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A Night of Healing Before Guatemala’s Day of the Dead


Chichicastenango, Guatemala — The Sunday market is wall-to-wall people. Tourists waddle in baby steps through the mass of humanity assembled around the Santo Tomas church. Merchants shout for their attention in Spanish and Quiché, a Mayan language that predates Guatemala’s Spanish settlers.
The air is heavy with the smell of incense and burning corn. Inside the sanctuary people light candles and pray. Outside a shaman offers sacrifices to the spirits. Centuries ago settlers tore down the Mayan temple and used its stones to build the church, but many Mayans believe that spirits remain in the ancient rock.
Our medical mission team got a firsthand look at life in Chichicastenango as we set up a mobile medical clinic in the local church of Christ Oct. 31. Health Talents International coordinated the trip.
After an afternoon of worship and prayer with the congregation, the patients line up. Many speak only Quiché, and Health Talents’ workers have to translate their medical needs into Spanish, then English, for the physicians.

The occasional “BANG” of fireworks punctuates the Sunday evening air. From the roof of the two-story church we see plumes of smoke from the brightly-painted cemetery. This Halloween eve the people are preparing for tomorrow’s Day of the Dead observances – a festival of flowers, feathers and exotic dances that combines Catholic theology with Mayan rituals. Dia de los Muertos celebrates the lives of ancestors while appeasing their spirits.

Poverty and discrimination have limited the people’s access to adequate health care. Health Talents ministers here by addressing basic needs and speaking the Gospel to all who will listen.

Physician Lisa Dunham and her husband, Kemmel, a health care consultant, will move to Guatemala in March to serve as medical missionaries for Health Talents. Members of the Eastside church, Colorado Springs, Colo., the Dunhams plan to train volunteers from local churches to teach Bible, community development and preventive health care to their neighbors.

“This helps empower local Christians with a tool for evangelism and helps communities address problems in health care and development without relying on outside support,” Lisa Dunham said.

Filed under: International

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