Friday, January 26, 2018

A Great Ending!

Yesterday, our team said good-bye to Cofradia and travelled to the Valley of the Angels - a favorite tourist destination and a great place to shop for souvenirs of our time in Honduras.  Many local artisans sell their creations in this quaint village.  Hand-crafted leather, wood carvings, beautiful pottery, vivid paintings, and other local art are all available in tiny sidewalk booths, crowded shops and sprawling showrooms.  Some of our team members shopped.  Others just relaxed in local cafés while enjoying the cool weather and delicious Honduran coffee.

From there, we went to El Patio, a favorite restaurant in Tegucigalpa.  Their specialty is grilled kabobs of all varieties.  I was WAY more than enough food!  ¡Que delicioso!

We checked into the Hyatt Place hotel in Tegucigalpa – a location that makes it easy to get to the airport for our flight on Friday.  The Hyatt had a beautiful rooftop terrace that afforded a great view of the city at night.  It was so relaxing to sit there and wind down from our busy week.

This morning, after a wonderful breakfast, we left early for the airport.  The inauguration of the new Honduran president is scheduled for tomorrow, and there was talk of possible protests (or even riots) in the streets this morning over the election results.  We wanted to make sure we arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare just in case we encountered any trouble.

When we arrived at the airport we immediately noticed a large police presence - in full riot gear.  Frankly, it was a bit unnerving to see such a show of force.  We were grateful that our team leader pressed us to get here early this morning.

Fortunately, we so no sign of riots much less even protestors.  However, several TV news crews were in the airport to cover what “might” actually happen.  One national TV reporter interviewed Dr. Jorge Ponce, our local Honduran doctor, and Brian Shaw, our team leader. The asked about why we were here and what we did.  Both men were able to give God the glory for all that we do in service to Him!  We are told the interview will air on national television next week.  We will get a link to the broadcase, we’ll be sure to post it on our Facebook page and the Luke 9:2 Ministries website.

God is good and God is faithful.  Your prayers for protection were answered and we are grateful.  Thank you for your continued support of Luke 9:2 Ministries and the work in Honduras.  In March, a small team will travel here to install 2 more water chlorination systems and a small medical team will return in September for medical follow up.  Quarterly pastor training sessions will also continue this year. 

Until next year…Adios!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Servant's Heart

“The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

This morning we awoke to a bright, sunny day.  It’s bittersweet to realize that today is the last clinic day. 

We arrived at Casa de Diamantes, the site of this morning’s clinic, and found that the church volunteers had already done a great deal of set up in preparation for our arrival.  Their preparation made our set up go fast, and we began our clinic, just as we have every other morning, with Pastor Armando Zeron saying a few words and then leading us in prayer.

Pastor Armando and local boy
Pastor Armando made a point to tell us that their church emphasizes that the Christian life is not only about receiving, but also about giving and serving.  Church volunteers were plentiful, and they certainly were joyful in their service!  The pastor also pointed out that his church members (and the community attending the clinic), were watching us and recognized that we had traveled a long way to serve others.  He thanked us for our good example and for the service we would provide today.

Approximately 100 people were waiting for the clinic to open when patient registration started.  This smaller crowd allowed all of our team to interact more with the patients, especially the children.  Stickers were everywhere, and everyone seemed just a little more relaxed.

As of this writing, we’ve seen about 240 patients.  Perhaps more will come this afternoon.  But if not, we know that we have served to the best of our ability.

After lunch Pastor Armando escorted several of us to the “dump neighborhood." This neighborhood is located just behind Casa de Diamantes.  The people of this area “mine” the dump for recyclables that they can then sell to the recycling facility.  This way of life has gone on for generations.  Many parents encourage their children to drop out of school to help work at the dump.  And so, the cycle of poverty continues.

Beyond the challenge of lack of education, people living in the dump community also suffer from extortion by local gangs.  Gangs control the dump, and the “minors” must pay the gang before they are allowed to work in the dump.  This tax is paid daily.  Pastor Armando told us that many of the residents of the dump area have never been to Tegucigalpa, even though it is only about a 30-minute drive from here.  The dump is their world, and they have no concept that life can be different.

Patricia walked with us as we walked through the dump neighborhood.  She grew up there, but she longed for a better way of life.  She has worked in the tutoring center of the church for several years, trying to help others to a better life even as she is working to help herself.  Because she has a full-time job, it has taken her longer to finish school, but she is on track to graduate this year. 
Church Members Patricia and Elizabeth

As we were walking back to the clinic site at the church building, Pastor Armando stopped to talk to several people to let them know they were missed at church and remind them they were welcome to come back any time.  Pastor Armando's heart for the people in the community was obvious.  It was evident to me that his people learned to serve by watching their pastor serve.

Tonight we will worship with church members back in Cofradia.  Tomorrow we head out early.  We plan to visit the Valley of the Angels, an artistic community near Tegucigalpa.

Thanks for your continued prayers for health and safe travels.  Those prayers are felt and appreciated!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Personal Touch

Last night, after our clinic at Piligüin, we returned to Cofradia through the center of Tegucigalpa.  Travelling through the city during rush hour was quite a thrilling experience!  Henry, our very capable bus driver, took back roads through the heart of at least one of the shopping areas.  In this part of town there are no traffic signals.  The first vehicle through the intersection is the one that crosses.  Motorcyclists seem to have no rules and just ride wherever they think they have enough room to pass.

When we arrived back at the retreat center and had just finished unloading the truck with the crates, there was a very loud BOOM!! We were all concerned, and soon discovered that one of the tires on the bus had blown!  We are so thankful that it did not happen while we were on the road.

The weather here has been mostly overcast.  It rained some each night, and the sound of the rain on our tin roofs was very soothing.  We’ve only had a little misty drizzle a time or two during the days. The clouds and the rain have helped to keep the temperature down. 

Today, it is sunny and (almost) hot!  We are in a community about 35 minutes drive from Cofradia known as Las Flores.  Luke 9:2 Ministries has held clinics here before, but not in several years.  Since our last time here, the local church has expanded and their “education” space is complete.  With this extra space we house the entire clinic at the church rather than at the local elementary school down the street.

A slightly smaller group (maybe around 100) was waiting for us when we arrived. Cooks from the church were already in action preparing food for those waiting in line.  Just before lunch time, they switched to cooking food for the Honduran workers of the clinic (and oh, my, did it smell good!)

Once again, the general health of the people seems to be good.  Just as in the States, the elderly citizens suffer from joint pain, high blood pressure and poor eyesight.  The children suffer from ear infections and rashes.  Thankfully, at least at the time of this writing, nothing catastrophic has been treated.

With the absence of severe illness and with fewer people needing care, we were able to focus on perhaps the most important element of all – the personal touch.  Many hugs were given (and received), smiles shared, and comfort given to those in pain.  Children were played with and many, many stickers and small toys were given to the children.

Ellen, one of our first timers, commented, “People just want a chance to share their story.  They want to know they are heard and that someone cares.”  In that way, people are the same all over the world.

Final numbers aren’t yet available, but I’m guessing today’s total patient count will be under 300.  

LORD, your word teaches us the healing power of touch. Use us this week to touch the lives of those we serve. 

Monday, January 22, 2018

The Tale of Two Cities

Yesterday, I posted the blog from the city of Guaimaca.  Cell phone coverage was good there, and we were able to upload pictures. Back in Cofradia the signal is usually too slow for pictures.  I didn’t get to finish yesterday’s story, so I’ll start there.

Guaimaca is a small city/large town.  I don’t know the population, but there was definitely a “downtown area”, full of stores, schools, government buildings and churches.  Our clinic was in one of those churches.  The building was new, and the second story was still under construction.  But, the first floor was nicely tiled and painted, the bathroom was functional, and there were working electrical outlets all around the walls of the large multi-purpose room.

I mentioned yesterday that when we arrived about 9:30, there were over 250 patients already in line.  We worked all day with just a 30-minute lunch break.  We finished about 6:00 p.m and saw a total of 549 patients.  During the day, a local television news station interviewed Brian Ponce, Dr. Ponce’s eldest son, who was helping in the medical area.  Brian was translating for Jodi.  As Brian’s interview concluded, the reporter turned the camera on Jodi and interviewed her!  That was a first for Luke 9:2 Ministries!

After an eventful, two-hour bus ride home (your prayers for safety continue to be answered) and a late supper, the team debriefed the day.  Everyone agreed that though we were exhausted, it was the good kind of tired.  Many needs were met and most of our medications held out.

This morning we traveled up into the mountains on a back-country dirt road for about an hour to a new site for us. The villiage of Piliguin is one of the 19 areas where Dr Ponce makes regular visits, but Luke 9:2 has never held a clinic in this location.  Piliguin is on the side of a mountain north of Tegucigalpa.  As I looked around, I saw many terraced farms, a small store, the church building, and a few houses.  We were definitely out of the city!  We were surrounded by sounds of children playing, barking dogs, and the occasional motorbike coming up the road.

We worked with a local church today.  The church meets in a small building that was not large enough to house a clinic before.  But this year, the church is constructing a brand-new building.  The roof is complete so that’s where we did today’s clinic!
There were about 150 people waiting for us when we arrived, including members of the church who did a wonderful job assisting with crowd control and patient registration.  The building was still very much under construction.  Only the medical/dental area had a concrete floor.

The other stations were set up in rooms with a dirt/rock combination for a floor. The building did have electricity, and the one windowless room had a light hanging from the ceiling.  The other rooms were lit by natural light streaming through the window openings.  There were very few chairs, so many of the providers sat on our medical crates or stood while treating patients.

Overall, the people in this area were healthy.  Maybe it’s the mountain air!  We still treated chronic illnesses, ear infections and the like.  Overall, we saw about 300 patients and were headed back to Cofradia by 4:30 p.m.

The health of the team remains good.  And the spirit remains strong!

“Lord, may we continue to shine your light as we serve your people.”

P.S. Even if you are not on Facebook, you can still see our post including yesterday's LIVE videos.
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Sunday, January 21, 2018

And the People Came - Day 2 Clinic

After a 2-hour bus ride, we rolled into the city of Guaimaca.

Our host church today is Casa de Restauración Familiar.  In preparation for our arrival, the church advertised the clinic on television, the radio, and in the newspaper.  When we arrived about 9:30 AM, there were already more than 250 people waiting in line!  One woman told us she took a 2-hour bus ride to get to us.

The church was more than prepared for the crowds.  Long before we arrived, the church members had already set up the medical stations, the de-worming area, dental, glasses, pharmacy, and food distribution.  They even created a “green room” where they served us lunch (which they provided) and to kept us fortified with strong, hot coffee all day long.

The patients who came to the clinic were a mixture of “town” and “village” folk.  Much like in the states, you could often see the difference.  Education and jobs are better in town, and many times by simply looking at the patients you could guess where they live.  Nicer clothes, jewelry, and fake fingernails testify to the life in town offers more privilege. 

So why have a clinic in town where medical care is available?  Well, the answer is the outreach of this church.  Everywhere I looked, church volunteers, mostly youth, were working hard to make this experience a good one for the clinic patients.  Everyone who attended was greeted by church members as well as our team members.  They were cared for, and no one left without knowing that the church will still be there tomorrow … and the next day … and the next.

And that’s good for the kingdom. 

Our time here is short.  But, by using our gifts we can extend the ministry of this congregation to the people in the community and beyond.  And it’s all for His Glory.

The health of the team remains generally good, although the “Honduran sinus crud” is threatening a few of us.  Thank goodness, we come with our own fully stocked pharmacy and the medical expertise to dispense it!

Note: We are still in Guaimaca. The line is getting shorter, but we'll be here for several more hours. I am going to go ahead and post this while we have an internet connection, Be sure to check the last few days' posts for added pictures.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Clinics - More than Medicine - Day 1 Clinic

Cofradia is a small town located about an hour’s drive from the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  It is up in the mountains and has a distinctly rural feel to it.  Our team stays at a retreat center in Cofradia that is operated by Iglesia Amistad Christiana (Friendship Christian Church).  This church serves as our host for the week during our stay.  The pastor’s wife, Letsbi, is “chief cook and bottle washer” and oversees the preparation of our breakfasts and suppers.  And, her cooking is amazing!

The members of the satellite congregation of Iglesia Amistad Christiana here in Cofradia hosted our clinic today.  Many church members arrived at the retreat center (the site of today’s clinic), to help with set up, registration, crowd control, translation and evangelism.  Church members went door to door in the community today to make certain the towns-people knew about the clinic and used the opportunity to also share their faith.  As a result, one resident accepted Christ as their Savior!

Having our first clinic located here in Cofradia is a blessing.  For one thing, we don’t have to ride the bus to get to the clinic site.  We simply setup everything right here on the grounds of the retreat center, meaning we can sleep a little later and start the day fresh. 

On this same compound is a small nursing home also operated by the church.  They take care of the elderly who have no one else to care for them.  Here in Honduras, it is tradition (and the law!) that anyone over 60 automatically goes to the front of any line - for doctors, banks and other services.  So, as is customary, our day starts with quite a few senior adult patients.

Many of these “jovenes de ayer” (youth of yesterday) came to our eye glasses station.  We always bring reading glasses and try our best to find a good match for each patient.  This morning, one of the sweet old ladies said to us, “I need glasses to read my bible.”  “That’s the only book I read. I learned how to read by reading my bible.”  What a joy to see her face light up when she could once again read the words on the page!

This year, we have twelve “first-time” Luke 9:2 Ministries team members – two of whom also happen to be dentists.  Rick traveled with us from Tennessee.  After every extraction, he prays with each patient. He prays for them by name. He asks God to help them remember that today they were helped by friends of Jesus, and that they, too, will come to know Jesus as their friend.  Elias is a Honduran dentist who was looking for a way to use his skills to help his people.  He has his own portable dental equipment, and is able to do cleanings and fill cavities - something we’ve never been able to offer before.  Elias, too, prays with every patient and shares the love of Christ with them.

Patients shared their physical symptoms with the medical providers.  But, when providers asked questions, many of the symptoms were those caused by problems in the home.  Doctors and nursed prayed with their patients for wayward husbands, for an struggling finances, and better employment opportunities.

Kayla, another first-time team member, began the day by packing beans, corns and rice into plastic bags for distribution to the communities neediest families.  She ended the day painting little girls’ fingernails and giving oodles of hugs.

Today, we served 286 patients.  This was a light clinic day.  We expect twice that many patients tomorrow.  Thank you so much for your prayers for us that we might continue to share God’s love. 
And, oh yes, thanks for praying for Karina’s luggage.  It arrived today!

“Father, use us for your honor and glory.  May others see Jesus in us.”

Friday, January 19, 2018

Waiting - The Line Forms Here

When patients arrive for our first clinic tomorrow, they will hear, “The line forms here.” In previous years it was not uncommon for there to be 200 or more people already in line waiting for the clinic to start when we arrive at the clinic site. Patiently, they wait their turn to see a doctor or dentist. 

Today, it was our turn to wait. 

There were lines everywhere we turned. Lines to check our bags; lines to go through security; lines to board the plane; lines to use the bathroom; lines to get through immigration; lines to get through customs; lines to get on the bus; lines to buy lunch… and VERY long lines to check out of Walmart. A significant portion of our day, today, was spent waiting. 

Scripture instructs us to “Wait on the Lord.” While serving here in Honduras, we will wait and watch to see what the Lord will do through us to serve His people. 

Oh, one more thing. Karina, one of the doctors on the team, is still waiting for her luggage to arrive from Atlanta. Pray that it will arrive tomorrow! Other than that, all team members and their bags arrived in good shape! 

Lord, in this land of honking horns, diesel fumes, high rises, and tin shacks, help us to see past the unfamiliar and to see the eyes and hearts of your people. Use us to bring honor and glory to you. Please do this. Pray for rest for the team as we prepare for our first clinic tomorrow.

Now, I’m just waiting for them to say its bedtime. It’s been a long day…. 😊