Monday, February 8, 2016


James and Ellie Carr
I'm just going to say it.  These past couple of weeks have been rough.  Not in the normal sense of we are super busy, tired, and stressed.  Sure, life is still busy, and this lingering cough has been wearing me out physically, along with the teething, stomach bugs, and passing colds that Riley has been going through.  But I'm talking about something different.  Spiritually and emotionally, the past few weeks have tested us.

As many of you know, a friend and coworker has been in the hospital for almost two weeks now.  After being almost run off the road by a car while on his motorcycle, he ended up with both of the bones in his lower left leg shattered, and three or four broken bones in his left hand.  He was taken to the nearest public hospital, a fairly large hospital that is located just outside of Antigua, with his coworker who was riding on the motorcycle with him and also injured.

X-ray of Don Chepe's leg in need of surgery.

Now to give some background information on healthcare in Guatemala, there is currently a national crisis facing the healthcare system here.  Hospitals are lacking in even basic medications such as blood pressure medications and antibiotics to give to their patients.  They lack the funding from the government for basic needs such as food for patients and sufficient medical staff.

We have gone to the hospital to visit Don Chepe for the past two weekends while he was awaiting surgery on his shattered leg.  I can't give you all of the facts on the medical system here, but I can tell you what we experienced.  The five story hospital where he is admitted was filled with patients.  Don Chepe's room has six men in it who all appeared to have similar injuries.  There were patients on beds in the dim halls where the lights were turned off, I assume due to lack of money to pay for the electricity usage.  Fourth floor wing where Don Chepe is has around thirty patients total.  It is a men's surgery/trauma wing.  In both of the times we visited, there were only two nurses seen for the floor.

Public hospital in Antigua, Guatemala.

I only write this to give you a mental image, not to try to fix it, because it wouldn't be a simple solution.  I don't write it to compare to the luxuries and entitlements that I have seen and experienced working in a hospital where every patient expected to have cable television and private bathroom in their room (where they complained about having to eat green beans more than four times a week as a side dish).  That would be another whole book.

I've learned that the hospital here has trauma patients similar to Don Chepe who have been waiting since the first week of December to have surgery.  That is waiting eight weeks for a surgery that would be considered an emergency in the States.  One that would be completed the next day, at the latest.

Yet Don Chepe smiles each time we visit.  He smiles through the pain and wiggles his broken fingers to show us that he can still move them.  He says he is eager to start physical therapy.  He says God is with him comforting him through the pain.  He doesn't mention the exaggerated wait time, the lack of nursing staff, or the developing bedsores on his heels.  He tells us how God is going to heal him.  He says God will raise him back up on his feet and he will be walking soon.  He says when he closes his eyes he imagines being out of the hospital, but while he is still there, God is there with him.  It hurts me to see him hurting.  To see the breach in the care I expect and want him to get and the care he is getting.  "Is it not neglect?" I am asked.

Maybe so.  So is the scene we passed on the way to the hospital that first Sunday.  We were lost on some backroads, and as we maneuvered around an intoxicated man laying perpendicularly across the road, I looked out the window to notice another man passed out on the sidewalk.  Drool was dripping down his unkept beard from his chapped lips.  But seeing him was not what bothered me.  You see, there were three young boys there, presumably his sons, maybe stepsons.  The oldest, maybe eight years old, stood beside the man keeping watch over him.  The other two, maybe five or six years old, huddled in the doorway of the dark building that opened up to the sidewalk where the man lay.  There were no other adults nearby- just three young boys babysitting their drunken father on the street.

Passing through town on the way to the hospital, Sunday.

Where is the justice for them?  Where is the justice for those waiting months for their shattered bones to be repaired?  I want to fix it all, but it is impossible.  I haven't even mentioned the injustices we see every time we venture into Paradise, in the slums of Guatemala City, where we work.  It's not fair.  The system is broken.

But still God is just.  He is waiting as a refuge for those boys, for those patients, for me.  Don Chepe has found Him and clings to Him.  He commands us to do so:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
I am burdened, but He is waiting for me.  I don't have all of the solutions, but He knows my problems, my hurts, and my heart.  He hears me, and hurts with me.  And with them.  All I need is the faith of a mustard seed- the faith of Don Chepe.  Without it, I am powerless to help anyone or make any change.  Lord, help me to have this faith in order to serve others, in order to make a difference.

Don Chepe awaiting surgery Saturday afternoon

Through some networking, we were able to get Don Chepe's surgery wait shortened.  He should be in surgery as I write this post.  Pray that the surgery goes well with no complications.  Pray for Don Chepe's pain and rehabilitation.  He faces a long road to recovery.

For more information on Guatemala's healthcare crisis, check out:

James and Ellie Carr / Author & Editor

James and Ellie Carr have been missionaries in Gautemala since 2014 and write to share their feelings and how they have experienced God's goodness and mercy on the mission field.


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