Coffee, Prayers and Anesthesia: Guatemala Medical Mission


The week I spent as a translator in Guatemala was one of the most interesting and fun weeks I’ve had. I did not expect to love it so much, but I did and I came away with an increased sense of purpose and calling. Every year, at least once per semester, I question my decision to go to seminary. And each time, I’m reassured in whatever creative way God has chosen to speak to me, that I’m right where I need to be.

This time, God used one of life’s simplest pleasures to remind me why I do what I do. I’ve always been a coffee snob. Having grown up in Brazil, it’s really kind of my duty to be so. Guatemalan coffee is like nothing I’ve ever had before. While browsing my journals the other day, I found an entry in my Moleskine about that first cup of Guatemalan coffee on the first day after travel. At first, I was struck by how pretentious it sounded. The entry takes note of the sultry caramel undertones, the bold taste and full flavor, with a caramel-ly smooth finish.

I know.

But, the spirit of the entry is how I felt in that moment as I drank the cup of awesome, sitting in the quiet of the morning, waiting to see how I would be used that day, asking God to help me show Christ to someone that day. In that moment I felt gratitude for the ability to find and hear from God in simplicity, and excitement at the possibilities for the day.

Most of the translating I did was for the anesthesiologists. I would go back and forth from the waiting area where the patients wait to meet with the anesthesiologists before surgery, and the recovery area where patients stay for up to three days after surgery. I also translated a few surgical consults, and morning and evening rounds with the surgeons in the recovery area.

The anesthesiologists would come to the waiting area and explain general/local anesthesia and ask the routine questions like current medications/allergies, etc. Then they would go prepare the room for surgery and come back for the patients. A lot of them were scared at the thought of having an injection in their back, but talking it out seemed to help them.

While waiting for the anesthesiologist to come out, when things were at bay in the recovery area, I would sit with the patients in the waiting area, and either pray with them or tell jokes (yes, I know jokes in Spanish now too, friends). I was particularly struck by one lady’s situation. A lot of the ladies facing surgery were very scared because a lot of them were facing breast mass removals/biopsies and were naturally a little more anxious. Image

This lady in particular was terrified of surgery because she had been widowed for about a year and had two young children at home, who were waiting on her and who needed her to come home. I prayed with her and listened to her story, then I went to find the team chaplain and asked him to pray with her. She had a hard recovery because her anxiety kept getting the best of her, but by the end of the week, she was ready to go home and looking well and in fine spirits.

My time in the waiting area and in anesthesia translating made me excited for what lies ahead after I graduate whether I work as a chaplain or in a church. I’m excited for countless opportunities to meet for coffee, to listen to stories, to pray.

Another highlight of the week was meeting the Guatemalan version of my grandfather. If you’re new to the blog you may not know that my grandfather and I were very close. This little guy was a super hard worker and reminded me a lot of him, so I had to get a picture 🙂 Image

My whole week was spent sitting with patients, praying, joking, walking back to the recovery area to check on patients, praying some more, surgery consults, rounds with the surgeons, and more prayer.  What a great way to spend a week.

During my time there I was reminded of the many ways God is at work in our world, of the power of prayer not only for those who receive but also for those who pray, of God’s love that transcends language barriers, of God’s power.

Pray, then, in this way:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name

Your kingdom come, your will be done,

on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And do not bring us to the time of trial but rescue us from the evil one.

– Luke 6:9-13



  1. MaryAnne Chesser

    I love you sweet Sara! You are an amazing young lady! I miss you already! Let’s go more places together! We paint nice signs! 😉

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