Recently, we announced the closure of our Guatemala office. Although closing Medical Teams in Guatemala allows us to respond to critical crises in other locations, it is still hard to say goodbye to the Guatemalan communities and incredible staff who represented us so extremely well. The Bible says to give “honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7 RSV), and that is exactly what I want to do here – celebrate and honor our Guatemalan staff and their accomplishments. Timeline: Medical Teams in Guatemala Since 2008, Medical Teams has successfully implemented a series of community level maternal and child health-focused programs in the departments of Alta Verapaz and El Quiche. From October 2014 through September 2018, Medical Teams and Providence partnered together to successfully implement a program that reduced pneumonia and diarrhea in children, addressed malnutrition in women and children and improved access to health services for pregnant women, mothers and children. In the 18 years of programming in Guatemala, Medical Teams served over 55,000 people in 90 communities, including: 190 faith leaders trained in health messaging 444 Guatemalan medical professionals trained 23,700 people received COVID-19 prevention services 2004 – 2008 Medical Teams partners with Mercy Corps to provide dental services in the Tucuru region of Alta Verapaz. Fifteen dental teams provide restorative dental services to 5,817 people, and 272 community health workers and schoolteachers receive training in oral hygiene education. 2008 – 2012 Medical Teams establishes a community health and nutrition project in partnership with Food for the Hungry, supporting 22 villages in San Juan Chamelco. In 2011, Medical Teams collaborates with municipal leadership of San Juan Chamelco and receives $40,000 from the local government to pay for shipping medical supplies and equipment to the communities in Guatemala. 2014 – 2022 Medical Teams partners with Providence/St. Joseph to provide 18-24 community project construction teams to build latrines, stoves, and clean water systems as well as provide 6-12 health and medical training teams. More than 100 volunteer teams build over 3,100 stoves and 3,200 pit latrines and improve over 1,050 water systems. Medical Teams staff in Guatemala This work would not have been possible if it weren’t for the strong relationships and collaboration with leaders in the municipalities, churches, and local hospitals as well as donors and volunteers. Most importantly, this work would not have been possible if it weren’t for the 20 Medical Teams Guatemala staff members who gave freely of themselves in service to others and to the Lord. Guatemala staff in 2019 Dr. Walter Lopez, Guatemalan country manager since 2015, said it best when reminiscing about the impactful work: “I remember the time when the Guatemala office responded to two hurricanes that hit the country. We were one of the first organizations to respond in less than 72 hours. We served in 13 shelters providing life-saving care in coordination with the ministry of health and community leaders. I was so inspired seeing my colleagues serve others in a very challenging emergency context.” “Over the years, I witnessed my colleagues’ ability to serve from a heart of love, impacting the lives of many families, including my own life. The team did not just make connections with people, they built relationships with one another as brothers and sisters. That same passion and dedication was evident in our work with the religious leaders in breaking down barriers to health for the indigenous women and children as well as our work to protect the most vulnerable from COVID-19. It was with great joy to see children return to health and families restored.” Medical Teams impact stories in Guatemala Over the course of our incredible history in Guatemala, we’ve been a part of some truly amazing stories. We can’t share them all, so here are a few that stand out (with links to read more). Daniel When we first met young Daniel in 2015, he had a towel covering his face. It wasn’t until days later that Medical Teams volunteer Mari Jo discovered why — Daniel had a plum-sized growth on the right side of his face. He needed surgery, so Medical Teams Guatemala raised money for the operation. But Daniel’s village leaders were reluctant to send him away, and it wasn’t until 2018 that we happened to learn about Daniel’s fate. Daniel (left) and his family Excerpt: Village leaders voiced reservations about sending the boy to Guatemala City for an operation. Because hospitals cater to the sick, injured and elderly, the leaders considered them places where people died. “If Daniel goes, he will never come back,” one said. Still, with a prayer, Mari Jo and her team raised the money to support Daniel and hoped for the best. Read more >> Cecilia Cecilia was pregnant and not feeling well. She was cramping and bleeding — she knew her baby was in danger. Trusted health counselors urged her to go to the hospital. Thankfully, she made it just in time. Cecilia and baby Ervin Excerpt: Cecilia gripped the worn handle above the passenger window and winced. She had been riding in the hired truck since dawn and it was nearing afternoon. She closed her eyes and fought to steady her breathing. The truck climbed Chicamán’s winding roads, through the mist of Guatemala’s cloud forest. Read more >> Señora Maurilia Clean water is essential to community health. Sixty-five-year-old Señora Maurilia believed this — believed enough to literally carry the burden herself. Partnering with Medical Teams in Guatemala, she worked tirelessly to help build a concrete cistern system for her daughter’s home and ensure the health of her child and grandchildren. Excerpt: “We have been living in the community since 2000 without clean water. We’ve been suffering for 20 years by drinking dirty water…” Read more >> Honoring Medical Teams in Guatemala We honor our Guatemalan team for faithfully fulfilling our calling — Daring to love like Jesus, we boldly break barriers to health and restore wholeness in a hurting world. Since 2008, the Medical Teams staff in Guatemala transformed lives. They transformed the lives of people in the communities in which they served. They transformed the lives of volunteers, donors and partners with whom they collaborated. And they transformed the lives of their fellow Medical Teams colleagues worldwide, including mine. For this, we celebrate their accomplishments and give honor to whom honor is due. Thank you, Medical Teams Guatemala. Medical Teams appreciates the long-term partnership and generous support of Providence and its volunteers in the Guatemala program.