An eleven member team of Belmont University students and faculty are serving rehabilitation hospitals in Guatemala over Spring break. The group plans to provide physical and occupational therapy to the needs of the local hospital as well as train the hospital staff in up-to-date knowledge and treatment techniques. The students will also have the opportunity to visit a local school and inspire students to pursue health professional goals.
At the end of their mission service work, the group plans to visit the historic city of Antigua, Guatemala.
There are many Thank You’s to pass along: The Shalom Foundation played a major role in organizing the logistics and on-sight coordination of this medical mission trip. In addition the team would like to recognize the College of Health Sciences and Nursing, Gabhart scholarship fund as well as individual family, friends, and churches.
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Being in Guatemala gave me chance to reflect on the lives of so many who do not share in my North American way of life. There were moments to see poverty and devastation among the Guatemalan people as well as so many moments to see great joy. Seeing the mother of eleven children living in a shack on the side of a loosely support hill made me appreciate my own sturdy house in Nashville. Although a great need exists, the willingness of the people to endure, even with so little, makes me rethink my seemingly insignificant problems and appreciate the things I take for granted. While traveling to a third word country does put the comfortable American in somewhat taxing positions it also has the ability to open one’s eyes and heart to the love of the people.
One particular experience I recall happened on my first full day in Guatemala. I was standing with the rest of the group during the Sunday morning worship service when an eight year old girl named Kaylia gave me a hug. I thought nothing of it as she went down the row and hugged the rest of the team. But to my surprise she came back and held tightly to my side though the entire singing portion. I honestly had never had someone so close to me for so long and at first, it was a little uncomfortable. Soon I realized that she didn’t care about my personal space and just wanted to be loved in a healthy way. Little Kaylia remained for the duration of the service only to transition to my lap during the preaching. This experience reminded me of the universal need to be loved. Everyone has this need – whether it is the neglected child in a third world country or an abused person in the United States. People all around us deserve love. We should make it a point to love on others using whatever gifts we possess. I feel we did just that throughout our week long journey. We loved on the people at the church and they loved us in return with their smiles.
Our team used physical therapy skills to encourage other students and staff at the hospital as well as motivate parents of the children we cared for. We loved on each other through fellowship and devotions to God. I treasure every moment we were able to show love along the way. I look forward to additional trips where we can continue to make a difference in the lives of others and in the process change ourselves for the better. I feel this trip enabled us to pave the way for future successes year after year, not just for physical therapy advancement but for the enrichment of people in need.
The time I spent in Guatemala was incredible! I saw God working in so many ways – in the work of the Shalom Foundation, in the hands of my fellow students, in the interactions and sharing of information between American and Guatemalan professionals at the hospital, and in the twinkle of hope in the eyes of the schoolchildren. I think that mission trips (and other service opportunities) are essential to spiritual growth. For me, these opportunities give me perspective, a chance to see “the big picture”, and let me glimpse reality a little more clearly. It is not those who are being served that come away from the experience the most changed; rather, it is the person that is serving, who has placed his life into God’s hands for Him to work through him, that comes away most affected. This trip has been no different. I feel such an awesome respect and gratefulness to our Creator for the blessings in my life which I see now so much more clearly.
I also experience the world differently, knowing that I have brothers and sisters in another country striving to serve the same Maker. I look for opportunities to serve Him where I am and not just on special occasions. I am much better at recognizing them now. I also was reminded how faithful God is to his people. Though I was worried about some parts of the trip, since I was away on rotation for most of the preparation, God had already planned a week better even than I could have imagined. It was a week filled with opportunities to help and to provide, both to therapists and patients alike. It was an opportunity to encourage the dedicated individuals working there day in and day out. It was a time to grow closer to a group of peers as we held out His light together, to draw encouragement from them. It was a time to look into my own life and examine my purpose and direction. A better “spring break” I could not have imagined!
[The most effective portions of our trip (in my opinion) were those spent teaching and educating the Guatemalan therapists, so hungry for information. In this way, I believe a lasting impact can be made, that will last much farther beyond the week-long interactions with the patients. Even though we are all “mid-schooling” with very little experience, our knowledge was more than sufficient to improve the quality of care in this setting. I truly hope that next year’s group will carry on with this effort and help provide more education to the therapists there, that they so desperately crave.]
As a pilot trip, this mission was more a seed planting than anything. Though at times we did not feel we were making much of a difference, we were investing in people’s lives. For Belmont School of Physical Therapy, it was planting seeds of potential. Potential future trips to help others through PT in Guatemala or elsewhere. For the children we saw in therapy and for their parents, we planted seeds of hope and love. A hope renewed because their child was important enough to merit the attention of people from the United States. A love given to every child we touched and reflected in their hugs and bright smiles. For the therapists we worked with, seeds of innovation and new ways of thinking. New treatment ideas and techniques we brought to them that may help them with a child’s therapy or encourage them to expand their knowledge. For the children we spoke with at the school, seeds of inspiration for a bright future. A future they may not have thought possible before our words and touch. And for myself, seeds of reminder and renewal. A reminder of the wide world that exists outside of my small bubble, and of the great God who created and loves us all. A reminder of how I can use my education and my gifts to better serve people. And a renewal of a love for my chosen profession and for people of all cultures.
I would like to echo my teammates in thanking those who were involved in seeing this idea of a physical therapy mission trip come to fruition in a way that was nothing short of miraculous. Thank you to all who supported this trip financially and spiritually. Thank you to the Guatemalan people who welcomed us with opened arms. And thank you to God, who used this week to take me out of my comfort zone in many ways. I pray that I will be permanently stretched and changed into a new and better person, and that I will remember this trip as a milestone of change in my life. I also pray that the seeds that we planted will be watered and tended so that they can grow into beacons of life that shine the love of God and of his Son, Jesus.
Good news to everyone: no one was swallowed by a sinkhole.
First I wanted to say thanks to all of the people who supported me. I would not have been able to go had it not been for your generous support. This was my first opportunity to go on a medical missions trip that was related to physical therapy. I have always wanted to be a part of medical mission and I thank the Shalom Foundation and Belmont for helping us put this together. For the first time I saw poverty in a third world country. The people at the Shalom Foundation are true heroes and I thank them for letting us be a part of their ministry. Whether it was finally being able to communicate in Spanish, looking into the face of a pediatric patient, or helping to ease a lady’s neck pain, the experiences of this trip have left an indelible mark on me. Thank you to all of the students who went, and to the chaperones. It was a tremendous trip. May God bless both you and me and the people of Guatemala.
Matthew 25:34-40 Then the king will say to those on His right hand: Come, blessed of My father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. Then the righteous will answer Him saying, Lord when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.
Every time I go out of the country I come back with a renewed spirit and blessed in so many ways. This trip to Guatemala has been no different. It is hard to put into words the many things God showed me throughout the week. It never fails that God is going to humble me everytime I go on a mission trip. When we began planning this trip I was a little nervous for a couple of reasons: 1) We weren’t real sure what we would be doing and 2) because I am a 1st year I am still lacking a lot of knowlegde on how to treat a patient and am not very confident yet in what I do know. However, once we got down there God took care of the nerves and reminded me that He chose us to go for a reason and would use us in a mighty way (even me, a 1st year).
Walking through neighborhoods of extreme poverty, hearing stories of abuse and murders, and seeing patients in the hospital who had been abandoned by their family brings tears to my eyes. But when I see the joy in the smiling faces of the children and am mobbed by hugs from children excited because I came to their country to visit them, it brings JOY to my heart!
Through this trip I realized that even though I may not have the skills of the 2nd and 3rd years, God can still use me to love on the the children and families of Guatemala, all I have to do is simply show up and He will do the rest!
“Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope for.”
Thank you to all who made this trip possible through leadership, donations, or prayer.
I will be honest and admit that I was a little hesitant to go on this trip because I knew that it would be my only time off from school and I did not know what exactly I would be doing in Guatemala and if I could really make much of an impact in just one week. However, I decided that this would be a good opportunity for me and so I took a leap of faith and commited to going. Now looking back, I cannot think of a better way to have spent my spring break. I learned so much by going down to Guatemala and seeing the daily routines of the Guatemalan people. It gave me such a different kind of joy than I have ever experienced when I saw the most humble and grateful look in the eyes of the children as we just gave them love and attention. Even though I could not take away all of their troubles and take care of all of their needs, I still feel like I made an impact in the short time I was down there because I let a child know that they were loved.
I hope to go on many more mission trips because I now have such a desire to let everyone know that they are loved by God no matter what their circumstances. Jesus showed his love for others by literally placing his hands on and caring for people that otherwise would not have been treated that way. I am excited to be able to use my career choice of physical therapy to show God’s love for everyone through me.
It never fails to surprise me that such vast disparities exist between first world and under-developed countries. Guatemala is no exception with its unsuitable drinking water, hazardous living conditions, severe malnutrition and unfortunate abuse, just to name a few. Yet despite seemingly insurmountable barriers, the children I met this week seemed to gleam of hope through their shinning smiles, glistening eyes and vibrant spirits. My heart goes out to Heidi, Ingrid, Paola and all the other children of Guatemala. You have blessed me more than you will ever know.
This mission trip to Guatemala was such a wonderful experience in so many ways. In every step of the trip it was evident that God was present and residing over us. I find it difficult to sum the week up into a brief paragraph or two, so I will just end this mission by saying THANK YOU.
I thank all of the people who have prayed for us and donated money and supplies to support us.
I thank the Shalom Foundation for making this pilot physical therapy mission such a success.
I thank Nathan for taking the initiative to get this trip underway.
I thank the Belmont Physical Therapy Department for all of their support along the way.
I thank Sheila and Todd for their support and awesome Spanish-speaking skills.
I thank the Belmont IT department for all of their help with this blog.
I thank the other members of this mission, my fellow Belmont PT students, for being such open-minded and talented therapists and for being so caring as well as comedic:) It was wonderful to get a chance to interact with the other classes, to fellowship together and to support one another. I feel as though I’ve gained 9 new brothers and sisters from this trip.
I thank the ciudad y gente de Guatemala for teaching me so much about myself and the abundant blessings which I take for granted on a daily basis. I pray that God will continue to strengthen and bless the country of Guatemala.
Most importantly, I thank God for all that He has done and continues to do in our lives.
“You have changed my sadness into a joyful dance; you have taken away my sorrow and surrounded me with joy. So I will not be silent; I will sing praise to you. Lord, you are my God; I will give you thanks forever.”
Psalms 30: 11-12