Monday, May 12, 2014

Just One

In January 2013 our little crew of five traveled to Honduras for our first family medical mission trip. We had taken the children on other short term missions, but those trips were with groups and with purposes that allowed them to physically participate.

This trip was different. We were sent out by World Medical Mission to a small hospital to work with Dr. Nasralla, who is the primary surgeon despite being in his mid-80s. We took suitcases full of donated medical equipment and willing hearts--but frankly weren't sure what the trip would bring.

At the time, I had been doing a bit of reading about short term missions and how sometimes 'helping was hurting.' I felt conviction that perhaps all the money we spent to get there could have been better utilized if directly donated. I wondered if taking our children along was merely meeting some selfish needs to go, do and see.

In addition to all this internal wrestling, we were in an unsafe area which required the kids and me to be sequestered on a compound for 8-10 hours a day while my husband worked in the hospital. We had brought items to donate to orphans and hoped to spend lots of time serving children while Daddy was operating, but those opportunities were few and far between. There was A LOT of downtime, which was frustrating to those of us who wanted to save the world. :)

Adjusting to the Central American schedule was a challenge for my husband. He is a very productive surgeon--seeing 60 patients in an office day, operating on 6-8 on an OR day. He had hoped that traveling to a medically underserved area would allow him to treat many needy people. That was not the case. Rather than a dozen cases a day, there were about 10 all week. They were complex cancer cases for the most part that the region could not manage. Dr. Scott's breakneck speed slowed to a crawl.

It made for a mission trip that left me with more questions than answers.
What had been the purpose of our visit? Couldn't we have been better utilized?
I realize in retrospect how self focused this all sounds.
We had plans...but God had a purpose. And, frankly, it wasn't very clear while we were there. (Perhaps because we were too distracted by our unmet hopes.)

On the next to last day, there was the story of a precious little guy--a week away from his 4th birthday with a tumor in his belly the size of a Thanksgiving turkey. It was not cancerous, but painful and very dangerous nonetheless. The surgery was tricky because of the size and the potential loss of so much blood.

I was able to scrub in and observe in the OR (my first time ever--click link for post with photos). I was struck by the size of the tumor next to this small sleeping boy. His dark hair and long eyelashes bore a striking resemblance to one of my sons. I prayed for that precious patient as if he were one of my own.

The surgery appeared to be a success and the next day we packed up and returned to the States. As is often true in life, we moved on to other things and I have only occasionally stopped to ponder that trip and God's intent for it. Until this weekend, when my husband received a brief but poignant email from Dr. N in Honduras. It included this photo and the caption: "Your patient with the tumor. His parents are forever grateful."

Look at that precious healthy, growing boy! I cannot stop studying his smile. He is healed, whole and thriving. He was worth every minute of that trip.

In a day and age that emphasizes efficiency, numbers and reach, I was reminded AGAIN that God's economy is about quality not quantity. The Shepherd that would leave the entire flock of 99 to go back in search of one lost sheep is the same God that would send a family of five to a sequestered compound in Honduras so we could see His love and care for just this one.

In retrospect there are other gifts, blessings and lessons from our time there---but 16 months later, this little life is certainly the greatest reminder of God's love and care for the least of these.

And this, it seems, was the lesson God wanted us to take. The point was not what we went to do. It was about what God wanted to show us. The trip wasn't about impressive numbers or productivity, it was about this ONE.

Lost sheep, lost coins and little boys--they matter to Him. And the fact that the same fiercely pursuing, detail oriented God deeply cares for you and me?

**Medical story shared with permission**


HW said...

What a beautiful story. I just know that God has big plans for that precious little boy, who looks a lot like your R.

My daughter spent her spring break on a mission trip this year with 25 other college kids. She helped in a medical clinic, a home for expectant mothers (they gave the new mamas pedicures!) and an orphanage. The students were told "You probably cannot communicate with these children but just touch them, hold them." They spent a day just holding babies, playing tag and coloring with these children. It was life changing for my daughter. I'm so humbled that you have taught your children to serve at such a young age.

Rod Dobbs said...

Beautiful Jennifer.

Cathy said...

When you said Honduras, my heart skipped a beat. I've never been on a mission trip, anywhere, but last year, God spoke to me about going. He even told me where. The Honduras. When and how, I don't know. But I'm sure he'll give me the open door and equip me when necessary. Please pray that I listen to Him for journey.