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Our team arrived in Antigua energetic and eager to start the work ahead of us. We reacquainted with old and greeted new faces before getting some rest to begin the transformative week ahead.

On Sunday, the team started to run the clinic. Everyone triaged responsibilities according to their specialty. The scrub technicians, PACU nurses, and pharmacists went to the operating rooms to check supplies and prepare for the procedures over the next few days. Surgeons, anesthesiologists, and physical therapists spent their day in the clinic meeting over 80 individuals and assessing their next steps to get them healthy. In our morning bible study, Brother Johannes spoke about cherishing the fact that everyone is unique. We all have brought our unique talents and God-given gifts for one purpose: to serve the people of Guatemala through healthcare because the Lord has called us to do so. As our team gives up our normal lives, family members, the comforts of our homes, and our self-determined routines, we allow the Holy Spirit to fill us and use us according to His purpose while transforming our hearts. Our team being here together at this moment is no accident! The Lord has called us together to act as a surgeon’s tools to fulfill what he has planned for us.

Monday brought the energy for our team! Everyone was determined to accomplish their goals for the day and worked diligently. Five operating rooms worked tirelessly, completing about four surgeries each. In addition to the OR, the nurses cared for patients in the PACU, and pharmacists were also hard at work. The representatives from Zimmer who provide medical supplies were running around all day, diligently providing all the supplies needed. While listening to Brother Johannes today, the team reflected on memorable moments from the day before and contemplated his message using the metaphor of volcanoes. Similar to the volcanoes around Antigua, the impact of these medical procedures is deeper than the eye can see. These surgeries may look like only an outside, physical fix, but there is much more beneath the surface, like the Agua, Fuego, and Acatenango volcanoes around us. The healthcare these patients receive helps their body function correctly and impacts their family’s lives, ability to work, role in the community, and personal dignity and self-confidence. A rod being put into a man’s leg not only restores the use of his left leg but will allow him to work and provide for his family again without constant pain or even walk his daughter down the aisle one day. A rotator cuff repair surgery not only helped the patient have the ability to use her shoulder again but now allows her to pick up her children or grandchildren. Sometimes, in the middle of our work, we fail to comprehend how our service also affects us deeper than the motions of surgery or nursing a patient back to health. This mission has given us increased empathy, perspective, thankfulness, and many more God-given realizations.

Tuesday started with another inspiring message from Brother Johannes. In short, he talked about humility, always being a student/novice, and never considering yourself the master. If you consider yourself the master, you have constructed a false ceiling of knowledge, limiting your ability to serve the Lord. Jesus told his disciples, “Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.” Today and this week, the team has embodied the roles of the server and the novice. We are here to serve these people of Guatemala to the best of our abilities. The team has also taken the role of the novice because they have had to learn and adapt to the different instruments, machines, team members, and especially the language gap between patient and doctor. Instead of fretting over not having their usual equipment, the team has humbly and quickly set their normal aside to fulfill the role God has called them to play in this mission.

I also visited Case de Fe today, a home specifically for patients to stay for free before and after receiving care from Faith in Practice. It is amazing how much love abounds from a place with so much pain. These people are suffering from their ailments but are so kind. The staff works to serve these people so compassionately, and they can house up to 95 patients and serve three meals a day. It is inspirational to see how the generosity of donors has impacted the patients’ lives by making their stay at Casa de Fe so lovely for them.

Wednesday was definitely a hump day for our team! The cases presented were decidedly more complicated, but we pushed through, especially through a long tumor removal case. I was inspired by the doctors’ diligence and determination to provide the best care possible for their patients, even if it meant long hours and difficult surgeries. I also visited some of the patients in the ward and saw the physical therapists hard at work. Especially not coming from a medical background, it was amazing to see these patients up and walking only one to two days after their surgery. The physical therapists’ enthusiastic encouragement helped these patients push through their pain and brought smiles to their faces as they worked hard toward a speedy recovery. The physical therapy team continued to emphasize how these patients are much more willing and eager to exercise than Americans because of their gratitude and desire to get better and return to their homes. Brother Johannes provided uplifting wisdom this morning with his words about always going forward. He said we must always push forward even if there are complications or things don’t go our way. Regrets can turn into resentments quickly unless we accept the circumstances and follow God’s plan. As Dr. Parsley said this morning, this team rallies! We push forward together, and together, we will complete God’s mission for us to provide healthcare for the Guatemalans in need.

Thursday was the team’s final day performing operations. We started the day with a message about having the capacity to receive wisdom from others and the Lord and to notice the Lord at work each day. Colleen shared the daily Jesus Calling with the team, which stated that we should take notice of each day’s beautiful blessings and formative trials. The Lord has given us these for a reason, and it inspired me to reflect on the past week. The trials this team has faced, such as difficult cases, have deepened our faith and allowed us to lean more on the Lord and trust Him. The blessings the Lord has given us, such as friendships, smiles, joyful patients, and the opportunity to experience the stunning city of Antigua, have been lights in our lives and shown us how great His love for us is. I continue to be motivated by each team member’s dedication to this mission as they work persistently with a smile on their face. This team is selfless, humble, and works in unity. We have learned so much from each other.

I am so thankful for the truly life-changing experience of witnessing God’s work here in Guatemala through Faith in Practice. Our team worked as a unit to give many patients hope and healing. The people of Guatemala touched us all with their overflowing love, faith, and gratefulness. Both the patients and the team can’t say thank you enough to all of our generous donors! Your generosity has changed many lives in more ways than you can imagine. Lastly, none of this would have been possible without our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, watching over all of us and making miracles. He has heard our prayers and used this mission to transform our hearts and inspire us to dig deeper into our faith.

-Katie Schults