Sharing the Love of Christ

My wife Kathy and I recently returned to Honduras from March 11-24 with a Christian Veterinary Mission team.  I have previously led several teams to Danli in southeastern Honduras and Kathy has often accompanied me.  This time we were leading a team of 6 veterinarians, 1 veterinary technician, 5 family members, 3 Honduran veterinary students, 3 Honduran drivers, and 3 Honduran high school translators.  We traveled under the auspices of Christian Veterinary Mission, an interdenominational professional Christian group, and SAMS (Society of Anglican Missionaries and Senders) and were working within the Episcopal Diocese of Honduras to provide veterinary services to animals in the Danli area.  Our local contact was SAMS missionary Jeannie Loving.

Our team carried in medicines, equipment and supplies.  Each team member paid their own travel expenses and we had additional financial support from St. John’s, Franklin, as well as from several individual donations.

The team began each day with morning devotions.  Then, after breakfast, we would load our gear and travel to one of the many rural communities in the Danli area.  Each village that we visited was within the parish boundaries of one of the churches in the Danli Deanery.

Upon entering a village our team would divide into a livestock team and a pet animal team.  We then provided vaccinations, parasite treatments, medications, and surgeries as needed to horses, cattle, pigs, chickens, dogs, cats and rabbits.  The services and medications were provided gratis but the local churches collected a donation of about $0.80 to $1.50 for surgical services. We had some very happy church members as the donations for each church were generally greater than a Sunday offering.  In the end we had treated over 1600 animals.

Our accompanying family members supported us by preparing the daily lunches for our team and an
always unknown number of hungry local helpers.  One spouse organized our daily devotions. Another was a fluent translator. They also helped with crowd control when necessary and were able to help spread the message that we came as Christians and were representing HIM by sharing HIS love.

We had purposely scheduled our trip to straddle a weekend so that we could attend church services together in a village where we had worked.  This year we attended the new rural church of Santa Maria Magdalena. We were fortunate that we were there on a communion Sunday as a priest is only available on alternate weekends.  We recognized several faces in the church of people who had been to our veterinary clinics earlier in the week, including one canine patient who walked in during the service and napped under the altar.  

For myself, the entire short-term mission experience is a spiritual renewal.  Yes, the work is satisfying. There is satisfaction in sharing your own resources, your wealth, your strengths, your faith, and all of your abilities with others.  We were called to go and share the Love of Christ. Answering that call was a blessing.

Dan Paulo is a member of St. John’s, Franklin. 

Honduras Veterinary Mission Team

Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 1 Peter 4:10

Sharing of self, using our gifts to help others, reaching out to neighbors and developing relationships, sharing our faith by words and actions with the support of prayerful “senders”………that is what mission means to me.

I was blessed again with the opportunity this past January to be part of an enthusiastic short-term mission team to Danli, Honduras.  While we were billed as a “veterinary team”, less than half of us were veterinarians.  The rest were there to offer their assistance however possible.  Randy Doutt and myself from St. John’s, Franklin joined a team composed of  7 veterinarians, 1 vet technician, and 8 helpers (willing laymen, spouses and 1 teenager).  We had all volunteered to work with SAMS (http://samsusa.org/) missionary Jeannie Loving to supplement some of the spotty veterinary services in the church communities where she serves.  Veterinarians were recruited by Christian Veterinary Mission (https://cvmusa.org/), an inter-denominational mission group.   We were joined by several individuals willing to help in any way that they could, and their efforts were invaluable to the success of the mission.  The “helpers” led devotions, prepared team lunches, lassoed cattle, carried supplies, sorted and loaded equipment and medications, performed crowd control, and helped with the construction of a newly planted church.  With the addition of 3 local drivers and 2 student interpreters from St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Tegucigalpa we were a large enough group to split into two work teams.

We began each day with a morning devotion, followed by breakfast and then traveled to one of the more rural communities near Danli.  One of our teams would care primarily for livestock while the other was mainly engaged with pet animals.  (note: “pet” has a totally different connotation in a poor, rural, third-world area than the image of a pampered, American house pet).  Animals were driven, dragged, and carried to our work areas throughout the day.  During our stay we were able to provide medical or surgical services to over 1800 animals.  Some of the men also spent a few days working alongside local villagers to construct a newly planted church in a previously unserved community.

Perhaps more enduring than the animal care are the relationships that our team has built. We work primarily in villages where the Diocese of Honduras has a church presence so we are supporting the work of the local missionary and clergy.  Many areas are used to seeing mission groups swoop in once and never return, but the people that we have worked with have learned to know us and we them because we have returned to the same location annually over several years.  Because we have been consistent over time we have developed friendships and trust.

One of the highlights of our 10-day mission is always having the opportunity to participate in Sunday church services alongside the local people that we have been serving.  This past year we received communion together with the new congregation of Iglesia de Santa Maria Magdalena.  We worshiped in the same open-air community center where we had spayed dogs just a few days before.  Following the church service, the community proudly led us to the foundation of their new church, which some of our team had helped to construct and which they hope to complete before we return next January.

Surely one of the blessings of this outreach endeavor was in the participants working hard each day to totally use all of their gifts and knowledge and strength for the benefit of their Honduran neighbors.  This is one case where the cliché was absolutely true:  We did receive much more than we gave.

Dan Paulo and his wife Kathy are members of St. John’s, Franklin. Dan is a retired veterinarian who has long been interested in mission, and has made multiple mission trips to Honduras, as well as Haiti, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Mongolia, and Nigeria.