We landed in Oklahoma City just after noon on Sunday, ending my week-long trek with the medical missionaries. I decided to hold off a little bit on posting the final blog so I could reflect some on the experience.
Throughout this week I have tried to tell the story of a group of medical missionaries working in Guatemala. Along the way I experienced what they did, I was with them when they became the first medical team in Las Lomas and Joyabaj. I worked alongside them in Xepocol. I did my best to tell their story.
In some cases, I don’t think I did it justice.
Just like it’s impossible to experience Greece vicariously through a Travel Channel show, it’s not possible to truly capture the experience with words and photos. There’s a lot more to a story like this than just explaining what they do or how many patients they saw.
It consists of the local ministers tearfully thanking you for traveling where no other group had been willing to up to that point. It’s receiving a gift a small box of candy from a child for playing with them, or being hugged by a woman who waited outside in the hot sun for hours to see a doctor.
It’s the home-cooked meal in a place where they don’t even speak your language made by people who have never met you. It’s the realization that some of these people have never seen a doctor before, that some of those you just didn’t have time to see might never have another chance to see a doctor.
The people we saw in Guatemala work hard for as long as they can. From the time they’re little children they will carry loads that, if they were in a school child’s backpack here, would draw complaints from parents. But these children aren’t going to school, they’re carrying crops to and from fields or are bringing goods to markets.
They were tough, able to tolerate more pain than I know I could.
To us, the mountains and forests and lakes are pictures you’d expect to find on motivational posters. To them they’re tools for everyday life, soil to grow crops or roads to climb three times a week for firewood.
It’s hard to express what it’s like to be some place. I might be able to describe the environment, like how crop fields are planted on steep angles on the side of mountains or how a person might pick the fruit of a tree fresh every day for a meal, and I could even show pictures of these things, but it’s not a substitute for tasting the corn roasted and brushed with the juice of the lime.
These sensory experiences aren’t something you can replicate behind a computer, they’re something you have to experience in person. That’s not to say I think I did a bad job, but there’s just no real substitute for being there.