Nov 15, 2023
I was privileged to go to Honduras twice this year on medical missions’ teams, serving in both Santa Rita and El Progreso. In June, I arrived in El Progreso with the excitement that accompanies a new country and culture, as well as some trepidation at the idea of the heartache we so often encounter when we venture into these underprivileged and underserved far corners of the world. The weather was blazing hot, the humidity higher than anything I had ever experienced (and I am from the Carolinas so that is saying something!) and it was shaping up to be a grueling week of medical clinics due to the heat and sun beating down. Nevertheless, I was excited as always to meet a new missionary host family and make new friends in this beautiful place and even more excited to start clinic and have the opportunity to serve the people of this country.
This was my fourth medical trip with MMO, and I was starting to have some “expectations” as to how the trip would unfold, familiar with the general schedule of these trips by now. As usual, Monday started clinic and we hit the ground running! It was an exciting week because we were rolling out our new EMR equipment and working out some of the kinks for future trips and we were all excited and amazed to be part of this groundbreaking change for MMO. Normally I am in the dental clinic, but this trip happened to not have a dental team, so I was placed in triage instead and I absolutely loved it. This tiny deviation from my “norm” on these trips is where my favorite part of this trip really begins. Because I was in triage, I was able to meet so many people throughout the course of the day as nearly every person who comes through clinic will need to be triaged first. This is where I met Kevin.
Kevin is a young man in his early twenties with developmental disabilities and likely undiagnosed Cerebral Palsy. His lack of medical care over the years has resulted in delayed growth and development physically, but his mind was sharp and witty, and his smile was quick to light up his face. Kevin's mother Belinda and his father Jorge traveled for nearly two hours to bring Kevin to our free clinic for him to be evaluated by a physician and to get an eye exam. This meant his father had to take the day off work, they both had to help get him out of the house and down the steps, lift him in and out of the car and then walk with him into the clinic and stand in line for hours in the heat just for him to be seen. Belinda mentioned to me that getting Kevin in and out of the house was not easy, but she kept repeating how very thankful and grateful they were that we were offering free medical care. I couldn’t help but be a little chastised at my posh life back home when people like Kevin and his family were thankful (even in their hardship) for something as simple as a medical clinic.
By the time Kevin was triaged, saw the provider and was waiting for his vitamins and medications to be filled in the pharmacy, it was nearing early afternoon. The triage team had been informed that the optical clinic had already stopped taking new patients for the day so that they could finish clinic on time when Belinda came to me and asked me if they could please see the optical clinic while they were there rather than going back through the registration line and waiting another hour or more to be seen in the optical clinic. She looked and sounded exhausted as she asked, and I knew that I could not in good conscience tell her “no” without at least trying to help them. I told them the optical clinic was closed for the day but that I would ask my leader and went to find Joseph who was leading our optical clinics on this trip. I explained Kevin’s situation to Joseph and asked if there was any way we could squeeze Kevin in for an eye exam and glasses so they would not need to try to come back another day. Joseph agreed that it was the right thing to do and said he would work it out and for me to get Kevin over to the optical clinic. This was no easy feat because Kevin tired very quickly when walking and I could not push him in his walker chair because the ground was so uneven and rough. Together with his parents, we got Kevin across the property to the optical clinics, each taking turns holding him up as he walked and allowing him to rest every few steps, by leaning on us or his walker. It was hard work, and we were all drenched in sweat by the end, but I was just so thankful that Kevin was going to be treated and that his family did not need to try and do all of this again the next day. Once I got them to the optical clinic, I handed them off to the optical team who took them to the front of the line and began to register him and prepare him for his exam. As I turned to go, Belinda grabbed my arm and with tears in her eyes, she hugged me and thanked me profusely for helping them. She called me her special daughter, and asked for a picture which I happily took with her and Kevin. They had no way of knowing how much of a blessing they had been to me.
The next day, a young woman came to sit in my triage chair and when I greeted her, she told me that she was Kevin's sister Nicole and that her mom Belinda had told her that she had to come to the clinic to meet the American girl named Kristen who looked out for Kevin. I watched as tears streamed down Nicole’s face as she thanked me over and over for being a blessing to her family and her little brother. She did not even come to see the doctor or get free medical care; she came only to see me and thank me. My heart threatened to explode. She hugged me and asked if we could keep in touch, and I told her yes and that I would be back to Honduras in October and that we would be hosting more clinics in Santa Rita. We exchanged numbers and hugged each other goodbye, each hoping that we would see each other again.
Fast forward to October: I had texted Nicole before we landed and reminded her that we would be hosting clinics and that if Kevin needed more vitamins or a dental cleaning, to bring him if possible. I would be in the dental clinic this time and told her that I may not be able to see her if we were in procedures, but that the team would take excellent care of Kevin. What I did not know at the time was that our dental supplies would be held by customs and that dental clinics would not be able to start until Wednesday morning which left me free to help in triage and as a runner. This allowed me to be one of the first to see that beautiful smile on Kevin's face when he saw me, and I will never forget the sweet gentle hug he gave me. His mom and sister embraced me as well and I felt so much genuine love and gratitude in those hugs that I forever will remember them. Belinda told me how well Kevin was doing and that the physician who had seen him in June had helped to get him into some physical therapy to strengthen his legs and he could walk much further now. His glasses helped him see better and he was able to do more with his hands now that he could see more clearly and was not getting headaches. These simple changes had changed Kevin’s life for the better and in turn, helped his family, too. We also were able to put them into contact with the Rearick Surgical Center to see if Kevin would be a candidate for a surgery to help his feet, at no cost to them. The most beautiful blessing was that the family was once more able to attend church as a family now that Kevin had gained some strength and was more mobile.
Throughout these trips I have met a lot of incredible people. I have heard some amazing stories, seen the Lord perform actual miracles, and been a part of something so much bigger than myself. But this experience had the most impact on me. Something so small, the simple act of helping this family make the most of their visit to the clinic, made an impact on my life in a way Kevin and his family will never know. I did nothing special. I did what the Bible says to do; I tried to help someone who had a need. But the Lord used it and multiplied it. I was reminded of the way the Lord works all things together for good, even things like struggling to get a young man across the property in the heat, or the cleverly disguised blessing of not having dental supplies and being forced to help with triage. Little things that normally would frustrate me or would be a source of annoyance, they now serve as reminders of how the Lord works in the very smallest of details. It also reminded me that it is pointless to have “expectations” on a trip like this, because the Lord takes great joy in blessing you far above and beyond anything you could ever “expect” or even dream. Psalm 34:8 says, “O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.”
*Patient’s name and story has been shared with consent.