It might not seem so horrible at the first look. A big blue run down hospital from the outside— and an outdated medical center inside. This is the public healthcare system and largest hospital in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
Imagine you live in Honduras—your son breaks his arm and needs to go to the hospital. You will have to be prepared to wait all day… just to schedule a clinic appointment. There is no telling how many hours or days you will wait in the hospital, just for your sons arm to be treated.
As I walked down the children’s ward of the hospital, I was shocked at the hundreds of people lining the walls of each hallway— dirty, tired, and holding sick children. Some were laying on the dusty floors sleeping and others stared blankly ahead. Most of these families get there at 5 am and wait all day just for an appointment, only to come back the next day and do it all again.
“This is our sad reality,” one local said.
Once you finally get to a hospital room, assuming you are sick enough to stay overnight, you are left with only a bed— no sheets, no pillow, no hospital gown. If you need something, someone must bring it to you. If not, you sleep on a dirty mattress, shower without soap, don’t brush your teeth, and eat the grimy food that is occasionally served [usually some eggs and a tortilla.] “The hospital emergency room looked like a scene out of a civil war,” said a CBS Reporter.
In reality, many die or watch their health plummet as they spend days waiting for emergency treatment. This teen nearly died after being shot—waiting hours for treatment before calling an outside organization. And these men slept in a room with countless others, not even knowing what type of cancer they had. The truth is devastating and overwhelming… but what does that mean for us? How do we begin to help a problem that is so desperate and so far away from our reality?
Amidst the devastation— there is hope.
Doctor Jose Barahona used to translate for POI mission trips when he was in high school. His dream, like many Honduran kids, was to become a doctor.
So he did, and after completing his education, Jose came back to POI to become our clinic doctor. He didn’t mind that his wages would be less than average, or that it held less status than the other jobs he could have easily gotten. This was his dream.
I spent a day in his office just observing— what a contrast it was to the heart-wrenching reality I experienced in the public hospital.
One older gentleman walked into the office with a smile that so proudly displayed every single gap in his missing teeth. He had a begrimed cast on his leg, splintered crutches, a soiled wound on his head, and two missing fingers.
As Dr. Barahona began asking questions, the gentleman told us how he was hit by a car in December (nearly 7 months ago!) and broke his leg. When he went to the hospital, he was forced to wait so long, his broken bones healed incorrectly— requiring an expensive surgery that he could never afford.
So he wrapped the excruciatingly painful wound in a grimy makeshift cast, endured the misery, and went on with his life.
As Dr. Barahona began to take his X-rays and schedule a surgery for his leg, he pulled out his stethoscope that was wrapped with five colorful beads.
Before I even realized what was happening, Dr. Jose began sharing the gospel with this man—who listened ever so intently. Despite the long line outside the door, Dr. Barahona took out his phone and began reading to his patient from the book of Romans.
He told him about a love that is not defined by who we are or what we have done— but by someone so much greater.
More than twenty-five people came in and out of the POI clinic that day— and to each one he pulled out those colorful beads and with so much compassion— Dr. Jose shared with them the only true healing they would ever find. Some asked questions, some cried, but they all listened and held onto every word.
The contrast between the public hospitals in Honduras and the POI clinics is stark. Our clinics allow POI to connect with communities by meeting their most dire physical needs that cannot be met by the public hospitals. But most importantly, as these physical needs are met, a much deeper spiritual need is met as well.
All the children in the POI program, as well as the staff, get free medical care (that includes any medicine they may need.) In addition, POI also provides free medical care to a local homeless shelter. Anyone else from the community can come to the POI clinics for free. They are only required to pay 100 lempiras (about $5) for any medicine—regardless of how expensive it actually is.
I would like to take a moment to personally thank each of you who sponsor a child. I have spent the past two months watching children come to the programs each day, children who have families desperate for medical care. And as a result, deep, Christ-centered relationships are being cultivated in the hearts of people across Tegucigalpa.