The old African proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child” could also refer to other communal endeavors such as building a clinic. We found this to be the case in Aguacate, Guatemala, after a recent visit (Nov. 16th) to see for ourselves how the project was progressing after three months. To our amazement, the ambitious undertaking was more than halfway complete and well within budget, owing to a herculean effort on the part of the entire community. We watched in awe as scores of village men, with shovels in hand and smiles on their faces, gathered around scattered sand piles to mix cement and shoulder five-gallon buckets of the heavy mix up a rickety wooden ramp for pouring onto the second floor.
Undergirding the newly poured concrete floor were freshly cut pieces of timber donated by each family as part of its contribution to the overall effort.
Nearby stood the women of the village in the pouring rain, stirring steaming pots of atol, a sweet rice drink seasoned with cinnamon, for the workers.
The communal work ethic and enthusiasm of the villagers were a marvel to behold. This would not be a one-way or top-down charity, fostering dependency. With joyful eagerness and pride, they were taking ownership of the project. We had empowered them to serve each other and Christ. Like the faithful stewards in Matthew 25, they had taken the “talent” of our financial contribution and multiplied it for the future benefit of many. Upon inspection of the work, project director, Robert Kirschner noted, “The craftsmanship was excellent. The walls were straight and parallel, the poured floor was level and mortar joints were even and well placed. Conduit for electrical service and 3” and 4” drain lines for sewer access had been placed in appropriate locations.”
All of this confirmed the wisdom of Robert Lupton, who wrote in his book, Toxic Charity, “never do for the poor what they have the capacity to do for themselves.” During this visit we also followed up on the fluoride treatment program instituted in August by Dr. Willie Manteris, D.D.S. Juana Pascal, the Community Health Worker, has continued the treatments, usually done at school, even during the vacation time. This is now being done at the village community center and is attended by most of the children. Juana keeps treatment records on a computer provided by the Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization, Computereach. Additional fluoride programs in nearby villages will be implemented with our next visit this coming Janaury. These are just a few of the highlights we experienced during our recent visit. We left Aguacate with a greater sense of what it means to be community. It is nothing less than the one Body of Christ comprised of many members, each “having the same care for one another” (1 Cor.14:25).