Who or what is Pacaya? Pacaya is one of three active volcanoes in the Antigua area of Guatemala and gives a beautiful display of lava for all who get close enough to see.
I was privileged to have hiked Pacaya one night last week and I'm sure I could see Pacaya smiling at us.
Indeed if there is a Pacaya god, she must be very pleased with the group of people who visited her and provided medical care to her people.
At least I hope so.
I and a group of fellow medical missionaries just returned from spending one week amongst the beautiful people of Guatemala.
We provided chiropractic, acupuncture, dental and medical care to over 600 people a day in the towns of San Andres Ozuna, Guanagazapa, and Escuintla.
The region has over twenty different Indian groups all with their own language.
Two that I can remember are Cakchiquel and Mam. Many of the people only spoke their native tongue so English to Spanish to Indio translation was often needed. But it all worked well.
In San Andres Ozuna, I treated a very colorfully dressed Mam Indio husband and wife. Pedro Jeronimo Lorezo was his name. They both wore the traditional garments of their people.
Pedro translated for me as his wife only spoke Mam.
May you ch (spelled phonetically) is the Mam word for relax. Pedro taught me this to help his wife be at ease as I treated her.
Chinkotano and Oosh te neek are a few other words in different Indio languages that I was able to put to good use that week.
It was a beautiful experience and they had fun listening to me attempt to speak their language. Just a slight change in emphasis or inflection apparently is important.
After a dozen or so times repeating the words, they figured I was as good as I was going to be.
While we laughed and had fun with it, I could also tell that their was a genuine appreciation for attempting to connect to them in their own language.
This appreciation can be felt in words, gestures and actions amongst all the people.
We and they know we have limited resources and ability to provide all the medical care they need.
But I believe that we do change lives forever. Theirs and ours.
It's questionable who receives the greatest rewards. I would suggest, likely, it's us--the caregivers.
As our lives intertwine for a mere moment in time a genuine and lasting connection is formed. I suppose only God can judge the extent of benefit to those involved.
In any case, as always, I wouldn't trade the experience.
Though each mission trip has an overall sameness to it, there still is a newness, and uniqueness to each trip.
It's hard to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it. But there is a richness that comes from the ingredients of a different area, the spirit and personality of the individuals, the environment, the weather, new medical team members, these and other elements that all combine to make beautifully rich and rewarding mission experiences.
In Spanish, the term, "Que Rico" comes to mind. They say this when a food or an experience is fully enjoyed. What richness it brings!
To our team, I am always indebted. The friendships and commaradie are priceless.
To the people of Guatemala, the Mams, the Cakchiquels and others, I am thankful, grateful and honored to have been allowed to be a part of their lives.
I invite you to view our photos from Guatemala Mission 2009.
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Dr. Rick Barrett