It’s Christmas time.
The time of giving and receiving of gifts. Some people love this exchange and other’s dread it. But I was wondering why we do it at all?
Why do we exchange gifts?
Some believe that God was the initial giver. He gave His Son to the world.
Some also believe in a wealthy bishop named St. Nicholas who secretly enjoyed giving gifts to people in need. A famous story about St. Nicholas, tells of a poor man who had no money to give to his three daughters on their wedding day. St Nicholas dropped bags of gold into the stockings which the girls had left to dry by the fire. The sisters found the gold and ever since, children have hung up stockings on Christmas Eve hoping that they will be filled with presents by Christmas morning.
We all know how it feels to give to others. I think we are wired by God to enjoy it.
Recently, I was in Guatemala with Hope Ignited hosting a medical clinic and doing community development projects. We had a small team of 7 people and of that team, 3 people had never been on a trip like this before. So, I wanted to capture some of the highlights of that trip which I was able to experience.
The Greatest Payment Ever
We were made aware of a young father in the village that was dying of cancer and would soon leave a widow and several young children. Our team went to his home and found him in bed with a horrible multicolored tumor on his leg the size of a soccer ball.
The room was dark but we were able to discern that the man was in his early 40’s. The room had a stale stench of sickness that was indescribable. One member of our team was a doctor. Rachel Jamison, is a pediatrician and also Chuck Jamison’s daughter in law.
She examined the young man and spoke with his wife as we gathered around him in prayer. We laid hands on the man as Chuck anointed him with oil as a sign of divine love. Many in the team felt the loving presence of the Holy Spirit as we spent time just loving on this man and praying with his family. It was a very powerful and emotional moment for everyone.
As we left, walking up the hill toward our van, one of the man’s young daughters came rushing up to Rachel. With a big smile, she handed Rachel a single flower as a gift of thanks for caring for her father.
I know doctors make a lot of money…but I don’t think anything will ever top the value of that single flower.
Stove building / Life changing
We also visited the home of a widow and her 3 children, all under the age of 8 living in a “home” of corrugated metal and plastic scraps. Each morning she leaves her home at 5am to catch a bus to go to work washing produce in a nearby village and does not return home until 7:30pm. The children are left unattended with only a few pennies to buy a small bag of junk food to sustain them. Her “home” had a pile of rocks where she could cook and a bucket and a rock to wash clothes on.
One member of our team, Frank Gray, a soft spoken man that had never been out of the U.S., volunteered to help build an indoor stove for the family. He worked for two days with a Guatemalan masonry worker apart from the rest of the team. The work was dirty as they cleaned out a place for the stove. The area was full of spiders…which Frank is deathly afraid of! With language barriers between Frank and the mason, and under the supervision of countless curious children that were trying to understand why he was working so hard to provide a valuable stove in a shack for a woman he had never met or seen, Frank got it done.
After two days of hard work, we all gathered in the “home” to light the stove for the first time. The children all gathered around to watch with excitement and smiles from ear to ear…but the biggest smile among them all was the smile on the face of Frank.
We never saw the widow during the time we were there, but it was evident that her life would be better…and I think… so will Frank’s.
The Hugging Pharmacist
During our medical clinic, patients were registered and then sat in line to see one of three doctors that we had available to us. Once they had seen a doctor, they reported to our make-shift pharmacy that was staffed by Hope Ignited’s Chuck Jamison and a Guatemala first timer…Scott Helfrich.
On several occasions, I would walk in the pharmacy and I would see Scott with a huge smile on his face doing his best to converse with each patient to fill the prescription the doctor had ordered. It ranged from vitamins and antacids to worm medicine, antibiotics, ibuprofen and sinus medication. Scott would get eyeball to eyeball with each patient and explain the dosage and frequency of each medication in his “makeshift spanish”. But at the completion of each prescription, Scott would open up his arms and embrace the person.
It was the most beautiful and natural display of love for one person to another that I’ve seen. No doubt, each of the 388 patients that we saw over the two days felt better when they left…and I can’t help but to think it was largely due to our “Hugging Pharmacist”.
No Pressure Blood Pressure
As part of our medical clinic, we were required to obtain each patients temperature and blood pressure. I was responsible for getting the temperature of each person. It was an easy job that only required a gentle swipe of an instrument across the forehead of each person. The blood pressure job was a bit more involved. The volunteer for that job was another first timer, Joyce Fownes.
In Guatemala, most people have an elevated blood pressure due to genetics, but mostly diet. To see a patient with 180/100 is pretty typical.
Joyce was to record the blood pressure of each of the 388 patients in addition to many of the family members and children that came with each patient. When I took a break from my temperature reading responsibilities, I noticed how Joyce was taking each person’s blood pressure.
She would kneel on the hard concrete floor in front of each seated patient and gently place the cuff and stethoscope on their arm as she took the reading. I watched the eyes of each person as they looked at Joyce take the readings. I can only imagine what they thought of this woman from the U.S. that was kneeling before them on the hard ground serving them.
It was such a beautiful example of what Jesus would have probably done if He was there…and when I think about it…He probably was.
These are just a few of the highlights that I observed during our week in Guatemala. I have to say that the team of “first timers” was amazing.
So, when I think about the week, I know we went there to serve the people of Guatemala…but I know without a doubt…we were the ones that received the greater gift. Our hearts were filled with compassion, love and a deeper understanding of our place in this world.
All of this brings me back to Christmas.
Remember, the story of the three kings. They received word that the moment they had been waiting for had arrived. They traveled to this place of promise and brought gifts to bestow upon the one who would change the world forever. They brought gold, frankincense and myrrh… all things of great value to give as a gift to the newborn child.
Whether shepherd or king, their encounter with the Christ child was the same. They left Bethlehem different than when they arrived. They returned home changed, with hearts full of exceeding joy.
What I find so interesting is that even the wise men took a new path: “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matthew 2:12, NIV)
That is why I love trips like this…I believe you get to experience Christ…and once you experience Christ, your life can never be the same. And your response is always praise.
Oh come, let us adore Him.
I pray that we can all do that this Holiday Season.