Mission to Honduras
In January 2019, physicians from the eastern and the central United States traveled to the country of Honduras to provide medical care to people living in remote, impoverished regions of San Pedro Sula, the second largest city of this Central American republic. The Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory deployed 14 officers to serve as English/Spanish translators for the doctors and the families seeking attention.
The American team was joined by a team of Honduran physicians, dentists, community leaders, corps officers, and soldiers from the Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula Corps. For six days, the teams visited villages throughout the region, seeing approximately 2,300 men, women, and children with a myriad of health concerns ranging from colds and allergies, gastrointestinal problems, heart diseases, and cancer.
Early every morning, the team would rise to have breakfast, devotions, and participate in a briefing. By 6 a.m., their buses would leave basecamp to begin a 129–mile drive to the villages. They set up a clinic and pharmacy and saw as many people as possible. They then packed, cleaned up, and drove back to basecamp for a debriefing, a dinner, and to prepare for the next day.
Majors Angelo and Virginia Bermeo, territorial evangelists, shared the gospel message via their popular and mesmerizing optical illusion show. Prayers, words of encouragement, and comfort were offered throughout the clinic. From intake to consultation and pharmacy visits, there was always a brigade member who took time to share the hope that is found in Jesus Christ.
There are four assets that the people of Honduras possess: Perseverance, resilience, and hopefulness through faith in God.
Perseverance—regardless of their circumstances, the nation seeks to improve the wellbeing of its families and communities; always pressing forward, leading them toward progress.
Resilience—Hondurans have been able to rise above natural disasters such as Hurricane Mitch in 1998, fragile democracies, and uncertain economies.
Hopefulness—Hondurans are a hopeful people and many believe that the future will be a bright one. Faith in God is the source of their hope. There is a deep–rooted sense that everything belongs to the Creator and that God sustains life and gives strength to the powerless.
The country faces some major challenges. Severe poverty, hunger, and sickness are nothing but the byproducts of social, political, and economic injustice. However, the people of Honduras find ways of maneuvering through life, between the extremes of having assets and facing challenges. They do so by having a strong sense of community; many people the brigade met that week were taking care of children whose parents had abandoned them or had died due to violence or illness.
Without any type of outside assistance, these people were providing food, shelter, and love to others as if they were their own flesh and blood. An entrepreneurial and innovative spirit helps them create an income that provides for families.
The medical brigade provided relief to families and individuals who are struggling with health matters. Many of them shared that they were ministered to by the people of Honduras through their humility, faith, and hope. They were also impacted by the loving work demonstrated by the local doctors, corps officers, and soldiers of San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa Corps.
When reflecting on this, many team members shared their desire to transmit these valuable lessons and shared experiences back home to their families as well as to as many people as possible in their workplaces.
Ironically, the ones seeking to be a blessing to others (the medical team) became the recipients of God’s blessings through the people deemed to be the least, the last, and the lost.
by Major Ismael Correa
A Humbling Experience
“I felt humbled,” said Major Doris Gonzalez.* She served as a Honduras medical mission team leader with Dr. Russell Raymond, a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic. “I’ve worked with the poor in the United States where there is always hope that people can improve their socio/economic status,” said Gonzalez. “In looking at these individuals of Honduras, I could see how grateful they were to be at the mission station and how it raised their hopes too.”
“But at the same time, I thought, for many of them, this is it. They don’t have the resources to help them economically. What will be their way out?
“So, I felt a great sense of humility because, at the end of the day, we are all equal as human beings. Someone said, ‘they don’t know what they are missing because they never had it.’ But I say, they know the difference between being well and being sick.”
Gonzalez (shown left) said she observed how the people, many of whom had walked 4 or 5 hours with their small children to get to the mission station, were happy to receive medications the average American takes for granted or has never seen. “For example, they would come in needing vitamins, parasite medicine, antacid for stomach problems, and basic hygiene information.”
The people’s response was heartfelt. “There was a lot of joy when the medical team could solve a health issue,” said Gonzalez. “The people were happy we were there to care for them. Even when we said we couldn’t take any more people, there was no complaining. That showed me just how determined and thankful they are.”
Since the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch in 1998, Salvation Army medical teams have ministered in rural Honduran communities. In doing so, they’ve developed a rich legacy that has spanned generations. As many as 60 percent of this year’s team are from the original one.
“We had close to 20 teens and young adults from the corps helping us,” said Gonzalez. The team served 400–500 people a day in San Pedro Sula and in Tegucigalpa. As many as 40 percent were children, 4 to 5 kids per couple. “We were grateful to be able to serve,” she said.
—Warren L. Maye
*Major Doris Gonzalez is the divisional secretary for the Massachusetts Division.