A point of view from Dale Barwick:

On the morning of March 10th, our group traveled by van through mountainous terrain to the village of Cabrican, Xela. When we arrived at the church which was to be our clinic site, a throng of men, women and children already filled the porch and sidewalk, waiting for a chance to see, and be seen by, American healthcare professionals

Because we’d had coffee at breakfast – very strong coffee with floating grounds – and had traveled more than an hour, most of us needed the restroom facilities before we started seeing patients. The restroom was in working order, but it certainly was not the type of church restroom to which we were accustomed. It consisted of an open-air lean-to at the back of the church with an outhouse-style toilet, a utility sink without soap, a shared rag for drying hands and a jagged mirror on the wall. 

In the sanctuary, several church members had moved chairs against the walls, clearing a space for us to set up tables in the center. They spoke to us enthusiastically in Spanish while smiling and hugging us. The pastor clutched a Bible with hands deformed from birth, and gathered our group in a circle to pray. Even for those of us who didn’t speak Spanish, the Holy Spirit spoke loud and clear.

The original Mayan language of the people from this village is “Mam” (pronounced mum) and many of the older people did not speak anything but Mam. This created a unique language barrier because we needed two translators – one to translate English and Spanish and one to translate Spanish and Mam. This situation led to much laughter as messages went back and forth between the patients and the American healthcare workers.

Many of the women who came to the clinic wore the traditional dress of the indigenous people. We learned that they could identify where someone was from by the colors and patterns of the clothing of their particular region. Many of the people were actually from the same family group, including one older woman who said she had twelve children and that they were all there.

Most of the people were poor, lived in homes without water or electricity, had intestinal parasites, received no prenatal care, and suffered from poor nutrition. Many had birth defects and other illnesses which are seen in America; however, the Guatemalan government offers no assistance, not even to children. Only people with enough money can receive surgery, medications, nutritious food, medical equipment, or even a wheelchair.

We saw an older woman with no legs who dragged herself to the clinic on a sheet of hard plastic. We saw a crippled ten-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy whose small-framed mother carried him wherever they went. Their only request was for a wheelchair and, by no small miracle, they received a wheelchair the next day! We saw a four-year-old girl with a hernia which needed surgical correction. When her mother was told that she needed surgery, she sobbed because she did not have the money to help her child.

The missionary with whom we worked, Dr. Luke Rhyee, helps as many people as possible through Healing Guatemala. Unfortunately, the needs of the poor far exceed the available resources. He said that he must pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit in order to know where to allocate assistance, funds and supplies as he shares the love of Christ in Guatemala.