Rains had moved in, the roads were wet and the grounds muddy as my teammate Steve and I set out with missionaries Mary Jo and Dick Crandall on a 30 mile journey to follow-up on a recent patient of Hospital Shalom. We were going to visit a young thirteen-year-old girl that Mary Jo said carried a rare grace like that of a princess. I couldn't wait to meet her and her family.
I wondered why we were travelling a mere 30 miles for a home visit -- that is until I experienced the conditions of the rural Petén highways from the back seat of our borrowed “low-rider.” The highways boasted gargantuan, crater sized pot-holes and random speed bumps that threatened to sheer the undersides of the car away and leave my feet dangling above the pavement. Just because it's paved doesn't mean it's smooth.
All was quiet when we finally rattled up in front of her palace an hour later. The rain-soaked yard boasted mud, ducks, chickens and pools of stagnant water. Four young boys just returning from school scrambled out of the brush along the roadway and ran toward our car. Dick and Mary Jo recognized them from a previous visit, and we soon discovered that The Princess was not at home.
She was at the hospital (!) which meant the family had spent scarce resources to travel into the city…one of the very situations we had meant to prevent by coming to the house for the follow-up in the first place.
Home visits for patients in the Petén Jungle region of northern Guatemala provide several benefits:
- It is very difficult – if not impossible – for many rural families to make a trip for follow-up visits because transportation either does not exist, is very difficult to arrange, or the distance and time required for travel are excessively burdensome. Many patients live hours away.
- Home visits allow workers to assess living conditions which may provide greater insight on the patient’s and the family’s overall health care, physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs.
- Home visits give hospital missionaries an opportunity to continue contact with the family and the community in order to build relationships and to share the love of Jesus.
While Dick and Mary Jo talked with the boys I pulled “The Amazing Gospel” comic books, crayons and some coloring books from my back-pack. One of the boys spied the enticing graphics on the cover and we quickly became their new best friends in town.
Their faces exploded in smiles so huge it made my own cheeks hurt, and they repeatedly held the comics up so we could take pictures of them with their new books. Mary Jo asked one of the boys to read for her, and he flipped open the pages and read in unfaltering Spanish a portion of the greatest story he'll ever read!
The children in this village speak both Q’ueche and Spanish, but we learned that while speaking Spanish is common… READING Spanish at this age is a remarkable breakthrough. We were thrilled to hear this – not only for the potential economic advantage it affords them in the future – but just to know that they held in their hands the very words that would tell them about JESUS, about FORGIVENESS of sins, LIFE and HOPE in a format they cherished and could read on their own! Talk about amazing...
Before we left, they asked if their friends down the block could have comic books, too, so we sent them off with the few extra copies we had. The sight of them running off, calling out to their friends, so excited to share this wonderful book is forever imprinted in my mind.
The home visit certainly didn’t turn out as we had planned. After all, we make our plans, but God directs our steps, and these four boys walked right across our foot path. Who knows? Maybe you’re looking at four future evangelists and powerful church leaders for the nation of Guatemala. Rise up, you mighty men!
Let it be, Lord.
Who can you share the good news of Jesus with today?
Note: “The Amazing Gospel” comic books are available from Gospel Tract Society. Contact them to order copies in Spanish & English or to check for availability in other languages.