Written by: Holly Johnson
Have you ever wanted to go on a mission trip but didn’t really know what it entailed? Here is the story of my first medical mission trip to Honduras. It changed my life!
The flight into Honduras from Atlanta wasn’t too long at all. The group of volunteers was filled with adrenaline as we stepped off the plane. It wasn’t difficult to manage the small airport and customs let us through without any issues. Immediately, we were aware that we were in a Spanish speaking world. Customs emptied out into a food court and our host told us to grab something. Because none of us felt confident, we all opted for the only familiar restaurant there, Wendy’s! From there,our host exchanges currency for us. Then, it was time to load up on the bus for the three hour bus ride into the mountains. (It is only an hour and a half trip really, but the roads are so full of potholes, it takes 3 hours.) This is where two things happen. One,you realize there is no air on the bus. Two, you lower the window and let your ego go. You are not at home. Honduras is a place where bare minimum is a way of life. No whining is allowed.
As we looked out the windows on our way up the mountains, we are all in awe. Lush,tropical mountainsides covered in coffee plants are everywhere. Beautiful flowers dot the landscape. Cowboys on horseback and longhorn cattle were common too. People knew the mission group and recognized our bus. We got many waves during the bus trip. It was nice to feel welcome.
We arrive at our very nice hotel covered in road dust. The hotel doors open up to a courtyard complete with lush foliage and turtles! We are assigned to our rooms. By Honduran standards, we are staying in luxury. The hotel has bottled water,air conditioning,and a French chef! We are free for the night and take the opportunity to venture out.
Sunday-we are split into groups. One group goes to the medical camp site to set up. The other group is taken to the mission’s offices to sort prescriptions and eyeglasses. We work for several hours and then head back to the hotel.
Monday-Thursday-we are out of the hotel by 7:00AM and on the way to the medical site. We are told what our assigned roles are. Assignments are registration, traffic control, intake (vitals), parasite table, triage, doctor’s assistants, or pharmacy. We arrive and are greeted by hired military guards with machine guns. The line of patients was already waiting even though we did not begin for another hour. We serve more than 200 people a day. We play with the children by blowing up latex gloves into balloons. We work hard and only take 15 minutes for lunch. We sweat like we’ve never sweat before. We drink Gatorade and water constantly. And,we are hugged and thanked a million times. We see things that break our heart. We also save lives. For example,we saw several people who had blood sugars above 400 but never knew they had diabetes. We saw infected wounds. We saw ears so impacted that people had hearing loss. We caught heart murmurs. We treated endless numbers of children with fungal infections so bad it caused scarring. We gave antibiotics, fungal cream, insulin, vitamins, Tylenol, and cough syrup away by the dozens. None of the patients complained about the long wait. None of them cared about the fact that the only privacy they had was a thin sheet “wall” separating them from everyone else. There is no HIPPA here. If we didn’t have what they needed, they still hugged us and told us we were sent by God. It was extremely humbling. It was also the most amazing feeling to know that we truly made a difference.
Friday is a day of rest and fun. We headed out to the Mayan Ruins and zip lining. There were so many things to see. Beautiful country. Even though we were all exhausted, we really enjoyed the day. We also had a chance to barter at the market and took a million pictures. We cram as much as we can into the day. We know we have to leave for the airport at 6:00 in the morning. It was a whirlwind of a week.
I loved the experience so much, I stayed for two more weeks and joined two other medical groups. It gave me the chance to meet more Hondurans and go into town. I caught a soccer game and a basketball game. I played with probably 100 children. I can’t wait to go back in June of 2014 for round two. Honduras has a place in my heart now! I hope you can take a week sometime and go on a mission trip. You’ll be changed forever too.