Mud, rain, flies and mosquitoes were the order of the day. Amazingly, it is not as bad as it sounds, as we are now seasoned team members who have experienced all extremes of weather and working conditions in one week -- from chilly temperatures to intense sweaty heat, followed by idyllic summer breezes, and then rain. A serene, monastic-like church and a tiny classroom have both served as the main medical clinic. Our animal friends have varied, from burros to chickens to flies in various numbers, but you can always count on the ever-present Honduran dogs to tentatively nose around for a scrap of food with huge, sorrowful eyes before they are brusquely shooed away only to try again moments later.
Yet every day was the same -- going to a Honduran mountain village and caring for its people. We made amigos and hopefully changed lives for the better. Over the week we saw 2,003 patients in the various clinics. The irony is that once we mastered our jobs, we retired. The week is complete for our patients and for us, and there seems to be a general satisfaction with the jobs we did. We pushed it to the limit in this wonderful system, which allows team members to immerse themselves fully and be as effective as possible in the span of a week.
On our last day, a gentleman with foot trouble came into the medical clinic. Pastor Brian took off his shoes and uncovered fungus, trench foot, and foot rot. The man had gone previously to another doctor and they had washed his feet roughly, causing him tremendous pain. Brian was assigned the job of washing his feet and received thanks and praise from the man because of his much more gentle approach. In a moment of revealing clarity, Brian thought of Maundy Thursday and felt truly connected with Jesus' humility in his own opportunity to serve this almost certainly homeless man. He considered giving the man his cross, but felt strongly that it would be more for himself than for the gentleman who has so many bigger needs than a wooden cross on a string. Brain then decided to not over-think it, be generous, and give him the cross. He went to find the man in the eye clinic where, as the perfect allegory continued to unfold, his sight was being restored by a new pair of glasses. (We are not making this up.) Brain offered him the gift of his cross and the man immediately took his hat off, bowed, and accepted the cross. The man blessed everyone as he left, feeling so cared for by everyone at clinic. Before Brian came on this trip, he had planned to give his cross to Dr. Ed as a gesture of appreciation to thank him for opening the door to this opportunity as the California team leader. This was another reason he had hesitated to give cross to anyone else this week. Problem solved, by getting a second cross which he gave to Ed at dinner, touching the entire group.
Dr. Ed noted that the opportunity to serve is not about any one of us, and that it is tough to fully turn the tables and serve to the degree offered by Friends of Barnabas. The rewards of participating fully in this process are now obvious to all of us -- by elevating us all and creating an incredible bond. We are so thankful to share this time together.
It does seem like God put our team together. Shane remarked that his expectations were exceeded although he admitted that he didn't know what to expect coming into the trip. Shane is a remarkable young man has shown a maturity and fresh, genuine compassion that has inspired the whole team, most of whom are at least double his age. He has been up close and personal with the kids all week, and he will never forget the eight-pound child he held in his arms on the fourth day of clinic.
Other reflections from our last clinic day: Bev was so uplifted to meet all of the young teachers at schools where we held clinics who work so hard to educate the children that we served this week. For her they represented so much hope for the people in the remote mountain areas. Deborah spoke at the very end of the day with a lovely woman. They prayed together -- Deb in English and woman in Spanish. Afterward they wept together, having connected with complete comprehension in two languages.
Beth recognized a cleft lip repair patient from FOBF photos who seems to be thriving. Beth also gave her cross to Dr. Adan today -- our fabulous dentist was a joy to work with this week as he extracted hundreds of teeth from patients. He leaves his orthodontic practice one week per month to help with the kids, bringing a quiet but very strong faith with his dental expertise.
Cynthia saw a mom with two girls, and when she turned around about 10 minutes into the visit, there were suddenly three girls sharing the same wooden chair. The little additional one was a visitor from another family who decided to join her two friends at their medical visit, perfectly happy to be together in one small shared seat. Kindle loved seeing that same little girl twirling in her cream-colored Sunday-best dress, which allowed a moment of visual levity in the midst of her task of counseling a teenager who had been left with the responsibility of raising her young nieces and nephews on her own.
Children often seem to be closest to God -- interactions with them here (and at home) are so rewarding and a mutually enjoyable way to connect with a community. Kindle, the best team therapist ever(!), pointed out that our "task" of giving our wooden crosses doesn't always have to happen physically. It is entirely possible that hundreds of crosses have been given this week by the Epiphany team. It has been a pleasure and a privilege.