by Chris Karenbauer
During spring break in 2019, Cedarville University’s Global Outreach program sent a team of students on an annual medical mission trip to Guatemala where they set up a clinic. There, the team met a baby girl, Amberly, and her young mother.
Amberly became sick, and her mother took her to the clinic. Amberly grew worse and had a heart attack. There was not much the clinic could do except perform CPR. Amberly’s life was saved that day.
Amberly’s mother originally wanted to take her daughter to the hospital. But because the mother was a teenager, she had the risk of her daughter being taken away. The clinic saved Amberly’s life and worked out a solution to take the baby to a hospital for more treatment. Because of the clinic, Amberly’s life, as well as many other people’s lives, were saved.
People like Amberly and her mother keep Cedarville students going back to serve in the clinic and assist a local church in evangelism.
During this past spring break, Global Outreach sent a group to partner with Caring Partners International for the second straight year. Two members of the team were junior pre-medical students Abby Reed and Ryan Stikeleather.
Caring Partners International is a Christian organization that specializes in “evangelism through medicine.” Caring Partners operates in Guatemala, Belize and Thailand, where medical doctors, nurses and students volunteer to serve God on weeklong mission trips.
The team spent a week running a medical clinic in El Cerrito, which is a short drive from its base in Fraijanes and a 45-minute drive south of Guatemala City. The team held the clinic in a gym near a local church so the church could use the clinic to evangelize.
“Our goal was to meet up with the local church,” Reed said, “and bring our gifts and talents through medicine in order to bring people to their church.”
For several students like Reed, this was their first time on a mission trip and their first time to travel outside the United States.
“It was a very different experience for me,” Reed said. “I have never been outside the country before. So, it was very interesting to see their culture there and just to experience how they live on a daily basis.”
But other students, such as Stikeleather, had been to Fraijanes the year before when Amberly’s life was saved.
“This was my fourth time going to Central America for mission trips,” Stikeleather said. “So, at this point, I guess I kind of know what to expect as far as it was like generally. But I would say it still was very different to me. The small towns are not like anything you would ever see anywhere in the U.S.”
Adapting to a new culture can be difficult, especially with a language barrier. But Reed said, “It really helped to have people on my team that have been there previously or that spoke Spanish. And they were able to help me through the culture shock. So, definitely I think I couldn’t have done it without my team.”
Stikeleather added that the team leaders — Hayley Hasty, who works in the admissions office, and Dr. David Peters, who is a pharmacy professor — helped the students cope with culture shock. Stikeleather and Reed said their leaders made sure everyone was focused on serving God so they could do their jobs effectively.
In addition to Hasty and Peters’ leadership, Reed said, “It really helped to have people on my team that have been [to Fraijanes] previously.”
While they were in Fraijanes, Stikeleather and Reed’s team saw the effect of the 2019 team’s service. The group met several people, like Amberly, whose lives were saved. Some of those people became Christians the year before, and they are now full members of the local church.
“I think [the] aspects of the trip that were most interesting to me this time was just getting more of the story of each of the patients and hear a lot of their lives and everything they’re going through and see how we’re able to deal with, not everything, but a lot of things,” Stikeleather said. “And then having the church implanted into them as well.”
One of the most amazing things the team members experienced on their mission trip was seeing how they have grown in their Christian faith and the lessons they have learned from this experience.
Stikeleather said that there were cases beyond the clinic’s control to help, but he saw God working through them, nonetheless.
“I think one of the things that really helped me grow in this trip was just seeing God in action,” he said. “[There] were serious conditions. Just seeing God put us there at those times, for these patients. They might, if they hadn’t happened to come to this clinic at this time, they would never found out. Just seeing his power throughout creation and working through our trip. I think it was really amazing to me.”
Reed said, “It’s a great experience. And I feel like our purpose is we’re going there to bless the people. But I feel like my team was also blessed by going. The advice I would give is to be prepared in prayer and constantly be asking God for strength to get you through or to open your eyes to what he’s doing.”