Missions Blog

Nov 1

Guatemala Water/Sanitation and Medical Survey – 2007

2007 | by Clint | Category: Global,Rabinal Achi,Trips

This was our first official investigation trip for potential work of Community Health Evangelism (CHE) among the Achi. CHE is designed to enter third world communities and help them identify and solve problems in hygiene, water sanitation, microfinance, and general health. The idea is to help them with physical problems as well as the one true spiritual problem—reconciliation with God. So part of the program is helping with health, water, and microfinance projects, while proclaiming the gospel and training others to do so. On this trip we were able to treat lots of patience along side Dr. Jacobo as well as test a few water sources to confirm that they were not suitable for people to drink.

From Karen G.

For this trip, we teamed up with Kathi, who is a Physician’s Assistant and her friend, Dr. Jaime Jacobo, a physician from Guatemala City.  In other communities in Guatemala, Dr. Jacobo had been using a program called CHE; he had begun the program in an Achi village, Los Encuentros, about a year earlier.  The process was to offer a proposal to community leaders to commit to a “training the trainers” session once a week.  The training was holistic, consisting of community health and hygiene, interspersed with spiritual health via the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The training had already born fruit in the form of a community project to renovate the school.  Dr. Jacobo arranged a meeting with the leadership group, who shared their story and their aspirations, and then showed us around the community.

Our experiences in those ten days were many and varied, making a profound impact on all of us.  We had arranged to hold two medical clinics.  The first was in a tiny earthen building in Chichilom staffed by Alwyn and Jacobo seeing patients, and Kathi dispensing medicines, with some of us playing Bible stories on a solar CD player, entertaining children and visiting some homes.  We began a friendship with Cirilo, a local farmer who was traveling to take classes at the Baptist Seminary a few hours away, and was holding Bible studies in his home.

David, Clint and Indy hiked up the mountain to investigate the water situation in the village.  Although clean water was available via a mountain spring, they found rotting carrots and empty containers of insecticide dumped into its headwaters.  Only two latrines were in use in the village.

Our hearts were broken for the children in this village who suffered from constant stomach ailments, lice, scabies, and often malnutrition…even though the community grew plenty of vegetables, they did not seem to make their way into the stomachs of these children.  Mothers waited with babies completely covered, fearful of “the evil eye,” apparently a curse caused by random people looking at the baby.  It was apparent that the established churches had not combated synchronism with an animistic worldview, in which blessings and curses are controlled by the unseen world of the spirits.  The established religious leaders in the village had heavily persecuted Cirilo, who was attempting to introduce Biblical truth and model the love of Christ, as a redemptive, all-sufficient Savior.

Back in San Miguel, Alwyn scheduled a second clinic in one of the Compassion sites.  When we arrived, 30 children were in line to be examined with a variety of health issues, similar but less severe than in Chichilom.  With Irma translating, he wrote prescriptions and gave them to the Compassion director, lamenting that he hadn’t required parents to come with the children.

We spent a good deal of time meeting and forming relationships with the medical people in the area.  On our last day, we made a routine visit to a sick woman to pray over her and her family.  When we arrived, we found the woman in a coma, and her husband and five daughters weeping outside the room.  Alwyn examined her and found that through a misdiagnosis over the telephone, and for lack of an antibiotic, the woman was septic and near death.  Although we scrambled to carry her to the road and transported her to the nearest hospital, she passed away that night.  We were in anguish over the loss of a wife and mother from causes totally preventable in the U.S.  God arranged for us to witness the scene, I believe, to add urgency and passion to our inquiries – what issues are at the root of the health problems of the Achi?  What are we called to do?

Our perceptions of root problems, in summary, were

  • Primary causes: waterborne disease, malnutrition, and poor hygiene
  • Mistrust of hospitals and health care, due in part to experiences of prejudice and ill treatment by non-Achi health professionals.  As far as we could determine, there had never been an Achi doctor, although the number of nurses was on the rise.
  • Extreme poverty/widespread unemployment.  This very often leads to the husband and father traveling to Guatemala City, the coast, or another country to earn money to feed his family — creating a variety of social problems.