THE PRESENCE OF GOD
By Carolyn Beukeboom
One Sunday afternoon, an elderly Indigenous woman came limping into La Consolata Hospital in the village of Punin. Her feet were bare and on the back of her ankle was a large open infected ulcer. My first thought (as I was extremely busy) was to clean the wound, put some antibiotic cream on it and send her on her way. But when I saw how filthy her feet were, I decided to heat some water and wash them.
As I knelt by her side and gently washed her feet, I looked up into her eyes and she gave me the most beautiful, delightful, toothless grin. I felt a peace come over me and was reminded of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples.
On her departure the old women kissed my hand and said “Dios le paga” (God will pay you). I knew this small gesture meant a lot to this woman. It was that afternoon that I truly felt the presence of God in my work. Since then I have been blessed with many special moments in my work as a nurse here in this small village, a 30-minute drive south of Riobamba.
This hospital was constructed with donations from an organization in Italy. It was originally built for the Indigenous people in the surrounding communities of Punin. The Indigenous people often refuse to go to the government hospitals in Riobamba because they are badly treated and there is much prejudice and discrimination against them. As the hospital in Punin has only been in service for one year there is still much to be done before it will be completely up and running.
Presently, only the outpatient doctors’ offices, dentist’s office, pharmacy and laboratory are functioning. Funds are still urgently needed to buy equipment and supplies for the emergency department, surgical suite, recovery room and in-patient department.
As we do not have any beds yet in the in-patient department, for about three weeks we took care of a young man who slept on the floor in one of the rooms. He was really quite ill and should have gone to a hospital in Riobamba, but he adamantly refused to go. We took care of him to the best of our ability with the limited resources we had.
Each morning I would start my day by spending a few minutes with him and his family. Despite his pain he would smile at me and there was always a sense of hope that this day would be better then the last. Being with him for a few minutes each day seemed to give me energy for the other patients I would see that day.
“As I knelt by her side and gently washed her feet, I looked up into her eyes and she gave me the most beautiful, delightful, toothless grin.”
I am often overwhelmed by the generosity of the people who come to the hospital to be treated. Gifts of eggs, bananas, oranges, candy and bread are not uncommon as people are eager to repay you for your services.
In conjunction with the hospital, I have been coordinating a health program for the health promoters to work in their own communities. The program emphasizes prevention and education. Once a week the health promoters, mostly Indigenous men and women, come to the hospital for practical experience.
I have enjoyed being a part of their lives as they share with me stories of their families, their dreams and inspirations. What a privilege it is for me to walk with these very special people who are so willing and eager to help the people in their own communities.
A quote from Mother Teresa is, “God is everywhere and in everything, and without Him we cannot exist.” My mission experience here in Ecuador has certainly taught me this. Whether it be in the patients and people I work with at the hospital, the children I teach health classes to in a village near Chimborazo, or the awesome beauty of the mountains during my many hikes—God is always present. Although there are days of loneliness and longing to visit my family and friends in Canada I know that I am never truly alone.
I am blessed with a sense of peace and tranquility, a sense of the presence of God among the Ecuadorean people.