Hope for the hopeless
June 10th, 2017 by Sean Mark
Hola de Honduras! It has been a busy week here in Roatan and I have much to write about but I will try to take it one day at a time because the days have been so jam-packed. This last Tuesday I worked in the clinica Esperanza with Dr. Suzanna to take care “Los pacientes Diabéticos” (The Diabetic patients). I have really enjoyed working with Dr. Suzanna because she is very good with her patients and she lets me help out a lot in the clinic. She is also a strong Christian which is great because we both have similar values when it comes to taking care of patients. This was really demonstrated on Wednesday when we were taking care of a particular diabetic patient.
The patient was in her 60’s and had a history of uncontrolled diabetes. When she came into the clinic her random blood sugar was greater than 300 (normal is usually less than 180) and when I looked at her chart I noticed this high number was her usual presentation when coming into clinic. We performed a point-of-care Hemoglobin A1c test (to measure her blood sugar for the past 3 months) which was greater than 13 (for non-medical people, this means her diabetes was very uncontrolled). She was starting to feel some of the damage to her body manifested by numbness in her fingers and neuropathic pain in her feet. She spoke English more than Spanish so I was able to talk to her extensively about changing her diet, her exercise regimen, and her home medications to get better control of her diabetes. After she agreed to changes these things, she then started to explain how she had been going through a lot lately with being the primary care giver for her elderly 91 year old mother as well as the periodic caregiver for her grandchildren. She started to cry as she explained how much she needed good health to take care of all of her loved ones. I sensed she needed more than just the counseling and medication changes I had already explained, she needed grace from the Lord Jesus to carry her through physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I asked her if she wanted to receive prayer for her life struggles and she gladly accepted. I placed my hand on her shoulder and began to pray in English while simultaneously I saw Dr. Suzanna (who had been in the room the whole time with us) grab the patient’s hands and start to pray in Spanish. I prayed for the Lord’s strength, grace, and healing for this patient in the mighty name of Jesus. When I finished my prayer she opened her eyes which were full of tears and tenderly thanked Dr. Suzanna and I for providing her with the wholistic care she desperately needed. She left the office encouraged and empowered to be healthier and follow Jesus by faith
After this patient encounter I felt like Jesus was showing me that this is the model for healthcare that He wants me to walk in as I mature into a better physician. Medical knowledge and diagnostic skills are important but unless I learn to care for the whole person including their mind, body, soul, and spirit, I cannot minister to them in the way Jesus would if He were their doctor. The Lord has been speaking this to me for a while about my practice in the United States but this patient really showed me how natural it can be and how much impact it can have in the life of the patient. I pray that Jesus continues to give me wisdom and grace to obey him as I continue my training in Medicine.
After working at the clinic on Wednesday, I had the opportunity with other the volunteers at the clinic to visit a local poor Honduran community just down the street from the clinic. It is called “la Colonia” which literally means the colony. Many Hondurans have immigrated to the Island of Roatan to flee the violence on the mainland and try to make a better living for their families. The colonia is made up of many poor families who have settled in the hills/mountains of the island. They have built their houses on very small lots that are on steep hills because this land is the cheapest. Their homes are made of whatever materials they can find and are very humble dwellings. Because they are built on the side of hills and mountains, they frequently fall prey to damages from erosion and flooding.
Our guide through the Colonia was a local Honduran young man named Oscar who has lived in the Colonia for 10 years. He guided us to the top of the mountain and told us the history the Colonia.
Oscar told us that when he first moved to the Colonia with his family, there were not very many families living there yet. He and his family made their first home out of pieces of plastic. There was no running water and the living conditions were poor. He was a young Honduran boy without a good education and without much hope for a better future. However, American missionaries came to the Colonia and decided to build a large water basin on top of the tallest mountain so that water could flow to all of the houses that were built on the side of the mountain and in the valley. Life for Oscar improved and he made friends with these Baptist missionaries who returned regularly to the Colonia. Then another missionary group came with a medical team and ran clinics in the Colonia. One of the doctors in that group saw potential in Oscar and decided to pay for him to attend an excellent private American school in one of the expensive tourist areas of the island. This support from the doctor allowed Oscar to get a good education in English which opens the doors for many economic opportunities because the major industry of the island is tourism from Americans and Canadians who speak English. This education also made it possible for Oscar to apply and be accepted to nursing school at the local public hospital. He is now training to be a nurse and has plans to continue his medical training to eventually be a surgeon. This boy’s life was changed completely because of the love and kindness of foreigners who came to his community to witness of the love of Jesus Christ. Oscar is now an active member of his church as well thanks in no small part to those Christian missionaries. These missionaries are an example of how I want to use my resources and skills in the future to help the poor of the world.
The writing on the large water basin on top of the mountain reads “No está aquí, pues ha resucitado” and the translation of the famous scripture is written in English as well “He is not here, for he has risen.” These missionaries understood that community development is more than just building wells and providing healthcare, it is caring for all of the needs of the people including spiritual needs. The greatest need the human race has is to know Jesus Christ and the power of his resurrection. We encounter him first at the cross as we repent and are set free from the power of sin. Then as we believe in his resurrection and abide in him by faith, we can partake of the living water of His kingdom. This gospel message was beautifully demonstrated on top of this mountain with the cross and the water basin. Although the people of the Colonia need many things in this world, the missionaries knew the things of this world will never satisfy the hunger in their soul for relationship with Jesus. The pleasures of this world are fleeting, but the pleasures of heaven are everlasting. Jesus said when we drink of the living water from Him we will never thirst again because he is the only thing that satisfies. When we know Jesus we are set free from the power of death and this freedom is an eternal source of hope and joy. If you are reading this and do not know this truth I encourage you to search it out and ask Jesus to show you his love.
Although I saw great poverty and sad situations in the Colonia, I was encouraged by Oscar’s story and the power of the gospel. The gospel is able to give hope to the hopeless no matter the circumstances. Anyone can know the love and power of Jesus Christ no matter how rich or poor. The work of the missionaries was also a beautiful practical demonstration of the love of Christ to the people of the Colonia. Throughout my career as a physician I hope to provide the practical love of Jesus through my healthcare and resources but also to provide the power of the gospel that brings hope to the hopeless.