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Friend Ships

Medical Team March 2003 Report

Medical Team Outreach - Maine to Honduras 2003

This is a series of reports prepared by a wonderful medical team that blessed Honduras by working with us at Friend Ships to offer clinics throughout the month of March.  The team blessed hundreds upon hundreds of people and of course, were themselves blessed!  Here are excerpts from their story.

We did another clinic today in a near-by town. It was the poorest place so far, very dirty, piles of trash burning everywhere... lots of need. We were pretty mobbed so a couple people from the Friend Ships Village came and entertained people while they waited. They blew balloons and did face painting and showed a movie about Jesus in Spanish.

A typical clinic entails loading up the pickup with all our supplies:  32 L.L. Bean back packs (we brought about 40 of them with us that we got at Goodwill and we thought we’d give them away but it turns out they’re perfect for moving our supplies around!) We take a VW van and a truck, and ride out of this village (a treacherous ride, cliff on one side and huge pot holes, practically no shocks...) and into another village on Roatán and unload all the bags, a couple big jugs of water, a couple tables, some sheets for "rooms" and we set up in a church or school. We have to hang sheets to separate the docs from the rest of the people who are waiting and to offer a little privacy. Then we see patients in pairs (one experienced provider and one in training).

We have been seeing a lot of malaria, scabies, stds, etc. We’re giving out tons of vitamins and worm pills.  Everybody has worms. We are probably going to run out of vitamins and ibuprofen, we will need to buy more and I’m not sure how that is going to work yet. So far we have pulled out about 6 teeth, 3 toenails, a bot fly (a fly lays an egg on the skin and then the larvae grows under the skin, it breathes through a little tube that it sticks out of the skin. Then it hatches and eats it way out and then flies away. It was a little boy who was presented with a big bump on his head. We thought he cut it and that he had an abscess so Ty tried to lance it and fly larvae popped out. It was one of the more disgusting things I’ve ever seen. Even Ty was a little surprised!)  We also removed stitches from a C section...it seems that a lot of people complain of head aches (they don’t have the luxury of reaching for the Advil...).

There was a 3 month old baby that was blue and has a terrible heart murmur. It was hard to tell the mom that we couldn’t help her, that her baby needed surgery. We could pray for her, but that is all we could do. The same thing happened with a 9 year old boy who couldn’t walk. The mom brought him in and asked us for help. He clearly had cerebral palsy and there was nothing we could do. We prayed for them and she cried. We all cried. There was another little girl, about 8 or 9 months who was very, very sick, maybe close to dying, with a very high fever, totally lethargic. We gave her an antibiotic injection in the thigh and asked to see the baby the next day. The next day the mom brought in the baby and she was 90% better. She looked great!  It made us so happy!

We have seen about 550 people in 4 days. We are working too fast and there is too much need--at this rate we will run out of everything by the 3rd week unless God chooses to multiply the meds like the loaves and fishes! And we’re counting on that. Please keep praying for this mission and for our safety and that we can reach these people with God’s love.

The Lord has certainly taught us a lot about trust over the past week.  After a wonderful and restful (despite the roosters, bats and humidity) weekend we set out for the mainland bright and early Monday morning - 5am to be exact.  There were a total of 11 of us - we had 3 translators traveling with us - thank the Lord!  At this point, all we knew was that we were going to get on a ferry and go to Le Ceiba. From there, we had absolutely no idea what we were going to do, where we would stay, what we would eat, where we would set up our clinics, etc. Ty had been in touch with Dr. Cordero, the contact person for the mainland, but we hadn’t received any clear instructions on what we were to do once we set foot off of the ferry with all of our equipment.  So, we prayed, and we knew that as long as we were continually seeking the Lord, we had no reason to worry
(Matt 6:31-34).

So, we stepped off of the ferry in the steaming heat, and we attempted to get our luggage and find a bus.  To our surprise, we were greeted by an official gentleman from the capital city of Tegucigalpa.  He informed us that he was Dr. Cordero’s assistant and had come to take us to the capital, where we would get further instructions from Dr. Cordero regarding our itinerary.  He and his “assistants” gathered our luggage into some very official fire department vehicles, and we were off for a 7-hour drive to the capital, lights spinning, sirens blaring and all. However, before we set off, we were taken for lunch - all expenses paid.

The drive to “Teguc” was amazing.  It is located in the center of Honduras.  The scenery was so beautiful, but it was HOT! Once the sunset and the moon came up over the mountains, it was much more comfortable.  We arrived at the fire station in “Teguc” at around 8pm.  There, we were greeted by Dr. Cordero, and Captain Castillo.  Dr. Cordero is a pharmacist who started the Red Cross and the EMS system in Honduras.  He is basically the Surgeon General of the country who is a strong Christian and is very involved with Friend Ships.  He arranged all of our itinerary - including our meals, housing, transportation - all expenses paid.  We were treated like royalty.  We were driven 2 more hours to a town called Danli, where we were invited to Captain Castillo’s home - at 10pm - for an amazing home-cooked meal prepared by his wife and daughters.  We felt like we were home!  We were then escorted by our friendly fireman (called bomberos) friends to a small, clean, comfortable hotel and then up bright and early the next morning.  We had a big day ahead of us.  Breakfast at the Captain’s house with Dr. Cordero and our fire chief escorts, followed by a meeting with the Mayor and the Judge of Danli.  We were all a bit concerned about meeting the Mayor, as most of us did not pack clothes that were appropriate for such an encounter.   But, we all managed to throw something together, and I must admit, we all “cleaned up” pretty nicely.  Breakfast was delicious - homemade tortillas, refried beans, excellent coffee.  Our entire entourage was then escorted downtown to the Mayor’s office.  What a sight to behold - here we were walking down the street with uniformed bomberos in front of us and Dr. Cordero and Captain Castillo behind us.  We all just laughed because just one-day prior, we had no idea what to expect and were somewhat concerned for our safety!  We were escorted into the Mayor’s office.  He was a very pleasant gentleman and expressed his deepest gratitude for our services.  He asked us to pray, and so Ty led a prayer.  We were then served coffee and biscuits.  We were then taken to an area where the city is constructing a youth center in order to keep kids out of gangs.  Then we were on our way to the little town of Trojes, where we were to remain for the next 3 nights to set up our clinics.  The drive was treacherous - up dirt hill roads, in the heat and dust - for 2 hours.  The scenery was beautiful, as we climbed up the mountains.  Trojes is a very small, poor, dusty town that is located about 10 minutes from the Nicaraguan border. Our fire dept escorts and Dr. Cordero arranged for us to stay in a little hotel ($4.00 a night, but only $3 for us!).

After a delicious lunch, our entourage left. We all immediately began to feel a bit uneasy when we arrived after realizing what a desolate town we were in. It was 3pm by this time, and we still had to set up our clinic.  We had a very busy afternoon and saw patients until dark (we had no electricity or running water at our site).  The need here was very great, as the people were very sick and poor.  The closest medical center is over 2 hours away. 

Most of these people don’t even have enough money to buy nutritious meals, much less money for medical care and transportation.  One of my patients that afternoon just happened to work at the church and said she would be able to arrange for some of the church members to be at our clinic for the next 2 days to help pray for patients and pass out tracts - Praise the Lord!  After a long day, we were invited to the Mayor’s house for a delicious meal.  He and his wife prepared and served all of our meals and opened up their home to us.  They are a very young couple and are really wonderful.

It was a scary walk to and from his house, as the power in the town was out. The residents informed us that this happens frequently...   This was even scarier for Joi, Michelle and J.T. who were told by a lovely patient that we were in a dangerous town, there were recently 4 murders, that the Nicaraguans were known to “visit” and may even take us hostage, and that we should go to our hotel and not go out after dark.  Luckily, the girls were wise enough to keep this bit of information close to their little hearts. As we were sitting in the Mayor’s living room with candlelight, uneasiness filled the room.  Ty reminded us of how faithful the Lord has been, that we were doing His will, and that we had no reason to be afraid. 

We went back to our hotel and had a great night of worship and prayer by candlelight.  Then, off to bed.  Our next day began with breakfast at the Mayor’s house, worship, prayer, devotions and then a very busy clinic.  We all had a better day.  The people here really made us feel so welcome.  They  were very sweet and so appreciative.  We found that many of them knew the Lord and were excited to pray with us.  It was really amazing how joyful these people seemed to be in the midst of such poverty and hardships.  It really gave me some insight on what it means to be content whatever the circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13).

Wow... We then explored the town a little bit- dusty streets, men with cowboy hats and horses, very few cars, and so many kids just staring at us - a bunch of strangers parading down the street. We were able to watch CNN and discovered that the war with Iraq began.  We were all comforted when we discovered that we were able to phone our families at the hotel.  It was nice to be able to talk to our families during such a tragic time.

Our last clinic day was ridiculously busy - we ended up seeing over 400 patients on that day alone.  We were still working by flashlight after the sun set.  We then had dinner again at the mayor’s house and went to the hotel to pack for our early morning departure back to Danli. . .  Our last clinic.  I guess you could say we went out with a bang...it was crazy! The amount of people that were there was outrageous. They were all seated and everything seemed orderly to start but it just got chaotic from there. We had the Bomberos there for a while to control the crowds, but eventually they just let things get out of hand and people were just pressed against the doors trying to be the next ones in. . .

I can say how amazing it is to have been blessed with the opportunity to work day after day with these Honduran people. We have been able to interact with them in ways I wouldn't have expected, given the language barrier. But to see their smiles, and to shake their hands... To hear the gratitude in their voices when they say Gracias...It's been lovely.  I am humbled when I realize how God has been using us.  It's truly been amazing.  He has put us in situations that have stretched us and caused our faith to grow. I believe the theme of this trip has been learning to trust Him. Even when we had no idea what was ahead of us, we just trusted that God would lead the way. And he has. It's been wonderful to experience. So, I think I can speak for the team when I say we are in awe of what God is doing. The contentment we feel in him is astounding.

This is the final update from team leader, Dr. Ty Hopkins:

Letter from Dr. Ty Hopkins after the mission trip. 

Dear Friends,

    The mission trip to Honduras has been over for 2 weeks already.  I have put off writing the final update--it feels so final.  We don't want it to be over.  Whenever I have traveled in the past, I have always developed a longing for home at some point during the trip--not this time.  I just didn't want to leave.  Neither did Joi.  I don't think anyone did.  My heart remains there.

    It's awfully hard to condense such an incredible experience into a few pages.  I'll tell you about the things that blessed me most:

    When sharing with the team before we left, our friend Tom explained what he heard God telling the team: "Join Me."  If you know God personally, then you remember a time in your life when you first heard God invite you: "Join Me.  You can know Me.  I want to know you.  I created you to know Me."  If you have a relationship with Him now, then at some point you accepted this invitation.  But accepting that invitation is only the first step of the adventure.  There's more.  There's a whole lot more. 

    Once we take that first step of faith, God invites us again.  He says, "OK, you've come that far, now come closer." He invites us to know Him better, to take a step closer.  But God does not take away the need for faith.  There are a million things holding us back.  Fear is the biggest.  We don't trust Him.  We think, "But if I do that, and X, Y, or Z happens, then where will I be?  Where will such and such come from?  What if this, or what if that?  I'd better stick to my plans--they're much safer.  I've got it all under control."

    God doesn't invite us to come closer, to know Him better, just to see if we will do it.  He invites us to come closer because He wants to reward us.  He's our Dad--He wants to bless His kids.  The reward is HUGE--we take a step, and there we are, one step closer to Him.  He shows us a little more of Who He Is.  Wow.  The fog of the world clears a little bit, our eyes can focus a little more clearly, our minds are a little more perceptive, our hearts are a little more receptive, and we see Him better--we know Him better.  That's the reward of stepping out in faith--we get to know Him better.  Nothing, absolutely nothing else compares.  This is what we were made for.  He gives us the opportunity every single day.  Each day we have the chance to step out in faith and get to know him better.

    We had ample opportunities to experience this both individually and as a team.  Time and time again, starting months before we even left Maine, we were forced to simply trust God and answer His invitation.  Not knowing where the medicine, or the plane tickets, or the travel plans, or food to eat or a bed to sleep in would come from, we took steps.  He was totally faithful!  We had more than enough medicine.  Whenever it looked like we would never get enough, or never be able to pay for what we had ordered, or we would surely run out, the medicine was there.  We never went without food, beds, transportation, or anything else.  Time and time again our needs were met.  But God didn't tell us ahead of time: "Well you're going to sleep here and here and here, and I'm going to prevent this theft and that car accident, and then I'm going to bring this woman to feed you and that family to give you a place to stay." No, He just promised to take care of us if we would follow Him.  He won't take away the need for faith.  If He did, we would never get the chance to have the reward, which is to learn to really trust Him.  I have to admit it: I'm a complete addict--there's nothing I want more or care about at all compared to following Him, one step of faith at a time.  I love it; I can't wait to see what He is going to do next.

    Let me give you an example:  At one point, we had plans to go to the mainland to serve.  Basically what we knew was that if we took a ferry to the city of La Ceiba, then someone would meet us there and tell us what to do next.  It was like something out of a spy movie.  We had been told that our original plans of taking an air force airplane to certain towns had been changed because of some governmental changes so we should just go to La Ceiba and arrangements would be made for us to work in some nearby villages that had need.  So we packed fifty bags, mostly of medicine, and eleven of us took the two-hour ferry ride to the Mainland.  Man was it hot.  Most of the team rook refuge in the shade while Dennis and I tried to extract our bags from an enormous pile of luggage that had been taken off the ferry.  I thought surely we would lose track of something or have something stolen.  By his Providence we didn't.  During this process a man who spoke a little English approached me and said, "I'm looking for a group of doctors." I thought "Well that must be us," so I told him so and explained that we were very glad to meet him.  Then he said, "We have some trucks here to take you to Tegucigalpa."  "Wait a minute," I thought, "that can't be for us.  Tegucigalpa is way on the other side of the country!  It'll take us days to get there!"  I should also explain that his English wasn't as good as I make it sound here and my Spanish was much worse than his English, so this whole conversation took place with a fair amount of confusion.  People were bustling all around us, I was trying to make sure that no one was carrying off God's medicine, and Dennis, the only person who could understand both of us was looking at me as if to say: "Tegucigalpa!  I can't believe that's where we are supposed to be going!"  Here we were, with eleven people who don't know where they are going, a group of people we have never met who assure us that they are here to take us hundreds of miles away from what we had thought was the general area of our destination, and no way to really figure out what to do next.  "What if these guys are just trying to rob us?" I thought.  "Or what if they are going to kidnap us?  Boy, a lot of people are going to be mad at me if I let the whole team go off into the mountains with a bunch of people we don't know only to be kidnapped!"  Dennis and I actually started laughing about it because we were just so surprised at where God was sending us.  After a short prayer I decided to take a leap of faith and act like I knew exactly what was going on.  "We're going to Tegucigalpa," I told the team confidently.  "No problem.  We'll have these nice trucks to ride in all the way there."  I hadn't been able to figure out what was supposed to happen after that.  No one that was picking us up seemed to know.  They had just been told to drive us all the way across the country. 

    To make a long story short, it did take us nearly two days to get there.  We actually went four or five hours past Tegucigalpa and eventually arrived in the tiny border town of Trojes, just a few miles from Nicaragua.  It was a beautiful, dusty little ranching town with more horses than cars and cowboy hats everywhere.  I was delighted to see that some guys even wore spurs.  There was a lot of medical need in Trojes.  There was a government health clinic, but it was rarely open and understaffed.  It had basically no medicine or supplies to work with, and patients had to wait hours or even days to be seen only to be told that there was no medicine available for their problem--they would have to come back another time.  Understandably people often just skipped going there all together.  I saw one boy who had fallen out of a tree and had obviously broken two bones in his arm.  He had gone to the government clinic which was fortunately open that day.  However his parents were not told what was wrong with him or what would happen.  He was given no splint or anything of the sort.  He got one dose of medicine for pain and was sent on his way with no more pain medicine or treatment.  The problem is simply that the clinics don't have the resources or personnel to be of much help.  We were happy to be there and bless the people as God allowed. (The boy got a cast and a week's worth of strong pain medicine.)  A pastor and elders came from a local church and prayed with people and shared the gospel.  They handed out hundreds of tracts and dozens of free Spanish Bibles to people who were interested.  We had prayed specifically that God would raise up local Christians to come and take this opportunity to share with their people and He provided these wonderful men.  On our last day in Trojes, work was an absolute frenzy.  We saw over 500 patients in one day, even working by flashlight after dark!

    God blessed our time in Trojes and our whole trip.  We never wanted for anything, and His will was accomplished.  The gospel was preached, people were blessed, hearts were changed, and we saw over 2000 patients.

    Let me close with a quote from Fire in the Dry Bush, a book by Joshua Ekpikhe, a Nigerian missionary working in his own country.  It sums up what we learned when we took a step of faith:

    "To believe that God can do it is not faith.  Faith is to believe that God will do it.  The first one is too general.  The second one expects results.  We try to understand God with our own limitations.  We look at circumstances.  We look at problems, and because it is above human thinking, we conclude that it cannot be done.  That is not faith.  Faith is dead to doubt and discouragement.  Faith does not see impossibilities.  Faith always believes that it will be done.  The minute we want to understand how it will be done, we get into trouble.  When we say, "It will be done, praise the Lord," it brings our faith to God's level, and things begin to happen.

    The Bible says that the just shall live by faith, (Hab 2:4, Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11, Heb 10:38) but what we are preaching is that the just are saved by faith.  To me faith is more than that.  It is faith to live with day by day.  The point is to go by faith and let things begin to happen.  This is what the world is waiting for, and this is what God wants."

Grace and Peace,

Ty and the entire Maine to Honduras Med Team 2003 

Updated June 2003

Updated May 2003
Park West Children's Fund, Inc., a.k.a. Friend Ships, is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit charity in the state of California. Any use of materials, logos, or the names of Park West Children's Fund, Inc., and Friend Ships, without prior written consent is prohibited.  Jan. 1999