The fifteen members of Team Richmond hail from Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and California. The group traveling out of Richmond encountered some travel challenges on Saturday, but God - and team leader Patti – kept us focused and excited. Spirits were high as we moved through airports, skies and time zones.
The team’s meaningful interactions with Hondurans began well before we entered the country. April, Louisa and Frances each had unexpected conversations with fellow travelers on the flight from Miami to San Pedro Sula who thanked them for the work they were coming to the country to do.
Many of this week’s team members are first-timers and were especially curious about what to expect. On the hour and a half drive from the airport to Peña Blanca, we were greeted by beautiful mountains, tropical vegetation and various crops including many sugarcane fields. The bulldozers and John Deere tractors doing road construction looked a little familiar, as did the grazing livestock. Seeing roadside vendors selling everything from bananas and coconuts to electric fans and piñatas were quite different, however.
Of particular interest was a restaurant that boasted a very large and colorful chicken on the sign out front. Patti shared the inspiring story of its owner who as a child was rescued from a life on the street. The experience had such a profound effect on him that he vowed to give back to his community in a big way some day. His benevolence has included the donation of all the kitchen equipment at the Barnabas House, where children can stay when they come to the Friends of Barnabas for specialized medical care.
Arriving at Alfredo’s House was like coming home for new and returning team members alike. We were lovingly welcomed by the staff and after a bit of exploring the property, we enjoyed an incredible home-cooked meal that was a welcome ending to a long day of travel.
The pancakes and Mennonite yogurt served at breakfast on Sunday were a sweet way to wake up, but the sweetest part of starting the day was hearing Virginia humming ‘This is the Day That the Lord Has Made’ while she cooked for us. After a delicious breakfast, the team traveled to the waterfalls at Pulhapanzak national park to take in one of the most beautiful scenes in the area. It was the perfect way to relax in God’s creation before beginning our preparations for the week ahead.
We spent the afternoon with the traditional pill-packing. Around 110,000 pills – Tylenol and adult and pediatric vitamins – packed into small bags to be dispensed to hundreds of families in the coming week. Other supplies were organized, and the work time also served as a great bonding opportunity for the team, most of whom had never met each other.
The day ended with a meaningful commissioning service and prayers for each other, our families and the families in Honduras that we would have the awesome privilege of serving in the week ahead.
Monday, September 3
Today, we visited the La Donta community, home to more than 300 residents. Their nearest medical facility is a 2-hour walk away, and many of them likely traveled that distance to visit us. We saw 175 people in general medical clinics, with a wide variety of health concerns including allergy symptoms, headaches, skin conditions, heart murmurs and a ruptured eardrum. Two of the most concerning cases were a gentleman whose blood pressure was so elevated that he was at immediate risk of a stroke or heart attack and a young lady with a lump in her breast. These patients were referred to the hospital for further testing and treatment.
The most amazing thing about our first day was the significant faith and trust that these families place in us, when we are literally strangers to them. They willingly travel long distances, stand in long lines and allow us to examine and treat them. And some of these treatments can be truly frightening, especially to young children. For example, our dental clinic performed 64 extractions today but the children’s bravery was an incredible inspiration to our team. One little girl in particular touched Chuck’s heart. She endured a very tough tooth extraction, but remained still while the dentist worked, despite silent tears rolling down her cheeks. Chuck spoke the name of Jesus to her and she was visibly calmed by that reassurance. In that moment, Chuck knew that she would receive the gift of his cross.
Not only did the children trust us to treat their medical needs, they truly welcomed us into their community. From the moment we arrived at the school that served as our clinic for the day, we were met with their genuine eagerness to engage with us. We were reminded that even though there may have been a language barrier, smiles and laughter and hugs are universal ways to communicate. As are stickers, bubbles, crayons and silly cell phone pictures.
Frances and Emma had a blast teaching the children English translations for some common Spanish words like animals, numbers, colors, body parts and clothing items. They also taught them how to say certain phrases in English, including “I love you.” They showed them how to do the sign language for that, and the sweetest part of the day was when one or two children would seek the ladies out and make the sign back to them.
Our evening devotion, led by Louisa, reminded us that we have been called to a special type of servanthood this week. When Jesus granted us authority to carry on His work in the world, He was actually telling us to lead by serving others, both those above and below us according to society’s standards. Even when we don’t feel like we’re ready or equipped to do what He asks of us, we must remember that He goes before us and prepares us to answer His call. And we will strive to do just that as we visit another community tomorrow.