"Sit down and buckle your seat belts, please, because we're expecting some turbulence."
These are the first words our team heard from the bus driver, Raul, as we loaded up to head to our first day of clinic in the community of Loma Larga. We soon found out that he was not exaggerating, as we bounced our way up a rocky dirt road for next hour and a half. When we finally arrived at a small school in the middle of a very rural community, we were greeted by hugs from a crowd of enthusiastic community members who could not wait for us to get started with "clinic day," which is basically a holiday in this small community that provides them with a day off of school and an opportunity to receive much needed health care.
After setting up the clinic we began moving patients through. Depending on the needs of each individual patient, patients had the option to receive: height/weight measurements for children (including screening for birth defects caused by Zika), vitamins, de-worming treatment, fluoride treatments, vision evaluations, dental evaluations and teeth extractions, and medical evaluations complete with pharmaceuticals and referrals to specialists as needed. Today, 164 patients were treated in the clinics, with over 100 receiving a vision evaluation, 19 having teeth extracted, and 15 being referred to a specialist for further care. Every patient to come through the clinic had the opportunity to experience God's love by experiencing the love of every volunteer they encountered on their way through the stations.
While today was incredible, it was also not without challenges. With many of our team members being new to working in this type of environment, there was certainly a learning curve for all of us. Tonight we took some time to regroup and talk through some of the challenges to make a plan for tomorrow. The most common concern of our team members was that everyone felt like no matter how much we did, it would never be enough. Many people were overwhelmed by the need that exists everywhere in this country, and we talked a lot with locals about nation-wide problems that make creating change an uphill battle. However, one of our team members so wisely reminded us that ultimately it’s not up to the government to save this country--it is up to organizations like Friends of Barnabas and to Jesus. And, as long as we are here doing His work, we are exactly where He needs us to be. It might not feel like "enough" to us, but we're all holding on to God's promise that as long as we are obedient in doing what He calls us to do, he is going to take care of the rest.
As we were talking through the day at dinner, there were a few stories that really stood out. The first really made me think of Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." One of our nurses had a patient who told her a really incredible story. He loved to lift his arms to praise God, but due to some chronic pain, he was no longer able to raise his arms. He prayed every day that God would give him back the ability to raise his arms in praise, praying that he could receive a shot that would restore the function of his arms. One night while he was sleeping, during a dream, he felt a pinch on his arm. He began looking for a bug bite, and found that he could raise his arms again. He gives God all the credit for healing his arms so that he could raise them in praise again. This man truly embodied that idea of delighting yourself in the Lord, and I cannot think of a more pure desire to pray for each day. Hearing this man's story was a great lesson for all of us. Today we were all reminded that if we take a moment to listen to them, value them as people, and hear their stories, they might just have a lot to teach us about what it really means to rely fully on God and delight ourselves only in Him.
The second story that really had an impact on us today was that of one of our team members. Today we met a boy with autism and his wonderful grandmother who has been taking care of him since his mother died at a young age. His autism was evidently severe and he clearly required extensive care around-the-clock, but his grandmother made sure to prioritize his needs and get through the clinic line quickly before he became overwhelmed. This really hit home for one of our team members, who has a special needs a child herself. She was really impacted by the idea even though this boy and his grandmother lived in an entirely different world and culture, they really weren't all that different after all. They were just people, like this team member and her family, trying to get through life and take care of each other. Later, when this same team member was assisting with teeth extractions, she noticed that all of the older boys to come through the station came accompanied by an entourage of interested onlookers, who watched the procedure from the window and made fun of their friends when they left with a mouth full of gauze. This made her realize that the people we were serving were really just people, just like all of us. This was a great reminder for a team that we are not just taking care of "patients," "Hondurans," or "impoverished community members," but people who are just like us and who are God's valued children exactly like we are.
Tomorrow, we head back up into the mountains into a new community, more than double the size of this one. We are expecting to see twice as many patients, touch twice as many lives, and run around twice as fast trying to get everyone through! We can't wait to see how God uses us to touch the lives of the community members, and uses them to touch our lives in return. Our "homework" for tomorrow is to look for the Holy Spirit working among us, and I don't think that we will have any trouble at all seeing the incredible ways that God is working right alongside us in these communities.