A man was peeking through the corn as we walked about a mile to the place where women weaved their cloth. It frightened me at first, but then I realized that he was simply curious. We continued to walk, occasionally getting a look at the volcano in the distance. This is Guatemala. A land where many of our vegetables are grown. It is a beautiful land with a difficult political history. Our mission was to meet with the women in the remote areas who were health providers. The midwife we met was on call twenty-four hours and this often meant that she walked miles once the message came that a baby was about to be born. Often it was raining and our visit to them was a look first hand at swollen creeks and slippery mud. The Health Providers are trained by Christian churches to go into the very remote areas to teach women the basic standards of health…thus preventing disease.
One village was the home of a Christian group whose children had learned the cottage industry of sewing and embroidery after the men and older boys of the village had been murdered. This happened during a governmental, political problem in the 1980’s. Dogs drug in the bones for weeks after the raid, but these women were determined to keep their families together. Even today, these people have it very difficult. Their products must be brought for miles into Guatemala City….sometimes riding the “chicken buses” crowded to overflowing. When the U.S warned of unrest in Guatemala, the tourist trade dropped off, hurting these people desperately. Ruth and Nohemi are weavers and sewers who make tablecloths, jackets, and handbags. Many of their creations are sent back to the U.S. to be sold, thus helping their economy.
American missionaries spend time giving medical treatment at the Proyecto Salud y Paz in Quetzaltenango. We visited their dental clinic that was making do with out of date equipment, but the people lined up for hours for the care. They also ran a small pharmacy. It was amazing to see the tender love that these missionaries had for the people of Guatemala. They said, at the time, the only real need they had was a high wall to help to protect their compound.
The John Wesley School was extremely poor. The floors were dirt and the building needed great repair. However, more than one hundred children packed into this school with almost no sanitation. A number of American people have returned since this trip, bringing aid to the people of Guatemala.
The next time you eat some fruit or a vegetable that is labeled, “Grown in Guatemala”, think of these hard working, devout people who are still walking under the volcanoes and through the corn fields. They are, after all. our neighbors to the south.
BOYER WRITES by N.W. Boyer (See slide presentation below)
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