Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Part 2: From Bible Translation to Hospital

     Prior to 1984, political unrest made it inadvisable for us to try to build a hospital.  The six-year 'civil war' resulted in much death and destruction, and even our full-time presence in Cubulco was not safe.  We used our 'time in exile' to complete the translation of the New Testament, and to check it thoroughly with native speakers who came to Guatemala City.  Back in Cubulco, a young local man had just completed his medical degree, and we hired Dr. Coronado Alvarado to work in the clinic in our absence!  
      In May, 1984, 'all Cubulco' helped us celebrate our newly printed New Testament.  By that time, civic violence had settled down somewhat, and Helen started 'talking hospital.'   Soon, that talking became action, and enthusiastic townspeople overwhelmed us with all kinds of cooperation.  They eventually provided us with over 800 man-days of labor, and more than $2,000 in cash, supplies, trucking, and even 'ox-carting.'  The new mayor and his assistant were probably our most ardent supporters, and persuaded National Public  Works to grant us 2,000 bags of cement at half price!  The community was behind us all the way.
      Another big boost came from our Union Church friend, Mr. Bernard Rorem, an engineer who had been in business in Guatemala for forty years,  His age, eighty-six, did not hinder his coming and giving us his services as designer and overseer of construction of the main building.  He further provided, at cost, his unique construction block that was in high demand for earthquake- resistant buildings throughout the country.
     Just as we finished laying the foundation, twenty-three pairs of willing hands arrived from Kansas to help us. They were a dedicated construction crew with the slogan "Reach Out for Christ"; they spent Christmas week laying block, sewer lines, electrical conduit, and water pipes.  The ladies of the crew not only did the cooking, but helped align the 'interlacing' of that unique block, and carried soil to fill the building up to floor level.  A sweet Christmas present!
     When the walls reached roof height, we needed to pour a seamless roof to ensure a sterile environment below.  Equipment for pouring concrete was unavailable at that time and place, and we had only manual laborers.  That meant they would have to lay hundreds of feet of roof a little bit at a time... and that would leak like a sieve!  About that time, our activity caught the interest of a big-hearted business man, Sr. Arturo Matheu, who owned a barite mine nearby.  He came and offered to send his mine crew over to work with our men overnight.  Wow!  With a double crew, they could mix, carry, and spread cement non-stop, until the whole roof was done.  'Overnight' it had to be, since the tropical sun would make some sections of the new roof dry too fast. 
     At sundown, the blended crews were ready to begin.  Four or five men mixed cement in a clearing on the ground; runners carried buckets of the mix and handed them up to men standing on a make-shift scaffold; these handed them to the next two, a few feet higher.  Finally, two standing on the roof received them and ran the buckets to the men spreading the sections.  Enough workers were on hand to spell one another, so no one collapsed.  By eight o'clock the next morning the entire roof was spread and covered with wet sacks to slow the 'curing' process.  Whew!
     Generous Sr. Matheu also furnished us with tile floors, louvered aluminum windows, termite-proof cedar doors, and tile walls for key rooms.  Many other friends contributed toward electric lights, sink cabinets, files, examining tables... and that was just the main building; besides that, Helen's vision included four separate units in which patients and their families could stay.  An interview with the Project Director for Wycliffe Associates resulted in plans for a construction team to come to Guatemala in the summer of 1986... but we needed to have "about $50,000 on hand" to buy supplies before they arrived.  The Lord provided that too, through many, many loving Christians... too many to count, and too dear to forget.      The summer of 1986 is a blurry memory of consecutive groups of volunteers (ninety-six souls) who came and worked for periods of about ten days.  (We gladly made frequent trips to the Guatemala City airport, sending off one group and picking up another.)  Blessedly, Wycliffe Associates provided some steady staff people: a cook, a coordinator, and master builders, all professionals who were summer-long servants of the Lord.     Their vital provision HAD to be of the Lord.  Helen was quietly battling undiagnosed Hodgkins disease, suffering from fevers, aches, and weariness, but she absolutely would not allow her illness to hinder the realization of her dream..  The time was right; the funds and the hands were available---NOW was the hour.  She barely made it through the summer, and in October, a dear friend drove us to New Jersey for diagnosis and treatment.  Thanks to a succession of miracles, before we left Cubulco, four separate units for patients and their families were standing alongside the main building.  Physically ill Helen had a happy heart.

Written by Mary Shaw, September 2013

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