The Gift of Presence
For nearly two weeks, those of us in the Saint Paul Area Synod have been blessed by the presence of ou[...]
Some of you may have summer memories of accompaniment trips to Guatemala—the warm embraces of the ILAG staff as you enter the Lutheran Center, the enthusiasm and joy radiating from the students’ faces at the primary school, and the presence of God in the holy space of a small congregation in a remote village. This year, while our physical presence has been impossible, we have sustained our relationships with the ILAG through prayer, virtual meetings, blog updates, and the Guatemala Gala with your generous gifts to the Education Ministry programs. Walking together in partnership also means seeking ways in which the Holy Spirit opens new doors.
The ILAG’s established Health Ministry program has had its work cut out for the Health Promoters in 2020-21! Over the last decade, Health Promoters (individual leaders) have been identified by the ILAG congregations to receive specialized training in basic areas of health care. To that end, our congregation (Spring Garden Lutheran Church, Cannon Falls) has been partnering with the Health Promoters Ministry to share in that training.
Over the last decade, the ILAG Health Promoters and the Spring Garden Medical Team have participated in rural medical clinics and retreats to offer training on specific health care topics as well as identify in-country resources and leadership so the ILAG communities can have a measure of care for the people’s health needs. In much of rural Guatemala, the health infrastructure can be minimal to non-existent. When the ILAG churches have a trained leader in their communities, the Health Promoter can help improve the health of church members and reach out to the wider community members with the church’s ministry of healing.
Over the years, the Health Promoters have had classes in first aid, reproductive health, infection control, suturing and wound care, diabetes education, general hygiene, nutrition, water borne illness, parasites, traditional medicines and use of other medicines, to name a few. But as noted above, 2020 to 2021 brought on grave new challenges, not only in Guatemala but around the whole world. The pandemic has not spared any country and some countries have faced far greater challenges than others. The ILAG has a new ally in the fight against the pandemic. Dr. Arturo Monsanto has become involved with the Spring Garden Medical Team to continue to meet the need of the ILAG communities.
For years, the ILAG staff has had a relationship with Dr. Monsanto, a physician in Guatemala City. In collaboration with the ILAG staff and Dr. Monsanto, the Spring Garden Team is creating new opportunities for continued sharing in this health ministry, despite the inability to travel. Because of recent challenges from hurricanes that went through parts of Central America, Lutheran Disaster Response has been engaging the ILAG in ways to help. New solar powered lamps that can also act as charging stations have enabled people to stay connected through digital tablets and cell phones. To that end, at the recommendation of Dr. Monsanto and the ILAG staff, the team at Spring Garden is in the process of producing three short video courses to be shared digitally. The three areas of greatest need for the ILAG are:
Health Promoters will be able to access these videos to refresh knowledge, learn new skills and educate accurately around issues from the pandemic. The Spring Garden Medical Team hopes that the familiar faces of our nurse trainers will carry credibility as the Health Promoters learn how to fight the virus. These short courses can be played as frequently as needed by Health Promoters to reinforce the standards that will give us all a chance to fully recover from the pandemic.
Pastor Nick Fisher-Broin
Spring Garden Lutheran Church, Cannon Falls
NOTE: For current information about Guatemala’s COVID-19 infection rates and vaccination statistics, see Reuters Covid-19 Tracker.