Helping Honduras …


Leavin’ on a Jet Plane…
June 11, 2017, 4:09 pm
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My bags are not packed.  I am not ready to go.  But on Wednesday morning, I will.  As Martha, our outreach director, says, the four of us on the advance team are leaving at “dark-thirty.”  The rest of the team will travel on Saturday.

This year, our medical team of two physicians, one nurse practitioner, two nurses, and one med tech (a pre-vet student) will be joined by a Honduran doctor and a Honduran third-year nursing student.  Two American faciomaxillary surgeons will head the dental clinic (mostly to pull teeth).  They will work with two chair-side assistants and Cathy, our dental instrument sterilizer extraordinaire.  Larry, our team leader, will cover clinic intake in addition to his leader duties.

Please note that I said my bags are not packed.  The bags for our week’s work are ready.  We packed the pharmacy bags (along with the few items needed by our construction folks) on May 20 and 21.  Two weeks later, we packed the rest of the bags (for medical and dental clinics and for education activities).  Since then, we have added bits here and there.

Some of my team mates have probably packed their bags.  Some will probably pack at the last minute.  But all will arrive in Honduras to make the long drive to Copán.  All will arrive ready to serve.  Ages of team members range from the low twenties to the low seventies.  Some are seasoned missioners.  Some are newbies (to Copán or even to short-term missions).  Some are from out of state — I will meet them for the first time in Copán.  Some I have known for more than ten or even fifteen years.  Experience has taught me that these “stats” really don’t mean much.  All it takes to have a good mission team is a bunch of people who want to serve.  It’s going to be a great week!

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Pills counted | pharmacy packed
May 29, 2017, 10:40 pm
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Gentle reader,

It appears that I have become a real slacker as a blogger. Apologies.

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SO MANY preparations have already been made for our June trip to Honduras. Pills and other items were ordered a month or two ago. About ten days ago, more than 35 people gave up a Saturday morning to count pills and to attach all kinds of labels to small plastic bags. What an awesome group of people!

For a few hours that afternoon and the next day, a small group packed the pharmacy. This kind of packing takes a bit of planning. Three bags containing supplies needed for setting up the pharmacy are packed first: table coverings, plastic baskets to hold medicines, “office supplies” — all of the items needed first, before we are ready to stock the baskets with medicines. Another twelve bags were then packed, full of medicines (including about 85,000 vitamin tablets), pitchers, measuring cups, medicine bottles, and more.

Charts for the medical clinic (adult and pediatric) and the dental clinic still need to be printed. A few more labels for medicines must be printed. Reference binders for the medical clinic personnel and for the pharmacy must be finished. This I can manage.

But the part I could not possibly handle on my own — the counting of thousands of pills, powders, and creams — has been finished by about 35 wonderful people. Thank you!



Sister site
October 28, 2016, 4:15 pm
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I am adding a new country to my missioner’s list:  Nepal.  I will be part of a small planning team going to Nepal in March, to plan for a full mission trip to be scheduled for October 2017.  If you would like to follow the Tales of a Serial Missioner, I invite you to visit my other blog at serialmissioner.wordpress.com.



It’s a Wrap (Unpacking)
June 12, 2016, 11:23 pm
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We have been home a week now.  I finally unpacked on Wednesday and did some laundry.  Finished laundry on Friday.  I never quite believe how much laundry I do just before and again just after a Honduras trip.

I also did some mental/emotional/spiritual unpacking this week.  I realized that the pharmacy could run quite well without me.  That was especially important the second day I had to miss work.  Fretting about how things were going in the pharmacy would not have helped me get through the muscle spasms in my back.  It also made me appreciate my team more.

I had learned humility.  Although my back was much better on Saturday, the spasms were still there, and I had limited range of motion.  I had to ask people to pick up anything I happened to drop and had to ask someone to pull medicine from the bottom shelf for me.

I had learned that my friends are even better people than I had realized.  I do not accept sympathy very well.  My friends and team mates must have sensed that.  No open offers of sympathy.  Instead, I received gentle hugs, offers of prayer, and offers to fetch things I needed (crackers and club soda while I was recovering from the GI virus or medicine while I was suffering from the back spasms).  People are good!

I had learned that I could ask for prayer when I really needed it, and then I learned that I could accept heartfelt prayers from people I did not know.  (The two prayers warriors to whom I had sent notes cast their nets wide — I received prayers by email from people on several continents!)

It was a great week.  The medical clinic saw more than 540 patients. Most of them received medicines from the pharmacy.  The dental clinic treated more than 85 people, relieving a lot of pain.  The construction people helped with a lot of prep work for the second storey of the new church in Copán (tying rebar, hauling cement blocks), and they were able to see the walls begin to go up.  The education team worked in very hot conditions to share the love of our Lord with dozens of Honduran children, through stories, games, and crafts.  I was sorry to miss a couple of days, but each evening at reflections, I learned what others had done that day.  With a small team (fewer then 30 people, everyone had to pull together and to step in to help each other.  I saw lots of that during the week.

We could not have accomplished all we did without the help of many people from the communities we served: Padre Hector Madrid, dean of the Maya Deanery; Deacon Concepción from the church in Santa Rita (site of clinics and education activities); Deacon Carlos from the church in Copán (construction site); Dunia, translator and our friend of many years; Doctora Sury, Honduran doctor and friend of Dunia; our translators from Mayatan Bilingual School in Copán; and the volunteers from the parish in Santa Rita, who helped with initial steps of checking in patients.  It was a great week.


Now, finally, I have photos to share:

First morning in zoo furans. San Pedro Sula. Scott preparing for the day.

First morning in Honduras.  San Pedro Sula. Scott preparing for the day.


Scott and Larry in line, ready to check out ar PriceSmart (Honduran equivalent of Costco) in San Pedro Sula.

Scott and Larry in line, ready to check out at PriceSmart (Honduran equivalent of Costco) in San Pedro Sula.


Passageway leading to our room at the Hotel Marina Copán.

Passageway leading to our room at the Hotel Marina Copán.


Hotel pool.

Hotel pool in the cool of the evening.


Peopled in line, waiting to see a doctor or dentist. Or both!

Peopled in line, waiting to see a doctor or dentist. Or both!


Larry and Audrey handling medical and dental intake. They talked to everyone.

Larry and Audrey handling medical and dental intake. They talked to everyone.


Nurses Darlene and Clare Anne with patients.

Nurses Darlene and Clare Anne with patients.


Nurse Meg in the foreground, assessing a patient.

Nurse Meg in the foreground, assessing a patient.


Doctor Jonathan (far table) and Doctora Sury talking with patients, sometimes an entire family at once. Our American docs were assisted by teenage translators from a bilingual school in Copán.

Doctor Jonathan (far table) and Doctora Sury talking with patients, sometimes an entire family at once. Our American docs were assisted by teenage translators from a bilingual school in Copán.


Dentist Lauren and assistant Alexa with a patient.

Dentist Lauren and assistant Alexa with a patient.


Baskets full of pills: antibiotics, analgesics, cold/allergy medicines, anti-hypertensives, and medicines to treat diabetes, parasites, fungus.

Baskets full of pills: antibiotics, analgesics, cold/allergy medicines, anti-hypertensives, and medicines to treat diabetes, parasites, fungus.


Claudette working in the pharmacy.

Claudette working in the pharmacy.  On this side of the room we had topicals, eye and ear medications, liquids, and vitamins.


Late mornings and late afternoons, Scott added pharmacy gatekeeper to his duties.

Late mornings and late afternoons, Scott added pharmacy gatekeeper to his duties.


Deacon Concepción and soon-to-be SAMS missionary David.

Deacon Concepción and soon-to-be SAMS missionary David.


View from the construction site.

View from the construction site.


Fr. Chris leading Morning Prayer.

Fr. Chris leading Morning Prayer.



Miuri, our tour guide at Macaw Mountain.

Miuri, our tour guide at Macaw Mountain.

A beautiful parrot that seemed to want to have its picture taken.

A beautiful parrot that seemed to want to have its picture taken.

This lovely toucan was close enough to touch. The size of his beak dissuaded me.

This lovely toucan was close enough to touch. The size of his beak dissuaded me.

Scott with blue and green guacamayas (macaws). One of them has his eye on Scott's har.

Scott with blue and green guacamayas (macaws). The green one has his eye on Scott’s hat.


Scarlet guacamaya added.

Scarlet guacamaya added for the full effect.  Scott now treasures this shirt — there are holes in the left sleeve, a gift from the blue guacamaya.


The eight prodigal bags

The eight prodigal bags.  These did not arrive with our flight from Houston.  Larry and I retrieved them the next morning.



Leaving Honduras is not easy (the long, whiny post)
June 7, 2016, 4:41 pm
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Home two days now.  Not unpacked.  Neither physically nor spiritually.  But I have slept a lot.

Sunday, our day of travel, was long, as usual.  Up very early to meet in the hotel lobby by 5:30 am.  Luggage and people “ferried” to the big bus (it’s much too big for the streets of Copán) in the little bus, which would carry our baggage to San Pedro Sula.  On our way by 6:15.  We had snacks and water, and a bus able to accommodate a bigger number of people, so we were able to spread out.  Scott and I rode near the front — frankly, it’s just more comfortable there for our old bones.  With one “pit stop” along the way, it still took us nearly four hours to get to the airport (a distance of about 114 miles) — this is mostly a two lane highway with lots of curves and speed bumps.

Getting out of Honduras will try the patience of a saint, I think, so most of us were quite frustrated.  It started with checking in ourselves and our bags at the United counter.  This year we were a relatively small group, less than 30 people.  But the United counter agent was not quite ready for us.  Passports were collected and boarding passes printed.  So far, so good.  Checking the bags was not so good.  The agent decided that one bag would be checked to each person.  Makes sense — first bag is free.  Baggage tags were printed and put on bags indiscriminately (not matching each tag to the person responsible for each bag) — he said this would be “fine” because we were in a group.  The remaining twelve bags, including five personal suitcases, were tagged.  Again, tags were not matched to the owners of the bags.  I hung around until I saw my own suitcase tagged and put on the conveyor belt.  At one point the counter agent told US to hurry, because he needed to close the counter to go do his other responsibilities at the airport.

Next came getting through Honduras Immigration to leave the country.  It’s just like coming into the country.  You stand in a long line.  When it’s your turn, you go to the immigration official,  who checks your passport, your boarding pass, and your fingerprints.  Before going upstairs to the security checkpoint, you have to stop at a checkpoint, where someone else looks at your passport and boarding pass.  Up the escalator (a fairly recent addition) to stand in line for the security check.  Again someone checks passport and boarding pass.  This is a small airport (about seven gates), so there is one security checkpoint with one people scanner and one bag scanner.  There is no TSA precheck, so off come shoes, etc.  You may not hold onto your passport or boarding pass to walk through the scanner.

Scott had purchased a small carving at a shop in Copán and didn’t think to put it in his checked bag.  That meant a manual inspection of his bag.  There were several people in our group who had been behind us, but the time required for the inspection of the little Mayan carving, wrapping it back up, etc., etc., etc., meant that we were among the last to get to the gate.  There was an up side to that: the overhead bins were full, so our carry on rolling bags were checked free — to Dallas.

The flight itself was just fine.  There had been no time for lunch, but the small bag of  Chex Mix I bought were very satisfying.  We arrived in Houston on time but were told we had to remain seated because of “late” baggage (ours?) that had been stowed aft.  Something about the plane tipping.  Really? They gave up on that one quickly.

Blessings to whoever came up with Global Entry!  We whisked through Immigration and went to collect our bags.  We had so many bags between the two of us that we needed two carts.  We got to bypass the long line at Customs and went on to recheck our baggage.  With a great sense of relief, we saw that we had an hour left before our flight to Dallas was scheduled to leave.  Up the escalator.  Our faces fell.  How had we forgotten that we had to go through security again?  If you’ve never been through security in Houston, imagine a cattle yard, with too many cattle for the space available.  Imagine people barking orders at you.  You get the picture….  Once through that, we still had to get from Terminal C to Gate B83.  Up another escalator to the train.  Ride to the next terminal.  Walk a long way to Gate 83.  It’s one of those small gates, in a pod of five or six gates.  I ducked into the restroom as they called Group 1 to board.  When I got back to the gate, Scott told me that they had abandoned boarding groups to get people on the plane as quickly as possible — there was weather coming in.

The rain came before all of our missioners were on board.  Heavy rain.  But the rain slowed, and we were able to leave the gate and get in line for take off.  I don’t know whether the rain picked up again, but it was light enough that we took off only a little late.  We were up and above the weather quickly.  I enjoyed the bag of peanut M&Ms Scott used to bribe me not to stop anywhere on the way to our gate.  They were delicious.  I shared them.  ☺️

The flight to Dallas was uneventful, and we returned to the same section of Terminal E at DFW from which we had departed. We had a long walk back to baggage claim, but after one long bus ride and two flights, it felt pretty darn good to stretch our legs.  All but eight of the team bags were there (eventually).  We hugged, said good-by, and headed home.

Many thanks to Larry for shepherding us through the long, difficult day.  And Gracias a Dios that my back spasms had stopped by the time our trip home began!

Post script: the eight missing bags were there the next morning when Larry and I returned to DFW to look for them.  We learned that a couple of missing gate checked bags had also been located.

The eight prodigal bags

The eight prodigal bags



Here today, gone tomorrow (last day of work)
June 4, 2016, 8:04 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dear readers, your correspondent regrets Wednesday’s moto-taxi ride, which resulted in muscle spasms in her back.  The spasms were so bad yesterday that I had to stay at the hotel, even with medication.  Today the medication is working, and so will I.

Our last day of work is always busy.  Patients seem to reflect the impending closure of our clinics and our departure.  The people waiting in line seem to share a sense of desperation, wondering, “Will I get to see the doctor before the clinic closes?” and “Will they still have the medicine I need?” We, meanwhile, as we serve this last group of patients, are also thinking about packing up (“What do I leave here?”) and heading home to see friends and family. It will be a bittersweet day as we anticipate home while we say farewell to our Honduran friends and associates.

Yesterday I learned that an Indian missionary named Annu has been praying all along for our mission trip.  She, her husband, and their two boys are Christians living in a mostly Hindu region.  They have a home church, and they share the Gospel as they can. And yesterday I was humbled to learn that Annu was praying for my healing.

Yesterday I was thankful for so many things: the people who were praying for my recovery, the availability of modern medicines, clean water, the comfort of my hotel room, being able to read a novel to distract myself from the back spasms. I was especially thankful for the pharmacy team–they all had my back.

Today I am still thankful for all of those things, but I am also excited to be able to return to work.  It’s why I’m here.

A brief postscript: on Thursday, we had a patient who was 100 years old!  She still keeps her own house.  She said she was 60 years old when she gave birth to her last child! We believe she walked to and from the clinic.  She was feisty.  I think that probably helped her get to the 100-year mark.

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View from the construction team’s work site.



Play day!
June 1, 2016, 9:35 pm
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I can’t quite believe it has been a week since the advance team left Dallas. Maybe that’s because I missed one full day of work and had to leave early twice thanks to the GI bug (that I am finally beginning to believe is done with me, knock wood).

The pharmacy operated very well in my absence, thanks to Martha, David, Claudette, and Cubie. All of the teams are full of people who find being here and helping a joyful thing.  At reflections last night, all teams reported productive days.  And just about everyone was ready for a break — more because of the heat, I think, than because of the work.

Most people slept in today.  But by about 8:00, a group was headed to the Mayan ruins.  By nine a group was ready to tour a coffee finca.  At about 9:30, Scot and I took  moto-taxi to the Parqe de Aves (Macaw Mountain Bird Park).  The park now has guides, something new since our last visit two or three years ago.  Our guide, Miuri, was very good.  We learned much more about the park’s rescue and release program than we had in the first two visits combined.  So many beautiful birds! Scarlett guacamayas (the national bird of Honduras), blue guacamayas, green guacamayas, parrots, paraqueets, parrotlets.  Two species of toucans.  Owls.  Hawks.  And a recently rescued dog.

The moto-taxi ride back to town, down the mountain on the bad roads and cobblestone streets, made me appreciate my bus rides in Denton a bit more — at least those rides don’t leave me feeling as if I’ve been punched in the kidneys!

By noon, it was quite hot, so we had lunch and then went to our cool room  to nap.  We were up later to chat with friends and to learn about their adventures.  One pair had managed to tour the ruins, tour the bird park, and do the canopy tour.  I was impressed!  We had a birthday celebration for Gloria, one of our drivers, with a cake from Welchez Cafe — the best place in town for dessert.

Dinner tonight was on a second-floor terrace, with good food, good conversation, and a nice breeze.  I am so glad the sun sets early here — things really do begin to cool off.  Right now, I am working poolside, enjoying the sound of the little waterfall.  Off to bed soon — another day of work tomorrow.

imagePadre Chris at Morning Prayer yesterday.  It is absolutely wonderful to have his parents, Darlene and Wendell, on this trip with us.