I made it back! I’m home I’m home!
Guatemala was a life-changing event. UNBELIEVABLE.
But now I’ve got 6 chances to share it with you (maybe more!) as I fulfill my response to the six ways Seth Barnes says that a short-term mission trip can change your life. (Read my 6 previous blog posts beginning with the July 7th post if you are new to my blog – that was the first of the 6 blogs I wrote about this mission trip.)
The third way a short-term mission trip can change your life is by teaching you how to minister.
Oh boy … this one worried me a bit. I’m not a pastor or a formal minister. And – how do you minister when you talk a different language? In simple reality, we can all be ministers for Christ if we just learn to trust God, listen to the hearts of people who are hurting, and to simply pray for them.
Obviously, the one way we ‘ministered’ to the people of Guatemala was by providing dental care. There is only one dental building that is open only when there is a dentist in town. That is not very often. From what we saw in the way of teeth, or lack of, it became obvious to us that the people of Guatemala walk around with some wicked painful toothaches. When a dentist IS in town – they go to see him to have that awful painful tooth extracted. Most of the older adults in Guatemala had no upper front teeth and just a smattering of them in the back of their mouths. Our first day of dentistry was spent pulling rotten, abscessed teeth, or what was left of them. Our ministry was to take people out of pain from horrible toothaches.
However – Dr. Bisaro did not have the heart to leave decayed teeth of the young people alone. Many of these young people were so full of life and hope – but with the cavities we saw, they would soon end up with losing their teeth and looking just like their parents someday if cavities were not fixed. We started fixing smiles! Here’s a before and after:
By the second day, the word was out that ‘there was a dentist in town who not only pulled pain-causing teeth, but he FIXED teeth as well!” We fixed SO MANY decayed front teeth! It was wonderful – these fixes were done on young people who still had the promise of a great future! It was awesome to save their smiles and give them some hope for the future 🙂
One story I would like to share: While we were working on fixing the front teeth of one young man, I allowed my eyes to wander from the job we were doing on his teeth to look at his face. I am always watching to see if they are in pain anyways. But when I looked up at his face he was gazing right, then left, then right again as he looked first at the doctor, then back at me, checking us out! I had my mask on so only my eyes were visible. His gaze stopped on my face and as our eyes met, I smiled at him – but you couldn’t see my mouth – but he must have seen the smile in my eyes because he gave me this great big (open-mouthed) grin! (Remember – his teeth were being worked on.) It sounds trivial – but it really was awesome. He was so happy getting his smile fixed and we shared a happy moment – no language barriers here!
On the first full day of our stay in La Union, Guatemala, we ministered to the whole town by taking a prayer walk. We took a walking tour of the little town and, every so often, we would stop and form a circle. We would join hands … and pray … pray for the medical clinic … pray for the people … pray for the school. It was so simple yet such a privilege to be able to ask for God’s blessings on every aspect of the lives of the people in this small town.
Meal time was a chance to form relationships. Many times, we had guests dining with us: the nurse from the medical clinic, a local doctor who stops by the town when she can, the interpreters who worked with us, and Charles – the local CALMS Missionary who was with us at every meal. Our ministry involved simply LISTENING – listening to stories about the town, about the people, and understanding what the needs were and how we could help.
Dr. Vaclav and Sheryl (RN) spent many hours at the medical clinic. They got a real feel for the people of La Union and what the major medical needs were. The saw patients and (through an interpreter) diagnosed and treated many people. This type of ministry literally helped the people physically, but I understand that Dr. Vaclav and Sheryl also shared the joy of praying with some patients. Pure ministry. I’m afraid I was not with them and can only provide one photo of the outside of the medical building.
It’s not hard to minister. You simply have to listen and see what others need or are lacking. That is basically what Jesus wanted us to do when he told us to “love one another”.
Listen. Love. Give care if possible. And Pray.
Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Hebrews 13:2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares