Tela-Made Reflections, Part 5
Rob Bell feels empathy for children and teenagers having to grow up in today’s teched-out, Twittered-up, phone-fatigued culture. He says of young people, “The music they listen to is owned by one of five major corporations, which also own the movie studios that create the movies they watch, which are also connected to the corporations that create the food they eat and the commercials they watch, which also have significant ties to the clothes they wear and the cell phones they own and the ringtones on their cell phones – the one by the artist who is signed by the record label that is owned by the same company as the cell phone company and the advertising agency that announced the artist’s new album, which is owned by the same company that owns the beverage company, in whose advertisement the artist appeared drinking that particular beverage, singing the song that is now a ringtone on the student’s phone that they purchased at the mall across the street from the Olive Garden, next door to the Home Depot, on the other side of the Starbucks.” One sentence (admittedly of 167 words) says all you need to know about the pressures of being a young person in the United States.
This week in my ‘Letter From Honduras’ is about the amazing children and teenagers the Mission Team met and partnered with in July. The students at Espiritu Santo Bilingual Episcopal School appear, on the surface, as ‘21st century’ as North Americans. They dress the same, use the same cell phones, watch the same Tik-Toks. But there’s something missing. Actually, it is more accurate to say, ‘there’s something extra’. Simplicity. Away from the consumerism of North America and Europe, the students at the school are liberated to focus on the truly important things. Their lives are slightly less like the nightmare Rob Bell describes at the start of this article.
That is how we met them. They acted as interpreters for the team in the clinics. They were crucial in helping patients receive the care they needed. One young woman in particular made a lasting impression on us. Gabby, a high school junior. By Honduran standards, Gabby has experienced a comfortable childhood. She is the daughter of two physicians, which has given her opportunities most young people do not enjoy, including going to a bilingual school, which, when she graduates, will open a world of possibilities.
Gabby grew up with the expectation that, like her parents, she would become a doctor. Like many young people who grow up with other people’s expectations, she was not excited at the prospect. So it was, that at the outset of the mission trip she was, in her own words, ‘on the fence’ (yes, that is how good her English is!) about following in her parents’ footsteps to medical school. She volunteered to join the team and was assigned the task of being the interpreter for Dr Javier Tapia, a pediatrician in Montgomery. (If you have not yet met Javier, you need to! The Tapia family are new members of St John’s.)
That week changed many lives, including the children and young parents that Javier treated. But it isn’t just the ‘receivers’ of mission who change. The ‘givers’ are transformed also. Mission changes people. It just does.
Here’s part of a conversation I had with Gabby.
Duncan: Gabby, what are you going to do when you’ve finished school?
Gabby: Before I had this experience, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But seeing Javier made me realize how I want to help other people, because there are people here who never get help in their lives. I want to be able to do that. I want to be able to do it at a fair price that is accessible to everyone. And I just basically want to give people the hope that they are able to get better in some cases.
Duncan: Will you study in Honduras?
Gabby: I want to be able to study in the United States because doctors here struggle a lot. I hope to study in the United States, become a specialist, and then come back to Honduras and work here.
It reminds me of an old leadership question… You are standing on your front lawn watching your house burn. All you have is a bucket of water. Next to you, on the lawn, is a team of firefighters, fast asleep. Where do you throw the bucket of water?
Our Medical Mission Team did not just put out fires, it started them too. A fire was ignited in Gabby that will burn bright as she studies, qualifies, and practices medicine. The long-term benefits of this mission trip simply cannot be counted.
The stairs at Espiritu Santo Bilingual Episcopal High School, Tela.