After ten months, nearly three thousand miles by land and sea, and the help of five different ministry organizations and scores of volunteers, a promise has been kept! On Thursday, December 12, 2009, the lobby of Hospital Shalom in San Benito, Guatemala was filled with local firefighters, airport officials, and even Guatemalan television and radio reporters as Missionary Air Group presented a load of donated equipment to the airport crash-rescue team (see the September 2009 story “Firefighters to the Rescue”).
Some of these brave men were unable to hold back tears of joy and gratitude as the gear was received. Manuel Antonio Cunil Tut is the Chief of the airport fire department. A second generation firefighter, the 26-year-old Chief shared “We have seen equipment like this—but only in pictures. We never thought we would actually have any of our own. We are overwhelmed.” He continued, “Many people have come before and promised help, but nothing ever came. You have kept your promise, so now we can see you are sincere in wanting to bring help to the Peten. Our door is always open to you.” As they donned their new (used) Air-Packs, they explained that a nearby factory has a couple of these—allowing them to be borrowed for training, but then returned. “You mean we can train and then keep the equipment afterward?” One of the men exclaimed, “What a blessing!”
A public “show” was never our intention, but as Airport Director Angel De La Vega spoke to a live television news feed, it became apparent just how important this was to the people there. Colonel De La Vega told reporters “It is with gratitude that we accept this gift of help for our firefighters and for our airport. I pledge that we will do everything in our power to assist Missionary Air Group and Hospital Shalom in bringing emergency medical care to the entire Peten.” Colonel De La Vega was recently appointed by the President of Guatemala as the Administrator of the Mundo Maya International Airport—the country’s second largest airport—as well as Director of Civil Aeronautics for the region.
For MAG President Sean Donnelly, the highlight of the day was the opportunity to speak personally with the firefighters. “I didn’t do any of this,” Sean shared. “I’m no more than the delivery boy and a messenger. Many people have helped but in the end, God has sent this equipment to you because He wants you to know of His great concern and love for you!”
Hospital Shalom founder and president, Tim Spurrier perhaps summed it up best. “What these guys have really received today is hope,” he said smiling. “It’s been a good day.” A good day indeed!
The project is still not complete, however, as the Air-Packs cannot be placed into service until a charging system can be obtained to fill the air tanks. Donation of a used charging system is currently being sought. Please contact MAG if you know of anyone who can help. Opportunities also abound to provide ongoing training for these firefighters.
The real work—that of getting an air ambulance placed into service in the Peten—is just beginning. Thank you to all who have helped provide this gift which has paved the way for MAG to bring “help and hope” to thousands in northern Guatemala!