The Remains of the Day

Written by Gustavo Arreguín Mendoza

With my feet up and a long nap, I started my day of recovery after the last day of our General Surgery Mission Trip, and more than two weeks of mission for me. My weariness set in Wednesday evening of this General Surgery Mission Trip as my body began to remind me that standing for extended periods of time for two weeks is exhausting. Though this was my fifth mission with Solidarity Bridge, this week has been my first experience accompanying a general surgery team. Experiencing the operating room and the pace at which things function inside that room is quite a privilege. What is even more of a privilege is being an observer and active participant in the process of each patient’s recovery. This week I interpreted for Dr. Magued Khouzam and surgical nurse, Judy Biggus. 

“Dear Jesus, put your hands before our hands and let us be instruments of yours as you do this surgery” are words that resonated every time they were spoken this week. The phrase was a reminder of the possibility for error; of the inevitability of nervousness; and the hope for success. Through the tough cases and the ones that went without complications, there was an air of confidence and trust in the OR during surgery. The blessings of the day came in the form of removed gallbladders, repaired hernias, and restored colons accompanied by deep breaths, smiles, prayers, and shared nods among partner surgeons. 

While making patient rounds with the surgeons the next  morning I saw bigger blessings, bigger smiles, grateful gazes, and looks of relief on many patients’ faces. As the week progressed, we were met with beds emptied of discharged patients as well as new patients awaiting help.  This a powerful reminder that there is much to be done with the beginning of every new day. What is left at the end of the day is the weariness of having accompanied another life through a process of recovery that they have begun for themselves.

Cathedral in Santa Cruz

The remains of the day should leave us, as missioners, not simply feeling good about doing something for someone in a different part of the world, but feeling grateful that we were allowed to partake in a bigger moment. A moment that belongs not to us and the patients, but to families and communities as well. As the lights in the OR went out for the last day of  this mission we reflect on the labor carried out and we rejoice for the lives that will be led with a lighter, healthier rhythm. I close this reflection with the words of one of the modern saints of our world who lost herself in the service of others:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” – Saint Teresa of Calcutta


Gustavo Arreguín Mendoza is the Benezet Intern at Solidarity Bridge. Throughout September and October 2016 he will be living in Bolivia, joining each of our mission teams as an interpreter, and will work directly with our partners at Puente de Solidaridad. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Gustavo and his family moved to Evanston in 2005. He is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago and has been on two previous missions with Solidarity Bridge.