Guatemala – A Life Changing Mission

I have developed a love affair with Guatemala.  Guatemala is a beautiful country in the middle of Central America.  The people are warm, loving and welcoming.  As they struggle to catch up with the “western world”, they carry an interesting mix of modern day cities and rural areas where they are still using techniques hundreds of years old.  They are hard working people who wish great things for their children.  There are many very poor areas where there is little law and order and where survival seems to be a daily battle.

We first came to Guatemala in 2006 at which time the Word of Life camp was at its infancy.  We have watched it grow in size, numbers of missionaries, and in its complexity.  Maybe the most interesting aspect, and something that keeps us coming back, is seeing the very people we help one year actually pulling themselves up and becoming leaders in subsequent years.  We have seen actual lives being changed and communities grow as a result of work that we have been privileged to be involved in there and believe me- it is not anything that we did.  We may have provided some catalyst for example or prayer – but what we have seen are nothing short of miracles.  Seeing that repeatedly not only drives you forward for more, it makes you realize that there is a loving God who works among his people who are faithful to his commands.

A typical Guatemala trip has us arriving in Guatemala City and spending two day stays in various communities (typically rural towns).  We provide medical, dental and practical care for anyone who wants to come.  We sent up in makeshift clinics, often setting up in open-air school rooms.  I have performed oral surgery in schools, in vacant buildings, in open-air markets, in the great outdoors on benches, in tents, and in municipal buildings.  The people will give us what is their best space.  We set up however we can and the people come by the hundreds, often on foot from many miles away.  We triage them, see what they need and we perform basic services that are within the time and scope of our supplies.  Occasionally, we are doing major surgical procedures, but for the most part we help them with basic needs.  All of our patients are evangelized to through the missionaries we work with.  The mountain and rural people of Guatemala are quite different from the city people; both ethnically and socially.  Many of them have never seen a doctor.  Most of them have heard religious messages, but they often do not have a strong “faith.”  As we have been involved in this work, I have seen the transformation of life-changing growth in myself, my family and my staff who have been involved in these trips.  Seeing my children grow up with this has been wonderful.  My children are now grown and they not only go on trips with Sue and I, but also have gone and continued to go on trips of their own.  My daughter actually met her husband in Guatemala on a mission trip.

Guatemala is relatively easy to get to.  There is no time change and the cost of the trip is not great.  I would encourage anyone who is interested in mission work to try a trip like this.  You do not have to be a medical person to go on a mission trip.  Even a medical mission trip like these need a lot of support personnel.  I would encourage you to become involved in this work.  It will change your life.  It certainly has transformed me.

-Dr. Richard Wagner