six days in Honduras
In February, Salvation Army officers from the USA Eastern Territory accompanied doctors and nurses from the Raymond Foundation to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. The ‘Honduras Medical Brigade’, along with the Honduras Corps, spent a week providing health services, medical supplies, and a message of hope to many people in need.
Captains Angelo & Virginia Bermeo
Angelo Bermeo: When we arrived at San Pedro Sula in Honduras, I felt my heart full of expectation of what I hoped to do for the people. I wanted to touch their lives.
Virginia Bermeo: God calls us to go to the outermost parts of the world and to preach the Gospel. It’s the only hope.
AB: One of the many blessings we shared was to see how receptive the people were to the Gospel.
VB: In a country such as the United States where there is plenty, people forget that God has blessed them. In places like Honduras, they know that it is only by God’s grace that they survive. This makes them more sensitive to the Gospel and to the peace and the hope that is found only in Christ.
AB: I had an opportunity to do an evangelism seminar for the youth of the Salvation Army Honduras Corps, where I demonstrated a “balloon ministry” to the soldiers and officers. On Sunday, I presented the ministry to the children and to their families as they waited for medical care. One of the soldiers, a young lady named Elizabeth Madrid, was so interested in balloon sculpting that she took the time to perfect the technique. I have no words to describe the satisfaction I feel at having developed a “disciple”!
VB: Upon our return to our quarters, we were happy to hear that the youth had already scheduled an outreach at an orphanage. Elizabeth was able to teach balloon sculptures and to give each child a balloon.
AB: Through this incredible experience, I learned how God shows up when His people are willing to serve humanity without discrimination. I’m happy that we can make even a little difference for the people in Honduras, and I pray that we can continue to do this in the years to come.
VB: I would recommend that everyone who calls himself or herself a follower of Christ go on a mission trip like this one. They will come back with a renewed commitment to God’s people.
AB: I was impressed with the corps youth from San Pedro Sula. They were so mature, and they are filled with Christ’s love. What a blessing these kids are!
VB: Youth ministering to youth is powerful. The youth group was eager to work for the Lord and quickly learned how to use the evangelism tools that we presented to them.
AB: It was a privilege to work with the amazing medical team; the doctors, nurses, translators, and officers all came with a desire to serve. Priceless was their dedication, sacrifice, and commitment to help the most needy people.
VB: People cared and were cared for, and, I believe, all were changed because of it. This time in Honduras was a catalyst for awakening the missionary spirit.
Captain Santa Correa
THIS WAS MY SIXTH MEDICAL TRIP TO HONDURAS.
On Monday, an elderly woman with melanoma came alone to see us. She had a large mark on her cheek. She told the doctors that she had it for quite a while. Of course in Honduras, our medical resources were small compared to what we have here in the U.S. But we did have experienced doctors. And we had hope.
Right then and there, the woman allowed the doctors to remove the melanoma from her cheek. Using a local anesthetic, they got to work.
I described to her in Spanish what the doctors were doing. While the anesthesia set in, I held her hand, gave her comfort, and encouraged her to tell me about herself and her family. Team members used smartphone flashlights to give the doctors light while they prepared for surgery.
The doctors removed a football–shaped chunk of flesh from her cheek to get rid of the melanoma. They cleaned the wound, sterilized it, and then sutured it with several stitches from the inside and then from the outside.
And to dress the wound, we gave her antibiotics, gauze, and bandages. We also gave her a pair of reading glasses.
She was so grateful to have this done. And she was amazed that we did it for free. Prior to seeing us, she had thought she would die from the melanoma. She was so brave.
Raymond Foundation doctors and Salvationists go to Honduras to be God’s hands and feet. It’s amazing to watch what they do with such limited resources.
Think of something as simple as a Band–Aid. In the United States, you can probably buy a pack of 60 for pocket change. In Honduras, a single clean Band–Aid is too expensive to give to patients, even after they receive important medical injections.
At the College for Officer Training in Suffern, N.Y., we were able to send 5 pieces of luggage full of supplies to Honduras. There are so many ways to contribute, even if you can’t make the trip.
Coming home to the United States is humbling. Doing so makes me grateful for things I’m tempted to take for granted, such as having a bed to sleep in and a house to live in. I make sure that my family feels the same gratitude. It’s a blessing to have what we have.
Captain Miguel Robinson
A MEMBER OF THE CONGREGATION TOLD ME: “Pastor, do you realize you are going to travel to the country with the highest levels of violence in the world?” To which I replied: “Yes, that’ so. But I also know in Whom I trust, and Who is going there with me.”
It doesn’t matter how difficult the situation might be. We set out to serve the Lord.
When I arrived, I was able to tell the difference. For every part of the country where violence rules, there is another part that is precious for what the people have in their hearts.
The town itself made a great effort to help as many people as possible. Taxi services offered rides to those who needed to see the doctors. The police came to give us protection from the gangs that were near where we were working. Even the mayor came to meet with us. Everyone knew what we were there for.
A girl came to us on Tuesday seeking our help with a case of lice. Her younger sister had intestinal worms in her stomach. When we finished helping her, she told me: “Can I give you and the lady doctor a hug for what you have done for us?”
She gave us a hug full of love and gratitude. Although I knew what she had, I did not think about that and I just hugged her. It was a pure and genuine feeling. It was unforgettable.
She told me she had received treatment from other doctors who occasionally visit Honduras, but that this time she felt the love that the doctors and the members of The Salvation Army show to their patients is stronger.
I would encourage everyone who has the opportunity of traveling to Honduras to make the trip and help the people there. To visit Honduras is a tremendously emotional and enriching experience that will mark you forever. It will transform you as a person.
You learn to express the love of God in a richer way.
Here, we complain whenever the air conditioner or the central heating malfunctions in our building. If the minivan has mechanical problems, we do not go to church. In Honduras, the people are lacking most material things, and yet they have everything, because they have the love of God.
Here, in our country, we need things in order to praise God. In Honduras, the people only need God in order to praise Him.
Captain Omar Rolón
IN THE PHILADELPHIA TABERNACLE CORPS THERE ARE TWO HONDURAN FEMALE SOLDIERS. They told me that their country is a dangerous place and that people there are in great need of help. Personally, I neither faced nor saw danger of any sort, but I did see many people in need of real help.
There were people waiting for us to help them everyday throughout our stay there. They were aware that it was a great opportunity to receive help. For us, the great opportunity was to be able to serve those people.
On Wednesday, we visited an orphanage. That day, a woman approached me and showed me a scar she had on her stomach. She informed me that the month before her husband had been murdered in San Pedro Sula and that she herself had been shot. So, she had fled to the town of San Rafael. And now that she was out of work, she was cooking and selling arepas (corn tortillas) as a way to survive.
I did not usually carry any cash with me, but on that particular day I had put some 6 or 7 dollars in my pocket. When that woman told me what had happened to her, I gave her all the money I had with me. She told me she hadn’t had any food in three days; with that money, she and her children were going to eat for at least two to three full weeks.
We saw a girl who had walked five hours to see the doctors. She had a cancer in her face that was eating away at her bones. Her hair was turning white and she had white patches on her scalp. The doctors were shocked when they examined her. One of the doctors told me they had only read about this type of cancer in medical journals. Some of them didn’t think this cancer even existed up until that moment. The cancer itself was too advanced. The dermatologists cried when they realized that there was nothing they could do to treat this girl.
You need to go through an experience like that to become aware of the fact that there are people who find themselves in situations that are much worse than one’s own. After my trip to Honduras, I realized that what we do in each of our ministries satisfies but a small part of the great need for help that people have all over the world.
And we are always complaining! We say we don’t have a car, a building, or a desk where we can work. The work of the ministry of The Salvation Army in Honduras is carried out with almost no resources, and yet here in the U.S. we spend our time making up excuses for not serving the Lord.
I arrived in Honduras as an officer, but I returned from there as someone quite different.
Major Hilda Santiago
THE VERY FIRST TIME I TRAVELED TO HONDURAS, just about everyone I talked to asked me why I was going to that country. Such was the case of the medical doctor who gave me the preventive vaccine shots. I told him very specifically that I was going there to work in the missionary service and that, being myself a nurse, I would be able to offer much needed help. He replied that Honduras was one of the most dangerous places in the entire world. And I retorted that “Well, God is coming with us.”
When I told my husband, who was also traveling there with me, about that conversation, we both laughed. And we laughed even more when he told me that his doctor had told him the very same things. He even had shown him some articles in the Internet that confirmed how dangerous it was to travel to Honduras.
I have gone to Honduras a total of nine times. My husband has been there ten times. The first time he traveled to Honduras, he told everyone that his wife—that is, I—should be there with him as well.
Our priority is always to provide health services to the local population. With this sort of help, the patient feels more comfortable, better disposed to talk to us, and more receptive.
The service we provide can be as simple as welcoming someone. By just saying to a person ‘God bless you,’ they will smile. They open their eyes, their minds and their hearts.
One day, a woman who had given birth to her seven children in her bed, all by herself, without help, came to the place where we were offering our services. She was pregnant with her eighth child, and had walked for more than two hours to see us. We gave her sheets, medicines, gloves, and all sorts of articles for babies. It was a beautiful experience getting to know her.
Even the female doctors who treated her shed tears when the woman told them about her life. She confided to us: “I thank God because all of my children are in good health.” God gave her strength and wisdom; and He has also protected her children from any health complications. When we were done examining her health condition, we all prayed together.
It is so good to realize that there is a God who protects us and takes care of us.
On the next day, we saw a gentleman who had an ulcer in his foot. He was wearing some old, worn out sandals; he looked like a beggar. The doctors cleaned his feet, applied a special cream, and gave him a pair of socks with which to cover the bandages. We also gave him some tennis shoes; but not one of those we had taken with us to give. A Salvation Army soldier and medical student named Michael Winters, who always travels with us, took off his own tennis shoes and gave them to the man, who felt very happy and thankful for that gesture.
If you travel with a feeling of fear to a place like Honduras, you will most likely communicate that fear to the people you are trying to help. Moreover, you will not be able to give your all. If you are nervous and restless, you will project that onto others. But if you go there filled with joy and confidence, and with the will to serve others, people with notice that and they will draw near to you, will trust you, and will accept with pleasure your help and your love.
The little that people in Honduras have they share with others. Be it with their family, their neighbors, and even with foreigners. They keep their doors open. They take care of each other. But here where we live—in our own country—the more we have, the more we want. Such an attitude is harmful not only to our physical health, but to our spiritual life as well.
As I follow on the steps of the Lord, I thank God for the opportunities he has given me of serving others with a joyful heart.
Major Marie C. Larrinaga
THIS WAS THE FIRST TRIP TO HONDURAS for my husband and me. We had received the leadership of this project from Major Tracy Hughes, who is now directing the Overseas Children Sponsorship Bureau. We had heard that this medical mission was a wonderful opportunity to help people who really needed it, medically and spiritually.
Rain fell all day on Friday, our final day. We left our quarters before 7 a.m., for a 2 ½ hour drive—the longest ride to any location we had visited. We actually hiked the final 45 minutes of the trip up a mountain—on foot in the rain—because our bus failed to make the climb.
We were fortunate to meet a gentleman from the village who owned a pickup truck. He was kind enough to take some of our equipment up the mountain to the school where we would be working. We asked the doctors to ride up with him, so they could start organizing the medical team. By the time the last of us had arrived at the school, the rain was pouring.
We tried to see as many folks as we could that day. But two hours into our time there, we had to stop. The rain was too strong; the townspeople were drenched. So we gave away to the crowd as many vitamins, supplies, and snacks as we could. We distributed everything to the people still waiting on line.
The parents also received school supplies for their children. We distributed pencils, rulers, and crayons.
As we made our way down the mountain in the truck, we encountered a young woman who was hiking up the mountain to see a doctor on behalf of her baby, who had been sick for a week. The driver put her and the baby in the truck. We took her down with us where she finally saw the doctors. They gave her antibiotics for the baby, who we learned had pneumonia, and some snacks and ponchos for her and her family.
Many of us felt frustrated, wishing we could have done more. Even though our time was short and the weather was so bad, it still turned out to be a beautiful day spiritually for all of us. We rejoiced in that the mission team had visited a new site.
People in the U.S. know The Salvation Army primarily as a social service organization. Some people know us as a church. In Honduras, many people are now becoming aware of us for our social services and for being a church.
When we tell them who we are and what we do, they ask us for Bibles. They always want to read the Word of God. They want to know more.
Interviews by Hugo Bravo
IN SIX DAYS, the Honduras Medical Brigade:
- served 2,841 people
- donated 300 pairs of shoes
- used $10,000 worth of medical supplies
- gave away 1,317 Bibles