By Jessica Brodie
QUETZALTENANGO, Guatemala—A medical mission and clinic built from the ground up in northwestern Guatemala has been officially dedicated to the work of the Lord.
Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, along with the Rev. Ken Nelson, headed to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, July 13-17 to dedicate the newly constructed Healing Guatemala clinic on behalf of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church. Holston and Nelson joined representatives from the Evangelical Methodist Church of Guatemala and the National Methodist Church of Guatemala in the dedication service.
Healing Guatemala is a medical mission and clinic established by Dr. Luke Rhyee, a medical doctor and an elder in the UMCSC. The mission offers medical services, particularly ophthalmology, dental care and basic medical needs, both at the clinic and in rural communities in the region. Rhyee works with a team of doctors there, plus local community members and medical lay professionals there and around the world to deploy teams to serve at the clinic and surrounding communities.
“They’ve literally built a clinic from the ground up,” Nelson said. “It was a plot of dirt, an overgrown field when Luke arrived, but in building a place of community healing and reconciliation, they’ve brought community leaders together, parents, small groups and more.”
Holston said he is excited about the mission work being done at Healing Guatemala.
“We experienced a tremendous sense of purpose and were surprised by the facility and awesome ministry that is being offered to the people who are in need,” Holston said. “This is a wonderful project to support. Healing Guatemala is certainly a mission that is on the cutting edge of ministry and making a difference for the sake of Christ in Guatemala.”
Rhyee and his wife and three sons live in Quetzaltenango, which is about a five-hour drive from Guatemala City, serving a million people who live nearby, mainly in the mountains. The majority are Mayan indigenous people who speak one of 23 languages and not the country’s official language, Spanish. Because of that, they have little power and access to assistance. Rhyee said the infant mortality rate is 25.16, more than four times what it is in the United States.
Nelson said Healing Guatemala is focused on holistic healing, healing more than just body but relationally, in the community, and between humanity and God.
“It’s inviting people to experience Jesus by touching the hem of His garment,” Nelson said. “In offering the physical healing, it is far more than medical treatment but an invitation to a new way to relate to God and the world.”
Healing Guatemala also works with local schools to provide basic nutrition, as lack of food greatly impacts students’ ability to learn.
“The communities are mainly poor, so the simple realities we take for granted, like three meals a day, are not a reality in Guatemala,” Nelson said, noting Healing Guatemala provides the schools with fruits and vegetables, plus teaches the schools how to grow fresh produce there and in nearby homes.
In addition to dedicating the clinic, Holston and Nelson got the opportunity for a dialogue session with leaders from the Evangelical Methodist Church of Guatemala and the National Methodist Church of Guatemala. Previously, Nelson said, these denominations had not worked so well together, but the clinic was a bridge that brought them all together. After the dedication, Holston and Nelson gathered in a circle beneath a tree with church leaders from the other denominations for a candid talk about how they could all work together and heal the distance.
“It was pretty incredible,” Nelson said.
The next day, Holston and Nelson traveled two hours away to the village where the school is located, Chusajcaba, and met with teachers and students who have been working with Rhyee’s team on the nutrition plan. Holston and Nelson had the chance to serve meals to the students and distribute health kits, and the students performed a skit for them. Nelson said he was impressed that so many of the children’s parents spent the day there as well to offer thanks.
“While we were dedicating a medical clinic, we were watching a ministry unfold,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he has a big heart for the people of Guatemala and for Rhyee’s mission, and he thinks the greater UMC can take a lesson from the people of that nation.
“Volcanoes erupted while we were there, but life didn’t stop! People live with uncertainty every day, but they’re not fazed! It gave me great hope for the UMC,” Nelson said. “What we can always be certain of is that God is trustworthy and is with us. I got no sense of despair there. While I saw the conditions of poverty, all I heard was expressions of gratitude.”
He is looking forward to going back to further help with Healing Guatemala.
Healing Guatemala is seeking people from the United States with medical skills to serve there on medical mission teams. Medical equipment and school supplies are also needed.
For information on how to help or get involved, visit www.healingguatemala.org.
By Jessica Brodie