Serve by Understanding
The key to living among those to whom you minister
By Bill Ryan, Missionary, Honduras
The rain was coming down in sheets. By the time we reached the small hill overlooking the huge mile-wide swamp below, we had been peddling our bikes in the pouring rain for over three hours. We were soaked to the bone. On the other side of the swamp was a small village of 10 to 12 wooden shacks called Tapanlai. It was there, hopefully, a truck would be waiting for me and the group I was traveling with to take us home to Puerto Lempira.
We were about halfway through the swamp when we caught up with a young mother carrying her small baby. Her name was Veronica and she was from Kayo Sirpi, the village where I taught English. Her 3-month-old baby had a high fever, and she was on her way to Puerto Lempira to get medicine. She had been walking for over five hours by the time we met up with her. She had no money for the truck ride. She was counting on the mercy of the driver to take her and her baby to town for free. The layers of rags that covered the baby were completely soaked. We dug through our packs. I had a dirty, but dry, t-shirt; someone else had a small towel; and my friend Jorge had a plastic bag, which we used as a raincoat for the baby.
We were late now, and the truck would not wait much longer, if it was there at all. If we missed the truck, we were faced with another five hours on our bikes, and Veronica and her baby would be in serious trouble. We waded through the swiftly moving river that meandered through the swamp, carrying our bicycles as the water deepened. Veronica held her baby high, as the water was chest deep on her. We pushed our bikes along a slippery muddy path, through the last small creek. Finally we could see the end of the swamp. The truck was there! I thanked the Lord.
We all shivered from the cold, as the half-drunk driver sped down the road. Seven adults and four kids were packed into the back of the small Toyota pickup. At times, the truck fish-tailed on the loose gravel road. We held onto each other and to a big piece of dirty red plastic that kept us somewhat sheltered from the pouring rain.
One and a half hours later, we arrived at Puerto Lempira. Before Veronica left for the hospital, I gave her money to purchase her baby’s medicine and directed her to a skilled nurse I know personally. Fortunately, the baby is fully recovered.
Recently, I ran into Veronica during another visit to Kayo Sirpi. It was an especially humid day in the classroom and I had no water. Veronica noticed how uncomfortable I was feeling and came running over with two cups of water!
These trips to Kayo Sirpi were always an adventure, always different, and always a learning experience. With every trip, my understanding of the lives of the Miskito Indians has grown deeper and clearer.
Mother Teresa, a nun who lived her life within the slums of Calcutta, India, was asked why she lived with such poor people. She responded by saying, “You have to live with the poor to understand them; you have to understand them before you can love them; you have to love them before you can serve them.” Mother Teresa dedicated her life to the biblical principle found in John 1:15: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
Jesus left heaven to live among this poor, lost, and broken world. We have tried to incorporate these principles into what we do in La Moskitia: live with the people and serve them by understanding them. It may be Beth teaching English to a people group in Puerto Lempira who, although very wealthy, are spiritually needy. It may be Beth and me teaching biblical truths to neighborhood children each week in our home. Or it may be me, living two weeks a month in the remote village of Kayo Sirpi, listening to the needs of the people, encouraging them to develop projects among themselves, and sharing Christ with each one who comes my way.
PRAY: In La Moskitia, we, our ministry partners, and co-workers struggle with sickness, discouragement, safety concerns, and isolation. Proper medical care and medicine are lacking; and basic needs for formal education such as uniforms, notebooks, pencils, and books are hard to come by. Please pray that we will effectively share the gospel to hearts that have been prepared by acts of understanding, love, and service.
ACT: Are you aware of people who have needs in your community? How can you live out the John 1:15 principle of “living and dwelling among us”? Whether it is through your church, school, or community organization, take a practical step toward loving and serving people who need Jesus.