Good medicine and good water
June 7 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Good medicine and good water | Friday, June 7, 2002

Friday, June 7, 2002

Good medicine and good water

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras - Cooperation between Baptists in North Carolina and Honduras continues to flourish more than three and a half years after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Mitch stalled over the Central American country and dumped a year's worth of rain in three days.

Thousands of Hondurans died, and tens of thousands were left homeless. N.C. Baptists spearheaded disaster relief and recovery efforts, providing emergency aid and building hundreds of simple but solid cinder-block houses for victims of the flooding.

The partnership born of necessity has evolved into a partnership of choice, as the Baptist State Convention (BSC) and Honduran Baptists embarked last year on a new three-year cooperative effort. Teams of Tar Heel Baptists and local believers are working together in a variety of church-planting, construction and social ministry efforts, all with evangelistic angles.

By the end of May, 26 teams had already visited Honduras this year, according to David Clines, who acts as local coordinator for the program. Clines and his wife, Nancy, were recruited by N.C. Baptists and commissioned as International Service Corps volunteers through the International Mission Board (IMB). They live in Tegucigalpa with their two young daughters, Gina and Daniela.

David Clines was seriously injured in late April when a ladder collapsed while he was wiring overhead lights for Iglesia Bautista Zarza Ardiente (Burning Bush Baptist Church), a young congregation where he and Nancy are members. Clines fell to a concrete floor, crushing both wrists and fracturing three vertebrae.

Nancy, a medical doctor who specializes in pediatrics, found herself caring for David and helping to coordinate all the volunteers, rather than focusing primarily on the medical teams.

More than 60 teams are expected in 2002 alone. During the last week of May, three teams were at work, all with different tasks, in different parts of the country.

Healing for Jutiapa

Two and a half hours south and east of Tegucigalpa (pronounced "te-goo-see-gall-pa"), not far from the border with Nicaragua, the village of Jutiapa (hootie-oppa) rests in a fertile plain within sight of tall green mesas that tower above the fields where men guide plows behind yoked oxen. Farmers stab the softened earth with long sticks and drop kernels of corn or other seeds into the ground.

The land is so rich that small limbs from local tapereba trees sprout into living fence posts, connected by a few strands of barbed wire.

In the village, a team of three doctors, four nurses and two medical technicians from North Carolina was hard at work, assisted by a Honduran doctor, several interpreters and Pastor Octavio Espino. Espino serves Iglesia Bautista Betel (Bethel Baptist Church), which sponsored the clinic.

The team worked out of a small office complex where a doctor from Cuba normally practices.

Honduras strives to provide universal medical care, but doctors remain scarce in the small villages, and needed medications are beyond the financial means of many residents.

Medical teams from the states typically bring a large store of donated drugs that can be distributed at no cost.

Virtually everyone who came to the clinic received parasite medication, even though the predominant roundworm or pinworm infections are likely to return within a month. Team members taught improved sanitary practices to discourage future infections.

Stomach medications and anti-fungals were also dispensed in large quantities.

Carlos Cooper of Friends Baptist Church in Clemmons was on his fifth trip to Honduras. A retired podiatrist, he said medical missions have been a blessing to him.

Cooper convinced his long-time colleague Lyle Snyder from First Baptist Church in Blowing Rock to come along for his first medical mission.

Bill Harrison, a family practice physician and one of several team members from Hillsdale Baptist Church in Advance, was also in Honduras for the first time. "This is the first time I knew how Jesus felt when he said 'let the little children come unto me,'" Harrison said. "Though they were filthy and dirty, there was such a sense of love I had for them ... it was quite an experience. This won't be my last trip. I don't think I could hold myself back."

Tina Demastus of Calvary Baptist Church in Calabash used her income tax refund to finance her journey and is saving the balance of it for another mission in another country. "I'm just about hooked," she said.

David Dixon of Hillsdale was the team leader. He expressed a special concern for the many children he met who have little home life and spend much of their time in the streets.

Other team members included Barbara Millwood, Diana Potts and Don Thomson from Hillsdale, Allen and Lisa Wilson from New Hope Baptist Church in Raleigh, and Janie Dupree from Zebulon, a member at Wakefield Central Baptist Church. "You get a burden for the people," Dupree said, in explaining why she will be back.

"There's so much need here," added Lisa Wilson. "You have to come."

The team saw about 1,500 patients and dispensed more than 4,000 prescriptions in four days. They also showed the "Jesus" film, using a generator in a driving rainstorm, and worshiped with the local church, which has no building of its own.

Team members slept in a rented house with no running water, using a camp shower and a bucket-flush toilet. Women from the local church prepared Honduran lunches in an open-air kitchen.

Water for Matapalo

The road to Matapalo begins outside the southern city of Choluteca as a muddy track into the mountains, so rutted and rocky that passengers are shaken relentlessly and barely able to speak above the constant rattling of the bucking vehicle.

Drivers weave back and forth in search of a route that will not endanger their vehicle's oil pan, bumping over cobblestones the size of cabbages and dodging each other on the rare occasions when they meet.

Enterprising children gather in washed out corners of the road, throwing shovels of dirt into potholes or gullies as cars approach, then holding out their hands to ask payment for the service.

As the track winds higher into the mountains, the rocks and gaps between them grow larger. Near the crest of one peak, a large green tank sits on the top of a grassy knoll, filled with water from a mountain spring, courtesy of an IMB project to provide water for nearby villages.

Just beyond the reservoir, a left turn leads to a small village where hand-painted letters on a large brown boulder proclaim "Bienvenidos a Matapalo" (Welcome to Matapalo).

Another left turn, and the rocky track winds down a steep slope, through a seasonal stream, then up another hill to a teal green church where six men were wrapping up a week of building small water reservoirs called "pilas" for homes in the community. Their efforts were part of a project to build more than 120 pilas in Matapalo and four other villages. One village was so remote that residents had to transport donated materials by burro.

The pilas are rectangular in shape, the size of a large bathtub but twice as deep. They are built of mortar-filled cinder blocks covered with a thick coat of plaster. Baptists provide the materials. The team lays the blocks. Residents prepare the foundation slab and apply the plaster. Some will add a concrete cap that includes a preformed washboard for scrubbing laundry.

Team members slept beneath green mosquito nets in the open-air church, Templo Bautista Shekina, resting on air mattresses perched on pews turned to face each other. On a typical day they rose before dawn, prepared breakfast and a bag lunch, then started work at first light.

Three members were from First Baptist Church of Asheboro, including team leader Nelson Rowland. Rowland, a cabinet maker, has previously volunteered for several weeks in Togo and Ukraine, and planned to stay over to work with the next team. "It's in my blood," he said.

Jim Philpott and Clinton Nance also hail from First Baptist in Asheboro, which Philpott reported has a goal of involving 150 members in hands-on missions during 2002.

Earl Gray, from Bahama Baptist Church, was on his first overseas mission trip, but "I'll go many more times if I get the chance," he said.

The team built 33 pilas in four days of work. Members gave each family a signed Bible when they completed the job, and invited neighbors for a brief dedication service. "We would tell them why we were there," Nance said, "and then Fidel would share the gospel with them."

"Fidel" is Fidel Bardales, a local pastor who works for N.C. Baptists as an interpreter and team facilitator. The jovial Bardales said 17 people had accepted Christ during the services.

On the final day, a combined dedication service for several nearby homes was held in the churchyard. About 50 villagers, mostly women and children, gathered beneath the trees for the celebration.

Fidel Bardeles, left, interprets as Richard Fisher leads a prayer of dedication after a team of N.C. Baptists constructed 33 "pilas" in four days.
Bardales translated as each team member spoke. Richard Fisher, pastor of Center Cross Baptist Church in Seagrove, said he hoped the pilas, designed to preserve and provide water during the dry season, would remind the people that Jesus is the water of life. Steve Sugg, of First Baptist Church in Seagrove, prayed that the pilas would be used to the glory of God.

Bardales introduced local coordinator Raymond Deitz as "the one who has worked so hard for so many years to help us." Deitz and his wife, Patsy, are from the western N.C. community of Webster. They developed such a burden for Honduras that they bought a home in Choluteca, moving in shortly before the floods of 1998. N.C. teams helped to repair flood damage to their home, and to build a bunkhouse in the backyard to provide lodging for mission teams.

The Deitzes now work as local partnership coordinators for the BSC. They will move north for the last few months of the year, assisting with projects near San Pedro Sula.

Deitz thanked God for the water-preserving pilas, and built on Fisher's earlier comments. "Remember there's another kind of water," he said, "the water of life. Remember that when years go by. Teach your children that they need water from the pilas to live, but to really live you have to have the water of life."

Two women who had benefited from the project stepped forward to speak. "We know these blessings are coming from the Lord," said one.

Shelter in Paptalaya

In the eastern reaches of Honduras, an area called Gracias a Deos (Thanks to God), most inhabitants are Miskito Indians, and even Spanish is a foreign language.

But, Baptists have a presence there. Jim Palmer, an IMB missionary based in Nicaragua, works with the Miskito people group in four different areas, including the village of Paptalaya, on the banks of the Patuca River in Gracias a Dios.

Mark Abernathy, who leads overseas partnership efforts for the BSC, and a veteran team of volunteers flew into the area in a small charter plane, spending the last week in May constructing a 40-by-24 foot building beside a local church. The building will provide lodging and kitchen space for regional pastors attending a "Bible Institute" at the church.

The team also distributed gospel tracts, showed the "Jesus" film twice, and saw a number of people make professions of faith or recommit their lives to Christ. Team members included Robert Cooke, Beddie Tarlton, J.E. and Betsy Skinner, Roy Queen, Jerry Craig, Ted Minster, Philip Wright, Kim Beaty, Larry Osborne, John Neel, David Cox and Dale Duncan.

Team members lived in tents and bathed in the river, Abernathy said. "It was a different kind of experience."

Readers who want to learn more about experiencing Honduras for themselves can call the BSC partnership office at (800) 395-5102 or (919) 467-5100, ext. 335, or go to the Web site at www.ncmissions.org and click on "International & Partnership."

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6/7/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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