Week 1 – Clinics
Villages: Santa Cruz, El Triunfo, El Limón, El Caobal
After a long drive from Birmingham to Miami and an afternoon spent in “little Cuba” at the beach and eating Peruvian food (yum!), the Watwoods and I caught our (very delayed) flight to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. We were greeted at the airport by Norma and Francisco and spent the weekend buying groceries for the team that would be arriving Sunday. (Yes, it takes a whole weekend to grocery shop.) Of course we took breaks to satisfy our hunger with delicious baleadas and check out the local “carnaval” events.
The rest of our group arrived Sunday, we met up with “the Honduran half” of the team (mostly new faces, including our doctors and dentists) and we headed out on our 3-hour drive up to El Paraíso, Copán to prepare for the week of medical clinics.
From El Paraíso (which is already considered rural) we would drive each morning to villages 1-2 hours even further in the mountains to set up our clinics. The roads become less and less suitable for vehicles, land becomes more sparsely populated and access to things like electricity and indoor plumbing is less common.
A typical morning drive to a village requires two things: prayer and four-wheel-drive:
A typical family who lives in poverty in Honduras struggles to feed their household each day. Many are only able to eat simple tortillas with salt. Here is a list of Honduras statistics.
Components to our daily medical clinics:
- Worm medicine is given to each patient as they enter the door + paper sack with their name. (this is used by the doctors to write prescriptions, then by the pharmacy to fill the prescriptions)
- Each family sits/stands in some form of a waiting room before seeing one of the three doctors.
- After seeing the doctor, the paper sack is given to the pharmacy to be filled with the prescribed medicine.
- The family again waits for their prescriptions to be filled then has each medicine explained to them when their name is called. At this point they are free to go unless…
- they need to see the dentist about a bad tooth at which point they continue to the “dentists’ office.”
- The Gospel is shared periodically to those waiting in line.
One of the most frustrating and emotional moments of the week was when Dr. Emmanuel diagnosed a 40-day-old baby with pneumonia in the village called El Triunfo. The baby’s eyes were watering and he was having trouble breathing due to the fluid/congestion in his chest. It was apparent that if left untreated, he would not survive. Those in our group who were around immediately offered to cover any expense to get this mother and child to the nearest hospital (which was hours away) as soon as possible. What blew me away was the mother’s hesitancy to accept our offer. She actually came up with excuses as to why she could not go with us. In my mind I was seeing this as a divine appointment… that God has provided help to this baby who would otherwise die without medical attention.
Several of those on our team spent close to an hour or more taking turns practically begging this mom to make the best choice for her son. It truly became emotionally exhausting and many of us just ended up crying. After asking her permission, we laid hands on the baby and prayed for his healing but I felt helpless. I felt desperate. We held the opportunity to save a life right in our hands! I felt angry at the mother but I also felt sad for her. She was confused and terrified. She had never been more than a few miles out of her own village. She had never met us before and I’m sure we looked strange to her. She was not accustomed to the modern medicine or medical facilities that we so often take for granted. She was doing all she knew to do, just letting the sickness and pains of life run its course. This was an example of a cultural barrier I could hardly break through… I could not see things from her perspective and I felt bad later for judging her so harshly.
It reminded me of the story about the man during the flood crying out to God for help. As he is praying, a lifeboat passes by offering him a ride. He says, “I don’t need a ride from you, God’s gonna save me.” He ends up dying and asks God in heaven why He didn’t come to his rescue. God tells him, “I sent you a lifeboat!”
In the last village that we visited, El Caobal, we had another scare. The first patient that was seen was a small boy with respiratory problems. His mother had walked 3 hours with him from her village in Guatemala just to bring him to the clinic we had set up in a school building. I knew something was strange when I walked in the doctors’ room. I was just relaying a message from the English-speaking pharmacy to the Spanish-speaking doctors about some extra acne cream they had. The boy had been receiving a breathing treatment but was crying and fighting it until he worked himself up into a panic. The next thing I knew, I was standing in the middle of this tiny concrete schoolroom holding a tube of acne medicine feeling dumb and paralyzed as I watched the doctors throw this unconscious child who wasn’t breathing onto a table, rip his shirt off and begin performing CPR.
I backed out of the room and began to tell those outside what was happening. I was so scared. We all started praying then news spread to the line of patients who were waiting. I witnessed the most beautiful thing there in the village of El Caobal. Everyone began crying out to God in unison on behalf of this sick child. In different languages. In different styles and volumes. This child did not belong to that village nor even to their country. That is where I saw Christ. How beautiful when we put aside our differences and see ourselves as equal in the Lord.
The child began breathing again and he was stable. I was thankful for how the Lord was using us but I kept feeling like I wanted to do more. That feeling always lingers. We already know that little by little and village by village these people are becoming healthier. I pray that they make healthy and wise decisions for their families and that they each become nourished. I pray that they would have better access to education and clean water and medical attention. I pray that I would be able to keep returning. Whether I am making much of a change there myself, I know that I am being changed.
I don’t want that to ever stop.