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Mauricio chan, a worker with Health Talents International, checks the teeth of a child in the ministry's child-sponsorship program during a mobile medical clinic.
Photos by Erik Tryggestad and Mauricio Chan

Ministry beyond medicina

In Central America, a medical mission encourages children to stay in school — and brush their teeth.

MACTZUL QUINTO, Guatemala — The name of this mountainous Central American village means “sin.”

It’s the sin of a particular family, or maybe a reference to a nearby river. No one’s really sure. It’s from the ancient Quiché language, which dates back to the Mayan empire of more than a millennia ago but is still spoken here, along with Spanish. 

Among the mountains of Guatemala's Quiché department, a family waits to see physicians at the Mactzul Quinto clinic.

Among the mountains of Guatemala’s Quiché department, a family waits to see physicians at the Mactzul Quinto clinic.

Members of the Iglesia de Cristo (Church of Christ) float between the two tongues as they unload boxes of medicine, dental tools and exam chairs from the white trucks bearing the words “Talentos de Salud/Health Talents International.”

Mission teams from the nonprofit, associated with Churches of Christ, conduct mobile medical clinics here. They perform exams; clean, extract and restore teeth; and prescribe medications. Educators and evangelists do follow-up work, hosting seminars on preventative medicine and conducting Bible studies. Dr. Lisa Dunham and her husband, Kemmel, coordinate the work. 

For the visiting missionaries — biology students from Oklahoma Christian University and a team of physicians, pharmacists and dentists from Churches of Christ in Oklahoma City and Tulsa — the clinic feels less like rural medicine and more like a visit to an upscale hotel, thanks to the sparkling white tile floors in the Mactzul Quinto church building. 

The congregation funded the work itself, says Sebastian Salvador Yacon, one of eight deacons for the 165-member church, which also has two elders. Six men serve as preachers and two as evangelists. The church has a six-member women’s committee, six children’s teachers and a four-member youth committee.

The medicine that Health Talents provides helps his under-served community, Yacon says, and hosting clinics in the church building brings positive attention. But the real difference the ministry makes here is through its child sponsorship program, which encourages children to not only eat right and keep their teeth clean, but also to stay in school.

“Everyone my age … no one has finished high school or even middle school,” says the 48-year-old. “I’m grateful for the way Health Talents teaches about the importance of health and education, finishing school and getting degrees. About 15 to 20 kids here have graduated from high school.”

He learned about the church from a friend and was baptized on June 25, 1989. Before that, his life reflected the ancient name of his community — marred by misdeeds, he says. 

He’s shared his story with his family and has seen 20 of them give their lives to Christ. God has blessed him in his work at a local butcher shop, and two of his boys have been in Health Talents’ sponsorship program.

In a place named for sin, he finds only blessings.

Website: healthtalents.org

Filed under: Central America Guatemala Health Talents International International News Top Stories

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