I am sitting at a table in the home of my parents. in Indiana. I’ve been back in the United States for less than 60 hours and my thoughts are scattered throughout the various parts of this world that I now have roots in. This first trip back home, returning from our mission and new life in Guatemala, has already been an interesting experience. Up until the point where I was actually on one of the planes, I was struggling with even the thought of leaving Guatemala. There is so much to do there: projects, patients, printers, teams and friends.
Once in the air, I was able to start to focus more on the value and the reasons we were coming back to the US. First and foremost are the people we know and love here, family, friends and supporters. If you’ve been following our adventures, you already know that our transition to life in Guatemala has been easier than we anticipated and that it quickly became home for us. However, without the love and support of all of you, around the US and the world, we could not continue to be there. We continue to expand the tools we use, and the ways we use them, to keep in touch with all of you. Some of the tools, like texting, have been in wide use around the world and are used especially heavily within the Salud y Paz team when we are in Guatemala. While in the US, my son, John Edmund, was the only one of the three of us who texted with any frequency. Skype has proved its value over and over again, delivering a quality video experience even over the limited bandwidth available to us. My parents have especially valued the opportunity to see, rather than just hear us while we were gone. Facebook, email and this web page/blog are other valuable aids in maintaining our long distance relationships. While all these things help, nothing compares to the welcoming hugs and the opportunity to talk face to face with each of you. The opportunity to be with our dear friends, the Gunters, on Saturday night and the opportunity to enjoy a couple of absolutely fantastic and meaningful worship services with our home church, Christ United Methodist Church, yesterday were a perfect start to this trip. We eager look forward to seeing and engaging with as many of you as possible.
A second reason to return to the US is for rest, recovery and relaxation. As we looked into the possibility of serving in mission in Guatemala, we talked to the Volunteers in Mission team of the worldwide United Methodist Church as well as to a fair number of former missionaries. They all told us that burnout can have a huge impact on people, relationships and a missionary’s ability to serve effectively. Working in places where you are surrounded by those who are oppressed as well as financially poor can take its toll. While I don’t think we have personally experienced much of the impact of this yet, we certainly recognize that we live and work in such a space. Being in familiar surrounding with those we love is an opportunity to come up for air.
While there are many other reasons to return home, the last one I want to focus on here is: to tell the stories of our mission and the mission of our organization. Here is one of them.
One of the hard things about being here this week in particular is that it is surgery week at the clinic. Yesterday was triage day at our main clinic in Camanchaj. Patients will be evaluated and if the surgical team finds that surgery is necessary for a patient, it will be scheduled for sometime this week. This will be a very busy week for all of our volunteers, but especially so for Katie Slagle, our Surgery Coordinator. Surgery will start this morning and patients will come from many places around Guatemala in the hope of receiving a life-changing surgical miracle. I can guarantee that there will be more patients who want to be seen and healed than can be handled by the team. If you read this, please take some time to say a prayer for the Salud y Paz team of Guatemalans and North Americans, both short-term and long-term as well as for the patients who will be seen. Please consider a donation to Project Salud y Paz as well.
On a personal involvement note, John Edmund and I have been struggling for months with a particularly frustrating printer that will be used in some ‘time critical’ situations this week. The final touches for getting it into a consistently usable state were only put into place last Tuesday. John Edmund has done a great job of researching and implementing a solution. We are on-call and will be available to help if needed.
I titled this post ‘Scattered Thoughts’ partly because of the geographic scattering as well as the variety of topics I intended to cover. I have one more thing I would like to say.
In yesterday’s sermon, along with an interesting and fruitful discussion at our Guatemala church last week, Jan and I were reminded that even when we think that we have embraced a life of Christian service, there is plenty of room for growth in the areas of giving, generosity and especially in the area of loving each and every one of God’s children during our brief encounters with them. On a daily basis in Guatemala, we pass people who are obviously in need, some have physical disabilities, some have mental ones and some are just plain poor. Sometimes I give and probably more times, I don’t. As a Christian, am I doing all I can to relieve the suffering I see around me? The truth is that I am not but that I am working to do a little more each day. If we find a way to truly love all those around us because, then sharing what we have with those who have less should be pretty easy. And that…is a significant part of what Christ asks us to do.
May you feel and recognize God moving in your live today and always!