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We’ve Arrived!

Yesterday was the start of our week- this means arriving at our village, joining our Guatemalan volunteers and setting up the clinic so we would be ready to see patients the following morning! You can imagine the daunting tasks we faced: emptying 2 large trucks, carrying boxes of wheelchair pieces, patient tables, contents of an entire kitchen, and much more. We had hours of work ahead of us and we were all ready to work!

But before we began to work, we gathered. We gathered as a team with a common purpose. We came from Texas, Illinois, Washington, Nevada, Kentucky, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and beyond. Our local volunteers had been assessing the needs of the community for months and readying them for this week. We gathered as a family. As I looked around our circle, lyrics to an old familiar song began to play in my mind:

We are the family of God.
Yes! We are the family of God;
And He’s brought us together
To be one in Him
That we might bring light to the world

What a blessing to be the family of God! What a blessing to get to serve this week in Guatemala. I’m glad we didn’t start with the tasks. The gathering together was holy ground. And holy ground is always the best place to start!

Built on Faith

We were reminded that Faith in Practice is a life changing medical mission. With tears in her eyes, our in-country Director added, “I know that, because it has changed my life”.

Our morning devotions have a theme this week – the Hand of God. When the theme was introduced, we looked at where we have seen God’s handprint in our lives. There’s a fun children’s song that was taught and a line in that chorus says, “God’s fingerprints are everywhere, just to show how much He cares, but in between He had loads of fun, He made a hippo that weighs a ton!” One by one, each team member shared where they had seen God’s handprint. A volcano, the Northern Lights, a sunrise, a new birth, a field of sheep….the list was long and amazing. We were thoughtful and bonded over the sharing of these deeply personal reflections. “Hip hip hip hippopotamus, hip hip hooray God made all of us”.

The next day before we headed to our clinic, we read a story about Shiphrah and Puah, the two midwifes who defied Pharaoh’s orders and prevented a genocide of baby boys. What if it was their handprints on Aaron, the older brother of Moses, the man who would become the first priest and who would wear ornate priestly garments to enter the holy place before the Lord? The bible describes Aaron’s vestments as glorious and beautiful, woven with gold and embedded with jewels. How magnificent! But just imagine that underneath them all, there was a simple stole adorned with the handprints of Shiprah and Puah.

This idea led us to write down and share stories of those whose handprints are imprinted on our lives. In the clinic we wear scrubs, but if you could peek underneath, you would surely see a stole adorned with handprints! As you read this simple blog post, pause and think of the handprints others have left on you. Big and small, adult and child, each one leaving an indelible mark on your life.

The Work Begins

René is a local social worker and volunteer who came to the clinic early one morning to help with dozens of patients who needed to be fit for a wheelchair. His hands differ from most in that his are actually prosthetic claws. René knows firsthand what it means to receive an aid that enables you to live a full life again. At age 11, he had been electrocuted and had to have both arms and legs amputated. The help he received compelled him to give of himself in service. Surely the hand of God today resembles a metal claw. I love how his handprint looks on every stole he touches!

The Bible tells the poignant story of Ruth and Naomi. At the lowest part of Naomi’s life, we hear her cry, “Call me Mara, for my life is bitter”. How many times have we echoed Naomi’s words? When we get the diagnosis “you have cancer”, when a job is lost, when a loved one dies, when personal failure plunges us into despair. Hope feels far away at those times, laughter a distant memory. But louder than any of those words, God whispers into our midst, “I will never leave you or forsake you,” and “my grace is sufficient for you.”

Sometimes we have hard cases. Sweet 7-year-old Keiven was a perfectly healthy boy until this past year when he came down with meningitis! This cruel disease ravished his little body and mind, but our mobility team was able to build him a special custom wheel chair, enabling him to have some mobility and his family have some respite. Oh Lord we can’t help but ask, “why?” And yet though it seems we can do so little, we trust God is doing so much more.

91-year-old Maria came into the clinic with her beloved granddaughter. When Maria was told her cancer was terminal, her granddaughter fell into her arms and they clung to each other weeping. But somehow the tears billowed into laughter and Josie, our team photographer, snapped pic after pic to share with them, with Maria at one point even blowing a raspberry and making everyone fall over giggling! Did we hear a distant, “your sorrow will turn into joy”? Most certainly!

“Those who went off with heavy hearts came home ‘laughing, with armloads of blessing.’ There’s plenty of suffering in life for everyone. The joy comes because God knows how to wipe away the tears and create the smile of new life. This joy isn’t dependent on our good luck in escaping hardship. It isn’t dependent on our good health and our avoidance of pain. Christian joy is actually in the midst of pain, suffering, loneliness, and misfortune.”
Eugene Peterson, a reflection on Psalm 126:1-6

Hand in Hand

Faith in Practice (FIP) is all about volunteers and partnerships! We have seen this amplified this week, and we are in awe. A woman in Baja Verapaz left her home at midnight with 16 patients from her community, heading south to Jalapa to be seen at our clinic in the morning. She knew about FIP because 10 years ago her husband was able to get a hip replacement with one of our surgery teams. The experience was amazing, the healing complete. So when she heard we were coming to Jalapa, she began to canvass her community to see what needs were in her midst. And they came—driving seven long hours they came! So many times, the mission we extend to others comes back seven-fold to us, and God’s grace multiplies in front of our eyes.

Not all superheroes wear capes! Some wear red hats. These “red hats” are the 100s of Guatemalan volunteers who have answered God’s call to serve in their community. At the head is Armando, who first came to Faith in Practice as a patient. With a diagnosis of cancer over a decade ago, Armando prayed that if God would save him, he would serve him for the rest of his life. After a radical surgery that took half of his lower face, Armando now is cancer free and has kept his promise. For the past decade he has coordinated the village clinic volunteers and has led the efforts to identify the needs of the people across Jalapa and connect them to our teams.

The funny thing about connections is they just keep growing! Lucy was a neighbor of Armando’s and as often happens when stories get told, Lucy was inspired to become a volunteer. Boy did she look great in that red hat! For 11 years she served faithfully. Often at the end of our clinic weeks we turn our focus to the medical needs of our volunteers. During a gynecological exam, Lucy was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and her red hat was soon swapped for a turban. Armando and FIP were there to help, and after 5 surgeries, 12 chemo treatments, and 25 rounds of radiation, Lucy got to ring the celebration bell to signify she now is cancer free. That was just last week. Today Lucy put her red hat back on and is alongside 100 other red hats, locals who have also heard God’s call to serve. They have helped set up, cook, clean, and accompany patients. Some have even slept on the hard ground overnight to guard the clinic. All have prayed, cried, laughed, and linked hands with us, and heaven feels closer because of it.


Just when we thought we had experienced it all, the Guatemalan volunteers surprised us with music, dancing, and a special gift of local pottery (for each of us), all with joy! Humbled? Yes! Honored? Yes! Grateful and ready to come back and join hands in mission once again? Absolutely!

Thank you to the many partners who have supported our work this week! Our families, donors, churches, employers, and so many more. These stories are just a glimpse of all you’ve made possible!

-Julie Eberly

*Please note that the name of the patient in this story has been changed to protect her privacy and confidentiality.