GUATEMALA — Four representatives of Salem Church of God in Clayton and two from St. Paul Catholic Church in Englewood were among a 30-person team that participated in a medical and evangelism mission to Guatemala in June.
The trip was led by Caring Partners International, which joins with churches and missionaries to take love and compassion to areas of need. Caring Partners International and Salem previously worked together during trips to Guatemala, Ecuador and Belize.
“Many families in Guatemala live in conditions that we, as Americans, cannot understand,” said Dr. Lisa Ward, Salem’s director of outreach. “We visited a home in which a grandmother and her six grandchildren lived: dirt floors, tin roof, two old mattresses for seven people to sleep on. No plumbing. There were chickens and dogs running through the home.”
The team that traveled to the Central American nation included doctors, nurses, chiropractors, a physical therapist, a pharmacy student, a pastor and his wife, a high school Spanish teacher and six college students. Other adults on the team performed jobs around the clinics as needed.
The team’s two-fold mission was to provide basic medical care to those in need in a poor area of Guatemala City, as well as a rural area of the country, and to introduce people to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Each team member was responsible for their trip costs. Caring Partners International provided prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, hygiene and medical supplies (portable ultrasound machine, EKG machine, eye care and wound care, canes and braces).
There was an outbreak of lice and scabies while the team was in Guatemala, and thousands of healthcare workers in that nation were on strike due to a lack of supplies and medications at government medical facilities. The Caring Partners International group cared for nearly 1,500 patients from June 19-26, and 83 of those committed their lives to Jesus Christ, as clinics provided a tool for Guatemalan church partners to minister to their communities.
For team members, such experiences are filled with special memories. For Ward and her son Kyle, it was reconnecting with a young man they knew from an earlier trip to the country.
“Kyle and I had met a 12-year-old boy named Gustavo on our first trip to Guatemala City in 2012,” Ward said. “Gustavo is part of a very poor family. His mother has had a stroke and is disabled; his brothers are unemployed and his sister is raising a baby on her own.”
Gustavo, now 15, works before and after school, sometimes as late as 2 a.m., to support the entire family.
“Despite (Gustavo’s) physical poverty, he doesn’t complain and is very generous,” Ward said. “On our last day there, he gave us goodbye gifts. Kyle and I were overwhelmed that this young man reached into his pocket to share his kindness and love with us.”
And there’s a possibility of another reunion with Gustavo in the future.
“We plan on continuing and growing in partnership with upcoming trips to Ecuador and Guatemala,” Ward said.
Salem Church of God is located at 6500 Southway Road, Clayton, OH 45315. Phone (937) 836-6500. www.salemchurch.org