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Antigua Guatemala welcomed us warmly, a vibrant city bustling with life, color, and the hum of motorcycles threading through its streets. As we embarked on our journey organized by Faith in Practice, anticipation mingled with excitement, eager to immerse ourselves in the rich tapestry of this enchanting destination.

Antigua greeted us with all new sights, sounds, and smells. Bustling, colorful, and incredibly friendly, it offered a glimpse into a world both familiar and exotic. Amidst the dust of the dry season, we found warmth in the welcoming smiles of the locals and the unmistakable charm of this historic city.

Our destination, Las Obras Sociales del Santo Hermano Pedro Hospital, sits amidst the vibrant chaos of the city. The Obras with its yellow facade, is half church and half modern hospital, beckoned us inside, where a serene courtyard awaited. Here, patients and their families gathered, seeking healthcare and support as they awaited their turn for intake appointments or procedures.

The local community embraced us warmly and with gratitude as we made our way through the streets. Sporting name badges to identify ourselves, we were met with expressions of thanks and stories of lives touched by the work at the Obras. It was a humbling reminder of the impact that acts of compassion and kindness can have, regardless of language and cultural barriers.

Our journey was not without its challenges, from coordinating travel arrangements for a large group to navigating the complexities of delivering medical care in a foreign environment. Yet, through it all, we found strength in our shared purpose and a sense of united camaraderie.

Beyond the medical mission, Antigua offered a wealth of cultural experiences waiting to be discovered. We wandered its puzzling streets and stumbling upon hidden gems tucked away behind unassuming facades. From artisanal shops brimming with handcrafted treasures to cozy restaurants serving up local delicacies, each discovery reflected the city’s rich heritage and vibrant spirit.

After an afternoon of wandering about, we needed a change. A friend quickly offered this, “We’ve been taking too many left turns…it’s time to go right.” We then immediately found the most delicious empanada shop, owned and operated by a single woman. It was so good that we went back two more times!

“One surgeon stated, ‘If I could come down here and work for free full time I would.'”

One unique experience was our visit to a women’s weaving cooperative, where traditional craftsmanship continued in an age of mass production. Witnessing the dedication of the artisans and the preservation of their cultural heritage we quickly understood the value of their work. Similarly, our time spent at an orphanage managed and operated by two remarkable nuns was humbling. The children in their care were full of smiles and laughter which only underscored the importance of compassion and community in every corner of the world.

It seemed that round every turn we were reminded of the impact of our efforts at the Obras. The opportunity to provide much-needed medical care to those in need reaffirmed our beliefs in the power of service to those in need.

In the morning, as the sun rose over the Obras, we were greeted by vibrant colors and bustling streets around the hospital. Inside, profound transformations unfold—one patient at a time.

Among those seeking healthcare and healing is Glendi Ciriaco (age 26), a devoted stay-at-home mom from the village of Santa Maria de Jesus. For over a year, Glendi had struggled with debilitating symptoms—vomiting after meals, persistent pain, disrupted sleep, and frequent urination. With two young children relying on her care, the burden of her health needs weighed heavily on her spirit.

Enter Dr. Papalazaros, a beacon of hope amidst Glendi’s darkness. Under her expert care, Glendi underwent gallbladder removal surgery on a Thursday morning—a procedure that promised relief from her relentless suffering. With precision and care, the surgical team at the Obras delicately removes Glendi’s gallbladder, requiring only four small incisions, safeguarding neighboring organs and ensuring a smooth path to recovery.

For Glendi, the surgery marks not just a physical transformation but a shift in perspective—a glimmer of hope illuminating her path forward. As she awoke from anesthesia, a newfound sense of freedom washed over her.

Glendi shared, “I am so thankful for the opportunity to have this surgery. Now, I will be able to eat without fear, sleep without pain, and care for my children with ease. It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders.”

Glendi’s story serves as a reminder of the transformative power that compassion and care can embody, her resilience and renewal—encouraging those who dare to dream of a better tomorrow. At the Obras, hope springs eternal, guiding each patient towards a brighter, more hopeful tomorrow.

Another patient – Felipa Canahui, a resilient woman of 56 years, embarked on her path of healing that required eight hours of travel to reach the Obras, leaving her familiar surroundings behind. With five grown children and a lifetime of experiences to her name, Felipa found herself at a crossroads, grappling with a persistent ailment that threatened to overshadow her daily life.

For too long, Felipa had endured the burden of a prolapsed uterus and debilitating pain. Each day brought with it a relentless struggle, as even the simplest tasks became arduous challenges. Felipa shared, “It’s so painful, awkward, and has been going on for so long now. My family has to take care of me, and I want them to have more time for themselves, more time to spend with the grandchildren.”

Clearly, the impact of her condition extended far beyond the confines of her own body—it touched the lives of her loved ones, whose sacrifices and support sustained her. With each step towards healing, Felipa’s hope for a better future blossomed, igniting a spark of optimism that illuminated her path forward.

It was Felipa’s daughter, Patricia Paneda, who suggested her mother seek treatment at the Obras – a place that held a special significance in their family’s history. Eight years prior, Patricia herself had undergone surgery at the same hospital, proof of the family’s trust and confidence they placed in the care offered at the Obras.

Felipa’s journey towards wholeness was marked by courage and resilience. Under the expert skill of Dr. Linda Fox – with her dedicated medical team – Felipa underwent a series of procedures to correct and repair her prolapse.

After her procedure, Felipa embarked on a week-long stay at Casa de Fe—a sanctuary of healing and restoration. Here, amidst the gentle embrace of compassionate caregivers, Felipa found comfort and support as she embarked on her path towards healing.

As Felipa’s story unfolds it serves as a testament to the resilience of the human spirit—a reminder that even in the face of adversity, hope and companionate care can guide us towards a future filled with possibility and promise.

New to Faith In Practice is Brian Summers – a dedicated dentist from Oregon, Brian found himself embarking on his first mission trip to Antigua, Guatemala partly in thanks to a compelling invitation from his coworker, Wade. Inspired by Wade’s passion and driven by his own desire to make a difference, Brian eagerly accepted the opportunity to join the Faith in Practice surgical mission, able to add his skills as a dentist.

“I’ve always been interested in mission trips, and now, being here, it feels surreal to finally be a part of one.” Says Brian, his anticipation and enthusiasm were palpable as he started into his role within the team.

At first, when discussing what his role would be as a dentist on this particular trip – Brian understood he would be working in the dental clinic – a pretty usual assignment. However, he soon learning about the special needs patient population in Antigua, he quickly realized that he could do so much more. You see, at home in Oregon, it is this same patient population that Brian has built his career around. Brian recognized that this was more than just a coincidence; it was a moment of clarity, a reaffirmation of his purpose. “I knew then that I needed to step up and be there for these special patients,” Brian recalled – feeling a calling to serve those who often go unnoticed and underserved.

With a reestablished sense of purpose, Brian embraced his expanded role with enthusiasm and dedication. Each interaction with a patient became not just a duty but a privilege—a chance to make a meaningful difference in someone’s life.

Throughout his time in Antigua, Brian found himself deeply impressed by the level of organization and efficiency of the Faith in Practice organization. As he reflected on his experience, Brian couldn’t help but acknowledge the pivotal role the smooth logistics played in enabling him to focus on his work.

“This trip has been incredibly well organized,” he said. “From accommodations to transportation and everything in between, it’s made the entire experience seamless and enjoyable.”

For Brian, the ease with which everything fell into place allowed him to fully immerse himself in the mission at hand, maximizing his impact and a lasting impression on those he served.

As he looked to the future, Brian offered advice to anyone considering joining on similar mission trips: “Be open to the experience. Allow it to shape you, and be willing to learn from the community, the people, and the culture you encounter.”

Each mission trip offers its own unique potential for individual transformation —often a journey fueled by openness, compassion, and a willingness to embrace the unknown.

Take for example, Dr. Linda Fox, a dedicated surgeon from Corvallis, Oregon, as she embarked on her twentieth and final medical mission to Guatemala with her heart full of gratitude and her spirit fueled by compassion. Over the years, she had become a steadfast pillar of support for the communities she served, weaving bonds that borders and languages could not confine.

For Dr. Fox, the decision to join Faith In Practice missions all these years ago was deeply rooted in her desire to make a tangible difference in the lives of others. Fluent in Spanish and very skilled in surgery, she found purpose in using her expertise to bring healing to those in need.

With each trip, Dr. Fox’s commitment to serving others only grew stronger as did her surgical skills. From the quaint streets of Corvallis to the often hectic “calles” (streets) of Guatemala, she forged connections that defied distance and time. Whether it was operating on a patient in need or sharing a meal with a local vendor, Dr. Fox approached every interaction with warmth and humility.

Throughout her experiences in Guatemala, Dr. Fox realized that the impact of her work extended far beyond the operating room. The lasting change she witnessed year after year in the communities of Guatemala was proof of how compassionate care can foster the resilience of our human spirits.
She was sure to find joy in the simplest of moments. Finding her faith strengthened, her perspective broadened, and her sense of purpose deepened.

Dr. Fox found the missions to Guatemala “really therapeutic” as they provided a much-needed break from the intensity of her paid work. In contrast to her usual routine, the missions allowed her to immerse herself in a world where gratitude was the currency and any rewards were measured in smiles and heartfelt thanks. This shift in perspective was rejuvenating for Dr. Fox, bringing her back to the core of why she chose medicine in the first place – to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others, regardless of cost. She always worked tirelessly to provide care for those in need, her efforts driven by a genuine desire to heal and uplift those she served.

Dr. Fox’s dedication to the people of Guatemala left a lasting impression on the community. Over the years, patients had grown to trust and admire her, so much so that some had even chosen to name their daughters after her. This gesture of appreciation served as a constant reminder of the impact she has made on the lives of those she had touched, motivating her to continue her mission of healing with renewed passion and commitment.

Throughout her tenure with Faith In Practice, Dr. Fox has been a source of inspiration and guidance for everyone on the missions. Her wealth of experience, knowledge of her work, and deep understanding of the local people and culture made her a respected leader among her peers. Countless volunteers looked up to her for her wisdom, compassion, and unwavering dedication to the mission.

To those considering joining a mission with Faith In Practice, Dr. Fox offered these words of encouragement: be open to the transformative power of service and allow yourself to be changed for the better. For in the act of giving, we often receive far more than we could ever imagine.

As Dr. Fox bids farewell to her career as an OB/GYN physician, this final trip serves as a celebration of her tireless dedication and unwavering commitment to serving others. Her legacy of compassion and healing will continue to inspire those she leaves behind, and her presence will be deeply missed in the communities she has touched. Dr. Linda Fox is a true beacon of hope and a testament to the power of kindness and generosity.

As we say goodbye (for. now) to Antigua Guatemala, we carry with us a renewed sense of purpose and a deep appreciation for the connections that bind us all together.

Our time here showed us the resilience of the human spirit and the boundless capacity for compassion. We’ll return home with hearts full of gratitude and a newfound appreciation for the connections we’ve made across borders and cultures. We hope our journey inspires others to embrace curiosity, to ask questions, and to approach every encounter with open arms – for it’s in these moments of connection that the true magic of travel and acts of kindness live forever in our hearts.

-Brian Jensen