With a little bit of Spanish and a lot of faith, a Statesboro pastor and his wife embarked on a medical mission trip to Antigua, Guatelmala.
Tim Huffingham, pastor of Emit Grove Baptist Church, and his wife, Helen, went with surgeons and other support personnel from across the United States and helped with 93 surgeries a little more than a week in February.
They came together through Faith in Practice, a Christian organization that strives to improve the physical, spiritual and economic conditions of the poor in Guatemala, through short-term surgical, medical and dental mission trips.
“Amazingly, with 93 surgeries, sometimes under adverse conditions, we didn’t have one major complication,” Tim Huffingham said.
“Many of the surgeries were for cleft palates,” said Helen Huffingham, a nurse anesthetist at East Georgia Regional Medical Center. “And because of their condition, the babies were malnourished. That made it very difficult to get an IV started, so a lot of things could go wrong.”
“People traveled for 13 to 15 hours to get to Antigua for the surgeries, coming from distant villages,” she said. “Whole families came.”
The patients lined up for triage and sat in chairs for hours.
“With no grumbling,” she said. “They were a very patient people.”
“One man made it all the way to the operating table, but we were not able to do the surgery. We just wanted to cry because that was his only opportunity for the surgery,” Helen said.
While the Guatemalans waited their turn for surgery, Tim prayed for and with the families.
“I sometimes found myself without a translator, but God always provided one,” he said. “On one occasion, another member of our team who spoke fluent Spanish translated for me but said, ‘I have a hard time with my prayer life in English, let alone Spanish.’ I told him not to worry, that he would just translate for me.”
“We prayed for a young man with perforated eardrums. The next day, my teammate told me that the doctors informed the man that his ears were fine; they could find no perforated eardrums.”
Another day, a young bilingual Guatemalan, Rosie, interpreted for Tim, praying for her own husband who was scheduled for surgery.
Besides praying with patients before surgery, Tim had the opportunity to share about the life of Jesus, using “evangicubes,” with pictures rather than words.
With limited Spanish, the Huffinghams nonetheless believe they touched the lives of many needy families in Guatemala, both physically and spiritually. And they said they were quick to encourage others to, literally, be the hands and feet of Jesus, whether in the neighborhoods of south Georgia or the villages of Antigua, Guatemala.