Guest Post by Dr. Daniel Lohnes, DVM
As a veterinary group traveling to Honduras with HOI and Christian Veterinary Mission, my Honduras mission trip teammates and I go to a different community every day. On one particular day, we went to San Buena Ventura, Gualaco. We got there around 8:00 am and set up on the community futbol field. The people of the community brought us many animals to work on, and there were many dogs to spay and neuter and many horses to castrate. So we all got to work. This was near the end of our second week, and we were getting to be a fairly well-oiled machine.
An hour or so into our day, one of the dogs that was being neutered died for no apparent reason. Although the surgery was going well, the dog had a preexisting condition, and the anesthesia was too much for it to handle. Dr. Liz Bartlett was helping the student with the procedure, noticed the problem early on, and tried several measures to help the dog, but nothing helped. It was the first animal we had lost on this trip, and it rattled our group. Ale, our group leader and interpreter, called for all the people in the community to gather, and together we had a meeting to discuss what had happened.
As I spoke, I told them of my 30-plus years of experience and of Dr. Liz’s almost 40 years of experience in veterinary medicine. I explained that we all love animals and that losing this dog was very troubling to us also. I explained that this dog probably had a preexisting problem, and that although we tried, there was nothing we could do to save its life. Still, the people of the community were visibly saddened and even angry by the death of the dog.
Then I asked them, “Ustedes saben por qué estamos aqui?” “Do you know why we are here?” No one spoke, and most just looked confused. I told them the reason we were there was that they are our brothers and sisters in Christ, and that we are there as Christ’s hands and feet in the world. I also told them that God loves them, as such we love them also. I also told them that everything is in God’s hands. You could tell from the response that the words that God had put on my tongue had meaning to them, and all at once the tension between us was gone.
It was one of our busier days, and when we left we had built a good relationship with the community. Several came up to me later and thanked us for all that we were doing to help their animals.
What started as an incident and a problem, God had turned into an opportunity to share our faith and make them realize “por qué estamos aqui”.