Thursday, January 26, 2017

What a contrast!

Today is our last full day in Honduras. This morning we ate breakfast, had our devotion time led by pastor Jerry, and then gathered around the big tree for our team picture.  The team picture is a tradition and a great way to have a memory of all our teammates.

We boarded the old school bus and said good-bye to Cofradia.  Henry, our very capable bus driver, drove us over the back roads to the park with the huge statue of Christ.  From this vantage point, you can see all of Tegucigalpa.  And the monument of Christ can be seen from anywhere in the city.  It’s a very cool landmark.  It’s also cool to see the airport right in the middle of the city.  Several airplanes landed while we were watching.  It is surreal to be on land yet above an airplane that is in flight!

After a leisurely hour in the park, we descended into the city.  What a contrast!  While at the park we saw very few people, and there was a stillness and quiet all around that was very refreshing.  

As we entered the city, the number of people and cars increased significantly!  And the noise!  Have I mentioned that there seems to be a “language” among drivers that involves their horns?  One honk is “Hello” or “Hey”.  Two honks seems to be an alert that “I’m passing”, or “I’m coming around the curve”.  Three honks  seems to be “Move over, please”.  More than that seems to be some sort of horn swearing and cursing.  J

We made our way to El Patio Restaurant.  This restaurant is a team favorite.  Their specialty is grilled kabobs of all kinds.  No kidding, the kabob skewers are about 18” long!  It was a crazy amount of food, but it tasted so good!

After lunch, we checked into our nice hotel, and we dispersed.  Some went straight to their room for a (reliable) hot shower, some took naps, and others ventured across the street to shop.  Across the street is a modern shopping mall with many of the stores that you find in the States.  Here’s a brief look from inside the mall:

After dinner in the mall, we headed back to our rooms for a good night’s sleep in a very comfortable bed. 

As I sit in my comfy bed, clean and warm after a shower, I can’t help but compare my current environment to those of the Hondurans we just served in our clinics.  Most didn’t have running water, or if they did, it was one spigot for the entire household.  Most of the beds would have thin mattresses, or sheets of foam rubber, if they had any mattress at all.  We gave out beans, corn, and rice at each clinic. Today, we ate grilled chicken, steak, shrimp and veggies.  We are in a temperature controlled environment, and most only have windows with no screens.

I’m reminded to be thankful.  And I’m reminded to be a good steward of what I’ve been given.  My prayer is that this is a lesson that will stay with me through the year.

Tomorrow we head back to the States.  Thanks for your prayers.  And thanks for the kind words about how the blog has helped you follow our trip.  Your affirmation kept me going.  Bendiciones! Blessings!  


Wow, you are a dedicated blog reader! Just for fun, since we have a blazing fast internet connection here at the hotel tonight...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

I Know the Plans I Have for You

I confess.  I like to be in the know.  I like to know the plan, work the plan, and find ways to modify the plan if I think it can work more smoothly.  I think it is one of the ways God has gifted me, and I try to use this gift of administration judiciously.

However, sometimes in Honduras, plans are just a starting place.  Toss a time into the air, aim for it, but if you miss it then it’s no big deal.  I can even be OK with that plan, as long as I know the time we are shooting for.  It’s the not knowing the target time that drives me crazy.  Ask my teammates here.  I ask “What’s the plan?” because I can’t stand the thought of there being a plan “out there” that I don’t know about. 

This morning, as I was wondering about the plan for the day, I heard these words in my mind: “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord.  “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

Wow.  How many times have I heard that verse?  And yet I still wonder about “the plan.”  I also realized that God has a plan for each of the people here in Honduras.  And today, we were a part of his plan for every person who came to our clinic today.  And we are a part of his plan for a hope and a future for each of them. 

Today our clinic is a new clinic site for Luke 9:2 Ministries. It is located at Casa De Diamante (House of Diamonds), in the village of Guanabano, a community just outside Tegucigalpa.  It is located near a massive city dump and landfill.  Many people in this area earn their living by searching the dump for items that can be recycled.  They collect these items and exchange them for cash. 

This local ministry to the community is both a church and school and was the site for today’s clinic. Their preparation for us was obvious and included dozens of volunteers and even computer-printed room signs.

A group of ladies in the church setup a mini-salon for kids (mostly girls) to come and have their hair shampooed and combed out.

An additional bonus for us was being able to check on the water chlorinator that Luke 9:2 placed here back in March.  I’m happy to report that it is in good shape and being actively used.

Click on the video link  below to see our site today and to see the water chlorinator.

The plan for tomorrow is to relax in Tegucigalpa, eat a special meal together, do a little tourist shopping, and prepare for our trip home on Friday.  We will leave this gorgeous 85-degree weather to come back to the cold!  At least, that is the plan!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

LIve! From Cofradia, Honduras

I'm trying something new today.  I posted a live video on Facebook that did a very quick walk through of our clinic today here in Cofradia.  I think this video will do a much better job showing you what a clinic site looks like than my words could ever convey!

This video was taken near the end of our day.  In all, we saw about 375 patients today.

Prayers are still needed for the health of our team.  One of our medical staff was very sick last night.  She is better today, but still needs to regain her strength.

Tomorrow we will be going to a new site for Luke 9:2 Ministries.  The site is near the dump in Tegucigalpa and is a very poor area.  We are expecting to see a lot of patients tomorrow.  Pray for stamina and strength.  And if this video post works well, then you can expect to see more like it tomorrow!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Are We Making a Difference?

Because we had a light clinic day yesterday, we got back to Cofradia earlier than expected.  We had plenty of time to shower, to eat (yummy fried chicken!), and to relax.  All of us were in bed before 10:00.  It felt luxurious!

This morning we ate breakfast, had our devotional time, and loaded up the bus for La LaBranza.  Luke 9:2 Ministries has held clinics here many times through the years.  After a 90-minute bus ride, we pulled up in front of the school and found a crowd of people lined up and waiting for our arrival. 

For a couple of days, I have been wondering, “Are we making a difference here in Honduras?”  “Is what we do worth the time and trouble?”

Shortly after arrival, I heard someone call my name.  Dr Ponce, Susan Davis, and Susan Nally were walking down the line of waiting patients and I followed them.  They wanted me to see a special little girl they had spotted in the line.  Her name is Marbelín Nicole.

When we were here 3 years ago, Susan Davis examined this little girl when she was only 2 years old.  Marbelín’s stomach was hard as a rock, and she was throwing up worms.  Yes, you heard me right…parasitic worms.  She was also severely dehydrated.  Susan, a pediatric nurse practitioner, had the equipment she needed to immediately give Marbelín IV fluid.  Lots of fluid.  We rushed her to a local hospital (along with her mom) and left her there to receive treatment.  Unfortunately, the hospital did not help her.  Dr Ponce found out about it, and took Marbelín and her mom to another hospital where they performed emergency surgery and removed 400 worms from her stomach. 

The surgery saved her life.  Without medical intervention, she would have died.  And here she is, today! She is a happy, healthy 5-year-old visiting our clinic with her mom and brothers and sisters.  For this family, we made a difference.

After lunch Dr Ponce pointed out a gentleman to me.  “Do you remember him?  He’s Antonio, the man we bought the horse for several years ago.”  Crippled from birth, Antonio’s dad wanted to kill him.  His mom refused, and his dad walked out on the family.  Today, he can get around and help care for his mom because he has transportation - the horse we bought for him.  For this family, we made a difference.

Saraí came into the clinic today, too. Saraí is 11 years old. She had a sore on the side of her cheek that she wanted to have treated.  After her examination, Susan realized that this sore came from an abscessed tooth.  Brent, our dentist, said it was a very rare occurrence he’d only heard about, but never seen with his own eyes.  

He was able to remove the tooth and the decaying roots. We treated the infection with an injectable antibiotic to make sure it does not spread to other parts of her body.  For Saraí, we made a difference.

Through a translator, I asked several patients how long it took for them to get to the clinic.  Several ladies told me they walked over 45 minutes to get to the clinic.  Some, only 5-10 minutes.  But, they came. For many, it’s been more than a year since they saw a doctor.  And they came.  Why?  For some, it is an event.  They dress up, the children play together, and it’s like a big party!  For others, the free medication they receive is a huge financial blessing.  For a few, there is the uncertainty of not knowing when they will have another chance to see a doctor or dentist.  Regardless of their reason for being here, I’m convinced we are here for a reason.  We are here because we are making a difference.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

We Do What We Can Do, and Do It the Best We Can

Last night, during our daily debriefing gathering, Bart shared how several small improvements had been implemented in the pharmacy area.  These had to do with how medicine labels are applied, how they are organized on-site, and how liquid medicines are transferred into smaller containers for dispensing to patients.  Though these changes may not directly impact the health of our patients, they do improve accuracy and reduce patient wait times.

At many of our clinics sites, we rig tarps to provide some shade from the harsh sun, and give out stickers and small toys for the children to make the experience a more pleasant one.  These are little things we can do for those who come to our clinics for help. 

Some families come to us hungry.  We can’t solve their poverty issues, but we can give them beans, rice, and corn. We bring plastic bags and cloth carrying sacks to make it easier for families to carry their food and medicine back home.  Some patients see us with chronic illnesses.  We can’t cure them, but we can supply them with a two or three month’s supply of their medicine.

The eye glasses station has a new diagnostic machine.  This portable, hand-held auto refractor measures patients’ eyes and tells us the exact glasses prescription they need.  It speeds up the process dramatically and allows us to serve people more efficiently and effectively.  Even though we don’t have the perfect pair for every prescriptive need, we have had some.  When we don’t have the right glasses, we take the time to explain the situation and why we can’t help them. 

Today, our clinic was in Los Charcos, about a one and a half hour bus ride from Cofradia. We have visited here multiple times over the years.  Some time ago, an epidemic of birth defects swept the area leaving many children born with special needs. 
 We were able to reconnect with many families who we have served in the past. We can’t cure them, but we can love on them and help improve their quality of life.

This was clearer than ever today as we watched Donna Trotter, our resident physical therapist, work patiently with these special needs children and their parents.  She taught them exercises to help improve muscle tone, strengthen muscles, and relieve pain.  Thanks to modern technology, mothers were video recording Donna’s instructions using their cell phones! Now, they will be able to accurately repeat the exercises with their children in the days and months ahead. 

On a lighter note, we love coming to Los Charcos and watching a pet monkey who lives across the street from the school!  He never fails to put a smile on our face with his “monkeying around.”

Yesterday, I asked for prayers for rest.  We did get a good night’s sleep last night – thank you!  And, today’s clinic turnout was mercifully slow.  Consequentially, most of us feel more relaxed.  We all look forward to some down time at Cofradia tonight.

Update on a prayer request - we got word today that both the lost suitcases have finally found their way to Honduras.  However, Delta Airlines sent them to San Pedro Sula instead of to Tegucigalpa.  A driver is bringing them here tomorrow.  Patty and Susan D are looking forward to being reunited with their belongings!

Tomorrow, we head to La LaBranza.  We’ve been told our clinic has been advertised on the radio.  Pray with us that we will have the stamina to serve everyone in a gracious manner.  Pray that our efforts to serve well will communicate the love of our Father who always and continuously serves us well.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Routine is Good. And Excellence is Refreshing

Today, Saturday, our group traveled to Guiamaca, a large town about two hours from Cofradia, our home base.  We left this morning in the bus about 7:15, and arrived shortly after 9:00 to begin set up at a primary school.  Set up went quickly thanks to the forethought and pre-planning of the church hosting the clinic, Casa de Restauración Familiar.

Church members and young people from all over town came to the school yesterday to sweep out classrooms, label rooms for various clinic areas, and rope off areas of the landscape in hopes of protecting it from the crowd of medical patients.  All we had to do was organize our supplies and we were ready to begin.

The first stop for patients was to come through the intake area.  We gathered their name, age, and general information about why they were at the clinic.  All information was recorded on a white bag, and this bag holds all the vitamins and medications given to each patient.  Because this process requires fluent Spanish speakers, this task is often performed by local volunteers.  Today was no exception.  Several church volunteers worked through the day to register 400 patients.

After registering, each patient received de-worming medication and vitamins.  Then, they waited in line to see one of the medical providers.  A team member checked their blood-pressure before they spoke with a provider about their medical concerns.  The church provided a host of translators who helped in every area of the clinic. 

Some patients chose to go to the dentist.  Some waited for eye-glasses.  Most came through the pharmacy to receive prescribed medicine.  And, all heads of households went home with bags of beans, rice and corn.  Many of the children headed home covered in stickers, hand-stamps, and love.

The church provided a hot lunch of rice, stewed chicken, avocado, and corn tortillas for all the team members.  The meal was delicious. The cold water and Pepsis were very refreshing on this very warm day.  They made sure coffee was available all day for those that needed the extra caffeine.

In all, the church furnished more than 15 volunteers who worked with us all day long.  Many were still cleaning up when we left. In each case, they worked with excellence and as unto the Lord.

My best description of today’s clinic is that it was, well…routine.  Everything went smoothly and efficiently.  That is exactly what we prayed for.  We longed for all patients to feel God’s love through our care, and that we would be able to care for all who came our way.  So, thank you for praying that prayer with us.

Two more items of prayer, please.  Two team members are still waiting for their luggage to be delivered.  One is a nurse practitioner, and her suitcase contains all her medical gear.  Though it was supposed to arrive today, we’ve been told it will be here tomorrow.  Join us in praying they will be reunited with their luggage, and all their belongings will be in good shape.

Finally, as I write this, we on our way back to Cofradia. We saw so many patients today, we didn’t get away from Guaimaca until almost 7:00.  That is going make for late night, tonight, after a long day. Thank you for asking God to bless us with a restful, refreshing night’s sleep.  We need it.  Until tomorrow. Hasta mañana!

Friday, January 20, 2017

My Playlist is Empty

On most days, I see the good in life.  But, on days like this that start at 3:00 a.m., I must try harder to see the good in them.  My philosophy of life is - If it is too early for the sun, it is too early for me!

We arrived at Crievewood Baptist Church at 3:30 a.m. to meet other team members from Luke 9:2 Ministries.  It turns out I was not the only one having a rough start.  Some slept through their alarm.  Some had arranged for rides to the church that never showed up.  Once were got to the airport, one person in our group who shall remain nameless even had to go through security…twice.  Nerves ran high for those who had never flown before.  Even after a cup of coffee, I felt like I was running on empty.

Our flight to Atlanta was uneventful.  We navigated our way smoothly to the gate for the Tegucigalpa flight, and boarded our “fancy” plane. 

This plane had TV screens mounted in the seatbacks for every passenger. On these touch-screens, you could play games, watch TV or movies, listen to music, or even follow the progress of the plane.  I clicked on a few of the buttons, including the music icon.  I got the message that said, “Your Playlist is Empty.”  The only option was to push “OK.”  I pushed OK…and nothing happened.  I continued to push OK, and nothing continued to happen.  In my sleep-deprived mind, it seemed somehow fitting that my screen wouldn’t work.  With nothing else to do, I took a nap.

When I awoke, the sun was shining brightly, the plane ride was smooth, and my screen still said, “Your Playlist is Empty.”  Bummer. 

I felt better after my nap so I started talking to those sitting around me.  I got reacquainted with longtime friends, made new friends, and looked forward to landing in Honduras.

At the airport, we met up with our Honduran physician and friend Dr. Ponce, and our longtime friends Jorge and Bremelly Luna.  We loaded the busses with our luggage (minus two bags that are still in Atlanta) and headed to the mall for a very late lunch.  Next, began the always interesting bus ride through the city on roads that were only made to handle about half the amount of traffic they see at any given time.  We arrived safely at Cofradia about dark thirty, had time to unpack and then to enjoy a dinner of spaghetti (Honduran style).

After dinner, we gathered for team time where we introduced ourselves, heard details of the clinics for the week, and received a general orientation on life in Honduras (don’t drink the water!).

Finally, we shared memories of our friend, Doug Nally, and as a group, we mourned his absence.  But, as Susan so clearly reminded us, “This trip was never about Doug.  It has always been about serving others in need.”

“Your Playlist is Empty.”  I disagree.  As I think back on today, I think my playlist is full.  My “playlist” includes a whole bunch of favorites, like “Friends Are Friends Forever,” “Reunited and It Feels So Good,” and especially “Great is Thy Faithfulness, Lord Unto Me.”