Chavelo is my name
February 19, 2018 at 6:00 AM
Children in Colomoncagua, Honduras, work on practicing good dental hygiene as encouraged by the Luke Society ministry there. (File photo)
Chavelo is my name
During the 1980s, I went on several medical brigades sponsored by the Christian Medical and Dental Association. I met Dr. Peter Boelens on one of those trips. Pete was representing the Luke Society and had been selected to be the medical director for the mission team. This was how I was introduced to the Luke Society.
Our medical team was in a small community near the Mayan ruins of Copan, Honduras.
I noticed a dirty, poorly clothed man patiently waiting in line. He reeked with body odor and I thought, “I hope one of the other physicians sees him.”
As we began seeing patients, my nurse brought this smelly, dirty, half naked man into my cubicle. He sat down across from me and smiled and he said, “Chavelo is my name.”
I squirmed a little looking for a quick way out. Using my broken Spanish, I asked him, “What is your problem.”
Chavelo replied, “I want some vitamins.”
Vitamins? This man needs a whole lot more than vitamins. Holding my breath, I listened to his heart and lungs. I dressed a couple of large infected scratches he had gotten from a fall on the street where he lived. Chavelo went onto to say he broke his only pair of prescription glasses in the fall.
I reached in my doctor’s bag and pulled out two pairs of prescription glasses I had been given before the trip. The first pair didn’t work for him at all, but the second pair, remarkably, were perfect. His broad grateful smile won me over.
Chavelo didn’t smell all that bad anymore. I turned to my nurse and she said, let’s buy him some clothes and a pair of shoes. We asked him if we could and that broad grind appeared across Chavelo’s face once again. A clinic volunteer took him across the street and bought him some clothes and shoes.
I continued to see patients only to notice Chavelo in line once again. This time he had a new shirt and pants. He was wearing a new pair of slip on loafers and he peered at me through his glasses.
I got up from desk and went over to him. I said something like, “What’s up?” He smiled again and said he was waiting in line to thank me.
I couldn’t help myself. I asked Chavelo to have dinner with us. He sat at my table and ate two full plates of food. I prayed with Chavelo that evening and I prayed for Jesus to come into his life as His Lord and Savior.
This experience with Chavelo had a profound effect on me. I thought about how close I had come to passing by the injured man on the side of the road in the story of the Good Samaritan. When I look back on the experience, which is still vivid in my memory today, I can see Jesus ministering to Chavelo, not me. It wasn’t anything I had done. Jesus did the unexpected through me. I think that is when I finally realized every life has value, whether they are poor or rich. Every life is precious.
With Jesus, there is no “us” and “them.” We all are God’s children.