The following is written by PFM staff member, Brooke McClain, who serves with us in Guatemala. It shares the story of how our relationship came to be with Hermano Pedro Hospital in Antigua, Guatemala, where our staff, IGNITE interns, and mission teams have been able to serve and love on the patients. It has been an incredible journey!
It all began in late 2013, when PFM staff and IGNITE interns were out passing out New Testaments and sharing the gospel one afternoon in Antigua. As our group made their way to Antigua’s Central Park, they came upon a group of North Americans sitting with a group of young boys. All the boys were in wheelchairs and had some form of physical disability. As our group began to interact with the boys, PFM staff members began conversation with the North Americans. It was discovered that the young boys were live-in patients of a nearby hospital called Hermano Pedro Obras Sociales. The North Americans volunteered at the hospital. Our staff members learned how to contact the hospital and they all parted ways, but not before each one of the boys received a New Testament of his own. Not long after, those same staff members visited the hospital, met hospital administrative staff, and were given a tour.
It was during that tour that our staff members first saw the love between the hospital administrative staff and the hospital patients. The hospital staff that gave our staff the tour knew every patient’s name and interacted with almost every person that they came in contact with. Our staff learned that the hospital is entirely privately funded, primarily by the world-wide Catholic church. At that time there were about 275 live-in patients ranging from infants to elderly. Many have acute mental disabilities and most also have severe physical disabilities. Some are alert and able to have conversations, while others are not able to speak or even make eye contact. But one thing was absolutely obvious that day- the Lord had clearly opened up the door for us to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a place that desperately needed Him.
We began volunteering shortly after that initial visit. At first we went about once a month. We always came willing to serve in whatever way was needed at the moment we arrived. Sometimes we fed the patients a meal. Sometimes we helped fold laundry. Sometimes we found ourselves simply holding onto a little hand for an hour, whispering, singing, and praying. In the beginning, the hospital staff was very cautious with our staff and interns. We were not allowed to take pictures at any time, nor were we allowed to hold the children.
Often when serving at a place like the hospital, it is easy to doubt if the effort you are making is worth it. It can be easy to become discouraged because the need is so great and there are no answers to why the situations you encounter are real. The solution is to fix your eyes on Jesus and walk in faith, believing that He is Sovereign and that His Spirit is at work. Over time we truly believe the Lord opened the hearts of the hospital staff, and one day one of the nurses allowed one of our interns to hold one of the children. What an incredible blessing!
As time went on, we began to volunteer once a week. One day, we arrived for what we thought would be a normal tour with a mission team serving with PFM. After making our way to the volunteer office, the administrative staff asked us to participate in a special Christmas activity. What a joy it was to see the patients playing carnival type games, painting, and singing and dancing along to music blaring from a huge speaker. That activity opened up the door for us to begin serving in an even greater capacity. Shortly after that activity, we were asked to be a part of taking a group of patients out to Central Park, the very place where the initial connection was made.
The day for the walk to the park came and we arrived at the hospital with the mission team serving with us at the time. We gathered all the patients who were scheduled to go with us and paired off – each member of our group with one patient. What an adventure it was to push the patients in their wheelchairs across the cobblestone streets of Antigua. After walking the few blocks from the hospital to the park, we were able to ‘dar la vuelta’ or walk them around in circles over and over again. We even had a few races down the long stretches of the park. What joy and laughter could be heard that day from both our group as well as the patients!
Later that year, hospital administrative staff asked our staff if they could hold a special event on our property, the PFM Center we rent here in Antigua. That event turned out to be five separate events where groups of patients and hospital staff as well as other volunteers came to the property- a different group of patients for five different days. The patients were wheeled the ten blocks or so from the hospital to the PFM Center and participated in special activities throughout the day including interactive songs and games by our IGNITE interns who were serving at the time, lunch, a tour of the property, and even a few rare moments where they were able to spread out on the luscious, green grass that covers the property for a time of rest. The memories made during those five days are priceless. For months afterward, our staff would get asked by patients, “When can we come to your house again?”
Now, close to two and a half years after that initial meeting in the park, God continues to open doors for PFM staff and interns to serve at the hospital. We are called upon to serve in various ways from shooting video and taking pictures to helping with special activities. Our staff members, interns, and mission team members have formed deep bonds with the patients, and friendships with the hospital staff. Recently, we found out one of our most treasured friends passed away. The pain of losing those you love is never easy to walk through. However, we thank God for giving us the opportunity to love these precious souls deeply.
Please pray for God’s continued favor upon this ministry. Please pray that as we serve Jesus in this place He will be glorified, hearts will be changed, and His Name will be made known. Please pray for the hospital staff to come into a saving relationship with Jesus. Pray for future ministry opportunities with the hospital and for God to continue to open doors for PFM to serve Him there.
‘Til the Whole World Hears