by Lori Galaske
What do five physicians, sixteen medical students, and a variety of non-medical personnel, including a chemistry professor, two engineers, a vet student, a foreign-exchange student, and a high school student have in common? A heart to serve the people of Guatemala, and that’s exactly what they’ll do from March 8 – 15 at ASELSI’s Father’s Heart Clinic.
We, Christian Fellowship, have sponsored the CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Association) Guatemala team every March for the past ten or eleven years. Mission trips are great opportunities for medical students to practice their newly learned skills as well as benefit a large number of people who might otherwise not be treated due to sheer numbers. As I’ve worked with this particular medical team over the years, it’s obvious that this trip means so much more than a chance to practice medicine.
The team will treat roughly 500 patients during the four full days of clinic that they will hold while in Guatemala, but they won’t just perform minor operative procedures and hand out prescriptions with their best medical advice. They’ll care for their patients spiritually as well. It’s one of their main goals, “to treat the Guatemalans with effective medical and spiritual care.”
Nearly half of this year’s team members are repeat customers, and most of these repeat customers plan to make short-term mission trips a life-long practice. In the U.S., medicine is seen as a career choice, but when these physicians and medical students go to underprivileged countries, their eyes are opened to an entirely different perspective: medicine is ministry. The revelation seems to excite, encourage, and empower them to not simply practice medicine but to practice medicine with the Father’s heart.
I asked team members about their previous experiences on the CMDA trip. Their answers are fragrant with their love for God and His people:
“We were privileged to be the first people to ever tell (them) about Jesus.”
“The whole town was singing hymns and praising together. It was an amazing thing to see.”
“I never expected it to so profoundly influence my faith and relationship with God. In daily life, I feel that my role as physician and my faith as a Christian are in two different worlds…I finally saw how the two are connected.”
“Being able to combine the two things I love most – ministry and medicine.”
“God is calling me and using me to serve others and glorify Him through medicine.”
“It showed me that medicine can be a ministry.”
“I learned just how much giving the love of God can mean to people with nothing.”
“I was struck by how passionately the believers love God.”
“I was able to see firsthand…the valuable lesson that sometimes listening and being supportive of your patients is all they need.”
I have the privilege of facilitating the finances of this trip each year. It is an honor to work with these students who already have so much on their plates but are so willing to undertake the massive amount of planning it takes to bring a team of twenty to thirty people onto foreign soil with boxes of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals. This Sunday, March 2, after the 9:00am service, we’ll spend some time praying for the team. I invite you to join us and be a part of their ministry.