By Celine Klosterman
Two Catholics recently spent a week offering Hondurans basic health care, but said addressing the Central Americans’ spiritual needs was most rewarding.
Glenn Volkman of St. Mary Parish in Grinnell and Connor Murphy of St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt said their faith has grown since evangelizing to Hondurans, whose country the U.S. Department of State identifies as one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. The parishioners were among 21 U.S. residents who spent June 11-17 providing medical, dental and spiritual care to 1,800 people through World Gospel Outreach, an organization that serves and ministers to the poor in Honduras.
During the trip, doctors, optometrists, dentists and pharmacists set up stations in churches in Tegucigalpa, the country’s capital. There, volunteers provided Hondurans with eyeglasses, first-aid care, medicines, vitamins and pain relievers as needed.
Volunteers also helped clean and prepare dental instruments for dentists who filled cavities, extracted teeth and performed other procedures. In addition, Murphy and Volkman each helped pour a concrete floor in a tiny Honduras home whose previous floor, made of dirt, turned to mud during rain.
But for the Catholics, sharing the Good News was the trip’s highlight. During an evangelization session for children, the parishioners washed boys’ and girls’ lice-infested hair and gave a presentation about Jesus. The parishioners also spent a day meeting with adults who’d received health care, asked the Hondurans if their needs had been met, and then inquired about their spiritual life.
“That was definitely the most rewarding day of the week,” Murphy said. Though initially nervous about evangelizing, he was glad to share Bible verses, pray with and help offer spiritual support to people in great need. Numerous single mothers shared stories of struggling to provide for their children, and many Hondurans requested prayers for a family member who is battling alcoholism.
Volkman said seven people he spoke to accepted invitations to become Christians. He said some clients could simply have been trying to be agreeable, but “if those people really came to Christ, that’s probably the most important thing I’ve ever done.”
To help clients continue their spiritual journey, volunteers connected them with a local church.
Volkman said evangelizing helped him understand why God called him to join the mission trip. When he first heard of the opportunity from a member of Harvest Evangelical Free Church in Story City, which organized the trip, he didn’t plan to go.
But while praying after receiving Communion during a Mass, he felt the Holy Spirit calling him to volunteer. “I suspected I was going to help other people, but now I’m not so sure that’s true. I feel I was called to go so I’d become closer to Christ.”
A business consultant at Des Moines Area Community College, he solicited donations of children’s vitamins from members of St. Mary’s. Parishioners provided 35 pounds of supplements for Hondurans whose diet consists of little more than rice, beans and tortillas, Volkman said.
Murphy, a senior at Central Community High School in DeWitt, collected about 65 pounds of vitamins and pain relievers and $1,000 in donations from St. Joseph parishioners.
Volunteers emulated Jesus, around whom crowds gathered for physical and spiritual healing, said Greg Yeakel, a pharmacist and member of Harvest Evangelical Free Church who has traveled to Honduras seven times. He noted mission trip participants couldn’t offer permanent medical solutions, but voiced hope that volunteers’ spiritual guidance would have longer-lasting impact.
“World Gospel Outreach is an awesome organization,” Murphy said. “It emphasizes the fact that even if you are physically well, you are still nothing without a relationship with Christ.”