Mission trip report of November 2018, serving the Fr. Andrés Giron Medical Clinic in Aguacate, Guatemala
The Psalms tell about healing: in Matthew 4:33, Jesus traveled widely, teaching and healing every sort of disease and affliction among the people. In Matthew 10:1, Jesus gave authority to His disciples to “...heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, heal every disease and heal every affliction.” Matthew 10:8, He counseled us that teaching, healing and caring for the mind, body and soul are essential parts of Orthodox missions.
Michael Bosworth and I (Betty Slanta) from Ss Peter & Paul, Potomac MD, went on this Guatemala short term medical mission to witness for others who could not join us. Exciting things are happening in northwestern Guatemala; we wanted to be part of the Orthodox transformation happening there!
From November 9-18, 2018, our Orthodox Christian Missions Center (OCMC, at OCMC.org) medical mission team of nine from all corners of the United States, including my brother in law, Michael Bosworth, travelled to Aguacate, Guatemala. Our team included three medical doctors, two registered nurses, a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (Mike, also an engineer, and with Fairfax County Fire & Rescue), a Dental Technician, an Occupational Therapist, and a county CERT 1st aid/admin (me, with organizational experience and experience setting up a local Ballston area free clinic). We were met by Fr. Evangelos, who now leads as vicar the Guatemalan Orthodox Church, under Metropolitan Athenagoros of Mexico and Central America. Our team was welcomed by OCMC missionaries Fr. John and Presvytera Sandy Chakos, Fr. Juvenaly, Jesse Brandow, Jennifer Rice, Fr. Evangelos and six Aguacate based seminarians. The primarily Mayan highlands region has approximately 40,000 recent Orthodox converts and over 100 (mostly small village) parishes, was initially led by Fr. Andreas Giron (who passed away 2014). The region is currently (Nov’18) served by six indigenous clergy, two missionary clergy and three lay OCMC missionaries, who minister to the underserved primarily rural farmers and their families. The clinic is named for Fr. Andrés Girón, who promised his people they would have medical care. Fr. Girón was a priest, political activist and politician in Guatemala. Originally Roman Catholic, he served in the Guatemalan Senate and was a candidate for President of Guatemala. Fr. Girón brought the primarily Mayan people of the mountainous northwest region into the Orthodox Christian in 2010, mainly due to disagreements with Catholic beliefs on ways of worship and local (lack of) engagement in indigenous affairs and problems. On Sunday morning, we attended church, which is adjacent to the clinic and team housing. An hour before the liturgy began, the church was almost full. An organist and singers, the seminarians, sang before the Doxology and during communion. The front rows were filled with excited girls and boys, who sang the Divine Liturgy. Having no formal medical training for this mission did not hinder me (though my first aid, CPR, and experience setting up the Culmore Clinic (Ballston, VA) examination rooms gave me a sense of what an efficient clinic should look like). I was able to organize the clinic reception and, with help of Spanish and Chuj (one of several Mayan languages) translators, register patients...”What are your symptoms? ¿Qué síntomas tienes?” Typical complaints were headache, diabetes, cough, pneumonia, stomach ache, infections, feminine issues, toothache, and vision problems, though several people did have serious illnesses and required follow up care. Mike handled the triage and patient vitals (medical screening, temperature, blood pressure, and a diabetes check). His conversational knowledge of the Spanish language worked well with the patients, most of whom had never seen a clinic or doctor before. Medical and dental interns assigned to the clinic from medical schools throughout Guatemala staff the clinic when there is no medical mission team at the clinic. The team aided 255 medical patients and 111 dental patients during the five and a half days of clinic operation. There is much left to do in Aguacate; follow up teams visited in March and November 2019. And in March 2020, a combination medical/dental and a "handyman" mission team followed our team in March 2019, staffed by Michael Bosworth and optometry tech Sam Khalil from Ss Peter & Paul, and six others from other parishes around the country. Typically, each year, there are two medical missions from the US to Aguacate, one in March and the other in November.
In Christ, Betty Yanowsky Slanta
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