Honduras Narrative

Honduras Medical Mission Trip 2012

How does one describe a trip that is six days long and has elements of a regular Army M.A.S.H unit, an evangelistic campaign, a shoe drive and so much more? This tradition is over a decade strong. God combines the efforts of the Raymond Foundation and staff from the Cleveland Clinic with The Salvation Army to meet physical, social and spiritual needs in Jesus’ name.

Needs were slightly different in each of the five locations where the team ministered, but the impact of poverty was seen throughout. Malnutrition, foot wounds (usually infected) and parasites were extremely common. Under all of this, however, are people. Regular people trying to do the best they can for their families, with what they have. These are people who have won my respect by the hardships they encounter every day. They have also won a permanent place in my heart.

In San Pedro Sula, and in the outlying areas, only Spanish is spoken. This makes it necessary for a translator to accompany each doctor for diagnosis and explanation of treatment. The doctors worked steadily from the time they arrived and set up, until all of the equipment and medicines were loaded back in the vans (except what was left in each place for ongoing treatment). Those medicines were provided by the Raymond Foundation, to the tune of $12,000. The translators worked right alongside the doctors and nurses. They could be asked to hold bandages or distract a patient from the procedure that was being done. It was not a job for the faint of heart.

The team was composed of doctors who specialize in the areas of dermatology, cardiology, gynecology, pediatrics and general medicine. A patient first sees the helpers and nurses who do intake and fill out a sheet that travels with the client to show what their needs are. They see the appropriate doctors from the list above, as well someone who can get them basic reading glasses, shoes for their children, the pharmacy staff, and end at a table with vitamins, dental care items, granola bars, and a Bible if they can read.

The Salvation Army’s own William Booth School was the first site. It was only a few minutes away from the hotel and the rest of the equipment. Because of this, it made a good place to do a trial run, in case we had to go back for more medicine or supplies. While we were there, Major Pate got the tour of the school and took many pictures.

At every site, waiting in lines was inevitable, and it was always very hot. It was so hot, in fact that the crayons just wanted to melt. However, a coloring space was usually available, and a multitude of stickers of various kinds were given out. Sometimes it was possible to do some singing or play with puppets with the children while waiting for the parents to be finished.

The facilities (three of which were schools during a week when school was out of session), varied from rustic, to barely existent, with: little or no lighting, no running water, and poor sanitation. The helpers for the team included some of the doctors’ family members and a team of teens from the San Pedro Sula Corps, all dressed in bright red Salvation Army vests. They were always a welcome sight, and brought great patience and energy. The One who made the situation bearable was God Himself. Before we saw any patients, we would gather in a circle, sing the Doxology and pray. God was extremely faithful every day. He even gave the doctors ingenious ways to address certain ailments without their normal equipment (like trying to cast a broken hand with no plaster).

There are two locations that merit special detail. One was new this year, and was only accessible by 4- wheel- drive vehicles. Even then, had it rained, we would not have been able to make it up the steep, rugged roads to Meredon Mountain Ministry. The dedicated souls who run this mission are Toby and his wife Amy, a nurse. The most astounding part was that they have been there for fourteen years, ever since Amy got her nursing certification. (She says that she wouldn’t recommend a mission like that for one’s first assignment fresh out of nursing school.) Toby reported that the church there is now strong enough to continue if they need to move on. He is amazed by what God has done.

The people we saw are so isolated up on that mountain, and many walked great distances to get to us. With the horrible conditions, the list of health issues is too long to address (including machete accidents), and it is no surprise that depression runs rampant as well. At the end of the day, when most of the equipment had been packed up, one Dr. noticed a girl with no hair on top of her head. Knowing this might be her only shot at medical attention for quite some time, the doctor addressed her condition. She and her brother had walked many miles to come, without their mother, and had not understood the process of getting seen. Thank heavens for a dedicated doctor that took that extra time, and one extra look with caring eyes.

The next day, Thursday, we ministered at a Men’s shelter, where many homeless men came in and, after a shower, looked like different people- quite literally. One man had been released from prison with nowhere to go, and got into a brawl which opened a gash on his head. It had been stitched at the hospital. The problem was that, due to his living situation, it was already infected and had to be re-done. That was not a pretty sight. Alcohol is an all-too- common escape in these conditions. We did meet one young man who had turned his life around with Jesus’ help and was determined to help others. He was volunteering at the shelter that day. The man who ran the shelter kept making runs with his van to get people he knew were unable to come themselves. He was ready to go get more when we had to stop him. We had to be able to finish and be gone before dark, for safety reasons. During the day, the two armed guards outside the building could provide us with security.

The kitchen never stopped while we were there at the shelter. They were also constantly bringing water, because it was so hot. The staff would no sooner finish one round of bringing small, modest sandwiches around to all the people, when they would start going around with soup. One mother gave her soup to her oldest boy because he was a teenager and needed to survive. The local doctor there, who worked with us, told us that the survival rate for children (those who make it to age 5) is fifty percent. How sad!

My favorite scenes from the week were the children getting new sneakers, and our staff gathered around a patient praying. These were common in each setting, and were very real signs of hope in a hostile environment. People were also given Bibles and small booklets about God which were great discussion starters. Jesus was an integral part of everything we did. Gospel songs even broke out at that same men’s shelter.

So, the fast-paced week, which had begun with the bagging of parasite medicines and sorting of sneakers on Saturday was now finished and a tired team was heading for home to various ports with a great sense of accomplishment and yet a desire to do so much more. Clean water is an obvious issue to be addressed before long term changes in the health situation can come about. I can’t wait to see what the Lord has in mind for The Salvation Army in Honduras, where there are currently only two Corps in the whole country.

There is no way to properly express the gratitude in our hearts for the team that has come together each year for thirteen trips. We are also grateful for the shoulder to shoulder work of the Ruth Paz Foundation. I, for one, am uplifted to see how God is working in Honduras.


By Captain Tracy Hughes

March 29, 2012

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