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Healing in Honduras

Medical brigade has 'overwhelming' and 'eye-opening' experience

DOLORES, Honduras — It wasn’t exactly the World Cup, but a recent gathering in this small Central American town seemed a bit like a sporting event.

Hundreds of adults and children dressed in multi-colored shirts and hats stood in long lines, tickets in hand, waiting to enter the arena. Inside, plenty of goals were scored, and points were put on the scoreboard — but not by kicking a ball past a keeper into a net.

Nearly 950 people from the small village of Dolores, Honduras, were seen during a three-day medical mission by Mission UpReach.

On a warm day in this village of about 5,000 souls, a medical mission team treated nearly 950 patients on the grounds of a community center and school. Mission UpReach, a nonprofit associated with Churches of Christ and based in nearby Santa Rosa de Copán, hosted the clinic, coordinating a team of more than 50 volunteers who traveled from the U.S. to serve God by helping the less fortunate.

Dressed in blue medical scrubs, the volunteers acted in the role of coaches — or possibly even referees — as they directed people into lines, waiting areas, checkpoints and exam rooms to asses the patients’ needs. The represented congregations included the Pine Tree Church of Christ in Longview, Texas, and the Southside Church of Christ in Shelbyville, Tenn. A few joined the brigade from other states and from Mission UpReach’s Honduran staff.


Related: Just how dangerous is Central America?


Dr. Carmen Cecilia Santos Mejía, a physician from Santa Rosa de Copan, offered recommendations and made diagnoses. While the town of Dolores has a small health center, residents have limited access to medicines and thorough examinations, she said.

Dr. Carmen Cecilia Santos Mejía

She found a variety of concerns, including poor nutrition and respiratory problems in children and high blood pressure and diabetes-related illnesses in adults.

Beth McCullough and Jade Goins, a soon-to-be freshman at Motlaw State Community College in Lynchburg, Tenn., enjoyed the experience, even if it was a bit “overwhelming” and “eye-opening” concerning the poverty and needs of the people, they said.

McCullough’s husband, Kyle, an X-ray technician, took blood pressure and pulse readings. The biggest concern he had was the low pulse rates in 6- and 7-year-olds.

For Phil Berry, a former member of the Pine Tree church who now lives in Florida and is a veteran volunteer on brigades, the mission gives him the dual joys of serving and reconnecting with old friends in Honduras.

Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras

“Things are going very smooth today,” said Berry, who served as a sort of pedestrian traffic cop to control hallway flow during the three-day medical effort. Many people just needed Tylenol, vitamins and other basic medications, he said, but some have previously undiagnosed conditions such as diabetes.

Another veteran volunteer, Betty Deslatte of Longview, helped fit villagers for reading glasses.

Dr. Adam Spencer administers a pain-killing shot before pulling a tooth.

Mission trips “have been my calling,” she said. “It has always been in my heart to do mission work. It is not only a wonderful opportunity to help other people, but it also helps those of us who volunteer through our experiences and the time we share together.”

A very busy station was the dentistry room, headed by Adam Spencer, a dentist from Gilmer, Texas, Pine Tree church member and Mission UpReach board director.

Wyatt Simpson, 17, who lives in Santa Rosa de Copan with his family (which moved to Honduras about a year ago from Longview to work with Mission UpReach) was helping in the makeshift dentist’s office. He was busy sterilizing tools while other volunteers were assisting the doctor at various tables.

“It is not only a wonderful opportunity to help other people, but it also helps those of us who volunteer through our experiences and the time we share together.”

As a middle-aged Honduran woman held her head and dabbed a cotton swatch at the spot where her tooth had just been pulled, Simpson said, “There is a whole lot of rotten teeth being pulled in here today.”

Caleb, Wyatt’s 9-year-old bother, sat next to him and joked that he was hoping for a necklace made out of pulled teeth.

Nearby, in the community outdoor open space, Samantha, 13, the boys’ sister, was handing out toothbrushes and paste and teaching proper brushing procedure to a group of people. A younger sister, Hannah, 11, was walking from station to station with a big smile, seeking ways to help.

Samantha Simpson hands out toothbrushes to demonstrate proper brushing techniques.

Michelle, the kids’ mother, was helping dispense medicines. Her mother-in-law, Sherry, also from Longview, also was volunteering. Family dad Jason wasn’t able to be at the brigade as he was working in his regular job with his team that is drilling water wells, a critical component of the mission’s plans.

And Jason’s brother, Jeff, a Mission UpReach board member from Longview, completed the family affair as part of the group that traveled to Honduras.

Renee Berry was working in the medication dispensary. She summed up the day by explaining why she was attending her first brigade: “This is an outstanding program helping people … (we are) being the hands and feet of Jesus.”

Construction brigade members work on a sleeping cabin to house future volunteers.

The June mission effort also included a construction team of 13 members helping to build a cabin where future mission groups could be housed. The 2,200-square-foot cabin will include two bunk rooms, one for men and one for women, each with its own bathroom facilities. The cabin will accommodate up to 40 people and include a screened porch and common room with stone fireplace.

A Vacation Bible School brigade volunteer takes a break to get acquainted with several children.

A Vacation Bible School was also held in five public schools and attended by nearly 900 children. Fourteen brigade members worked alongside MissionUpReach’s DESEO team of eight full-time, paid Hondurans and two volunteers from the U.S. who came through the Adventures in Missions program.

A training session was also held for 43 staff members of the schools served by Mission UpReach.

This was the seventh brigade/mission in 2018, with six more scheduled through October. One was canceled at the beginning of the year due to political unrest.

JOHN IRBY is a volunteer at Mission UpReach where his wife, Lisa, serves as chief financial officer. Before retirement, John spent his professional career as a newspaper reporter, editor and publisher, and university professor.

Filed under: International Top Stories Adventures in Missions Honduras honduras unrest medical mission mission team mission trip Mission UpReach

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