Friday, January 27, 2012

All work and no play makes a mission team dull…

Thursday was our free day.  We had a great breakfast of ham and egg sandwiches, and walked up to the bus.  We loaded and set off for a town called “Valley of the Angels”.  Team members who had been there before described it as a “Gatlinburg-type town” in the mountains and full of shops designed for tourists.

Although I’m not sure that going through Tegucigalpa is necessary to get there, we went straight through the heart of the city.  I think we were giving a ride to one of the bus driver’s friends.  The experience was both interesting and hair-raising.  It was interesting to see the variety of shops and the bustle of the inner city.  It was hair-raising to take that great big school bus down those crowded narrow streets!  Many cars were parked on the curb, the streets were curvy, and a couple of times I wondered if we would be able to pass without hitting a pedestrian or a car!  But, our driver was both skilled and patient, and we made it through the city and on to Valley of the Angels without incident.

Once we arrived the team scattered in different directions armed only with a time and place to meet for lunch.  Some of the shops were like the antique malls in the States with multiple areas of a very large building sectioned off for different vendor’s handicrafts.  Leather goods, jewelry, wood carvings, clothing, ceramics, paintings, t-shirts and even furniture were all creatively displayed.  Other shops were tiny, offering only a limited variety of goods tucked into every nook and cranny – most handmade in China! Still other shops featured the artisans inside the shop hard at work on the very goods they sold there in store.  Knowing you were buying the “real thing” was rewarding.

We met at the “Restaurant Don Juan” for lunch.  Dr Ponce reserved the covered roof-top dining room for us to dine.  This restaurant served their food family style.  We savored rice, beans (of course!), avocado, cheese, tortillas, and roasted beef, chicken, pork and pork ribs.  It was all delicious.  A cool, light rain fell briefly while we ate, but stopped by the time we were ready to continue our shopping.

Not everyone shopped.  Some found the CafĂ© Americano and just relaxed, sipped hot coffee and ate cookies.  Regardless of the activity, everyone agreed it was a good day.

On our way back to Cofradia we got into traffic-jam caused by an accident so were arrived about an hour later than expected.  After dinner, the group gathered, once again, in the chapel to remember the week through pictures and to enjoy a hilarious multi-verse “Ode to Cofradia” written and performed by Margaret and Michelle G.

Humor sustained us all throughout the week. Here are a couple of examples.  Perhaps they will not seem funny to you if you were not with us, but just ask a team member how hard we laughed at the time!
Early in the week Doug E reported that, so far, 4 different countries had accessed the blog.  When asked which countries he replied “United States, Germany, Argentina, and ….I can’t remember the other.”  Without missing a beat, Laine (OR) yelled “Alabama!”

(Warning:  the following story carries a rating of PG)
In Spanish, as in English, many words are similar, with only a letter difference, or, a difference in the way you pronounce them, as in lead and lead.  Similarly, in Spanish, the word for pineapple and the word for a certain part of the male anatomy are very similar and easy to confuse.

One of our female medical providers consulted with an older gentleman who came to her station.  Her interpreter had left for a moment to assist another medical provider.  Feeling fairly confident with her medical Spanish, she proceeded to talk to the gentleman and give him a general examination. After he shared with her a litany of items that was wrong with him, he said he had pain in his lower abdomen. Suspecting a urinary tract infection, she asked him if it hurt him when he went to the bathroom - using the word for his male organ. 

However, what she inadvertently asked him was,  “Does your pineapple hurt when you use the bathroom?”  At first she couldn’t understand why he looked down at himself, looked at her with such an odd look on his face, and then said, “…”  When she realized what she had said, she quickly corrected her Spanish and proceeded to treat him.  Later, she told the story to a few friends in the group and it quickly spread to the rest of the team.  When we were served pineapple for breakfast the next morning, we all had another good laugh
Now, we are travelling home.  Those that were sick are feeling better today, though all of us are ready to be home to take a hot shower, sleep in our own beds, and use our own bathrooms!

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement while we were away.  Knowing you were caring for stuff back home made it possible for us to serve in Honduras without worry.  And, knowing you were praying for our safety, health and effectiveness made all the difference in the world.  

¡Via con Dios! ¡Dios le bendiga! ¡Este es el dia que hizo El Senor! (roughly, Go with God.  God bless you. This is the day the Lord has made!)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Now this is what we came for

Once again the morning dawned bright and early.  Birds were singing, the sun was shining brightly, and we were especially happy, because the bus started promptly this morning! We ate a breakfast of cereal and fresh fruit.  Darrell reminded us to watch for the friends that bring persons to the clinics, because they might need a smile or encouraging word, too.

So, we were on the road by about 8:30 (even though our goal was 8:00). We travelled in a different direction this morning, going to a community known as Las Quebrasas.  Had we been in Tennessee, I would have said we went to the “holler”.  We were deep in the mountains following a road that lead us to wonder if the bus would make the hairpin turns or not.

As we pulled into the community, we noticed a large number of heavy machinery trucks.  Not sure what that was all about, but they were definitely the “unexpected” in the tiny place.

A small crowd was waiting for us as we pulled up to the school.  For a moment it was a little disappointing. At the other clinics  there have been easily 200 persons waiting for us.  Here, it was probably only about 75. 
Once again, our set up was in a school so that we had separate spaces for dental, medical and pharmacy.  At first furniture (tables and chairs) seemed hard to come by, but our contact from the village miraculously made them appear!

After the day was done (at about 2:45!) we all reflected that though the crowd was smaller than previous days (we saw about 335 patients), we all agreed that this group of persons needed our care more than our previous clinics.  There was a higher level of general sickness (lethargy, infections, etc), and some more serious injuries/sickness that we were able to treat.  

Sometimes, at the other clinics, we were not convinced that the persons who received the food were truly in need of the help.  However, here we were confident the 800 lbs of food distributed was properly placed.
We arrived back at the compound about 4:00.  The free time was so unexpected we almost didn’t know what to do with ourselves!  But after our long day yesterday it was good to have some down time, and for the sick among us to have some much needed rest.
After dinner (barbeque chicken, rice, zucchini and salad), we attended Wednesday night church service.  Darrell preached and Dr Ponce translated.  How wonderful it was to worship the God of English and Spanish!

Brian told us during prayer time that one of the boys attending the service came up to him afterwards.  The boy had been to dentistry on Sunday when we held the clinic here and had several teeth pulled.  He pointed to his mouth and said “No duele”, meaning “No pain”!  We almost never get to see our patients after treatment, and it was a great affirmation that we had helped him and he was feeling better.

Thank you for your prayers for our health.  As I write this post, all but one of us are making the trip to the Valley of the Angels for our “tourist day”.  He is confident that after another day of rest he will feel fine to travel home tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tuesday -A different kind of clinic

As promised, breakfast was served at 6:00 a.m. (Honduranly speaking!).  Devotions followed and we were ready to load the bus and head out about 6:45.  As we walked up to the bus, we realized that our driver and his friends had the starter from the bus on the ground working on it.  No bus ride today!   

15 squeeze in a tiny mini-van
So, we waited until, once again, a van arrived to carry those of us who preferred to NOT ride in the pickups with the supplies.
Pickup riders take a break

We were told that today would be a different kind of clinic.  We would be inside the town instead of out in the country.   

Two hours later (we had to drive through Tegucigalpa to get there), we finally arrived in San Buenaventura.  This township was very quaint and unlike some areas, was very modern and well maintained.   

There was even music playing in the town square!  Due to the delay with the bus, it was almost 11:00 before we started clinic.  We usually try to start clinic between 9:00-9:30 so that we are working during the cooler part of the day.
Dentistry clinic in full-swing as Caleb organizes the pharmacy
Since we were in the town, they had a community center and a health clinic.  It was quickly evident that the people we saw were neither destitute, nor as poor of health as those we had seen previously.  The set up was challenging, because dental wasn’t in an area where they were separate from the crowd.  The patients waiting to be seen were sitting right behind the dentist chairs.  You can imagine how unnerving it was for folks who were waiting for the dentist to watch others having their teeth pulled.  It made the dentists more uneasy, too.  An audience, regardless of what you are doing, makes any job more demanding.

Back to why we were in San Buenaventura...  Dr Ponce and Pastor Nelson met with the mayor prior to our arrival in Honduras to inquire about the possibility of holding a clinic, and eventually planting a church there.  Our presence helped to pave the way for future conversations about a church plant.
The mayor and his staff treated us very well.  They brought us water and cokes to drink, and they provided lunch.  Lunch was beef cooked in onions and peppers, rice, tortillas, and a salad.  We were afraid to eat the salad (since it was raw), but the rest was tasty, if a little gristly. 

All day, the patients continued to come.  We were down one medical staff person (Chris was not feeling well and didn’t make the trip). 

Late in the day a special-needs young man arrived. He needed to have an ingrown toenail removed.  It took about 5 men to hold him down (he was very scared). 

Pat releases his grip as music soothes our patient

He yelled and thrashed around until Nellet thought to pull out her brother’s phone to play praise and worship music for the young man.   

He calmed down immediately when she gave him the phone. He handed the phone to his aunt to listen to the music while his mother received instructions from the doctors as to how to take care of the toe.  What a blessing to witness the transformation in him!

Beth Ann, Doug N, Pastor Nelson and the Mayor of San Buenaventura

After the last patient was seen at 6:00 (yep, it went that long), the mayor presented Luke 9:2 Ministries with a plaque of appreciation. 

So, at 6:30, we began the 2-hour journey back to our compound.  We ate the dinner Lestbi had been keeping warm for us, and fell into bed.  We didn’t even take time to debrief.

As I write this post on Wednesday, two more of our medical staff have come down with sickness, probably a virus.  Please pray that all will return to complete health.

We are grateful for those of you that are following the blog and writing comments.  We are passing those along to team members.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Monday Part 2, and the Rest of the Story

Our clinic in Monday ended up being a “light” day.  And, given that we were about an hour late arriving, it proved to be a good thing.  This clinic in Mateo was held at a school building, but there was a fence all the way around the school, so we could control entrance into the clinic area.  Crowds do not seem to bother the Honduran people, but it makes it difficult for us Americans to do our best work!

We were done by about 3:00.  We had seen 334 patients,  treated  43 dental patients and pulled 76 teeth.  We distributed 64 pairs of eyeglasses and 4 pairs of sunglasses (mostly given to men that work all day outside in the equatorial sun).  Additionally, we gave away 700 lbs of beans, rice and corn.

Perhaps the most touching for me was the mom  who came in with a child that had a development syndrome.  It is hard to know what exactly it was, but the child was 18 months old and probably only weighed 12 lbs.  He had multiple teeth, a full head of hair, and it was obvious he was loved.   That’s what touched me the most.  In this harsh environment, this mom had found a way to take care of her child and she loved him.

We had to wait for the bus to come back for us once clinic was over.  We thought perhaps they were getting the bus worked on so that we would not have starter problems again.  No such luck….more on that topic in another post.

Once back at the compound we had a little down time and were able to get showers (some had the luxury of the hot water ).  After a good dinner of homemade chicken chow mien and fried rice (made by  Letsbi & crew),  we received the “good news” that breakfast would once again be served at 6:00 a.m. so that we could be on the road by 6:30.

As we were working on pictures and this blog in our room, Nellet came by to visit.  Nellet is the 17 year old daughter of Letsbi and pastor Nelson.  She wanted me to know about the work her mom and her church do when medical clinics aren’t on the premises.  She showed me pictures of them distributing beans and rice to the poorest of the poor.   

She told me how Letsbi visits families “up the mountain” and finds children who need to be in school and parents who are willing to commit for them to go.  Letsbi and the church agree to purchase uniforms and book bags for the children, if the parents will commit to keeping the kids in school.  Most of these students are around 1st-3rd grade, but Nellet said that some of them have gone on to middle school because they fell in love with learning.  Letsbi’s desire is to break the cycle of poverty in the mountains by helping children receive an education – children who would otherwise have dropped out of school to help with the family farm.  

Nellet told me that the money we paid to stay at this compound goes, in part, to help with these two ministries and the nursing home. Our accommodations have been very good, and the food has been excellent.  Knowing that we will be a part of these ministries to the Honduran people even after we leave is a very gratifying feeling.  I feel like, through Letsbi and the ministry of the church, I have witnessed the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.  A little becomes a lot when willingly and lovingly shared.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Part 1

Yesterday you read that our clinic site was at the compound where we are staying, and that there is a nursing home on the premises.  This morning, as we were waiting for the bus to start (see below), Michelle shared her thoughts briefly on what a cool place it is.  Click here to hear her brief description.

Saturday, as we prepared to leave our clinic site, it was discovered that the bus wouldn’t start.  Most of found another way back to the compound, but several of the guys stayed with our crates.  Eventually a mechanic came to our site and rebuilt the starter.  All arrived back at the compound safely (about 1 ½ hours after the rest of us) and we thought the matter was solved.

This morning we were told that we would be traveling our farthest distance and that we needed to get an early start in order to beat the traffic in Tegucigalpa.  We gathered in the dining hall at 6:00 (the time we were told breakfast would be served) and we began eating at 6:00 Honduran time (about 6:15).  Beth Ann said we needed to be on the road at 6:45.  By the time we finished eating, brushed teeth, had our devotion,  and loaded the pickup trucks, it was almost 7:00 a.m.  We piled on the bus and but instead of the roar of a diesel engine, all we heard was the classic “rnnnnn, rnnnn,rnnnn” of a dead battery.
Once again the men removed the bus’s battery, and tried to jump start it using another battery and one of the pickup trucks.  They worked diligently for almost an hour, and finally, success!  The bus started!  We cheered, climbed on the bus, and silently dreaded the rush hour traffic waiting for us in Tegucigalpa. 

But we were wrong.  Though the traffic slowed our speed (maybe a good thing?!), we were not caught in the city gridlock we had feared.  We arrived about an hour later than expected at the school in Mateo, but the people gathered were patiently waiting for us inside a building, out of the intense sun.  

Read more about today’s clinic in Part 2.

Regarding other matters:

Not sure how the weather is where you are, but it is just about perfect here.  Each morning it was been a little overcast, and that has kept the temperature down.  Each day we’ve enjoyed a delightful breeze, and my guess is that our temperature is around 80 degrees each day so far.  It does cool off at night, though.  Jackets have been welcome!

The Honduran countryside is a mixture between the beauty of God’s nature, and the squalor of man. Beautiful mountains rise all around Honduras.  Many of those mountainsides are covered with squatter shacks.  Unfortunately, these shacks are often washed out during heavy rains. But, the people return.  Where else do they have to go?

So we do what we can.  We help ease today’s pain.  We offer love, and we offer hope in the name of Jesus.