If I’d been turned the other way I could have caught her. But like any good American, I was facing the lunch table. It was blast furnace hot and I had just spent three hours butchering the Spanish language to one hundred Honduran kids. I had comida on the cabeza.
As she passed just inches behind me behind me, she stumbled on the uneven terrain of the empty lot. I helplessly glanced over my shoulder to see my mom, in what seemed like John Woo slow motion, take a hard tumble onto an unforgiving bed of gravel, roots and stone.
And just like that, everything about our week of ministry to the children and women of Honduras changed dramatically. We had to take action, but in that unknown environment we had little idea of what action to take.
A woman named Nolvia, one of the children’s center directors, immediately ran to the other side of the neighborhood to get “her doctor.” Confession: I was expecting a disheveled man with a magic goat and a necklace strung with shrunken heads. This is one of the poorest of the poor neighborhoods in La Ceiba. A place to be avoided. A forgotten people. What kind of witch doctor could they possibly be bringing to my mother’s aid?
So when I looked up to see Dr. Elmer Mejia standing over my mom in his bright white doctor’s coat, I thought for sure they had been watching too many Grey’s Anatomy re-runs. A doctor this sharp, this put together, would never have a clinic in a place like this.
We rushed my mom on the back of his pickup truck a half mile up the gravel road to his humble, little office. The main room was filled with an enormous hyperbaric chamber.
Turns out Dr. Mejia is a local hero. A navy-trained doctor on a mission to save impoverished Miskit Indians who risk their lives diving for lobsters to make money. His story was recently featured in the New York Times, Rock Center with Brian Williams, and on MSNBC.
And now he was treating my mom.
He rode with her to the hospital in the ($21 cash payment) ambulance. Stayed with us all day in the ER. Negotiated with the local doctors and surgeons to squelch their desire to do a very lucrative hip-replacement in the Honduran hospital. Worked tirelessly into the night (even took a phone call at 3am on our behalf) talking with the insurance companies and medivac plane to ensure my mom would get all the way home to Indianapolis for her operation. He even offered to fly home with her on the air ambulance!
All the while refusing any payment. (I finally talked him into an Applebee’s gift certificate before I left. True story.)
As I watched Dr. Mejia at work, I glanced over my shoulder to see Nolvia (the Mission of Mercy director) stroking my mom’s hair and praying over her in Spanish as she lay on the gurney. Somehow, in that moment, it all started to make sense.
We had gone there to minister to them, and now they were ministering to us.
I grabbed Nolvia’s hand and in my broken Spanish was able to squeeze out:
“Somos el mismo.”
We are the same.
Super power. Developing world. Wealthy. Impoverished. North American. Latin American.
We are the same.
Desperately in need of one another. Desperately in need of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to do a work in us we cannot do for ourselves. All of us. The same. El mismo.
It was a beautiful exchange. A reciprocal awakening. A gift for which I’m eternally grateful.
NOTE: My mom is safely at home, recovering well from full hip-replacement surgery. The divine connection with Dr. Mejia is still in prayerful development, as we continue dream of ways to help him with his work and connect the dots between his clinic and the Mission of Mercy centers we work alongside in La Ceiba. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” –Romans 8:28 NLT