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Final Goodbye

Today is our last day of clinic in Sumpango. This morning there was a mixed bag of emotions among the team. As tired as we are, we do not want to leave! There is still so much work we would love to do. The time with the beautiful people of Guatemala will never be forgotten. Thank you for praying and supporting us on this trip. You have truly made a difference, and we appreciate each one of you!

Each night after dinner, our team has gathered and shared different God sightings and funny stories from the day. One of our team leaders was able to play doctor with some young boys who were ¨sick¨. The boys have been volunteering through the week, running around, keeping us laughing. One little boy came and told the triage team he was sick and needed to see the doctor. When his friend also said he needed to see a doctor, he was asked what he was sick with...his response, "same thing he had". So Jon dressed in scrubs and a stethescope, found an open room and an interpreter and proceeded to diagnose the boys. He told them to eat less candy, not to put sugar in their coffee, and go to school. :)


Just a more personal story, I was able to spend a morning with my dad in his exam room. It was wonderful to see him in action around his patients. He explained everything he did and even allowed Kristen and I to perform our first shots on a patient-such a great teacher. The opportunity for the medical students, young interpreters and myself to be able to go into the exam rooms and have hands-on experience is truly one of the most powerful aspects of this trip. I knew my dad was a great doctor, but to actually be in the room with him and see his compassion really made me appreciate him all the more-so proud!


There are so many other stories from this trip, both funny and more powerful, that could be shared, but there simply would not be enough time to write them all now. We are excited to come home and share all that we have seen and learned while on this trip. I am not sure if we will be able to find internet for the remainder of our time here, so this may be the last blog posting. We will be traveling to two different cities in the next two days to gather up some more cultural experiences and feed our desire to come back here again. Please continue to pray for safe travel and the health of the team.

Excited to see you all soon.
Love from Sumpango,
Katie & the Woodlands Team

Words From The Team

A Special Gift

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Hi all,

We had another great day at the clinic.  We saw so many wonderful people.  Some of us were planning next year’s trip already.  We are a GOOD TIRED as Harry Chapin would say.  Doing something we love.

Yesterday at the clinic I was able to give the Prayer shawl that Karen Rendall knit to a very deserving young woman.  She was 19 years old, with a 4 month old infant and a 3 year old child.  She needed to be taken to the closest hospital for gall bladder surgery.  The wonderful Dr Oscar Parades that we work with in Sumpango took her to the hospital.  I have had so many good conversations with our group and our friends here in Central America.  I haven’t run across the little girl that I am always trying to bring home in my bag.  We do have one more day, though.

We are having a great time trying to converse in Spanish with our friends.

It always gets me back on track to why I am on this earth when I come on these trips.

I am doing well and enjoying the fantastic food.  I’m working on getting some recipes from our wonderful cooks at the orphanage.

Take care,

Love you all,

Sue Ecklund


Learning New Things

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Hola amigos y familia,

This is the optical department speaking! In the beginning of the week we were all a bit flustered. There were so many patients that needed help and we didn’t have a system down yet.  Today (Wednesday) was the busiest, but by far,  ran the smoothest because of a great system we created. We have made great friendships with local Guatemalans: Allan, Tomas, Johnny and Gaby. We have had fun speaking Spanish and English with each other, teaching each other along the way. They have helped us so much this week and I am so grateful that God has blessed us with them.

As far as the patients we have seen, there have been many challenges. We have been able to help a lot of individuals find glasses and they are so happy that they are able to see well again. The joy on their faces is indescribable. Also, there are tough medical situations that are difficult to correct because we do not have the proper medical equipment here to fix the problem. Today we had many men and women that came in with cataracts. We are unable to help them here and it feels terrible that we are not able to help. However, at least we are able to give them a condition and what needs to be done to fix it. I have so much respect for these individuals, they live everyday with these struggles yet they have so much strength. There is so much more to tell but I would not have enough room to tell it all.

We are all safe and are loving getting to know and help this community.


The optical team (written by Amber)

A Note From Dr. Esteban (Steve Slezak)


Clinic Day One behind us.  Everyone was in good spirits and a healthy number of patients were seen - - - so it was a great start.

The optical team was exceptional: Leah, David, Heather, Amber, Ashley, and Katie.  We also had several exceptional Guatemalan medical students help as interpreters.  After becoming acquainted with optical nomenclature and how we work through a diagnostic algorythm, the team was serving patients with confidence and compassion.  David had a couple of  patients with high myoptic corrections allowing people to go from 20/200, legal blindness, to close to 20/20.  They were very appreciative.  It was fun for me to see the genuine joy with which our team worked.  That is exceptional especially for the first day when everyone is learning and stressing over the optical side of the patient care.

We have two dentists on the team this year, Don and Paul.  What a difference they make for these people.  They have set up pretty remarkable dental suites and have been busily working over their patients. There are very few services that are more appreciated than what these dentists do  - - - all day long, and patient after patient, regardless of the age.

Regarding OB/Gyne,  Ruth Glodowski figured out the challenge of Dr. Fachikov's first name by simply referring to him as "the big burly guy with the foreign accent."  He has been wonderful with patients and a tremendous joy to have on the team.  His daughter, "Teddy," is a special young lady and fits in well with the youth contingent of the team. The Guatemalan Medical students/interpreters and our team's youth are already like "peas and carrots."  You can see how these deep ongoing relationships occur now especially with skype, email, and facebook.

The doctors, Jarabek, Montogomery, Benn, and Kraeger are all favorites  of the medical students.  They model medical excellence, compassion, and are very patient in explaining to the students how to think through the medical possibilities like doctors.  There is a reason medical education is a long road - - there is a lot to learn; however, these doctors as mentors are exceptional and are still passionate to pass on what they know.

Today was a mixed bag in the eye clinic.  The optical team is performing fantastically.  Unfortuntely we had a number of patients that had ophthalmologic conditions that we could not improve.  Several were conditions which we could not improve regardless of the technology available, and many others were cataracts quite advanced that we could fix if we had surgical facilities.  One of the things I love about Ophthalmology is that most things we can fix.  It is hard when you have to tell people that there is nothing you can do.  I am thankful that God knows of the hardships these people endure and loves them more than I can imagine.

One little girl about 6 years old had a central retinal scar.  We had to tell her mother that her daughter would be legally blind in her right eye for the rest of her life.  We did have an absolutely perfect pair of glasses we gave her for eyewear protection for her good eye.  Please be in prayer for this little girl and her family.  I can't imagine what it would be like to hear that about one of my own children's eyes.  Pray that God comforts this mother and gives special grace to this little girl.

Pharmacy is often a bottleneck with crowds of people pressing to get their meds.  However, this year the pharmacy team is so efficient that they look as if they could do this with one hand tied behind their backs.  They also have made some excellent contacts with pharmacies in town so that we can purchase more meds in Guatemala in the future.

Jon, Dan, and Lloyd are doing a great job leading the trip.  Things are running smoothly, everybody is getting along well, and the relationships here in Guatemala are deepening.  Lots of work behind the scenes and it is all paying off with another incredible week.

Doctor Esteban (Steve)

Checking In


Hello everyone back home! Especially, hello to my mom: I am still alive, I am not sick, I am learning a TON, and I am having fun. You can begin worrying less now. Oh wait, that will NEVER happen!

Anyway, I wanted to share a bit as my role on the trip as one of the interpreters that travelled here from the states. Coming on the trip, I was extremely nervous to speak Spanish, especially to native speakers. I hadn’t had the opportunity back home to speak a lot with fluent speakers and I was very nervous. The wonderful thing about a medical mission like this, however, is that you are forced to go outside your comfort zone, push yourself, and be amazed by the results! I don’t know every word I need, but I adapted, used the vocabulary that I did know and felt like I  made a difference. I was able to tell women that they had normal pap smear results and were healthy, I could tell parents that their children needed to eat better and omit caffeine from their diet, and I was able to comfort people that they could relax, because we were going to take good care of them. I also have to tell everyone back home how wonderful the Guatemalan medical students and other interpreters are. They are so friendly, encouraging, compassionate, smart, and giving of their Spanish expertise and I owe them an enormous debt of gratitude. One thing about me that people who know me know is that I understand that I do not know everything (in life or in the Spanish language), but that I know the importance of a team. By sharing our gifts and talents with others, we fill in the gaps. We have all been working so well together, that we have been filling in the gaps: in my (and everyone else’s) Spanish abilities, in the medical knowledge that we possess, and in the compassion we are sharing with the people of Sumpango. It really is an amazing time, and I am thankful for the opportunity.

Abrazos a todos,

Michelle Brenner

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More Stories from the Team...

  Hello Friends and Family:

We are all well and enjoying the wonderful weather in Guatemala.  We arrived Sunday morning around 6:30 and began our journey.  Sunday started with an amazing breakfast in Guatemala City.  After our fun adventure on our chicken bus, we arrived in Sumpango.  It was market day, so we all took to the streets and explored.  It was amazing!!! The orphanage was expecting our arrival so we headed back for a wonderful meal and we all crashed of exhaustion.  The medical clinic was starting Monday and we were all excited.  Things went really smoothly and we all worked together so well.  The people of Sumpango have really touched my heart.  I was surprised to hear the medical students I met a few years back were going to visit.  I was so excited.  I was working with Dr. Arnold who is a wonderful person to work with and to learn from.  We were blessed enough to have two Sumpango volunteers helping with the pap staining.  This is day two of the clinic and I have seen and heard so many touching stories from everyone about people they have treated.   I’m so lucky to have been on this mission trip!  God has really been with us on this trip.

I’m so glad to be here!!!

Love you all back home and miss you!!!


A Cookie Monster Sweater & A Cowboy Hat

It is surprising the moments that can catch your heart’s attention.  A family came to the clinic today to receive dental care.  A mom, dad and a 6 year old boy wearing a cookie monster sweater were sitting there waiting when I sat down near them.  Knowing that my Spanish vocabulary is about as big as El Mezcal’s menu, I pointed to my teeth to try to communicate with the boy and ask if he had come to see the dentist.  With a toothy grin he shook his head and as he smiled a priceless smile it became incredibly evident that he would be seeing the dentist and he would be getting a lot of attention from him.  We continued to play our game of charades in our attempt to communicate it really touched my heart to contrast this young fellow’s joy in the moment while knowing he was in for a painful afternoon.  His attitude reflected so many we have seen over this week.  So many situations and conditions have pulled at our hearts already this week but those who own those stories have incredible joy in spite of the challenges and heartaches that they face.  The grace of the people of Sumpango in the midst of surroundings that are often trying is a testimony to me and a challenge to not allow the trials in my surroundings to dictate my attitude.

Also this afternoon, I was doing a simple little task of moving some chairs around when I encountered the man with the cowboy hat.  He wasn’t Curious George’s friend but was a kindly looking elderly gentleman who walked with a cane and a stoop.  He slowly shuffled toward where I was gathering up my load of chairs and started speaking to me.  My first impulse was to blurt out that I didn’t speak Spanish and that his half of the conversation would undoubtedly be met with a less than spectacular response since I didn’t understand more than a couple of words he spoke.  But instead of that, I just listened.  The chairs could wait.  My knowledge (or lack thereof) of Spanish didn’t matter.  He just needed to be heard.  It no doubt had been a long day for him and as he shared what he needed to share he pointed to his throat a couple of times.  Eventually he asked me a question to discover that our “conversation” had flown mostly over my head.  He graciously smiled a knowing smile recognizing my inability to answer his query and shuffled back to his seat.  I put those chairs in their new destination and headed to a water cooler across the room.  I was going on a hunch that the pointing to his throat was calling my attention to a need he had.  I filled a cup of water and walked back over to where the man with the cowboy hat was seated and offered it to him.  He stood up and accepted the water.  He had a pleasant smile of appreciation spread across his face.  I couldn’t shorten his wait today or make his trip home any shorter or relieve the pain that motivated him to come to the clinic today, but I could listen and extend a hand to comfort.

A glass of water to a thirsty man is a small thing.  Chatting with a 6 year-old in a cookie monster sweater is small, too.  Yet God gives us moments to touch the hearts of others and to be touched by them, and I am thankful for this day to be slinging chairs in a place where God could remind me again of His love for people like these two I encountered today.  It is a treasure to serve the people here.

Thanks for your prayers – we have enjoyed the blessing of being under the care of God’s love and protection and the support of your prayers.  Love to the Miller gang and thanks again to all who are praying for us and sharing in our time in Guatemala.

Rob Miller

PS- Just a quick post as a follow up about this kind gentleman who received the water from Pastor Rob. He came back to the clinic today (Wed.) looking for the doctor who had given a shot of medicine in his knee. He woke up this morning with no knee pain. This man, though stooped and moving slowly made his way to the clinic to express his gratitude and appreciation. (no easy thing in this city) In appreciation, Dr. Dan was given a bag of bananas. I happened to be up in optical as he is getting his eyes checked and he remembered that I was in the room yesterday taking pictures as his knee was injected. I have no idea what he said to me but his eyes where shining and he gave me a big hug.

So many of us have been touched in a powerful way. The people of Sumpago have captured our hearts.


Birthdays the Guatemalan Way


I had an awesome birthday yesterday.  Everyone sang Happy Birthday in the morning and again at night.  That was better than two years ago when a Guatemalan waiter at the restaurant we ate breakfast at starting pounding cymbals behind me to surprise me, a Guatemalan tradition I guess!

Then the love of my life and my daughter Leah and Jon Cronce conspired to get me a birthday cake and candles, and we enjoyed it last night.

Also, the opthamology department all gave me a handwritten birthday card (Hello, where was the love from all the other departments?).

We had great weather and a great day in clinic and saw lots more beautiful Guatemalan people.

We had a very nice young lady who had obvious gallstone disease, and Dr. Oscar told me that there was hospital that would do her surgery for free (she had no money and I didn’t know what I was going to do with her). The trouble is that she would get the surgery in 6 months; people in Wisconsin would never stand for that!

One of the best thing about this trip for an old doctor like me is watching all these brilliant doctor and nurse wannabees who are so eager learn tricks and knowledge from us old dogs.  As smart as they all are, it reminds me how much I didn’t know when I was their age, and how much God has blessed me with learning since then.  I pray that they all get the chance to serve in the careers that they are hoping for.

So as Edward R. Murrow said, “Good night and good luck! (Even though it’s morning now)

Bill Benn

Other Voices...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


Yesterday I spent the day in triage (a first for me as last year I was a float nurse).  One of the things that really struck me was the need for good and affordable dental care in this area.  I saw many people both young and old with rampant decay that needed a dentist.  There is no fluoride in the local water; regular tooth brushing with good toothpaste is probably not a common practice.  Regular dental checkups?  Not around here. There is a lack of education as to what types of things can cause dental problems and many parents/families are just not aware that some of the things they do or let their children do (particularly in the food/drink area) are harmful to their dental health.  It was sad to see very young children with no option but to have their teeth pulled.  Thankfully we have two wonderful dentists working with our team this year so some of these needs can be addressed.

A huge blessing – yesterday at the end of the day our whole team was still healthy!  By this time last year we were “going down” in a big way :) - Praise the Lord for this!

I am so grateful to be a part of this team….

In His Service,

Ruth Glodowski



Eric, Kate, Sally, Amy, Tammy, Raj, Lucas, Matt, Isabel and Jackson

We arrived in Guatemala with no issues other than being tired.  We went to the Market on Sunday, then church in the evening.  At church I saw the Guatemalans that have helped us in the pharmacy every year.  Our clinic opened yesterday.  We saw 187 patients.  I was surprised that more of our patients knew a little English.  We ran out of a few meds.  So, some of our group went to a local farmacia to purchase the meds.  The one we went to was run by an older woman and her Granddaughter.  The Granddaughter ended up working with us for a few hours.  I have tried speaking a little Spanish to the patients.

It is great being here again!

Sue Ecklund  (Mom)

Excited to Serve

Another beautiful day in Sumpango! We are in the midst of day two at the clinic!

Last night the clinic closed up around 8 with an overwhelming crowd left at dental. Thankfully, we were able to reschedule the appointments for later in the week in order to see everyone. We spent time catching up with other team members during dinner at the orphanage (so good!). Dr. Lloyd presented two of the medical students who had been helping the team for the past few years a token of our appreciation (Oh The Places You Will Go by Dr. Suess). We also spent some time sharing with the team stories from the day. So many felt like it was drinking water from a fire hydrant but it could not have gone smoother. So many helping hands getting the clinic set up and many cool stories of how God worked throughout the clinic day.

We started the day with a leisurely morning because our clinic hours are from 11 to 7 again today. I was able to share a short devotional during breakfast about what it means to serve...S selfless, E encourage R ready V vulnerable E enthusiasm. Headed out shortly after to begin day two.

Feel free to comment is fun to hear from family and friends from home :)

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Strong Start

Sumpagno...a view of the city


We woke up this morning to a little bit of rain even though it is the dry season.  Despite the weather, the team was refreshed and ready to start a full day at the clinic. We had breakfast at the orphanage and started the day with an encouraging word from Dr. Jean and time in worship.

This trip we are trying something new by starting the clinic later in the day on Monday and Tuesday. The patients in the past have been mostly female because the men are out in the fields working during the day. This year we are keeping the clinic open until 7 or 8 at night in order to give the men the opportunity to come home from the fields and have a chance to receive medical care.

Day One of clinic is well underway! After arriving to the community center this morning, the pastor from Los Olivios provided a morning devotion for our team and all people from the team helping us this week. He challenged us to think about how we show our love to God. This week is a wonderful chance to tangibly share Jesus to the beautiful people of Sumpango. After meeting our Guatemalan interpreters and medical students, we set up clinic and started seeing patients.

Everything is running smoothly thus far. It is such a blessing to be able to work beside the people of Sumpango and provide care. Thank you for your prayers!


Drinking water from a fire hose....unpacking frenzy!
Drinking water from a fire hose....unpacking frenzy!

Waiting to get checked in...
Waiting in line...

[caption id="attachment_45" align="alignnone" width="300"]Getting fitted for glasses Getting fitted for glasses[/caption]


We Made It!

Hello Family and Friends!

We made it! After a bus ride which included  homemade chocolate chip cookies, compliments of Dr. Paul Koehl´s wife, and a Packer win, we arrived at the Chicago airport. We met up with the rest of the team and headed to our gate to wait for our 2AM departure. The flight went smoothly and all our luggage AND action packers made it through customs...Praise God! This was a huge praise.

We had breakfast at a beautiful restaurant in Guatemala City before heading to the weekly market in Sumpango. It was an interesting afternoon of new smells, beautiful colors, and faces of people we will never forget. Headed to the orphanage for lunch and a short time of repsite.

Tonight we had the honor of worshiping with Los Olivos church, whom we are partnering with, this evening. It was amazing to worship our God in different voices and languages. The church prayed for us in both services. The people of Sumpango welcomed us with open arms, and we are so excited to serve them! Dr. Lloyd Arnold introduced our team in Spanish in front of the whole church...the locals said his Spanish was great!

We just finished dinner at Oscar´s home and are getting ready to head back to the orphanage to get some much needed sleep before setting up and starting our clinic tomorrow.

Please pray for a restful night´s sleep and smooth set up in the morning. We are excited to see what God has in store for us on the first day of clinic!

Thank you again for your prayers and support. We definitely feel them! Sweet dreams from Sumpango!


Packing Up!

The time has finally come! Thanks to everyone who came to help us on Thursday pack up all the medical supplies and toys for the children. We did it in record time! It was wonderful to spend time as a team exchanging packing tips, hearing past stories from those who have been to Guatemala, and praying for individual team members.

Thanks again for your continued prayers and support as we head out!

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Our Team & Some Prayer Requests

The Guatemala 2013 Medical Team:

  • Lloyd Arnold

  • Bill Benn

  • Lean Benn

  • Michelle Brenner

  • David Caucutt

  • Jon Cronce

  • Shelby Cronce

  • Ashley Dahl

  • Amber DeWitt

  • Sue Ecklund

  • Tzvetan Fatchikov

  • Teodora Fatchikova

  • Ruth Glodowski

  • Molly Hansen

  • Joe Jarabek

  • Mary Karl

  • Nicole Karl

  • Paul Koehl

  • Beth Kraeger

  • Dan Kraeger

  • Kristin Lang

  • Katie Mackay

  • Rob Miller

  • Jean Montgomery

  • Kevin Neveau

  • Don Orth

  • Peggy Orth

  • Julie Price

  • Susan Prince

  • Michael Russo

  • Jon Sambs

  • Steve Slezak

  • Karen Smith

  • Paige Sullivan

  • Heather Wysocki

Prayer Requests - Please pray for:

  • Good weather and safety as we travel. Our departure travel dates are Jan. 5 & 6  and our return travel dates are Jan. 12 & 13

  • Team unity.  Pray that we would mesh well as a mission team and as a medical team

  • That we would be both a physical and spiritual blessing to those in Sumpango.  We hope that those who come through the clinic will be able to have valuable medical care and our prayer is also that through the clinic they would see the love of Christ and our heart behind doing missions.  After each patient goes through the medical clinic they receive pharmacy supplies (anything from prescribed medicine to general vitamins, toothpaste, toothbrush, etc.).  While waiting to receive their pharmacy supplies they go through a Spiritual clinic (ran by the Los Olivos staff).  There they hear the Gospel and have a chance to start a relationship with Christ and/or get connected to Los Olivos to learn more.  Pray that the physical love/care we provide them, as well as, the Spiritual care would be used by God to further His kingdom.

  • Good health.  Last year we struggled with many people on the team getting pretty sick.  Please pray that this year we would remain healthy and that sickness would not be a big issue throughout the week.

  • Finally, please pray that both our team and the team of people at Los Olivos would be an encouragement to each other as we work side by side this next week.

Thanks for your prayers.  We look forward to keeping you updated as we are in Guatemala!




I thought this would be a great reminder to the team traveling to Sumpango as well paint a picture for those of you who will be following the blog. Thanks to the Kingston's who have spent time in Guatemala for providing this information.

"...Imagine getting up at 5 a.m. to go to work in the fields until late in the afternoon, Monday through Saturday. Your children, sometimes as young as six, often need to work alongside you in order for you to fulfill your quota. That means that they cannot attend school, but you have little choice because if they don't help you, you may not be able to feed them. Your farming implements are crude - often just a machete. For this backbreaking work, the average pay is about 60 Quetzales, or about $7.50 per day - which is in violation of federal wage standards but common nonetheless.

With this money, you can just barely afford to feed your family (almost half of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition). There is no money left over to save for children's education, for clothes, for health care, for retirement. Your children often grow up to do the same work you do. Even if you have been able to allow them to attend school, they have no means to pay for a university education. In addition to your work in the fields, you need to collect wood for cooking. This involves more hacking with a machete. Then, your dinner is cooked over an open indoor fire, putting the health of you and your children at great risk. Indoor air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death in the developing world, most of it due to long-term smoke inhalation from cooking.

...the average person in Guatemala would consider the poor in the U.S. to be quite wealthy."

We look forward to sharing God's love with the people of Sumpango. Please pray for safe travel and unity of our team as well as open hearts for the people we will be serving.


Sumpango, Guatemala Medical Mission Team!

Hi!  We are a team of 36 individuals who will be traveling to Sumpango, Guatemala to hold a medical clinic.  Woodlands has a partnership with Los Olivios, a church in Sumpango and we count it a blesssing to be able to go to Guatemala and serve alongside of the Los Olivos church once again!  We are excited to go serve the people in Sumpango through our medical clinic & to see all that God does while we are down there.  Please be praying for us as we travel, starting Saturday, January 5 and returning on Sunday, January 13.  Your thoughts and prayers are much appreciated!  We will post a list of our team and a list of prayer requests soon.  We'd love to have your follow our blog while we are in Guatemala and to continually lift us up in prayer.


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