Editor’s Note: This is a story submitted by Jayne Mittan, a member of Trinity UMC in Tallahassee, who goes on mission trips to Guatemala several times a year. On one of these trips, she encountered a man named Samuel. The following commentary is about one of her more recent visits to reconnect with him.
|Samuel, who suffered from schizophrenia and was without medicine for treatment, had been chained to a pole for six years.|
The photo of him lying on the ground, naked and chained to a pole for six years due to mental illness tells the story. His name was Samuel, a 27-year-old man we found on one of our trips to a medical clinic in Guatemala. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember thinking things like: “Is this a human being? My dogs live better than this! How could this happen? Where is God?”
Where Was God?
He was in Samuel’s family, who were at their wits' end, searching for help and choosing to ask us what could be done. He was there giving me the courage to touch Samuel, speak to him, cleanse his body and bandage his ankles from the chains. He was there with the medical team that was with me: Helping me troubleshoot the situation, cutting Samuel’s filthy hair and helping to buy his medicine. God was there helping us talk to Samuel’s family and educate them about schizophrenia, how to give him his medicine and allowing them to trust what we were telling them.
God was also there the week Porch de Salomon—a progressive non-profit ministry hosting mission teams and providing humanitarian relief in Guatemala—built an enclosure for Samuel to keep him out of the weather while protecting his family from his violent outbursts. He was there every month when it came time to buy Samuel’s medicine and do his follow-up visits. And, he was there the day Samuel’s chains were cut off through the help of Porch de Salomon.
These were some of the most important landmark events in the life of Samuel. However, as we discovered over time, it was not to last. Samuel’s family just could not keep up with taking care of him while trying to eke out a living. They couldn’t consistently give him his medicine or keep him clean. Their neighbors encouraged them to poison Samuel, so he wouldn’t be such a drain on the family’s very limited resources. On a subsequent visit, I was disheartened to see Samuel looking much the way he did the first day we saw him—minus the chains. But, once again, God was there.
With funding from Porch de Salomon, we hired a full-time caretaker for Samuel. Luis goes to see Samuel every day, bathes him, grooms him, makes sure he eats and gives him his medicine. Luis keeps in touch with Porch to let us know of any needs he may have or any changes that need to be made. He was truly sent by God to help us help Samuel.
On my last visit, Samuel looked like a different person.
While not interacting via conversation (Samuel speaks Kaqchikel, a Mayan dialect different from Spanish), he did acknowledge our presence by standing and walking. Luis tells us that Samuel sometimes sings to himself. He was clean, fully clothed, freshly shaven and even had a smile on his face. These are things I never thought I would see happen for Samuel. None of it would have happened without God’s intervention. He calls us to love one another—and when we love one another, he gives us the resources to fulfill that love.
I look forward to my next visit with Samuel. I know God is continuing his work through Porch de Salomon, Luis, Samuel’s wife, children and mother, medical and construction teams...and me.
If you are able, I encourage you to visit the Porch de Salomon website: www.porchdesalomon.org and find out what you can do to help. Samuel is just one of God’s children needing our assistance. I can’t help but wonder how many more “Samuels” there are in Guatemala, yet to be discovered.