Tela-Made Reflections, Part 4
Last week I wrote about the difference between two types of outreach. There is what I called ‘Band Aid’ outreach, where churches try to help the immediate. acute needs of people who lack resources. Typically, this might be serving meals to hungry people. This type of outreach is essential. We simply cannot tolerate people going hungry when we have plenty of food to share with them. The Christ who fed 5,000 hungry people demands us to do Band Aid outreach.
But there’s another kind that I’ll call ‘Sustainable’ outreach. Here, the goal is not to meet immediate need, but to address the factors that cause that need, with the aim of helping lift people out of poverty permanently. This is when the church does its best work. An example of Sustainable outreach would be installing a water purification system in a remote place where water is contaminated with parasites. With sustainable outreach, we all win, (and it is way less expensive and complicated than Band Aid outreach in the long term.)
Francisco serves as a powerful and moving example of the Sustainable outreach performed by St John’s Medical Mission to Tela, Honduras.
Francisco lives in the village of San Martin. The day he visited the clinic he was in a minority. He was a man. Women and children outnumber men at the clinics by about seven-patients-to-one. This is not because Honduran men enjoy healthier lives than the women, but because the men of working age are absent, earning the family’s only income in the local town.
Fransisco hobbled into the temporary clinic we had set up in a school, cane in one hand, but a smile on his face. He slowly lowered himself onto a chair opposite Dr Jon Dailey. A young interpreter completed the group. I watched them chatting, Jon’s face was open and welcoming. Eventually, Francisco rose from his chair and tentatively made his way to a separate room where nurses from the team were educating patients on how to lead healthy lives.
I was privileged to be standing near Kat Dailey when Francsico came in. She beamed as she told me that she remembered him from the mission trip seven years ago. That day, some of the team made a home visit to one of the shacks that hide in the thick forest. There they encountered Francisco, who was near death. He had just suffered a stroke and was unable to move. He was being cared for by his wife. The team gave him life-saving drugs and moved on to other homes.
Now, seven years later Francisco was alive and looking good. He came to the clinic that day not for drugs but for information. And here is why he serves as a great example of Sustainable outreach: Education. Training. Expert advice from career professionals. When patients are armed with a prescription their lives are improved for thirty days. When they are equipped with information their lives are improved permanently.
Next week I’ll tell you about another Honduran who showed me that the mission of the team was Sustainable. Her name is Gabby.