Year after year, I have the privilege of traveling with medical teams from the US to serve at Señorita Elena Hospital in Cubulco, Guatemala, and 2019 was no different. Over a two-week period, I had the opportunity to see our surgical teams perform more than 100 surgeries resulting in numerous individuals being impacted physically, and many more affected by the outreach of this hospital.
The people of the Baja Verapaz region of Guatemala, who do not typically have access to surgical care, are thrilled when the doctors from the US arrive. They have a chance to be helped; a chance to be healed.
The hospital sees this as an opportunity to meet patients’ immediate needs of physical care, as well as meeting their deepest needs of spiritual wholeness. The gospel is presented individually as people meet with the hospital staff in preparation for their care. The patients, and their families, are prayed with before procedures, and often after the conclusion of their surgeries.
One year my friend, who is an OBGYN, was preparing to perform a hysterectomy on a woman. In the middle of the surgery, what he discovered changed his life. Because of the limited care, this woman had received in the past, when he made his incision, he found that she was full of cancer.
“If we were in the states, even with the care we have there, I would tell her that she has only a few weeks to live.” It was devastating for the doctor, and much more so for the patient.
He told me this was the first time he ever had to deal with such a situation. By the time he would have seen a woman who was this advanced in cancer, someone else would have caught it, and that medical professional would have in-formed the patient of their condition. This was the first time that he would have to tell a woman and her family that she was going to die. There was nothing he could do – there was nothing anyone could do. The cancer was too advanced, and within just a short time, she would be gone.
With tears in his eyes, he asked me what we needed to do. Together we prayed, and then we went to tell the family. Through an interpreter, this doctor told the woman and her husband that she was going to die.
“I accept” was the reply.
Very simple. Without much emotion.
“Do they understand what I just said?” the doctor wanted to know. The interpreter confirmed that they did comprehend – they just were at peace with the diagnosis and knew there was nothing more to be done.
I will never forget watching that doctor leave the room. It was almost like the family gave him the bad news.
“How can they respond like that? ‘I accept.’ Do you think they really understood?” he asked me. I echoed what the interpreter said and shared with him that when we put our confidence in Christ, the difficulties of this life are temporary. This family understood that. Yes, this woman was going to die. But more importantly, a child of God was going home and would be healed forever.
The doctor came to help heal that woman, but God had other plans. The doctor’s life has been radically changed as God allowed him to experience something that he had never experienced before – and see God in a way he had never seen Him before.
Lives can be changed on mission trips. Medical trips help us meet the physical needs of the patients we see. But when God steps into our lives and we allow ourselves to be used by Him, hearts are impacted. Lives are changed. Just sometimes it’s not the lives we thought would be changed.