Sunday, February 10, 2013

Our Final Day

Friday morning we donned our Luke 9:2 Ministries T-Shirts and posed for the official 2013 team photo.  Then, we said our “goodbyes” as we left our friends at Cofradia and drove down into Tegucigalpa for our free day.

Our first stop was a national park at the top of one of the mountains overlooking the city of Tegucigalpa.  Our bus drove through the crowded, busy streets of the city, then through the newer, wealthier areas of Tegucigalpa, on the way to the park to the Christo el Picacho, a giant statue of Jesus.

 The road led up from the hustle and bustle to a place of quiet tranquility.  Once at the top, we found all the elements of a great park - scenic overlooks, beautiful landscaping, a play areas for the kids, and bathrooms! (Although we did have to pay extra to get to the section of the park where the statue and the bathrooms are located!) 

When the bus stopped we unloaded and went straight to the scenic overlook high above the city of Tegucigalpa.  The city sits in a bowl, so we observed the entire city, including the airport right in the middle of the city.  We had been told the runways were short, but this view confirmed that fact!

The statue of Jesus, hands outstretched, is enormous.  It looks very much like the famous statue in Brazil overlooking Rio de Janeiro.  It is a rather surreal feeling, being there with Jesus, looking down on the city.  I can think of quite a few sermons that could come from those few minutes on the mountaintop, but I’ll save those for another time!

After leaving the park, we went to a very modern mall in the heart of the city for lunch.  Our group split up - some to T.G.I. Friday’s, some to Pizza Hut, and some to fast food places in the food court.  After our time in the rural towns and villages, we experienced a bit of reverse culture shock!  But, boy, did that pepperoni taste good!

Finally, we went on the Intercontinental Hotel Real, our lodging for the night.  This hotel is very American/European in appearance, and was a welcome respite after our week at the rustic retreat center.  The television picks up Latin American as well as American channels.  One channel even broadcasts in Italian.

Everyone was on their own for the afternoon.  Some took hot showers.  Some slept.  Some watched television.  Some went across the street to another mall and shopped.  This last option was my choice.  We walked around, mostly just to see what type of stores were represented.  This is a very upscale mall, and it has several coffee shops and 3 different places to buy Dunkin’ Donuts.  Yum!  Also attached to the mall is a grocery store that provides a place to purchase Honduran coffee, tea, and other goodies to bring home as souvenirs.

When we gathered in the lobby for dinner, we found two interesting surprises.  First, we noticed that there were some television crews around and a lot of people in very formal evening attire.  It turns out the hotel was hosting the Honduran version of the Grammy’s, and several members of our team were interviewed by a crew about their reason for being in Honduras.  The second interesting surprise involved our concierge who delighted members of our team with silhouettes he was cutting of our team member’s profiles - right there in the lobby.  And he was good!  They made wonderful mementos of our time at the hotel.

Then we rode to a restaurant called El Patio.  This restaurant is noted for its especially good pinchos (shish kabobs), and many of us took advantage of these. 

The food was great, and we were serenaded by a Mariachi Band that took requests.  We had to have “Happy Birthday”, and celebrated Michelle G’s birthday (it was that day), and JoAnne’s and Barbara’s birthdays that were only a few days before or after. 

And, of course, the celebration included dancing!

Close to 10 o’clock, we returned to the hotel for our final night in Honduras.  Our beds were very comfortable and we all got some much needed sleep.  By the time we loaded the bus to head for the airport the next morning, we were already reflecting on how particularly uneventful this trip had been.  And, with the exception of some respiratory issues, most of the team stayed healthy for the duration of the trip.

I write this final entry after being home for a week.  I was one of those who ended up with a respiratory infection, and it still lingers.  But, I am extremely thankful that I live in a place where I have ready access to doctors and medicines to treat my illness, and the financial means to purchase the medicine I need. Remembering the number of folks that we just served where those conditions are not in place helps me keep things in perspective.

Thanks to all of you who have given me positive feedback about the blog.  My goal is to help you feel as though you are on the journey with us, and many of you tell me that you indeed felt that way.  Your encouragement keeps me going and makes me want to do better.  So, thank you.

Our final numbers for the trip are:  Total Patients - 2132; Dental Patients - 295; Extractions – 531;
Glasses - 465; Food - 2853 lbs.

To view additional pictures from our trip, or to download them to help you tell your own story, go to and click on the “photos” link.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Five Loaves and Two Fish

As promised, yesterday was a LONG day!  Breakfast was at 6:00 AM, and we were packed and on the road to Guaimaca by 7:15 AM.  Most of the journey was on a paved highway, but it had more than its fair share of potholes, construction, and twists & turns to navigate!  Guaimaca is about a 1 hour and 45 minute bus ride from Cofradia.  Roughly 15 minutes away from our destination, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road.  We had a flat tire.  Thankfully it did not cause him to lose control of the bus, and the bus was still drivable.  Henry, our driver, drove carefully the rest of the way to the church.

Guimaca is a big town with a population of over 20,000.  As I mentioned previously, the pastor and his family visited our clinic on Tuesday to see what our set up looks like and what we need in order to stage a successful clinic.  It was then that he informed us he had advertised Thursday’s clinic on the local television and radio station, and that he expected a huge crowd.  Though not located in the heart of the town, the church is still in a populated area.  As we pulled up to the property, we could see the mass of people already in line.  

The line stretched up the block and around the building.  We had no idea how many were around the corner!  Later that night, Dr Ponce told us he had received a phone call from the pastor at 6:00 AM that morning saying folks were already in waiting in line for the clinic.  That means many of those folks stood in line 3-4 hours before they ever got in the door!

The pastor had recruited more than 35 volunteers to help us during the course of the day.  Many were teenagers and young adults who spoke excellent English. Their help made set up happen quickly, and after a time of prayer and singing “This is the Day” (English and Spanish), the doors opened and we were off and running! 

All day long the line continued up the street and around the corner.  Over and over, I heard our team members whisper, “We are running out of ...”   Or, “We are almost out of….”  About mid-day, more food was purchased in town to be distributed – we’d already given out all we had brought.  And, the people continued to arrive.  Usually we finish clinic between 3:30-4:00 PM, but not this day.  We didn’t even close the clinic for lunch…we just took turns taking a few minutes to eat a quick bite. 

 Four o’clock came and went.  Five o’clock came and went.  We registered the last patients and let them in the gate about 5:15 PM.  The last patient was seen and the bus loaded for the long ride home just as darkness descended, about 6:15 PM.  The only thing we completely ran out of was glasses, specifically reading glasses.  Some medications gave out, but comparable substitutes were available.

The stars are beautiful in the Honduran countryside.  I know this because it was 8:15 PM when we finally arrived back at Cofradia.  Supper featured a traditional Honduran selection of tacos, taquitos, tostada, and pupusas (thick, fried corn tortilla with a cheesy center).  It tasted ever so marveloso!

After dinner we had a special debriefing time and wrap up of the week.  The final numbers were tallied for the day:  total patients-642, dental patients-93, teeth pulled-163, glasses given-119, and 975 lbs of food distributed!  After hearing those numbers, Caleb felt compelled to read us the story of the Five Loaves and Two Fishes.  We felt like we had relived that miracle on Thursday! 

Then came fun time!  Margaret and Michelle shared with us this year’s version of  “Ode to Cofradia”.  Though it might not be funny to you, to us, it was hysterical.  Then, M&M recruited 12 of the team members to participate in a carol they wrote for the occasion - “The 12 Memories of Cofradia”, sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  We laughed until we cried.  Watch for these special antics to appear on the web when we return to the States and have enough bandwidth to upload video.  J

Finally, Doug and I shared a “Memories” slide show we put together for the team.  This show is our attempt to provide a look-back for the team members along with pictures to prompt them to tell you their stories.  So make sure you ask to see it, or click on the Luke 9:2 Ministries website to see it for yourself.  We hope to have it posted sometime Sunday.

We fell into bed at 11:30 p.m., exhausted by the day, but thrilled at how many people we were able to serve.  Friday (today) is our day of rest and time of site-seeing in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras.  Look for a wrap up of the week post to come to the blog on Sunday.

Thanks for your prayers for safety and health.  With the exception of a few minor irritations and discomforts, all team members are healthy and enjoying our day off.