February 19, 2018.
One year ago, I wrote a blog that explained the goals and anticipations I had heading into this journey in Guatemala. You can read the whole post HERE.
I am going to work as a nurse in Guatemala because people are dying unnecessarily and simple education and health care can prevent that. But the real reason I am going to Guatemala is because God is going to use me to bring people into His kingdom. In a culture where women are devalued and male machismo is dominant, childbirth provides unique access into women’s lives. With such access, I can develop relationships and trust to speak to women about the Source of Life, Jesus. I will have access to talk to them about their destiny in Jesus and that of their child-whether the birth of a child brings hope and anticipation to the women, or whether it is laced with fear and grief. I will teach that God has had a name for that child since before time began. In a country that has the highest maternal and infant death rates in Central America, I can welcome the presence of God into the room and take a stand against death. I can cover the labour, delivery, and lives of the mother, baby, and family in prayer. I am not going to Guatemala to simply be a nurse. Anyone could do that. Instead, I go armed with the knowledge that God can take an earthly situation and turn it into a deeply spiritual one. I will invite the Holy Spirit into the room through worship, and be attuned to the voice of the Great Physician and Healer. I will simply be a vessel in the hand of God.
With that in mind, let me catch you up on what has been happening the last few months.
Construction on the birth clinic was supposed to start in
October December JANUARY. And it did! We broke ground mid-January. We have a trench for the foundation! There were some issues with the foreman on the job and now it’s mid-February and we have a new foreman and we still have a trench! At first I was frustrated by all the setbacks but now, I don’t mind. This project was God’s idea and he knows exactly when it will be finished; I’m just along for the ride here. That’s not to say that I’m not anxious for things to get going! I am. I’ve just decided to trust that God’s timing is best, and if things are taking longer than expected there is a reason for it. Here is the trench, of which we are oh so proud 😂
You will remember that the ministry we are partnering with for the clinic is called BuildinGUATE. They own the land that we are building on. They are very involved in the community we will be serving. They run feeding programs, educational programs, housing projects, and they host medical teams from the States frequently. I look forward to getting to know them more in the future. A few weeks ago we talked to Oscar, the director of BuildinGUATE to ask if it would be possible to start doing prenatal care using one of their buildings on-site. He was thrilled about the idea! We decided we would not do any deliveries until our clinic was fully ready, but it is easy to start prenatal care in the meantime.
The past week for me was busy travelling to the capital several times looking for various supplies I still needed to purchase. For example, laboratory tests. In Canada, the doctor writes you a requisition and you take it to the lab, they draw your blood and send the results to the doctor. When you live on the edge of the dump and your job is to scavenge and there is no laboratory close-by and you don’t have vehicle, a doctor to write a requisition for you, or any spare money to pay for the tests, you forgo the testing. However, there are tests called “rapid tests” that were created for developing nations where there is little to no access to proper laboratories. All the tests require is one drop of blood and 15 minutes to wait for the result. GENIUS. So we got ourselves some of those! Another thing we had to source out was a blood typing kit so we could determine Rh factor. This is important for pregnancy. I also learned that no one in this country sells large q-tips (okay, maybe SOMEONE does, but I went to 8 medical supply stores in Antigua and in Guatemala City and no one had them.). Another difference between Guatemala and Canada is that most medications are available over-the-counter. You go to the pharmacy and tell the “pharmacist” (who likely has very very little training) that you need an antibiotic. She pulls one off the shelf (eenie meanie miney moe?) and tells you how to take it. But some are quite expensive, so if you can only afford 3 pills, that’s all you’ll get. In Canada we stress to people that they MUST finish their ENTIRE course of antibiotics. Here, you just take what you can afford. And if you are able to buy an entire course of treatment, you’ll start feeling better after a day or two and most people will just stop taking the medication and save it for next time. There is so much teaching that can be done here! So I also spent time at pharmacies buying iron supplements, prenatal vitamins, and a few different antibiotics.
We were set to start February 19. That’s today! Taryn and I were excited and ready. We were told that all the women in the community had been notified that we were coming. We showed up at 9am anddddddd…. no one. Not to be discouraged, we unloaded our car and started setting things up in the room. After a little while, a woman from the community comes in and asks what we are doing. You know those people in a town who seem to know everyone and everything that is going on? Silvana is one of those people. She told us she had no idea that we were coming. If she didn’t know we were coming, then definitely no one else knew we were coming either! Somehow there was a communication mix up. What can ya do? Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave.
It wasn’t a waste though! Silvana took us to see a lady who had delivered 4 days ago in the national hospital in Escuintla. She wanted someone to do a newborn exam on her baby, as it hadn’t been done yet. Additionally, the doctors had given her an episiotomy and did not give her sutures so she wanted to learn how to prevent infection. We also gave her prenatal vitamins to keep taking while breastfeeding. While we were still with her, her sister came into the room and wanted us to look at her baby as well.
We told Silvana that we would be back next Tuesday at 9am and she told us that she would spread the word herself. We will see what happens next week! This is all part of the process and we are just thankful that God has chosen to involve us.
That is the ministry update I have for now but if you can keep reading for just a few minutes, I have a small story of what God has been teaching me personally.
I joined a small group at church a few weeks ago. The set-up is like a small church service. We have a time of worship, the leader prepares a short sermon, and then there is a ministry/prayer time. On my first night during the ministry time, I felt God say to me, “Stephanie, you don’t see me as your Father.” I said, “Of course I do!” But after a few minutes, I realized that I haven’t allowed God to be my Father these last few months in Guatemala. My Provider? Yes. My Shepherd? Of course. But my Father? I realized that I haven’t allowed Him to be that for me because I’m afraid He will let me down. Here’s why: my dad is basically perfect. He would do anything for me. He would come to Guatemala on the next flight if I asked him to. Dad would (and does) drop everything for me. I’ve had to do a lot of new and hard things by moving to Guatemala. If dad were here, he would have helped me find a house. He would have helped me do my paperwork for my car. He would have taken me to the mechanic for the first time, and then driven me to the unfamiliar town to get new tires when the mechanic said that mine were unsafe to drive on. When I needed to buy furniture, dad would have told me what was good quality. He would have showed me how to drive to Walmart and Immigration in the city. When I bought a mirror, he would have hung it on the wall for me. My dad can do anything. He is basically perfect. I miss him everyday! He would do anything for me. As I’m wresting through all of this, I realized that here is the block I’m stumbling over:
My dad WOULD do anything for me.
God COULD do anything for me.
But he doesn’t always.
But dad would.
But God might choose not to. How can I trust God to be a good Father for me, when he might choose not to help/answer me [the way I want/expect]? How could He do that to me??
I wrote to God in my journal, “I had to do all of these hard things by myself! Why did you send me here without my family? Why do I have to do this on my own? It’s not good enough for you to say you are with me always, because I’m still physically by myself.” But then I felt a switch when God brought to my mind:
Joel helped me find a house and draw up a contract with the lawyer.
Luis helped me do the paperwork for the car.
Daryl showed me where the mechanic was and told me how to get my tires changed.
Michael and Kelly and Daryl helped me buy furniture.
Julianna showed me how to drive to the capital.
Andi and Shauna drove me to Immigration.
Andi hung all the mirrors and shelves in my house.
Kevin and Joel fixed the electrical problems in the house so that we can have a hot shower and have the lights turned on at the same time.
All these people were Jesus to me. All of them were the hands and feet of Jesus and I didn’t even fully realize it at the time. Thank you, all of you.
I felt God saying to me, “see? I’ve been here. I’ve been here since day 1, orchestrating all of this for you.” I miss my dad a lot. Even today I called him with a silly question about my tires because he’s my dad and he will still do everything he can to help me. But I’m learning that I have a Heavenly Father who I can’t see with my eyes but is here beside me, and I’m never out of his sight or reach. And in his GOODNESS he has placed me in a community of people who are ambassadors for Christ. I’ve been focusing my bible reading on uncovering more truth about God as Father and I think it’s going to be a long study, and that’s good. Because I have a Father who will never fail me, He will never not show up, He will never leave me alone, He doesn’t slumber or sleep, and He leads me to green pasture and through the dark valleys too. He leads me well and loves me well. And he is more real and more present than anything else.
I hope that if you are reading this you are reminded of and encouraged by the love that God the Father has for you today and always.