If you are unfamiliar with my title phrase for this series of posts, I thought I would fess up now and tell you this was a famous line spoken by Dan Akroyd in the 1980 classic movie “The Blues Brothers.” However catchy the quote, or silly, the movie, I sincerely believe that our 2015 Honduras Team and the many teams over the past four years that preceded us–have all been missions from God to be “helpers” (El Ayudante) to the second poorest people in the Western hemisphere–the people of Honduras.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Our First Interactions With the Beautiful People of Honduras
So, we are now up to Monday–day three in this beautiful country that’s about the size of Tennessee and has a population of nearly 8.5 million people as of 2015. It was our first day of genuinely interacting with the Honduran people.
Some of us started replacing a roof on a village house, some built latrines, others installed water filters to give local families their first ever clean water, and a few of us, including my husband, Bob, Laura Miller, and me served in Clinic El Ayudante–all of us learning about these beautiful people’s stories–their trials and tribulations, their sadness and sometimes their joys, and especially about their relationships or lack thereof with God, our father, our King.
Laura and I talked with clinic visitors one-on-one through our local interpreter, Anna, after they had finished their visits with the doctor or dentist. Anna was a fabulous interpretor and the daughter of a pastor in Comayagua. She is about 20 and in college studying pre-med. In all, the three of us met with about nine clinic patients during the morning hours. It’s important to note that many of these people traveled on foot from their homes often from the mountains above, down rocky, narrow, and unpaved roads from their homes sometimes over one or more hours away. And, they began their journeys many hours before the clinic opened at 7 a.m., all the while suffering in pain or with debilitating illnesses and diseases. Often 20-40 people line up at the El Ayudante gates as early as 4 a.m.
As hard as I try to remember all the people’s names, faces, and stories a few may have fallen through the cracks because of the intense emotions shared with us over the few hours we were there. And, to protect their privacy, I have used anonymous Latino names in place of any real names–but their stories are all too real! The important points I wanted to share with you were just some of the hardships these families endure without a whimper and the value of the El Ayudante Clinic to the some 15,000 local people in the communities it serves.
Spiritual Care Giving
The first I visitor I recall–we will call her Juanita. She was an elderly octogenarian woman in a wheelchair. Juanita suffers from hypertension and diabetes as we soon found out do many of the clinic’s other patients. She visits monthly to get her blood pressure and glucose levels read and to get her monthly supply of medicines. Juanita lives with one of her many sons, who she said is an alcoholic and falling down drunk most of the time at home. When we asked if we could pray with her, she asked us to pray for the alcoholism to be driven out of her son’s body and spirit.
Next, we talked with Diego, who was an elderly gentlemen dressed in his Sunday best and wore a Texas-like straw cowboy hat. He, too, suffers from hypertension and diabetes. He asked that we pray for the health of his family. Despite Diego’s talkative nature, he received a call on his cell phone and had to leave to catch a ride home with a friend.
Young Maria followed Diego. She was five months pregnant and was receiving prenatal care.
Then there was Alejandro. He was about 30 and had his young son with him. Alejandro had just received a root canal. I was taken aback by Alejandro. When talking with him, I felt like I could see through his eyes right into his tender heart and soul. Yet I knew from his exterior that he had to be hardy and tough to survive his life in Honduras. In comparison, from the mountainous and rocky terrain, amidst the heat, humidity, and dry spells comes forth beautiful flora and fauna, delicious tropical fruits and flavorful coffees much like Alejandro and his countrymen–the physically toughened yet kind, neighborly, and gracious Honduran people who have endured and survived generation after generation on the same small plots of land that their parents and grandparents had also lived on with their families.
Valentina, about 25, came to the clinic because she had a urinary tract infection or worse. Valentina lived six years with her boyfriend who suddenly up and left her because she did not bear him children. She remains very, very sad about the loss of her lover and her apparent infertility. Valentina wants the clinic to diagnose and treat her problem so she can hopefully have children–and for these things we prayed with her.
Pedro, about 30, had a root canal, and he brought his young son with him. Pedro had devoted himself to a local church and served conscientiously until he said two clergy had wronged him. This incident caused Pedro to turn away from God. We explained to him that humans are imperfect and not all biblical communities will hurt or cross your faith. We prayed together expressing that God, Our Father, is perfect and that he listens to his children’s prayers. Pedro thanked us for visiting with him and we explained that it was God’s doing that we were together on this day. And he graciously accepted a bible as a gift from God.
One of the most heart-wrenching stories came to us through Nina when we asked her to tell us about her life and her relationship with Jesus Christ. She was visibly shaking and started to weep as she spoke in her small soft voice. Nina was mother to 14 children, including one set of twins. Only nine of her children are still living and 13 years ago one her sons was murdered. And, just recently, a second son was murdered. Both sons were security guards. The second son trusted and befriended a colleague who he soon discovered was doing wrongful things. When he confronted his friend, the friend shot him dead. And with the pain and sorrow of her second son’s death, all the raw emotions of the first son’s death surged back over her. Nina asked that we pray for her to Jesus and ask that he take away the pain and sorrow that she feels in her spirit and her body and she can enjoy her life with her remaining children and family. Afterward, Anna, who quite effected by Nina’s story told us that Nina attends her church and she, too, was quite saddened by this particular visit and visitor.
Vacation Bible School (VBS)
Lunch time was at noon, and in short time, we were packing up supplies for vacation bible school (VBS) at the Lo de Reina School a short distance away. We could see the children’s bodies and spirits filled with excitement and anticipation to see us and to find out what fun times we had in store for them–quite a welcomed contrast to our morning activities. We started with a group opening then we split off into smaller groups of children (about 20 in each group); some of us teaching bible stories and verses, others of us playing games outdoors, and my group was making crafts and balloon animals (always a big hit we discovered) with them. And after craft making, we provided the children with snacks of apples, chips, and fruit juice.
And then it was Evening
Day 1 of VBS ended at 4. We packed up and said our goodbyes until tomorrow when we would return. As much fun and enjoyment as we had with the children, our biggest challenge thus far in our trip was those pesky little gnats. Nothing can ruin a get-together more quickly than the nuisance of gnats swarming around everyone. While intrinsically harmless, these tiny, pesky fungus gnats hung in there with us all afternoon. Technically flies, these guys look more like mosquitoes, yet they are merely one-eight of an inch long pesky creatures who continuously got up in our eyes, noses, and everywhere else imaginable. Thank goodness our water bottles that we brought with us included sprayers as well as drinking spouts. We shared our sprays liberally with all around. David and Jonathan especially took a liking to our small surprise showers when we sprayed them. Despite our pest repel sprays these water sprayers were the only way for us to find temporary relief. I liken it much to The Plague of Gnats:
16 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” 17 They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.
I don’t know how the Honduran animals whose eyes are always covered with gnats and the school children who live and play a lot outdoors have learned to cope with and even ignore them.
We had a brief hour to clean up and rest up between VBS and dinner,then after dinner we had our team meeting where we chatted about the day’s experiences and plans for the next day’s activities. If our emotional morning in the clinic wasn’t enough, we had high emotions in the afternoon, and put these together with hearing others who had just as high and low emotional experiences as we did, plus, dealing with fillings of guilt because we Americans have so much in comparison; that we squander so much; and yet, we still are not happy with all we have and still want more materialistically. Going to bed with these thoughts fresh in our heads made for interesting sleep. And then, it came to me:
1 Corinthians 15:57-58 New International Version (NIV)
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
And, I’m moving on in great anticipation to yet another day here with this biblical community at El Ayudante in Lo de Reina, Comayagua, Honduras.