For many years it has been my privilege to lead medical teams to some of the most remote parts of Honduras. They usually consisted of approximately 60 people. Every trip, we had medical doctors, pharmacists, optometrists, nurses, dentists, and all manner of volunteer helpers. Every trip I would try to get a particular church to be a sponsor for that specific trip. The people would not necessarily all be from that church, but it just worked better that way. Most were either Baptist churches or Lutheran churches.
There were primarily two purposes. First, of course, was to treat the people; many of whom would never see a dentist or doctor the rest of their life and had never seen one before. The other reason was to show the Jesus Film every night, most of the time at the location of the clinic for that day. We would usually be in a school somewhere in the jungle or in the mountains. The school would recess for that day or some-times two days and allow us to use their facilities. Many a time there was only a dirt floor, but it was a school. Most times, I would go down two days ahead of time and get a doctor from that region when one existed there, and we would interact with the local public health person when there was one. We would together select the most needy sites. On two trips I remember that the First Baptist Church of Carrollton, Texas was the sponsor, and the ones going from there expressed the desire to go to especially needy places. I asked them if they were sure, and they assured me that they were really sure.
I took them into the Central Highlands of the Province of Yoro on the first paved road ever there which had just been completed. That whole province is mostly a minority area with many indigenous people. Even its governor who helped us greatly is an indigenous person. So, I took them to two Indian tribes who had seen Hispanic people, but had never seen an Anglo person………had never seen a white man. One Indian group walked all night to meet us at a school way up on a remote mountain top. Usually, my most critical part of the clinic is the dentists. They can only see so many patients. We early on learned that the people in remote parts of Honduras did not want to bother with fillings. They all wanted only extractions, for they would most probably never see another dentist, and that filling may be lost or have problems. However, these Indians had few dental problems. We realized that their diets were mostly wild game, not rice and beans.
I am digressing but let me tell you one thing about these Indians. Especially the men would sit in the room on a chair absolutely rigid and face straight ahead, but never move their body or head. However, their eyes would be darting all over the room. It was weird. Only when I got back did my oldest son in Austin explain the answer to me: “Dad, these guys spend their whole life hunting. They must sit absolutely still and only move their eyes to be successful. It becomes a habit ingrained into them.”
About a third of the way from Tela to La Ceiba on the east coast of Honduras is the De Leán Valley. When you pass it you see no people, it is just open country, but about 6 miles inland there are thousands of people scattered out under the massive mango trees that grow there. There is a small general store on the dirt road, but no real village or town.
They do have a really nice wooden school that was all freshly painted blue-grey when we went there. There are so many people there that we scheduled two days of clinic at that school. When we are at the same place for two days, the second day is usually fairly calm, since the people know that those who already have numbers are the ones who will be treated, and if you don’t have a number, you are not going to get in. So, I was looking forward to the second day.
I was one of the last to arrive with the big bob-tail truck all loaded with equipment and supplies. Much to my surprise the place was just a bedlam. There was a young Peace Corps fellow who had been teaching the people Marxism for several months. He was gone on our first day there but had come back that night and changed everyone’s numbers, mostly for his friends. I confronted him and asked him what the heck he thought he was doing.
He walked up close and ordered me not to invade his space. He meant his physical space. I informed him that I was about to eliminate “his space” all together. When he saw that I was 6’ 3” and 200 lbs and deadly serious, he backed off and promptly left.
I did not know that one of our doctors was good friends with President Reagan. He made a call to Washington later that evening, and that boy was back in the US by the next night.
There was just something about that place that was hard to understand. I am not sure that I can accurately feel evil, but I sure thought that I could there. Some of our volunteers said the same thing.
Our doctors had to treat an unusual number of machete wounds there.
I had brought the Jesus Film and projector and speakers and screen and the string of lights. I left them with a group of volunteers. They promised to start the film as soon as it was dark while I took the truck back to Tela and then returned later.
When I returned there was no film being shown and hundreds of people were wandering around under those big mango trees. The volunteers explained that the projector had just burned out. When I got it back to Dallas, the technicians there said they had never seen anything like the damage. They could not repair it.
On most every one of our trips to Honduras a small group of men from Church-on-the-Rock east of Dallas would go down with us on the plane. They had discovered that we could get them permission to get into the prisons all across Honduras for their prison ministry. I would not see them again until we left for home on the plane. However, they were always telling me how much they wanted to see the Jesus Film with us.
It turned out that they were passing by the De Leán Valley at just the right time to see the film. So, they were there. They expressed their disappointment at not getting to see the film. They also expressed their discernment that it seemed like the Devil just owned this place.
There were hundreds and hundreds of people still there, so not wanting to waste the occasion, I asked the leader of the Church-on-the-Rock guys to step up there and preach a good sermon. Some of the other guys in their group supplied some music, so a large crowd gathered. The projector was not working, but the speakers still were.
He spoke in Spanish, but I could understand most of his message, and I was very disappointed. I was expecting him to give an evangelical message and invite people to know Jesus. No, he was speaking about how important it was to forgive people, especially those who have wronged you. He kept saying in different ways that one just must not harbor hatred in one’s heart but ask God to help you forgive.
There was a businessman there from Tela who had come all the way there to see the film, and who spoke good English. I expressed my disappointment to him over this sermon, but he passionately told me no, that these people really needed to hear what was being said. He explained that all over Honduras and especially in this place, that it was almost the custom for the father or man in the family to go off and just abandon the family and take-up with a younger woman. This fellow explained that there were so very many men who harbored deep anger and hatred in their heart for that father who had abandoned them and caused so much hardship to them and their mother as a result.
When the speaker had finished he gave an invitation for those present to come forward and pray for God’s Power to help them to free themselves from the anger and resentment that they had been harboring inside themselves for so long. Then I heard something that I will never forget. Large numbers of men started just wailing at the top of their voices. It just kept up and kept up. They wanted God to help them get rid of that pent-up anger. It went on for the longest time, and I really learned something new.
Back in Dallas the next winter at Christmas time, Onelia (my evangelist lady who I wrote about before) wanted to go back down there for the Christmas holidays and minister to the people. I told her that I would pay her way, but under one condition…….that she would, for sure, show the Jesus Film in that De Lean Valley. She gave me her word that she would and promised to call back frequently with periodic reports.
On her first call back I asked if she had shown the film. She said that she tried, but that the projector had burned up again. So, I told her to go into San Pedro Sula and rent another projector.
I asked her about the little Pentecostal pastor that we met there who kept pleading with us to come back and help him. Onelia said: “Oh they killed him.”
On her next call back, I asked the same question. She said that she tried last night, but just as the film started, blood came all over the screen. I said: “What in the world do you mean?” She explained that a little mouse had gotten into the projector, and it ground him up and caused the screen to have the appearance of being covered with his blood. Like I said, it seemed that the Devil just owned that place.
Finally, I got some really strong older Christians together in Dallas, and with much powerful prayer, Onelia was finally able to show the film there in the De Leán Valley with great results.