Great expectations

March 29, 2017 at 6:00 AM

olanchopatient.jpgA mother and her wheelchair-confined son undergo a consultation with a medical professional at the Luke Society clinic in Olancho, Honduras.

(Editor’s note: Dr. Bob LaFleur is a retired emergency room doctor from Grand Rapids, Mich. He is a member of a Partnership Ministry Team to Olancho, Honduras.)

Great expectations

By Bob LaFleur

Do you remember the first time you traveled to a foreign country?  If I don’t count Canada, it was when I was 38, and the country I visited was Honduras.

I was a participant in a Christian Medical and Dental Society short-term medical mission brigade, and I was embarking on what was for me a brand new experience.

I can still recall that strange mixture of excitement and anxiety as I prepared for that trip. I had all sorts of questions as to what things would be like and whether or not I would be able to adapt.

In those days the carrier that flew us to Honduras was SAHSA Airlines (some say those initials stood for “Stay At Home, Stay Alive!). We landed in a dilapidated airport in the capital city of Tegucigalpa. As we disembarked via the portable stairway, I was struck full force by sights, sounds, and smells that were foreign to me and exotic in the true sense of the word.  Everything was so—different!

The newness, coupled with the selected exposure I had to the place and to its people throughout my stay, generated an excitement and a perspective that led me in many ways to romanticize the whole experience.

When I subsequently became a member of a PMT to Honduras, I must confess that for quite a while I continued to view things from that romanticized perspective – particularly as it applied to people.

I viewed the Honduran people as more congenial than the folks back home; patients were more appreciative; and the staff I worked was as more spiritual than I. They were above the fray when it came to many of the everyday worries, concerns and characteristics that the rest of us deal with.

I expected the clinic staff to always get along without rancor or any discord. I just assumed their marriages and families would be exemplary. I thought they would not have to deal with many of the temptations that the rest of us have to wrestle with. And, unfortunately, I often thought it reasonable to ask them to make sacrifices for the sake of the ministry that I am not sure I would have been willing to make were our roles reversed.

Indeed, I had great expectations!

Some of the lessons I hope I have learned from all this include the following.

1. People are people, regardless of where they live in the world.  They all have sinned, and they all live with the temptations that are “common to man.”

2. We are told in Romans not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think.  And in a certain sense we should not think more highly of others—or expect more of them—than we ought to, either.

3.Work and pray toward successes, but don’t be surprised by failures.

4. All believers are sinners saved by grace, and anyone who is in Christ is as new creature.  But in this lifetime we all will experience trials, temptations, and burdens.

As we work with our brothers and sisters in Christ — whether at home or throughout the world — may we “encourage one another and build each other up,” but may we also willingly “bear each other’s burdens, and so fulfill His law.”

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