At the end of the first full day in Guatemala I can already reflect and think on so much. Simply flying into the Guatemala City airport I began to get a feel of the place and the people. After being warmly greeted by the rest of our team we were promptly thrust into the culture and the need of the country where we will be spending our week.
Driving out of Guatemala City, buildings and traffic became small towns and farms. Finally after three hours of breathtaking countryside and harrowing poverty we arrived in Panajachel. The plan: dinner, meeting, sleep, Patanatic. The next morning we traveled 10 minutes up the mountain to the village of Patanatic, the location of the Heart to Heart clinic. Little by little, my eyes opened to the poverty around the world that is often shoved aside because of the hectic lifestyle most of us have in the United States.
Our first task in Patanatic was checking the water filters that Heart to Heart installed in the homes of the 500 residents. After walking up the steepest hill I have ever seen, my group visited approximately 20 homes. These houses are not what we are used to in the United States, with flooring, clean water, roofs, multiple rooms, and sanitary conditions. Not a single home in Patanatic has all those things; maybe only one or two homes have a single item from that list. The average home in Patanatic has a dirt floor, makeshift roof, contaminated water, and no inside lighting. Comparing homes like these to my simple small-town home I did not know what to say. Words fail the emotions I felt walking from home to home and witnessing the conditions that these wonderful people live in. Anger, sorrow, guilt, frustration, shock, and embarrassment all ran through me. These were quickly overshadowed by the next feeling - , a strong desire to help, heal, and love - the reason I came to Guatemala.
Following our home visits, we worked in the clinic for the rest of the day. Meeting the people and attempting to overcome the language barrier was a beautiful experience. Not once did I smile at a patient waiting in line and not see a smile in return. They are wonderfully happy and loving people. I wonder how they can be so happy in the poverty and illness in which they live. The slower pace of Patanatic allows for relationships and interaction, which I admit to cutting out in my overbooked life. The people have big hearts capable of great love which they freely share, and true wealth lies in love.
One interesting reflection I made tonight was at the Spanish Mass we attended here in Panajachel. In my theology class, we discussed the definition of the word catholic. While the “big C” Catholic is the religious belief, “little c” catholic means universal. As in my Spanish classes, the lecture takes on meaning only when it is applied to life. Hearing the Nicene Creed today in Spanish, I caught the word catholic. The word in the Nicene Creed is actually the little c catholic. Today, it finally really meant universal. I finally realized the church beyond the United States and even the English language. It reminded me of a song from church, “We are many parts. We are all one body.” We are all one body- it reminds us that there is no person with any place higher than another. If anything, should we not strive to be another’s servant like the example of Jesus? An amazing man we met today spoke to us about his gratitude for our service in the community. He proceeded to say that he felt sorry that there was no way for the community to repay us. I almost immediately began to cry. We did not come to be repaid, we came to be a servant to another part of the one body.