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Body and soul: Mission team serves Hondurans through medicine and ministry

A line of people stretched along the seafoam green concrete walls and around the corner, past the coconut palm trees and out of sight. Moms, babies, kids, teens, older men, grandmothers: they all arrived early outside the Buckner Las Brisas Family Hope Center in Honduras to get a good spot in line. Many had been wilting in the heat and humidity for hours when the medical mission team arrived and began to arrange their classrooms-turned-clinics to receive patients.

The courtyard of the center became the waiting room. A hallway became a physical therapy office. A desk became a pharmacy. The gate opened and the first patients were ushered toward the triage desk where two nurses took down their information – name, age, weight, blood pressure, primary concern.

Amid a backdrop of brightlypainted classroom walls and bulletin boards covered in colorful craft paper, Nicole Brenner, a nurse practitioner from Pittsburgh, Penn., gently examined Carla Reyes’ 3-year-old daughter Sara who sat quietly in a school desk. Nicole listened to Sara’s heart and lungs, took a look at her tonsils and checked her eyes. Through a translator, she asked about Sara’s eating habits and watched the concerned look melt away from the young mother’s face when she told her, “Sara is very healthy. She looks great.”

From Oct. 18-24, a Wexford, Penn., mission team from North Way Community Church brought good news and bad, diagnoses and referrals, prayers and treatment plans to about 765 patients at the Las Brisas Family Hope Center and two orphanages. But one of the most important gifts they gave patients was the ability to be heard.

“I saw an elderly woman who needed treatment, but we didn’t have the specific medications that she needed,” said Ali Goss, a physician’s assistant.

“I tried to explain to her that we could give her prescriptions so she could go out in the village or the town to the local pharmacy to get it. She said she didn’t have the money for it, but she told me she was so blessed we were there helping her. She came up to me, hugged me and gave me a kiss on the cheek and said, ‘Thank you so much for everything that you’re doing.’ “I felt compelled to pray with her, and she was so grateful for everything that I did, even though we couldn’t help her with what she needed medication-wise,” Ali said. “It was just really touching to know that we’re still having an impact in some way.”

On Saturday, Oct. 18 and Sunday, Oct. 19 the medical team exclusively saw patients who were part of the Family Hope Center’s programming and noted how different their conditions and complaints were from what the team was expecting.

“Our medical team was sort of joking that with clients of the Family Hope Center, we were seeing ‘first world problems’ – complaints of low back pain, and the types of things I see in my office back home on a daily basis,” said Andrew Adams, the lead doctor for the trip.

Mario Ordones, a 53-year-old man with a wiry frame who complained of pain in his neck and shoulders, was typical of the patients who are current clients of the Hope Center. As a construction worker, Mario spends his days hoisting sacks of concrete in the heat and humidity. Back injuries come along with the territory. But when he heard that a team of doctors was coming from the United States to provide free medical care, he took a precious day off work to seek relief.

After the first two days, the clinic was opened to the general community and the team soon noted a stark difference in the types of medical complaints they began hearing from those who had not been in case management with the Hope Center.

“On our third day I saw a mom and four small children who were not clients of the Family Hope Center,” Andrew said. “The first two children I spoke with were too small to tell me any kind of history that would let me make a diagnosis – just that they had belly pain.

“I thought maybe they had parasites, which are really common, and they probably did have parasites, but it wasn’t until the third child came through, and she was 9, that she was able to express to me that her belly hurt when they didn’t have food at home. So they were hungry, and that was what was causing the pain more than anything else. It was really striking to me, to see how much work has already been done here in this community among families who are in case management with the Family Hope Center.”

While the medical team worked tirelessly each day to see as many patients as possible at the Hope Center and the two orphanages they visited, the ministry team spent their week meeting spiritual needs. The team helped distribute 110 buckets of food in the Las Brisas community, taught Bible stories to children at Vacation Bible School, rocked babies to sleep at Hogar Nueva Esperanza, led kids in games and singing Spanish praise songs, prayed with families who were waiting to be seen by a doctor and ensured that everyone they met knew that someone cared and loved them.

“I think medical missions are a great way to try to meet the physical needs of the people,” said Andrew. “But I think it works best when it’s combined with a way to meet their spiritual needs as well, to try and develop and grow relationships.”

Lauren Hollon Sturdy is the web content editor for Buckner International. She can be reached at lsturdy[at]buckner[dot]org.

To learn more about how you can serve through Buckner on a medical mission trip, visit www.buckner.org/medical.

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