“And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us. Romans 5:5
In his name the nations will put their hope.
For there are these three things that endure: Faith, Hope and Love.
I Corinthians 13:13
It is “El Invierno,” the winter rainy season, on Honduras’s north coast. The days are perceptibly shorter, and many begin with an indistinct dawn, grey and drizzly, and end with a thunderstorm sailing ponderously down the mountain slopes and crashing onto the narrow coastal plain. Those days are more punctuated by rainsqualls marching in off the sea than hours marching around a sundial, and what sunlight does sometimes fall, comes through weak, oblique, and tentative. I know that up there in “El Norte,” the days are short, the leaves have fallen, and the mid-afternoon sky feels like twilight. The year has about run its course. As you crunch through the curling brown leaves up there, and we slog around mud puddles down here, I wonder…
“So we’ve spent another year of the life God gave us… What did we do with it?”
About a month ago a critically injured patient was brought to our emergency room by his family. The man’s name was José Feliciano. We don’t really get the rich and famous as patients. Ours are the poor and obscure… so this José Feliciano is the not–famous one. José had been riding his bicycle on the streets of La Ceiba and was hit by a policeman on a motorcycle. They initially took him to a private hospital, which confirmed that he had a skull fracture and an associated brain injury, but they refused admission because the family did not have enough money. José was taken to the Public Health Hospital in La Ceiba that same night, but now, nearly 24 hours later, the family could tell that José had taken a critical turn for the worse, and no treatment had been done. In fact, the Public Health Hospital in La Ceiba (which is supposed to have a Neurosurgeon on call) discharged José, who by then had a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS, the standard of grading of degree of brain dysfunction after an injury) of 5 to 6 and told the family they should take him to the Public Health Hospital in San Pedro Sula, at least 4 hours away by private car. Considering that a GCS of 15 is completely normal, that José had entered that same hospital with a GCS of 13 less than 24 hours earlier, and that a dead person would have a GCS of 3, discharging José to the street in this condition was … well… what can I say?
The family turned in the opposite direction and brought José straight to Loma de Luz. You see, some years earlier, we had taken care of José for a severe wound to his leg. The Public Health System and what doctors they could afford in the city had wanted to amputate the leg. The family came to us asking if it could be saved, and, with a series of operations, a lot of good hard work by the nursing staff and wound therapy staff, and the Grace of God, that leg has been healed whole. So this is how José Feliciano (the not– famous one) arrived in our Emergency Department–almost 24 hours post-injury and sinking fast–with a large palpable transverse R. temporal skull fracture, a blown right pupil, a GCS of 5, decerebrate posturing and Cheyne-Stokes Respirations… in short, every sign that he was circling the drain from a traumatic intra-cranial bleed.
Out in the hallway outside the E.R. I talked with the family, the friend who had driven them there, the wife and the son. I told them what they already knew, that José was in a really bad way and that he was most likely going to die there that night. They all nodded their heads without blinking. So I told them a couple of more things that they already knew: “We don’t have a CT-Scan. We don’t have a Neurosurgeon, and we don’t really have a proper Intensive Care Unit.” Again, they all nodded in unison without batting an eye. I asked if José was a Christian… and was greatly relieved and a little chagrined at the answer. I was relieved because José’s wife reminded me that he had come to a saving relationship with Christ at Hospital Loma de Luz a couple of years ago as a result of how we had cared for him with his leg injury. I was a little chagrined over having momentarily forgotten this most important part of his story. From an eternal perspective, this changes everything. I was gratified that Loma de Luz had played an important role in the life of an eternal soul. But for the moment, for me and the family, there was no Get Out of Jail Free card regarding José’s physical condition. The question at hand was still what are we going to do here and now? I told them that José might well die on the operating table. They all nodded and nobody blinked. Then the wife told me, “We put him in God’s hands and in your hands.” Just between you and me, the “we put him in God’s hands” declaration always makes me feel like a lifeboat safely landed beside a sinking ship. But the “and in your hands” clause always makes me feel like somebody decided we really needed to throw the grand piano onboard. The son was more practical, summing it up as “If you don’t do anything, my Papa’s going to die. But if you try, he might live… right?”
We went with that, and did not pass Go but went straight to the OR. The right people showed up in kind of miraculous timing. The on-call OR tech just happened to stop into the hospital on his way home from soccer practice. He had his friend Ivan with him. Ivan is a security guard for the hospital and had never been inside an Operating Room. But we enlisted him as the run and get things guy. With just barely enough of the right equipment, I removed a big section of José’s broken skull and was able to stop the bleeding and remove the large blood clot that had collected on José’s brain. With God’s grace, great anesthesia, and surgical help, José made it off the OR table… and Ivan didn’t pass out.
José’s neurologic signs began to turn around immediately. Even in the recovery room his eye signs and his respiration and reflexes had all normalized. And, over the next couple of days, lo and behold, José began to become responsive. At Loma de Luz we so often see results so much better than we deserve that it becomes all too easy to take it for granted. So it was a shock and a huge disappointment when, two days out from surgery, José just unexpectedly stopped breathing. I was nearby and came as soon as I heard the call. Isaac Hotz was already there, and José had already started breathing again. But it was clear that some damage deep inside his brain just wasn’t going to recover. José’s wife was there in the room and more than anything she was beside herself that her son, who had been at José’s bedside all night, had run out of the hospital in the midst of this dramatic turn for the worse. She begged me to go find him. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense that he would take his own life in his distress. But that is what she was worried about. He was the only child she had left.
I found the son, sitting by himself on a low retaining wall out behind the hospital. He was calm but just worn out from the past couple of days. He nodded and I sat down beside him on the wall. We just sat there without saying anything, both of us looking off into the middle distance. After a while, the son said “Anoche, mi papi me pusó la mano en el hombro.” (“Last night my Papa reached out and put his hand on my shoulder”), and he touched his shoulder like he could still feel the hand resting there. After a bit I said, “Le pasa su esperanza a usted, ¿verdad?” (asking something like “You think he was passing on his hope to you?”). He nodded several times. And, I said, “This life is just a spark climbing the night sky, that burns for just an instant and then it’s gone, but the next one never ends.” (it doesn’t sound so ostentatious in Spanish). He nodded and touched his shoulder again. We sat there without talking for a little while longer and I said, “Your Mama needs you now. She’s worried about you. Let’s go back inside.” And so, we did.
Isn’t it strange and wonderful that José Feliciano- the not rich and famous one, the one who had a bicycle, not a car, the one who had to struggle to feed his kids in a poor city, in an obscure country—that this broken man lying helpless in a hospital bed had something precious to pass on to his son, something that the rich and famous find so rarely: hope, a hope that doesn’t disappoint.
Isn’t it strange and wonderful that this hope began with a baby lying in a manger with poor parents in a poor village in an obscure country, an occasion so pivotal that the host of heaven broke out in song and all of History is divided into time before and time after the birth of that baby in the manger? For “In his name the nations will put their hope.”
We’ve spent another year of the life God gave us. What did we do with it? I thought about that sitting there on the wall. I guess I started reviewing all of the cost in energy and emotion, materials and finances that had been poured out for just this one patient… one out of maybe 20,000 this year. Had it been worth it? My mind wandered off to all of the expansion that was going on, all of the building. Most of the cost coming straight out of the General Fund, we’d spent down to the bone, down to worrying about making the next payroll again. Had it been worth it? After all it’s just buildings, and, as they say, “It’s all gonna burn.” But buildings do matter. Or at least they can matter just like antibiotics and anesthetics and payroll can matter, because it is what you do inside the buildings that matters, what you do with people that matters. So, was it worth it? You bet.
We shared hope with people who need it.
The days are getting shorter. The year has about run its course. But you’ve still got a little time left. And, you’ve got something worth sharing: hope, the hope of the babe in the manger, the hope that endures. Why not reach out and touch someone on the shoulder…and pass it on?
Teachers: Escuela Bilingue El Camino (The El Camino Bilingual School) needs teachers–teachers willing to commit to at least one school year… and we add a new grade each year. Considering how difficult this commitment can be financially, we are also beginning a fund to help supplement teachers’ financial needs while on the field (e.g. recent college graduates trying to pay back college loans). For more details on the LDL Teacher stipends, write to Estelle Barnett at email@example.com or to Rosanne McKenney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please pray for the Lord to send us the teachers we need—recent graduates, retired teachers, or whomever the Lord might call.
Foster Children Care Workers: Casa de Niños Sanctuario, the Sanctuary Children’s Centre, needs long-term commitment child-care workers. The need was there even before the McKennzies’ decision was made to make a pending retirement transition to work in support-raising from Scotland (scheduled for June 2017). Now the need is even more pressing. At any given time, there are roughly 40 needy children in the Children’s Centre—children in need of food, clothing, shelter and security. At the Casa de Niños, we provide that and more. What we need to ensure now is the need for sufficient faithful, mature, responsible Christians to stand in place of the parents the children lack. If you sense God calling you to full-time service in child care at Loma de Luz, please contact us at: http://www.crstone.org/long-term-service/ or email@example.com, or The Cornerstone Foundation, 9032 Woolmarket Road, Biloxi, MS, 39532, phone 228 207-1811
Housing: Loma de Luz is growing–expanding ministries and services. That is a good thing. And, we are making room for so many incoming missionaries that we are anticipating a very real housing need in 2017. We are facing the need for 10 different houses or apartments to be filled by incoming missionaries in 2017. This will fill up all available housing and then some. So we need to begin new housing construction early in 2017. If you feel led to fund or build new housing @ Loma de Luz for this upcoming year, please contact Mike Yost at firstname.lastname@example.org. And please pray for the Lord to meet this need—in terms of planning, finances, logistics, workers, safety, and all the other things that go into such work.
Medical Personnel Needs: We are in particular need of several types of medical missionary / volunteer personnel. We are in need of an X-Ray Technician (short-term or long-term), as well as a full-time ObGyn. We are also praying for a Lab Technician (as with X-Ray, we would love to have full-time missionaries in this area but can use shorter-term volunteers as well.)
Shipping: The Honduran government has renewed APAH’s non-profit / charitable status (praise the Lord), but there are still various hurdles blocking the path for avoiding lengthy and expensive port storage and taxes and red tape. So please thank the Lord for the nonprofit status (many worthy organizations have not been able to get their status renewed), and keep praying for the shipping and port authority matters.
Indigent Patient Fund: At Loma de Luz it is our desire to treat the poor as peers before God, to avoid engendering dependency (on man), and to be good stewards of His resources; this has always been an intentional policy. We work hard at balancing what the poor can pay without giving handouts. But some people, the true indigent poor, just do not have the ability to pay anything: single, unemployed mothers or widows with no family support, orphaned children, chronic patients too crippled by disease or injury to work, etc.
We still care for any patient even when they truly can pay nothing. We just absorb the cost. With more and more complex operations or gravely ill patients with prolonged hospitalizations, the absorbed costs for their care are a very real financial burden on the hospital’s sustainability. The indigent patient fund is for just these kinds of needs. If you feel led to donate to this fund, designate “Indigent Patient Fund” with your gift to this work.
Please pray for encouragement within the missionary community. Please pray for safe travel and for a minimum of isolation problems during the rainy season (a common problem this time of year due to flooded rivers and bridge outages). Pray for wisdom for us, and pray for us to keep our eyes fixed on the Lord as we continue this long distance race. And we in turn will be praying for you.
Once again, as we look back over this year and what was accomplished at Loma de Luz, we thank God, and we thank you as well for your part in it. May the Lord continue to be your hope,the anchor of your soul (Hebrews 6:19).
Sally Mahoney for Cornerstone Foundation
Front Row: Kenna & Koley Stockton, Cinthia Moncada, Maddie Hotz, Anne Hofer, Julia Barnett, Estelle Barnett, Calix Maradiaga, Christine (Bell) Maradiaga w/baby Samatha, Hannah Kwekel, Elizabeth Nelson, Jenny Riley, Christy Turnure, Valerie Lelle, Belinda Gomez, Heidi Cho, Liz & Iain McKenzie, Eliza McKenzie, Cortney Cash (w/Carolina), Ben Fields, Jordan Boom.
Back Row: Katie (w/Koley), Peter (w/Kinzie) Stockton, Rony (w/Rony Jr.) Moncada, Isaac (w/Josiah) Hotz, Joseph Barnett, Jeff & Rosanne McKenney, Jimmy Riley, Jim Riley, Terri Riley, Rebekah Pirkle, Judy Blumhofer (w/Angel), Mike Yost, Kathryn Goodloe, Peggy Yost, Ashley Dempsey, Annie Sanford, Joe Cash (w/Alistair).
Absent from Picture: Alissa Kearney, Heather Matthews, Liz Martin, Alexander family, Moultray family, Josh Riley, Dave and Marinajo Fields.