Kate Huggins ('11) | Chemistry & Biochemistry

Kate Huggins

Chemistry/biochemistry major
from Abilene, Texas

When pre-med student Kate Huggins thinks about her six-week medical internship in Guatemala, snapshots of memory spring to mind. Grinding corn at a small local mill. Learning K’iche, the indigenous Mayan dialect. Playing soccer in the rain. Strapping a blood pressure cuff around a patient’s arm. Small moments - but they highlight an incredible experience.

Then came more dramatic moments: watching the village she where she was staying deal with the aftermath of a hurricane, mudslides and a nearby volcanic eruption. 

She describes her feelings in a blog she kept during the trip: "Well, readers, I am alive. We have survived a volcanic eruption and hurricane Agatha, and mudslides. My house in the village is just under the church, so we are pretty safe but please pray for our friends and neighbors that did not fare so well."

The moments - large and small - have become part of a life-defining experience for Kate.

Medical Evangelism Training program

Kate took part in a program called Medical Evangelism Training (MET). She first heard about it her freshman year, but was “admittedly disinterested,” she says. Two years and several internships later, she experienced a change of heart. And in mid-May 2010, she and her fellow MET students arrived in Xela, Guatemala, as part of a medical missions team.

Over the next six weeks, the group traveled to a coastal clinic in Ezell, a small rural village called Chichicastenango, Lake Atitlan, and the city of Chicacao. They experienced bedbugs, tropical storms, unexpected patients, and language barriers. However, they also found opportunities to minister to the hurting and interact with local culture by living with host families.

“I had the chance to live with indigenous and Latin families and learn culture from the inside out,” Kate said. “I was also able to assist in the clinics, observe, and participate in patient care.”

For her, the best part of the trip involved the clinical experience.

“The experience in the clinics working with patients and translating for them was my favorite part,” she said. “Each morning I woke up excited to go to work in the clinics, even though I knew that it could be completely different than it was the day before. Sometimes we just sat and listened. Some days we took 70 blood pressures and glucose tests. Other days we did procedures or listened for the heart beat of an unborn child. I had no idea what to expect from any given clinic, but each of the experiences was a blessing in its own way, no matter what we were doing.”

Communicating love in any language

She also found a way to use her foreign language skills to reach out to her patients.

“The experience of watching people wake up, unsure and scared that no one would speak to them in their native language, really touched me in a way that is difficult to explain. It was an amazing chance to see the love of God firsthand. The interactions of overcoming the language barrier to communicate love, understanding, and compassion were truly a blessing and very meaningful to me,” she said.

Not all of the trip was pleasant, however. While the team was in Guatemala, Hurricane Agatha swept through the region, causing torrential downpours. In an impossible situation, Kate discovered that the only way she could deal with her fears was to let go and surrender to God.

 “The most difficult part of the trip to me was overcoming my sense of control and trusting that God truly had everything under control. In my life, I had only very rarely wondered what was going through God's head when he designed things the way that He has. During this experience, particularly during the tropical storm, I was challenged by anxiety, illness, homesickness, and straight fear for my Guatemalan family and myself…For the first time in my life, that Saturday afternoon, I had to truly surrender all of my anxiety to God because I knew that I could not handle it.”

If her MET trip to Guatemala taught Kate anything, it was to take each day moment by moment, resting on faith. It was a lesson well learned.

“I realized that there are things in life that are going to happen and situations that you are not going to understand whatsoever. You can freak out or you can chill, trust God, and see what happens. It is a choice that you must make each moment.”

Excerpts from Kate's blog

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