It all began with a little girl named Ana.
Little Ana Rios was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. When she was four years old, she went to the corner store and was caught in the cross fire of a robbery. A man grabbed her and used her as a human shield. She was shot, but she survived. Ana was treated in a Guatemalan hospital, but the bullet was still lodged in her sternum and moved to her hip. The bullet had the potential to stunt her growth and eventually kill her. For three years, she was in excruciating pain and had massive scars from the attempt to remove the bullet. They could do nothing more for her in Guatemala.
A group of church missionaries from Tennessee were building houses and a school in Ana’s neighborhood. Ana’s family was desperate for help. They had no money and no resources. Her Aunt saw the workers for many days and finally pleaded with them to help her niece. She could no longer watch her suffer. The missionaries were touched, but none of them were doctors. They didn’t know how to help, but they could not ignore the desperate plea of this woman.
It would take several months, but the missionaries used their connections and finally arranged to send Ana to the United States to receive treatment. She arrived in Tennessee on October 16, 2003. She had several abscessed teeth that she had to have treated before they could address the bullet. She received her surgery on October 22 at Southern Hills Hospital. Dr. Malcolm Baxter removed the bullet and Dr. Pat Maxwell performed plastic surgery to repair the scars across her body. She remained in Tennessee for several weeks to recuperate.
Over the years, Ana and her family stayed in touch with several of the missionaries that were involved in getting her treated. They helped buy her clothes, pay for her education, and provide housing for her and her family. They treat Ana as if she was a member of their family. That act of kindness from a group of strangers not only changed her life, but thousands of children just like her.
The missionaries knew that there were other children like Ana. And they knew that they could not send all of them to the US for treatment. They began organizing medical mission teams from Vanderbilt to go to Guatemala to treat these children. They tried renting space in local hospitals, but they had limited options with space and equipment. Finally, in 2005, they realized that they needed their own space. They could not ignore God’s calling and the opportunity to help these desperate children. They bought an old maternity ward and renovated it. Although it was a very complex and lengthy process, The Moore Pediatric Surgery Center finally opened in 2011. Since its inception, over 5,000 children have received medical procedures.
This story of Ana was actually the beginning of The Shalom Foundation's mission to provide life-changing medical and surgical care to impoverished children in Guatemala. Today, Ana is a beautiful, healthy, happy young woman. She just celebrated her 21st birthday. She is attending college and studying law. She works as a receptionist at The Moore Center helping other children just like her.