Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Honduras recap

We had another great trip serving in Honduras. We are just happy to use our skills and talents to help others. Bryan served in the clinic at Loma de Luz 3 days a week and also did overnight call for any emergencies that came in while he was trying to sleep. I had the opportunity to help out the IT missionary, Dave Fields, with a few projects, some of which I am still completing. I spent most of my time updating the charge sheet that is used for every clinic visit. I met with lots of different people at the clinic to get their changes and input. I completed a few revisions of the Costas de Clinica form with some help from Bryan too. By the time we left, they had an updated version that will be ready to use soon.

My highlights from the trip are sharing meals with friends/missionaries, serving at the dump in the city and watching my boys make friends with kids in Honduras. We forgot to take any pictures of our meals and the people that we shared the table. I will try to do better at this next time. Those are truly the memories I cherish. Helping with Lisa Bradley's ministry at the dump in the nearest large city, La Ceiba, is always a favorite activity of mine. We walked around and checked in with a variety of families in need of help. Then we served a meal to the kids including bread, beans, rice and milk. There is a feeding program that provides a meal twice a week to the kids who live near the dump. Even though it is only twice a week, it is decreasing the malnutrition seen there. I loved watching the boys play with missionary kids and Honduran kids. We got a few pictures of the boys playing and I hope that their new friends will still be remembered the next time we travel to Honduras.

I love that Jaden and Clay wanted to share about Honduras with their classes at school. They each took in a DVD of pictures and video clips, showed a few toys they bought in Honduras and shared some Honduran candy. This was a great opportunity for them to talk about what they do in Honduras and why we go there. Jaden started to get this a little more just recently. He came home and explained to me what dad did in Honduras and how he showed love by playing with the foster kids. I loved his explanation of this. I really hope and pray that he wants to help others because of our example as parents.

Here is a link to our pictures. Enjoy!

A few of my favorite memories...
Here the boys are playing Skip-bo with Matthew (visiting medical student) and Tammy. They played many games together during our 2 weeks. We also shared a few meals around this table.
Below is a picture near the entrance to the dump. Lots of garbage around and the houses are made mostly of found materials.
Here the boys are playing soccer with 3 of the foster boys. I love the goal made with wooden posts and often the Hondurans play barefoot. Two of my nephews (3 and 5 years old) donated some of their money for us to buy 2 soccer balls that we left with the foster kids.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Bryan's summary of Honduras

Honduras is a beautiful country filled with mountains, jungles, monkeys, toucans and friendly Honduran people.  It is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and has all the things that you would expect for a country struggling in this way.  The crime rate is through the roof, roads are often not repaired or just gravel, electricity goes in and out often, cellular reception is hit or miss, the teachers are often on strike because the government doesn’t pay them, many children don’t go to school past the 6th grade, if at all, and there are limited job prospects.

There are remote areas that still have mud huts with thatched roofs, no clean drinking water and people who don’t know or understand that bacteria from water, plants or other sick people cause disease.  The need is great and that is exactly why God placed a hospital called Loma de Luz in one of those remote areas off the northern coast of Honduras.  My wife, Raquel, my 8 year old son, Jaden, my 6 year old son, Clay and I try to travel down there every year to help the missionaries serve the people in Honduras, supply them with resources, and bring them encouragement that what they are doing is making a difference for the people they serve and for God’s kingdom.

This year was another great adventure.  The adventure started out a little rough because when we arrived at the airport to check our baggage at 3:30 AM, and found out Clay’s passport expired in 87 days and Honduras requires 90 days.  Too bad they didn’t tell us that when I put the passport information in when we bought the tickets or even when I put it in again when I checked in online the day before.  Oh well, we loaded all the supplies back up and the next day we got an emergency passport and headed off to Honduras.  When we arrived we met our driver that took us from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba, got some groceries and headed on the dirt road out to the hospital.  It was a pleasant surprise to find that all the rivers to get there now have bridges so we didn’t have to drive the truck through the rivers. 

Raquel was her usual friendly, hospitable, and computer-savvy self.  She had tons of missionaries over to our place, treated them all to delicious home cooked meals, and gave encouragement to all the amazing missionaries working at Loma de Luz. She also helped with a lot of IT projects on the computer including making a new form for ordering/billing for the entire hospital and updating the internal hospital website.

Jaden and Clay played with the Honduran kids and befriended three foster boys from the Children’s Center named Luis, Manuel and Ever. It is great to see Jaden and Clay share their toys with the boys and love them so much while we are there.

The day after we arrived I jumped into work at the clinic.  I saw the normal patients with high blood pressure, headaches, diabetes, arthritis, abdominal pain, diarrhea, skin infections, and broken bones.  We have basic labs, an EKG machine, an x-ray machine and even a new ultrasound machine.  I fix the things I can, educate the patients in a way they can understand, and pray with some of the patients when I am prompted. All of the patients meet with a pastor after we are done and the whole community knows this place is all about showing God’s love to them as we follow Jesus. One major difference from here is that Honduran culture does not separate the physical from the spiritual. You can talk about both aspects together. Everyone there knows they affect each other and are both important.

I also had medical mystery patients including a man who had his skin peeling off for the last 3 months all over his body (likely autoimmune or some strange bug bite according to a dermatologist in the US), a pregnant woman with abdominal pain and jaundice that was likely from a common bile duct stone, and a lady with atypical chest pain.  The lady with the chest pain, we will call her Maria, was 62 years old and had a left sided chest pain that sounded like reflux or arthritis in the joints of the chest when she first described it.  Her EKG was normal and we did not have anyone to do an ECHO or a treadmill stress test. I was going to let her go home with more reflux medicine and Tylenol. This was her 3rd time to the clinic for this and she was scared about the pain. We prayed about it and while praying I got, or was given, the idea to try to do a stress test. I thought this would be negative and I could give her more reassurance. I had her walk down to the gate and back up the large hill as fast as she could and I asked our Honduran tech, Tomas, to do another EKG right after she came back when her heart was still racing. When she got back she had all her chest pain and said she felt like she was going to die. Tomas strapped on the EKG and sure enough there were new large ST depressions in the lateral leads on the EKG suggesting this pain really was from blocked arteries in her heart. After a few minutes the chest pain went away and she started to feel better. We got her started on all the right heart medications, blood pressure medications and cholesterol medications this time and I am hopeful we can treat this medically now that we know what it is.  After treating her I was thinking back to when I was taking time to pray with her.  It struck me how prayer not only gives us a chance to talk to God, but it also makes us take a moment and let him talk back to us.  I am so grateful that I have a God who cares so much about an elderly lady on the remote coast of Honduras that he makes me change my mind and come up with a new way to get the test she really needed.  I love being a part of God’s work! 

I also had the chance to take some great pictures of a toucan and monkeys on this trip! This was my first time capturing a toucan picture.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Home from Honduras

We are home but getting home injured my attitude. Yesterday morning I had a bad attitude and a negative perspective that lasted all day. I'd like to think it was justified but really it wasn't. We left our hotel at 4:45am to arrive 2 hours before our flight, so I was tired which was a bad start. On the up side we were ready to be going home. We had a great time serving and helping in Honduras but were spent and ready to get back to our routine of life.

At the airport in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, I requested bag tags and had to wait. I wasn't sure the attendant heard my request or cared about it but I knew it was important because they have tagged our bags wrong on past flights. After taking her time she got me tags for me to fill out. Then she was ready to check our bags but there weren't tags on them yet so we were already at risk of someone taking them before they were ready. I had the first one tagged and the luggage handler grabbed the bag. I gave the workers a frustrated look because it wasn't tagged with the airline bar code yet. I told Bryan to not let them take the bags until they were tagged. He helped. After the bar code tags were all printed, the same female attendant went to tag our bags and grabbed the wrong bag behind her. I let out a frustrated sigh and rolled my eyes. I corrected her and was thankful that we chose to stand there and watch. Our bags would have been tagged wrong again. She didn't even care that she almost tagged the wrong bag. It seems as though they don't care if they lose anyone's luggage. They need better customer service in Honduras and respect for people's stuff.

I know I overreacted but my day was already headed in the wrong direction. Our ticket had the wrong gate number on it so we waited in the wrong boarding line to get on our plane. Thankfully our plane was still boarding but it is so frustrating to not have any signs telling you which gate is going where. Then while waiting nicely in line we were rudely told to wait in a straight line "like this!" which we were already doing. I wanted to respond with, "Americans know how to wait in lines," implying Hondurans are the ones that need to work that. I am glad I bit my tongue but the thought was already released in my head. I needed to start letting stuff go but instead of doing that, I just felt like I was ready to be back in the U.S. even more.

My attitude was poor and I didn't change it. I can make excuses of being tired, exhausted, spent from working hard for 2 weeks but in the end I am a messed up person who makes bad choices. People may think highly of the work our family does in Honduras but we are no better than anyone else. We still screw up and are rude to people and say things we regret. I know deeply that I need God's forgiveness. He is the only one that can refresh and renew me. I thank Him often for his grace and his many many chances at trying to live a life that is full of love.

I am so happy to be home, more than I can ever remember in the past. I needed the comforts of home today. My boys needed the comfort of routine. I needed rest and sleep and a break from a few projects.

Our work in Honduras was worth the extra effort but it truly was extra effort at times. We love investing in people there. We enjoy helping out the missionaries and making new friendships with Hondurans. We gave of our time and efforts and used our talents. We will do it again and again. We will go back next year. But right now I am appreciating life in my home in Bloomington.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Honduran friends

Today we finally made it to the beach for the first time and we leave Honduras in 2 days. I am not sure we will make it to the beach again before we leave which is sad. Our time is going by so fast and there is always more we want to enjoy here.

My two boys wanted some friends to come with us, particularly one boy, Louise. He lives at the Sanctuary House Children's Center near the hospital. The McKenzie family are the Scottish missionaries that are the founders and directors of the Children's Center and have some of the biggest hearts around. They are truly inspirational people. We ended up having 3 boys come with us to the beach. Angel, Ever and Louise were able to join us in walking through the sand, jumping waves, fighting over floaties, swinging on vines and lots of laughter. After we had enough sun and suspected a sunburn coming (and it did later), we began heading back and decided to invite the boys over to our place for some playing. We stopped by the house to get permission and ended up with a new threesome of boys, Manuel, Ever and Louise. I knew that Bryan was on-call for the hospital and I needed to get some food ready for our potluck dinner soon at the Thursday night Fellowship with all the missionaries. I was hoping that Bryan didn't get called in and that the 5 boys could play nicely together with little interaction from me if Bryan had to leave. I was a little concerned about taking on this endeavor of 5 boys for the afternoon but hoped that it would work out for the best. All 5 of the boys were happy to extend their time together.

Bryan did not get called in for any emergencies and the 5 boys turned into 6 + 3 grown boys. I think all the boys had fun. There were lots of snacks and jugo (juice) consumed and there was lots of running. I checked in on them once in awhile as I was preparing food and saw them playing soccer, bean bag toss, tag and some other running game with teams. They all had a blast together. Each of them helped me carry food over to the chapel. This was a new experience for at least 2 of them to get to be part of the Missionary Fellowship on Thursday night. I knew that the McKenzie family was planning to meet us there and they would take the boys home that night. Everything couldn't have went smoother. The 5+ boys even sat through singing, a short sermon and prayer time. I was very proud of them despite my 2 boys asking "How much longer?" about 100 times.

I love that Jaden and Clay always seem to make friends when we come to Honduras. In the past, the friends were usually missionary kids, but this time the friends they will remember will be Honduran. I love that they found a connection with some boys that have very different lives than we live in Minnesota.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wonderful Easter in Honduras

 We had one of the best Easter's ever and it was in Honduras. I wasn't sure how much it would feel like Easter because of being in another country and not knowing if any traditions would still be celebrated. Things all came together at the last minute. I brought down a few toys to hide for the boys to find in their Easter baskets (bags) hiding around our temporary housing. They had a great time searching for them and eventually found them tied to a tree and buried in a bush. Then we were off to church with the missionary families. Bryan was on call in the hospital/ER and was tending to people off and on all day but was able to enjoy church with our family. They had a guest speaker who is here with a mission group from Tennessee and he told a very powerful story relating to Jesus' scars that remind us of his sacrifice for us. The missionaries have a tradition here of putting flowers on a woven cross as a symbol of the life that is found from the cross of Jesus. Everyone enjoyed doing this and seeing the beautiful transformation of the brown cross to one full of life and color.

 After church we shared a meal with our sponsor family, Rimas and Abby Miknaitis and their 2 kids. I prepared au gratin potatoes and ham and they were delicious. I will definitely be making them again in the U.S. I have a tradition of making carrot cake for Easter. I love it but eat too much of it if I make it more often. The carrot cake was an effort of love by many people. It is not easy to get all of the ingredients or items necessary to make a cake here so many people came together to make this happen. I had most of the ingredients but got cream cheese and powdered sugar from the Tumlison family. I needed additional powdered sugar which I got from the visiting Woodley family. I also didn't have a hand mixer which I borrowed from another neighbor family. I eventually found two round cake pans (with Bryan's help) after borrowing one from that neighbor. I was happy to share the cake with all of the people that helped. There was more than enough cake to go around and I think everyone enjoyed the reward for their contribution.


After lunch 5 of the families here had planned an Easter egg hunt for our kids. There were 10 kids and after adding up everyone's contributions we had 130 stuffed plastic eggs. This made for quite a nice egg hunt. The kids all had a blast finding eggs and enjoying the treats and toys after opening them. Then in the evening, our friends the Tumlisons invited everyone over for a bonfire. This was a nice treat because the temperature was not too hot to enjoy it. We sat around and went through the Resurrection Eggs and talked about the Easter story with the kids. There was also some singing around the fire and Jaden kept requesting more songs although he didn't know any of the words to sing along. We had an amazing day filled with fun and friends, celebrating a holiday that means so much to us.