Almost 2 months ago, I wrote a blog post titled ‘Accept the Help’, where God was showing me how I needed to put down my pride and accept the help that He has provided me. Whether it be just a ponytail holder from a precious little boy, or health advice and accountability from a friend, or learning how to pour ketchup out of a Heinz Ketchup bottle correctly – we all need help. But we don’t need to just be on the receiving end. We need to be on the giving end as well.
I just got back from my 6th medical mission trip to Honduras about 10 days ago. The group I go with is called Operation New Life. It is a Christian medical, surgical, and teaching ministry partnering with Honduran doctors. I am honored to lead the prayer team for a group of orthopedic surgeons. While there, we provide hip and knee replacements, foot surgeries, back surgeries, shoulder surgeries, ACL surgeries, and MANY hand surgeries… usually caused by machete accidents! This year, we actually did the following:
18 total knee replacements
13 total hip replacements
11 spinal surgeries
2 shoulder replacements
1 ACL reconstruction
1 knee scope
1 shoulder rotator cuff repair
20 hand surgeries
5 arm fractures
Total surgeries = 72!!
It is truly incredible how God brings the team together and accomplishes so much with so few people. I call it God’s divine mathematics, but that is a blog post topic for another day.
I spend most of my time at Hospital Escuala. It is in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras. It is an 1800-bed teaching hospital run by the Medical School and Honduran government. Because it’s a public hospital as well as the teaching hospital, it is overcrowded, underfunded, and extremely dirty.
We make daily rounds visiting all the pediatric floors, which includes the orthopedic, general surgery, neurological, outpatient oncology, labor and delivery, teen pregnancy center, as well as the adult orthopedic patients our doctors have operated on. We give out all kinds of goodies to the kids, of which the most popular is a Beanie Baby. We also have crayons and coloring sheets, Spanish Bibles, and candy. We make hygiene packs with toothbrushes, toothpastes, soap, etc… and we hand them out to the moms and dads who had been at the hospital for several days and have no way to freshen up. We also have ‘Newborn packs’ that we make and give to the moms of which many of them have NOTHING to help them take care of their babies. But most importantly, we pray with the patients and their families.
In the wake of my last trip, with my soul still being very raw (which happens every time I go on these trips), I wanted to share 2 stories of my ‘helping’ and ‘blessing’ others. The funny thing is, God flips it on you. You might think you are blessing others, you are indeed being blessed yourself.
In November 2016, Dr. Rich Howard told me that the Honduran doctors wanted him specifically to operate on a young woman named Silvia. He had seen her on clinic day and he told me about how very broken this girl was and that we needed to go and pray with her. She was a beautiful girl and well educated. She was a chemist. But she was also a victim of a machete attack after she told a man ‘no’ when he made advances towards her. She was truly broken in spirit when we met her on that Saturday. My prayer team partner, Karol, joined me as we prayed for this beautiful girl, that God would begin to not only restore her physical health, but her emotional, mental, and spiritual health as well. I knew it was a big request, but I knew my God was bigger, and we left Silvia in His hands.
We went back to see her one day after her surgery. I could not believe how much her countenance had changed! I knew our BIG God would take care of her, but what He did was way beyond what I had ever imagined. Although in pain, she was smiling because of the new sense of hope she had. But what truly blew me away and humbled me was that she told us that she had forgiven him.
WHAT?!? Forgiven him? This monster who mutilated her hands and arms and scarred her soul? Yes. She told me that she realized that the man was out of his right mind and on drugs, and that forgiving him actually freed her. What a lesson that sweet girl taught me. I’m the one who thinks I’m doing the blessing, but in fact, it was her who blessed me and taught me the power of forgiveness in the most profound way I had ever heard.
Last year, in November 2017, she came to the hospital to see Dr. Howard and the prayer team. She wanted to show Dr. Howard how well she had healed and recovered. God is indeed the Great Physician.
She brought me this sweet gift of coffee, vanilla, and candy. But my favorite part was the note. The very first thing I was told when I went on one of these trips is that we bring HOPE to these people. And that’s exactly what her note said. So not only did she teach me about forgiveness and give me sweet gifts, she reminded me of why I continue to go. To be the HOPE this world so desperately needs. My helping her was flipped by the King of all Flips, and it ended up being my blessing.
Ema & Dulce
On my second trip to Honduras, November 2013, I had the privilege of meeting Emanuel and his fiancé, Dulce. Ema was a YWAM (Youth With a Mission) missionary from Argentina, who was serving in Honduras. They had both been in a terrible car accident about a month before our trip. One person actually passed away in the accident. But a friend of ours, Amy Burcham, from Union City, TN (where we lived at the time), had done a lot of mission work in Honduras and knew Dulce. When Amy found out about the accident, she made sure to connect Dulce with our group of orthopedic surgeons. Below is where I asked Dulce to share in her own words what happened:
Emanuel came to Honduras as a missionary with YWAM. On that very particular weekend, we were invited to preach at two different camps. So after the first camp, a pastor asked for a ride to Tegucigalpa. On our way there, Aurora (50 years old and was another missionary from Argentina) asked for a ride to the city as well. It was raining pretty bad, and when we were like 1km away from our destination, Ema couldn’t control the car and it seemed the car was carried by the heavy current. In the other lane, a passenger bus was heading towards us and we hit full on! Aurora, who was riding behind the driver’s seat died immediately, it seems. The other pastor and me had minor injuries, but Ema’s left side was completely damaged. He had a broken humerus, torn radial nerve along with a dislocated hip and more. He was taken to Hospital Escuela where a 7-pin brace was placed in his arm.
Before the brigade came, we had tried several times to get the pins removed, but for one reason or another, the doctors were not willing to do it. We were going to be traveling to Argentina for our marriage and we truly didn’t know what to do. So when we met with the team and Dr. Howard as the specialist, it was more than a prayer answered, it was a true miracle!! The team bought the platinum plaque Ema needed, and a team of prayer warriors walked with him through the whole process. Ema’s favorite moment was when Dr. Howard right before the surgery prayed for him, there on the table, and the Honduran doctor with him translated. He honored his service, his ministry and asked God to use him (Dr. Howard) to be part of his healing.
Basically, Ema had been left with this external fixator on his arm, and that was it. I’m not sure if the doctors were scared to do any more work on him, or if they didn’t have the resources needed, but it left Ema in a very helpless and hopeless state. I remember meeting him at the clinic on Saturday, and he seemed very down, although he was trying his best to keep smiling. His lovely fiancé, Dulce, was positive, upbeat, full of faith, and could speak English, which is always a plus when you are there! It’s like she had faith for him, speaking life into him and the situation. They actually stuck around clinic a while and helped me pray with more patients! Again, I’m thinking I’m there to do the helping and blessing, and God flipped it on me 😊
Dr. Howard saw Ema and thought he could help, but we weren’t sure if we could get the plate that was needed for his arm before the end of the week. But God was faithful and we got it in the last day. Ema was the last surgery Dr. Howard did on Friday. And according to Dr. Howard, we almost thought we weren’t going to be able to do it because we didn’t have bolts that were the correct length. But apparently a good set of bolt cutters can go along way in an operating room in Honduras! The fixator was removed, and Ema was able to wear a real suit for his wedding which was the next month.
In November 2015, 2 years after his surgery, Ema, Dulce, and their sweet baby boy, Geronimo, came to visit us at our hotel and ate dinner with our team. It was incredible to hear the story again of how God brought our team and their family together in a time of great need and hopelessness. And it wasn’t just that we were able to remove the fixator, but we were able to help a young ministry couple have their perfect wedding and aid them in their daily ministry in Argentina and Honduras. We also were able to give them hope. Just like with my sweet friend Silvia. Sometimes hope is the only thing that is truly needed.
While back in Argentina, he was able to have the tendon surgeries needed so that he could move his fingers again. I’ve seen pictures of him cooking, building, and holding his sweet babies. And although I know God used me in some small way to help them and bless them, they have definitely blessed me way more than I have ever blessed them. They pray for me every trip. They encourage people to help support me financially for my trips. And just seeing how they are not only surviving but thriving as they serve the beautiful people of Honduras and Argentina, blesses my heart and re-energizes me to continue to go back year after year after year. I’m telling you, there is great blessing in helping.
I think there are several reasons that it feels so good to give… why we feel so blessed when we help. But I’m going to share these 2 with you:
1 – God is the ultimate gift giver.
2 – We are made in His image.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” And James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Since we have received such an incredible gift, it is only appropriate that we give as well. And because we are made in God’s image (the only thing in creation that was made in His image), we are called to be givers. To be walking and talking examples of His great heart. To reveal His character to the world. When we pay forward what we have been so freely given, and we reflect the character of His perfect love, then we are blessed to overflowing. “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38
From just the two stories of helping/giving that I shared in this post, my blessings were not only meeting these wonderful people, which would have been more than enough. But because God is a ‘shaken together, running over’ kinda Giver, I also received a lesson on forgiveness, life partners in ministry, prayer support, encouragement, affirmation, translators for future trips, and gifts of coffee and vanilla. I’m a very blessed girl.
I want to take this time to thank all people who have supported me over these past 6 years who have donated financially to my trips, or given prayer team items like onesies, baby blankets, Beanie Babies, and more. You all have been an incredible blessing not only to me with your generosity, but to hundreds of people who were hopeless. With every prayer, every dollar, every diaper, every lollipop, you gave hope. And if you have found yourself feeling a bit down or lost or empty, maybe it’s time to try helping someone. It’s the perfect time of the year to begin a lifetime of giving. And as Corrie Ten Boom said, “If you don’t like your lot in life, build a service station on it.” I guarantee you will find that a life of service is incredibly more fulfilling that a life of self.