included a special gift.

A seasoned team member said, “We are the cure as a team” when speaking of the poverty and lack of health care in this country. The impact of our efforts resonated through the lives we touched. The 803 Mirelez team performed an astounding 101 medical procedures in 4 operating rooms in just 4 days, alleviating pain and restoring hope. Volunteers roamed the hospital grounds, offering prayers and solace to family members and patients. And the sight of 150 newly assembled wheelchairs, surpassing our team’s previous record, brought tears of joy as 144 individuals gained newfound mobility, comfort, and independence. 127 wheelchairs were gifted to those in need and their smiles spoke more than words.

In the wheelchair and mobility clinic, we met a man named Isaac. At 59 years old, Isaac has carried the weight of being the only caregiver to his disabled mother. Over 20 years ago, a small imperfection—a mole improperly removed from the side of his nose —turned into a burdensome mass that altered the course of his life. His livelihood included making bread and pastries in a local bakery. The talent for baking was disrupted when he was dismissed from his job due to this visible growth. Left with no choice but to depend on the generosity of his neighbors, Isaac resorted to begging on the streets for survival. Despite the hardships he has faced, he cared for his mother with loving devotion. God intervened in the form of a thorough doctor, who crossed paths with this resilient man during an assessment of his mother. Recognizing the need for medical intervention, the doctor ensured that the man was scheduled for surgery without delay. Under the skilled hands of a general surgeon, the burdensome mass was successfully removed, restoring not only his physical appearance but also his hope for a brighter future. We are thankful for the technology to confer with colleagues in the states on the best way to help this sweet man. With the burden lifted and a newfound sense of purpose ignited within him, this man now dreams of opening his bakery to provide for his family and reignite his passion for baking. Despite the trials that tested his faith, he never ceased to create recipes in the confines of his home, nurturing a dream that now stands within reach. Several team members followed him into the recovery area after surgery in the hopes of getting a glimpse of his smile when he looked into the mirror for the first time. His mother was reunited with him a few minutes later and the reunion was heartwarming. With Mother’s Day a few days away, this sight will be burned into our memories. With his life changed forever, we are reminded of the remarkable strength that lies within the human spirit with God’s love and grace. He came here for his mother and left a changed man knowing that God has not forgotten him. We give the glory to God for guiding this man through his trials and leading him to the Faith in Practice ministry.

Beyond the physical healing, our team forged bonds that went above professional duties. Patient stories, shared laughter, cultural exchanges, and even cramped bus rides became moments of camaraderie and shared purpose. As a member of this extraordinary team, I am humbled beyond words. Witnessing lives transformed hour by hour reminded me of the profound impact of service and compassion. To my fellow team members, your patience, kindness, and unwavering dedication have left a remarkable impression on my heart. This week of service will forever be etched in my memory as a testament to the power of love in action.

Gloria and her husband, Carlos, a pharmacist, were on this trip for the first time. Carlos met Jay at Shannon Hospital through a family member. You could find Gloria holding a hand, praying for a patient, and translating in each area where patients were seen. She can’t wait to bring family members back to share this experience with them since translators are essential to the team. She talked about the emergent need for medical care in Guatemala. She was talking with her husband, Carlos, and he told his wife, “How could we not come back now?”. Once your eyes and hearts are open to the need, it’s like a magnetic pull back here each year.

Five year old, Anna, was born with spina bifida. She came to the wheelchair clinic, carried by her mother. Anna is one of 6 children. Her siblings are too young to help with her care. Anna received a custom wheelchair adjusted to her needs. Many team members, including the therapist taught her mother how to better care for Anna. She was given a large bag of medical supplies, coloring books and crayons, and two new dresses. Anna had a big smile by the end of her visit. We prayed with her mother, and she was grateful to God, understanding that God loves her and her children. Anna no longer has to sit on the dirt floor in her home. Her mother’s back will have rest as Anna is happy in her new wheelchair. God is so good.

Sam McClanahan is currently serving as a nurse on his 16th trip to Guatemala. He has brought many family members with him serving as cooks and medical professionals. His niece is currently in school, and his passion has passed onto her causing her to be the next one invited on a trip. “How can you not come back after what we have experienced?’

Though we may not change the world in a week, to each person we touch, God’s provision is great. Let us continue to reflect the love of our Creator.

With gratitude and love,

Kim Schwartz