On the second trip taking a medical team to Honduras I worked the projector showing the Jesus film each night, since the Hornstein’s were not there; and relied on the local Baptist missionary in Progresso to help with follow-up. He was a nice fellow who had previously worked in Nicaragua. He had been working there in a suburb of San Pedro Sulla for two years and only had a small church. He did counsel the people for us but did not seem to have his heart in it. And he finally told me that he did not “consider this to be part of his ministry”.
On the third medical team trip down there I was determined to have an “on fire” evangelist to be there to help us. Since I was Chairman of the Trustees of Dallas Baptist University in Dallas, I called out there and explained our need and asked whether they had such a person. They sent a fairly young lady down to my office. Her name was Onelia Lawrence. She was from Honduras and had just finished her third year of nursing school.
First thing I took her to lunch at a fine Mexican restaurant two doors down from my office. At this particular place you ate upstairs. We went up and got seated, but before our food came, a strange thing happened. All the Hispanic help came out from the kitchen and stood around our table. These people could feel the God in Onelia and were just drawn to her. It was so unusual and interesting. She said a few words to them about God in Spanish and they seemed satisfied and went back to their tasks.
I wanted to know her story………like why she was a little older than the other students and why was she in Dallas Baptist and how she got there? So, she patiently told me her story.
She had been a mountain girl in the central highlands of Honduras in the Province of Yoro. Most of the people are indigenous in the Yoro area, but she was Hispanic. While she was still a teen she realized that there must be a God, and she wanted to know Him. She went into the town of Yoro and moved in with a small group of Catholic nuns who lived there. She did everything she could think of for the Catholic Church there. She helped the priest with his tasks. She cleaned and kept the place spotless, but she said that she never really found God.
Sometime later a traveling evangelical evangelist came through town and held services in a brush arbor on the edge of town. She said that she went out and attended the services and for sure found Jesus and asked the real God into her life.
At that time they were cutting down the big fir and pine trees in those mountains and sending them to the
United States. The forestry company doing the work there had a forestry engineer in charge of the operation, and Onelia wound up marrying that fellow. That was really “making good” for a mountain girl, particularly from that poor part of Honduras.
He provided for her quite well, and they had three children, though Onelia said that she knew that he messed around with the other women down there.
Being a forestry engineer, he wanted to have a nice home for the family. He built a really nice place over to the east toward the Atlantic coast. He built it under the big trees almost right in the river that came down from the mountains so that it would stay cool in that hot climate. He built it strong and quite high to avoid any chance of flooding and they moved in with the baby and the other two young children.
Onelia then related that about this time she became overwhelmed with the desire to do something special for Jesus. Her husband did not understand. He told her that she read her bible and went to church on Sunday……like what else did she need to do?
Onelia said that about that time she had this dream. She had the same exact dream 6 nights in a row. She said that in the dream, Jesus came down and put his arms around the family and said that he was going to take them all off with Him. However, before they left, they were to sing a song together. Well, Onelia could not remember the words for the song, so Jesus said that she could not go, she had to stay.
When Onelia told her husband about the dream, he said: “Gee, Nelly, you have one of those church song books. Go through it and learn all of the words.”
On the seventh night, she was staying awake, reading her bible. She did want to have that dream again. Outside it was raining, really raining. Their area was not hit directly by a hurricane, but the back of one whipped around and dumped an enormous amount of rain. And what no one knew was that the dam of a large lake up in the mountains was threatened. It did break and thousands were killed and even the railroad tracks along the coast were washed away.
As Onelia was sitting there, an enormous wind just blew her bible off the table. It was the wind in front of a wall of water from that dam. She grabbed the baby up right out of the water as it rushed through the room. Then the whole house collapsed. As she was struggling in the water, a big log bore down upon her and hit her right in the face. She has implanted teeth there now, but they are not hers. Plus, that log knocked the baby right out of her arms.
She floated downstream for two or three miles and wound up in the top of an orange tree. She was in shock and dazed, but she estimates that she stayed in that tree for at least two days. All her night clothes were ripped off and she said that she made some crude covering from the orange branches.
Then she swears that what happened next is absolutely true. She said that this little dog swam by her tree, and that a deep voice, right out of the sky around her, plainly said: “Nelly, get down out of that tree and follow that dog.” She says that was the only thing that would have gotten her out of that tree. She followed the dog through the water that was about shoulder high, but as the water got more shallow, she realized that the water had been holding her up. She could now not get her legs to work, so she crawled after the dog as it got onto dry ground and went up over a hill. Then she crawled over and down the hill toward another body of water.
Just then a man saw her and came and took her to safety.
She says that they found the bodies of the two younger children and her husband, but that the vultures and already “gotten to him”. They never found the older boy. She always had hope that he may have survived. I even helped her try to find him later, but we were not successful.
Some wonderful Christians helped her get to Dallas and enroll in Dallas Baptist’s nursing school. And that is Onelia’s story.
She went with me on every trip after that. She was extremely effective in counseling after the Jesus Film was shown each night. Many nights there would be several hundred people who had come out of the dark to stand under the string of lights we set up, signifying the decision they wanted to make about having God in their life.
In our medical clinics we also wanted to tell the people about Jesus. If a pastor from the sponsoring church had gone with us, we would have him speak with Onelia translating, but most of the time it was just Onelia.
She had taught me to select a particular room in the different schools where we would hold the clinics. She insisted that we put only “room #4” on the door. We would ask the people to go to room numero cuarto after they had finished their respective medical treatments. She explained that if we put “counseling” or something like that on the door, those macho men would not go in. So, we just put número cuatro on the door or on a sign to go out to meet with her under a big tree in the yard when there was no appropriate room.
So, I was curious how things were going. I would slip into that room or out under the trees, and what I found was hard to believe. Without exception, almost every person was making a decision for God. I told Onelia that they were just being courteous or being grateful for their treatment. But she insisted that she was making it really tough. She said she was insisting that they be very serious and sincere about making a decision to ask Jesus into their hearts……that they should never just “play around” with God.
It took me three years to figure out what was really happening. These people had been reared in a culture where they thought that only a very wealthy person could be sure that they were going to heaven. They were the only ones who had enough money to pay the priest for enough dispensations to be sure they would get there.
Then Onelia would explain that with Jesus, they could have a relationship with God, himself, have him as part of their life, all for free. Then they would look around at me and the doctors and nurses and say to themselves: “These people are from the outside. They are educated. This lady must be telling us the truth.” So, they would readily make the decision, and Onelia would make sure they sincerely meant it.
PS. As a highly trained surgical nurse, fluent in Spanish, Onelia could be making big money here in the US; but no. She is back down there in a poor area of Honduras without an income (other than a few donations) teaching the people Bible and ministering to their medical needs.