Alison Keenan

I got the call for missionary work through the stories shared with me by a friend. She mentioned an opportunity to serve in a medical mission and I attended a meeting to see what it was all about. I had just lost my job in a medical clinic after new contract negotiations and needed to look for a job, but since I had some time on my hands, I thought I would just check it out. I got a chance to meet the people with whom I would soon be sharing long hours, late nights, sore feet, minimal sleep and the notion of no toilet paper in the plumbing. Little did I know that the outstretched hands of the patients I helped care for were really inviting my heart and soul to a growth experience the likes of which I had never known?

My first thought was that I did not have experience in the operating room and despite my 30+ years of experience in nursing, NONE of them had much to do with orthopedics! What would I be able to do? Just asking the question opened up endless possibilities-teaching patients how to give themselves injections, cleaning instruments, circulating in the Operating Room, changing dressings, helping patients recover from anesthesia, assisting the doctors give steroid injections-the list was endless. Knowing that many patients had travelled hundreds of miles and sometimes many days to come to this clinic was heartwarming. Adjusting the education we provided to match the needs of the patients was necessary because many would be going back to work in the fields. That meant they would likely be exposing fresh surgical sites to dirt and mule droppings. Things we take for granted in the US meant adjusting to life lived in much more simplified terms.

The experience was life-changing. Very gracious people waited hours for a chance for us to help them. They waited patiently and without complaint-often bringing their entire family with them and waiting on the floor in a crowded hallway. Everyone had a major medical challenge of some sort-many could not walk unassisted, yet none of them complained. After surgery, they were grateful to be able to walk with their therapist down the hall-all had gracious smiles and abundant blessings for the workers.

I learned that there was much I could do. Anything that helped the surgeries go swiftly and smoothly was helpful. It did not take much to give back to those who desperately needed our help. The time went quickly and each hour was a new and heartwarming experience. To have a sleepy yet grateful young man reach out for my hand and bless me in broken English for helping him; with tears in his eyes and a smile on his face, he gave more to me than I gave to him-all I did was change his dressing.

I have never known a more loving and happy people than those we met in Guatemala. Life was simple and they were a gracious folk, always giving you a smile and a prayer of thanks. With our wealth of experience and the many privileges we enjoy, how dare we live an uninvolved life? It took just a moment to make a difference in the lives of so many that have so little. This experience helped me take to heart 2 things that I shall never forget:


…There, but for the grace of God, go I
To those whom much is given, much is expected