After one year of planning, building, equipping and hectic last-minute preparations, the Father Andres Giron Clinic in Aguacate, Guatemala began operations on August 20, 2015. It was staffed by a dedicated team of nine 0CMC (Orthodox Christian Mission Center) health professionals. It had been a year fraught with challenges and miracles. With the blessing of Metropolitan Athenagoras and his desire to reach out to his Mayan communicants, as well as start-up funding from his NGO, One World One Community (www.owocglobal.org), ground had been broken on September 1, 2014. Along the way, many obstacles confronted us. A project of this magnitude had never been attempted in this remote and humble village setting. Building materials, exam tables, office furniture, folding beds, a large water tank, and the like arrived from Mexico and various “ferreterias” in Guatemala. Medicines, medical supplies, birthing kits, prenatal vitamins and diagnostic equipment were hand-carried from the United States and driven along the bumpy and serpentine mountain roads (with frequent police checks) to Aguacate. This fortuitous convergence of manpower, money, materials and medicines,
however, did not occur without insult or incident. First, there were the village rumors that the project was being funded by the infamous drug lords. Then came the heavy rains that frequently flood the cloud-shrouded village. Since Aguacate finds itself at the end of the power grid, frequent power outages interrupt work for days and weeks on end, rending power tools useless. Then to top it all off, this effulgent, water-rich region experienced unheard of drought conditions for the first time. Rationed water from the main village tank only arrived at 8 p.m. and flowed until 5 a.m., when it would be shut off again. This necessitated one more unexpected expense before the arrival of the medical team — the purchase of a 5000 liter water tank for the clinic roof. Traveling into Mexico to find one at a reasonable cost, and reentering Guatemala along the back roads, (one might say smuggling) was not an easy task. The large blue tank was finally hauled up to the rooftop by the men of the village. The next night, the tank was filled to capacity, solving our water problem, or so we smugly thought. The following morning, as I was preparing to bathe in the bounty of water, not a drop of my precious water trickled out of the faucet or shower head. The mission team was due to arrive in two hours. The tank had been mischievously drained through an open value that supplied the whole village. How were we to conduct a medical mission without water? A frantic appeal for help over the village PA system brought some fifty women with plastic water jugs to the clinic, and some with babies on their backs. For the next two hours, they climbed up and down the three flights of steps to fill the tank from a nearby stream. This remarkable communal effort, and all that preceded it over the previous year, culminated with the medical team’s compassionate treatment of 434 patients over the next four days. The work of Christ had begun through the blessed hands of our OCMC unmercenaries.