“We all have a gift to give,” said Mrs. Judy Sweitzer, who came to tell us about her recent mission trip to Guatemala. Mrs. Sweitzer’s gift was spending two weeks helping with medical and dental problems in the small village of Zapato, an annual visit sponsored by her church, Pawleys Island Christian.
Mrs. Sweitzer told us that life in Guatemala is hard. The country has seen explosive population growth—400% in the past fifty years. About half of Guatemalans don’t have clean water and 57% live below the poverty line on $2 a day. One in fifteen children dies before age five; children who survive most likely will not attend school, with the result that 60% of Guatemalans cannot read.
Mrs. Sweitzer and her team spend most of their time dealing with a stream of villagers who do not have access to dental care. The dentists administered local anesthesia and pulled teeth; Mrs. Sweitzer sterilized instruments, applied fluoride to children’s teeth, and passed out toothbrushes, “Can you imagine if you had an infected tooth and the dentist was only around once in the fall?” she asked us.
The dental team had time to enjoy Guatemala’s rich culture and landscape. Mrs. Sweitzer explained that Zapato is close to an active volcano called Fuego, which rumbled, sent up smoke, and even gushed some lava while they were there. “It was pretty amazing,” she said. Mrs. Sweitzer encouraged us to give of ourselves to help others. “You will be more enriched by the experience than the people you give to,” she promised.