Blog Home

Medical Teams Blog: Stories of boldly breaking barriers to health

Sign up to receive the blog directly to your email inbox

Volunteer Highlight: RJ Tripicchio

by User Not Found | Mar 18, 2014


RJ Tripicchio served with MTI on an 11-member Providence Health International volunteer team in Guatemala in February of 2014. The volunteers funded 40 fuel-efficient ventilated stoves in Chioyá, Alta Verapaz, and worked with community members and MTI staff to construct the stoves in families’ homes. This article was originally posted by Providence Health International and has been reproduced with the author’s permission.

Holy Smoke

by RJ Tripicchio

As I reflect on our final days in Guatemala, I realize it is all too much right now. We were preparing to come home as the same, but somehow different people. Our time spent, our work performed, was so concentrated like a heavy black ink, that the experience will take days, weeks, months for its true components to be realized for both us and them as we move forward through life. 

However, in my last day I was struck by the story of Pentecost and how in so many ways our experience resonates with those early followers of Jesus. When this hit me I had a thousand thoughts about all the images of the week, the experiences, the conversations, and the emotions—it was like being in a movie rewinding back to all the clips connecting the dots making everything so clear. I of course had to pull back into my Jesuit education and lifelong Catholic lessons that at times I had not paid attention to. But this experience suddenly became clear: an Aha! Or perhaps a Duh! sent from Fr. Muller, S.J.

Our mission was to help to the people of Chioyá build stoves. Not to simply pay for the stoves, but to work side-by-side and live with them for those days. I imagine it was like walking in the footsteps of Christ going from village to village sharing Love with those whom the world had forgotten or given up on. And in walking in his footsteps we were able to experience small glimpses of a beautiful world and kingdom in which the people of Chioyá live—a reward beyond any price; a gift impossible to describe, filled with both heartache and overwhelming Love. Even though we split up as teams daily, our bus rides and reflections would be filled with the same emotions, same feelings, same stories. Some moments were loud, boisterous, exotic tales, and others were true moments where silence superseded the words. And even in the end the stories didn’t matter, they were just an avenue to release the emotions inside. When we removed all the layers deep down, the kernel of what mattered in our attempt to describe what we experienced, was a communion of understanding. Ultimately it was our attempt to describe our overwhelming encounter of God’s Love for All.

During Pentecost we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit where the disciples and others from many lands came together to pray. Were they actually on fire? Did they actually speak in tongues? My Jesuit education suggested that perhaps they all truly spoke different languages, had different customs, different gestures; but perhaps the real miracle was that they all came together to express their encounter of Christ, and somehow they all understood the same message, felt the same inspiration. These varied people became unified and felt like a community because they finally found others who had a shared experience. I imagine they felt relieved and overwhelmed with joy to know that their Jesus experience was not unique to themselves, but in fact part of a community who encountered God’s Love through “The One.” And this experience they described as the Holy Spirit descending from heaven and entering into each one, not only filling them with joy and understanding but compelling, inspiring, them to take the message out and start the community known as Christianity.

So I thank everyone who made this experience possible because I feel filled with “something.” I call it the Holy Spirit, which for Catholics is that feeling inside your gut that has to be released into life like our breath. We talked on our last day as to “what next?” Maybe it’s letting time and action diffuse out the intense, concentrated Love that was placed inside of us during our time in Guatemala. I’m excited that the experience will never end, and will change for me tomorrow, in a month, in years. I am amazed!

(I laugh too, because perhaps the Pentecost theme was too obvious—riding on a red bus every day, three cultures communicating easily, our failing attempt to put emotions into words yet understanding each other deeply, building stoves for fire, giving them clean air to inspire.) 

God’s Grandeur
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.

And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.


MTI_Guatemala_Alta Verapaz