Touching down in San Pedro Sula, a wall of humid air greeted me warmly as I stepped off the plane and headed to baggage to claim my luggage and make my way through customs. MAG has been partnering with IHS (International Health Service of Minnesota) for the last 6-7 years to help provide a support structure for a massive medical brigade every February that covers the La Moskitia region of Honduras. For many, this is a once a year opportunity to receive quality health care as well as get medical attention for more severe issues. One of MAG’s roles is to fly nationals who require surgery out of remote villages to a hospital on the coast (Puerto Lempira) where they can be operated on and returned to their villages.
The hospital in Rus Rus comes alive a few days before the brigade with people from Honduras and Nicaragua camping out and waiting for things to begin. Final details and preparation for the brigade are completed just in time. Things are busy and hopping for the 10 days the medical brigade is happening. The hospital is full of doctors, nurses, and volunteers staffing various stations like the pharmacy, dental clinic, general checkups, and medical conditions diagnosed. There is so much care and love around as people are seen and children are given basic meds like vitamins and pills to battle worms.
For my participation in this event, the call came from the field back at Christmas time that help was needed ensure the success of the brigade and so Sean D and I said yes and decided to go to Rus Rus for the brigade. My role in Rus Rus for two weeks was to be the guy that could get something done, a master of many trades. While I got to work as an aircraft mechanic throughout the time, I also enjoyed serving the Lord by repairing faucets & toilets, fixing wiring issues, servicing generators, battery, and water systems, learning & recording airstrip data and slew of minor random tasks that just needed to get done to keep things working and the medical staff focused on seeing patients. This was a great opportunity for me to get a firm grasp on life at Rus Rus and life in Honduras. I feel more connected to a place I am serving routinely from the States and the opportunity to build relationships with the Wiles (field staff) and locals is invaluable.
The first Sunday in Rus Rus was a difficult one for us and the community. Days before the medical brigade was to begin, a 1 ½ year old boy called Mark (named after a missionary doctor who helped deliver him) who suffers from asthma, was having difficulty breathing. The head nurse Geraldina tried to treat him but his condition deteriorated quickly and it was decided that Mark needed to be flow to Puerto Lempira for more serious treatment. Sadly, at some point in the flight, little Mark passed away. This was realized after the plane had landed. The plane returned to Rus Rus and the mourning of precious life began. I was privileged to be apart of a traditional Moskito wake. Mark was wrapped in sheets with a veil over his face and placed on the bed in the main area of the house. People from the village came and grieved with the family, filling the house and overflowing around it. The service started around 7PM and lasted till midnight, some wept and cried all night into the early hours of the morning. Songs were sung and people shared thoughts from the Lord. I felt transported back to ancient Hebrew days where people mourned and cried for the deceased for days. I could close my eyes and imagine Jesus walking into the room and crying with them, comforting them and feeling their loss. One of the bigger blessings was watching a community of Catholics and Protestants along with unbelievers come together and mourn the loss of a member of the community.
Meeting physical needs is an important part of ministry to a community without many health resources. The opportunity to respond to spiritual needs is another blessing to experience. Attending some of the evening services held in the waiting room of the hospital showed me the joy of the Lord in the people at Rus Rus and the flavor of worship. It was a delight to worship in English, Spanish & Moskito. My 2nd Sunday in Rus Rus was a special joy with 6 baptisms in the Rus Rus River after the main worship service. Watching public declarations of faith is energizing, especially ones of prominent community figures, both young and old.
Several nights I enjoyed walks through the village with Carlos Paz, our Director of Pastoral Ministry, who was working as a translator for the brigade. This gave me the opportunity to visit nationals in their homes. While I only understood some of the conversations, it was a blessing to watch Miskito culture up close and personal. Connecting with the nationals in both official and unofficial capacities is vital to developing a true partnership with the community we serve in.
One of my greatest blessings while in Rus Rus was watching “ministry with” in action. The hospital, run by MAG, employs many nationals and the medical brigade included US doctors & nurses as well as Honduras doctors and nurses. It was a special treat to witness Honduran dentists (3 of them) work at the hospital and provide top quality care to the people of the La Moskita region as well as another Honduran specialist working in the pharmacy. By the end of the brigade IHS reported nearly 3,000 total patients contacts throughout the event in Rus Rus! That includes medical consults, pharmacy visits, dental care and vision help (glasses).
Thanks for all you support and prayers as we seek to bring “Help and Hope by Air”! On April 22 you are invited to our Open House and Dedication of our completed new hangar/office facility in Burlington NC. We’d love to see you there!