Sunday, 29 November -0001 18:42

Letter From the Otten Family World Relief Report

Written by John and Connie Otten
Cubulco is located approximately 35 miles north of Guatemala City, but it is 120 miles by road. It is a remote rural town nestled in hills and has a population of 4,500. The area surrounding Cubulco has a population of approximately 45,000, the majority of them indigenous [natives to the area]. Most of the people make their livelihood from subsistence agriculture, planting mainly corn, black beans and peanuts.

Dispensing Medicine
We have always been struggling with how to better serve the poorer people of the Cubulco area. Although we sell the medicine at our cost, it still can be too expensive for some of these people. We had a system in place where the reception personnel could give discounts to the people who could not afford the bill. We also give medicine on credit and allow people to work at the hospital to pay off the debt. We noted, however, that we still missed a lot of poorer people. We then implemented a system where the families are evaluated and their medical folders are marked with a letter which represents a percentage of the bill that they will have to pay. This is a more consistent system and we have had a lot of positive response to it.

Small Apartments for Medical Personnel
In August 1994 we completed building a complex of small apartments for the medical personnel who work at the hospital and are not from Cubulco. They include doctors, nurses and technicians who work here but come from the city. We realize that for them too it is a sacrifice to leave their families and all that the city offers to come here. Because the local housing available for renting is poor, we decided to build small apartments wich contain a small kitchen, bathroom and basic furniture for the medical personnel to live in. This has turned out to be very functional. It has also freed up some more hospital rooms (some doctors lived in them) and now we have twenty patient rooms available in the hospital. Previously, when we had surgeries, we often lacked space for the patients.

Medical Trips into the Mountains
God greatly encouraged us on our last medical trip into the mountains. We went to a village called Tres Cruces which is to the south-west of Cubulco. We didn't know of any Christians there, so we wanted to go there with medicine and at the same time bring the Word of God. We left early on the 23rd of August. It had rained the night before and the road was very washed out. We got stuck a lot and were a little concerned if would make it to our destination. We arrived and saw one hundred and forty patients in the two days we were there.

A young man came up to me [John] and asked if I remembered him. I didn't. He explained that he had been at the hospital two years before with his baby who had severe burns. He showed me his child who ran around and looked perfectly normal. He said that he believed when he heard the Gospel at the hospital. As we talked we were standing outside listening to an Achi music tape and he asked if he could buy the tape. It was hard for him to be a Christian because he didn't know any other Christians in the area. We told him that if he promised to listen to the tape and let others listen we would give him the tape before we left, which we did.

The second day, as we were about to leave, a man came and begged us to see his wife. They lived on our way home and so we said we would. We left all the medicine packed for the mules to carry home the next morning and we went to make the house visit in the jeep on our way home. When we saw his wife we realized we would have to treat her. She had fallen into a fire during an epilepsy attack and her arm was burnt and infected. We then returned to get the medicine. As we were returning, we were overjoyed to see the Christian walking down the road with his family and a cassette player playing the Achi Christian songs. It is good to pray for the Christian here as there is little support and they have a very limited understanding of God and the wonder of salvation.

Hospital Activities
Presently we have a surgeon, Dr. Bill Blaisdell, and his wife, a nurse, volunteering at the hospital for two weeks. All the days he will be here are booked full of surgery and we had to book some for the next time we have surgery planned--in December. The Gideon Bible Society came by and had an opportunity to give many Bibles, since almost all the patient rooms are full. The Gideons come quite often.

From January 1st to August 31st this year, 7,893 patients have been seen, 596 being dental patients. The types of services offered at the dental clinic are fillings, cleanings, extractions, root canals and dentures. Of the 7,893 patients, 1,304 came for the first time, which shows that many new people still come to the hospital. We have had 339 inpatients at the hospital. There have been 65 surgeries, which include general, gynaecological and ophthalmological cases. Maternity patients numbered 109.

This past year we have started a Spanish medical library. It is well used by the doctors, nurses and technicians for personal study, as well as for teaching classes to the staff.

Progress Report of the Nutrition Centre
There have been 44 new children enroled in the program and 61 children have been discharged due to improved weight gain. There presently are 35 children in the program. It is set up to help children recover from malnourishment. Due to illness many children will become malnourished. Once the children reach normal weight they are taken off the program.

For us the most important part of the program is the education of the mothers because often sicknesses result from the wrong beliefs and practices of the parents. An example is that in the Achi language the word for diarrhoea is "much water" and therefore the parents will not give liquids when the child suffers diarrhoea. The mothers, therefore, are given classes on how to re-hydrate their children, how to prevent illnesses through hygiene, taught proper food preparation and they are also taught Bible lessons. The children also are taught some writing, Bible stories and songs and take part in a recreation program.

Our Family
Our girls are doing well. Jolene and Melissa love little Sarah and plan to make a tough girl out of her. Sarah is a good-natured baby and she has grown a lot already--she has gained 7 pounds at ten weeks. She's also starting to sleep through the night, something which Connie is especially excited about.

We hope you are all well and wish you God's blessings.

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