By Andrew Pileggi, Senior Chaplain
This past May (15-26), a team of 13 Oakwoodites departed from Huntsville to serve during a 10-day mission trip to Guatemala. Led by Chaplain Andrew Pileggi and Dr. Eva Wheeler, from the Department of English & Foreign Languages, the team included seven OU students and four professionals from local Huntsville churches. The primary focus of this trip was to provide free medical and dental services to residents of rural areas in the region of Petén, Guatemala. Dr. Marcus Moss, ’08, worked alongside our students providing free tooth extractions. Three OU pre-dental students were able to perform their first tooth extraction assisted by Dr. Moss.
Others, including Drs. Elden Lopez and Dias from God’s Helping Hands, assisted with medical intake interviews, measured blood pressure and filled prescriptions. At the registration table, Chaplain Pileggi and Dr. Wheeler counted an average of 90 patients per day. The days were hot, and the lines were long, and the team was amazed by the patience of those they served. The residents never complained about how long they had to wait, they never raised their voices, and were more than understanding when the team had to leave at the end of the day even though it meant some would not be able to see one of the doctors or the dentist.
In addition to providing medical and dental care, the team also visited an orphanage, a senior citizens’ home and a local elementary school. At each location they interacted with the residents in singing, art/crafts activities, short devotional thoughts and other meaningful activities.
One of the more impactful and life-changing activities was giving food out to the homeless. The team traveled to a dump, an actual landfill, where families lived in make-shift tents and would scour the trash every day looking for items that could be sold or food that was still edible. It was a sobering scene: women holding infants, a pungent stench filling the air, mosquitos swarming around each person, trash burning, and entire families scouring piles of trash. The team distributed 50 meals to the families. Some of the team members were so impacted that they decided to return with more food, clothing and toys for the children.
The entire team loved the experience and many vowed to return the following year. It was a mission trip that included various opportunities for ministry, service learning, an excursion to the Mayan ruins of Tikal, and plenty of fellowship.