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After a Sunday morning devotional, medical staffers at Predisan's Good Samaritan Clinic give patients instructions.
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Photo by Erik Tryggestad

A healthy blessing for Honduras

Before surgery, patients at Predisan’s Good Samaritan Clinic get a much-needed dose of Jeremiah.

CATCAMAS, Honduras – “What am I even doing here?”

It’s a question I ask myself at some point during every reporting trip.

“Even though I’m vaccinated, I’ll have to be tested before they let me fly home. The thought of being a ‘breakthrough case’ and facing isolation here for at least two weeks … it just adds more weight.”

I love traveling the globe to see what God is doing in the lives of our brothers and sisters. It’s the best part of this job. But the expense, the time away from my girls, the impact on my wife and her parents (who step in to help out while I’m gone) … it weighs on me mightily.

Add COVID-19 to the mix. Even though I’m vaccinated, I’ll have to be tested before they let me fly home. The thought of being a “breakthrough case” and facing isolation here for at least two weeks … it just adds more weight.

Julio Benitez delivers a devotional message from Jeremiah and Colossians Sunday morning at Predisan's Good Samaritan Clinic.

Julio Benitez delivers a devotional message from Jeremiah and Colossians Sunday morning at Predisan’s Good Samaritan Clinic.

I was in the throes of this international guilt trip on Sunday when Julio Benitez stepped to the podium at the Good Samaritan Clinic. Benitez is a preacher, psychologist and chaplain for Predisan, the ministry that operates the clinic.

He preached under an awning set up in the courtyard between the hospital and its small chapel. Spaced out on three sides along the clinic’s walls were masked Hondurans, waiting to see our visiting team of surgeons.

Benitez told the patients about the purpose of Predisan. The 35-year-old ministry with roots in Churches of Christ takes its name from the Spanish words for “preach” and “heal.”

In his office at Predisan, Julio Benitez stands next to a photo of his wife and children. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on in Honduras, the couple takes turns attending events with their congregation and teaches their children at home.

In his office at Predisan, Julio Benitez stands next to a photo of his wife and children. As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on in Honduras, he and his wife takes turns attending events with their congregation and home school the children.

In the midst of this ongoing, interminable pandemic, “I wanted to declare a healthy blessing on them,” Benitez told me. One verse he shared was Jeremiah 29:11. You’ve probably heard it: “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”

That verse makes a nice, inspirational wood cut. I’ve seen several at Hobby Lobby. But it doesn’t tell us much about the 28 chapters and 10 verses that precede it.

Jeremiah prophesied in the final days of Judah, the southern kingdom, as it sank into captivity. It was a time of war, hunger, humiliation, indignity and exile. Jeremiah railed against the people’s idolatry, their injustice toward one another.

During a Monday morning devotional, Julio Benitez thanks a surgical team for journeying to Predisan in Honduras in the midst of a global pandemic to serve those in need. "Our God is happy with all of you," he said through a translator.

During a Monday morning devotional, Julio Benitez thanks a surgical team for journeying to Predisan in Honduras in the midst of a global pandemic to serve those in need. “Our God is happy with all of you,” he said through a translator.

He kind of hated his job, and the people responded to his warnings by beating him, putting him in stocks, sentencing him to death and lowering him into a muddy cistern.

“So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long,” Jeremiah laments in chapter 20. (He probably had a few “What am I doing here?” moments.) But “his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”

For the patients at the Good Samaritan Clinic, brother Benitez’s “healthy blessing” is more than words on a wood carving. People here suffer from violence, insecurity and a struggling health care system. Dignity and justice are in short supply.

“For I know the plans I have for you …”

Elvis Tejeda of Predisan talks about a mural near the Good Samaritan Clinic depicting Ramon Navarro, a famous marimba player from Honduras. Navarro and his wife died six months apart from COVID-19.

Elvis Tejeda of Predisan talks about a mural near the Good Samaritan Clinic depicting Ramon Navarro, a famous marimba player from Honduras. Navarro and his wife died six months apart from COVID-19.

Add COVID-19 to the mix. Vaccines — the ones you can walk into any pharmacy and get in the U.S. — are in short supply here. So many have lost loved ones and jobs.

“… plans to prosper you and not to harm you …”

Ministries including Predisan have tightened their belts. I’m told that some nonprofits here have lost workers because their spouses demanded that they flee to the North, risking the perilous journey to the U.S. border in hopes that somehow things would be better. The debate to stay or go strains marriages and divides families.

“… plans to give you hope and a future.”

Members of a surgical team listen to a morning devotional from Julio Benitez before beginning a day of procedures at Predisan's Good Samaritan Clinic in Catacamas, Honduras.

Members of a surgical team listen to a Monday morning devotional from Julio Benitez before beginning a day of procedures at Predisan’s Good Samaritan Clinic in Catacamas, Honduras.

I talked to Benitez about the parallels between the centuries-old words of Jeremiah and the woes of today.

“As you can see,” he said, “in the history of the children of God, it has always been that way.”

“Predisan, through the gospel, has brought dignity to a people, has brought hope to a people. And all of this has given new lenses to the people of this community.”

In the past 35 years, he’s seen God work powerfully through Predisan. Through the ministry’s programs — medical, substance abuse rehabilitation, education and community development — he’s seen glimpses of hope in Honduras.

“Predisan, through the gospel, has brought dignity to a people, has brought hope to a people,” he said. “And all of this has given new lenses to the people of this community.”

As for me, I’m sure I’ll ask, “Why am I even here?” a few more times before I head home. But I’m grateful to my brother in Christ for giving me a new lens, a story to share.

ERIK TRYGGESTAD is president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle. Contact him at [email protected], and follow him on Twitter.

Filed under: church mission COVID-19 COVID-19 in Honduras Iglesia de Cristo Iglesias de Cristo Inside Story International medical mission medical missions missions and COVID-19 missions in a pandemic pandemic Partners Predisan surgical team Top Stories

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