Old friends in Olanchito

A swinging bridge at the base of a mountain had to be crossed to get to the first medical clinic.
A swinging bridge at the base of a mountain had to be crossed to get to the first medical clinic.

When I signed up to go to Olanchito, Honduras, with Volunteers in Medical Missions, I was filled with expectations -- but I learned long ago that each mission has its own story.

Our team of 20 men and women from all over the United States were mostly experienced travelers. It was good that we were experienced, because the trip to Olanchito is a tiring one. We landed at the airport in San Pedro Sula about 12:30. It was after 8 p.m. when we finally got to our room. We drove through heavy rain, and we were wishing we could send it back to South Carolina.

On Sunday, we visited a nursing home that was home to about 23 senior citizens. That is where we met a most remarkable man. Edwardo Carlos Corrello was 68 years old. He was missing his left leg and left arm. He was just about blind, but his spirit filled the room. He spoke some English from living on the islands off the coast of Honduras. He wanted to be included in everything and would roll his wheelchair right into the middle of a conversation. After a while, he disappeared into his living area. When he came back, he had a harmonica. He began to play with that one hand, better than anyone I had ever heard. He played one old hymn after another. He made my trip worthwhile.

Because it is cooler after dark, the main church service doesn't start until 6:30 p.m. We had a worshipful two-hour service. When the pastor gave the invitation, 16 young men came forward. It brought tears to my eyes to see these young men give their lives to the Lord.

Long, hard day awaits

Our local contact, Pastor Victor, told us at breakfast Monday that we had to hurry because we had a long, hard day. We really did not understand how long and how hard.

We drove about 25 minutes southeast of Olanchito and then turned down a dirt road that ran parallel to a river. About 35 minutes up this road, we came to a rickety, wooden, swinging bridge. That was as far as we could drive. We unloaded our cases, most of which weighed 50 pounds, and started across the bridge. It was about 300 feet long. When everyone made it across, we started a steep incline that wound around the mountain. A little farther up, we had to cross another smaller stream on a narrow bridge that didn't have sides. Finally, we reached our destination about a mile straight up. We set up our clinic in a little church and saw several hundred people before we started back down. We were glad and thankful when we got back to our hotel. It had been quite an experience (and stress test).

The electric power and water were more constant than they have been in past years. The power went off every day, but only for short periods of time. We had water every day but not the warm variety. We forget to be thankful for our utilities at home, but being away from the comforts brings them to mind.

Our missions on Tuesday and Wednesday were back to where we had been in past years.

The rains came every afternoon and night. It rained several inches each day. The next morning it would be dry, and by afternoon the roads were dusty.

We had our midweek church service on Thursday night. Our old friend Mario has been fighting cancer, but he was on the stage singing and praying for both services.

Our last day in Honduras, we left Olanchito to stay the last night closer to the airport. La Ceiba is on the Caribbean coast. The beach is narrow compared to our South Carolina beaches, but they are a welcome sight after a week in the mountains.

I thought since a hurricane had just come through, there should be some pretty shells. Boy, was I disappointed. I walked a couple of miles up the beach and saw nothing but trash. There were plastic bags, bottles, plates, forks and spoons. The hurricane had cleaned the small islands and brought the garbage to the coast of Honduras.

We were in Honduras during the independence week, Sept. 10 through 17. In the United States, we celebrate on the Fourth of July, but they celebrate for a week. September 15 is the actual day when everything closes for the holiday.

Translator tells of miracle

On the night of our last church service, our translator, a young native girl, told us of her miracle. She said she had never studied English and could not speak it at all. When our translators didn't show up, Dulcie said she knew she had to do something. She said she prayed, and the next day English was as easy for her as Spanish.

We saw more than 1,200 people through our clinics, but most ailments were minor.

We had a pastor who spoke in Pastor Victor's church and had devotions in the mornings. Each person received a Christian tract, and we had Spanish Bibles to give away.

Ruth Underwood and Debroah Toth were on the team from the Rock Hill area.

All in all, it was another good experience to a beautiful country.

This trip was different for me. I flew from Honduras to New York City to join Alan Broyles and more than two hundred more Gideons for 30th annual New York Bible Blitz. The goal this year was to distribute 400,000 Gideon Testaments.

I was thankful and tired when I got back to good old Rock Hill.