March 2013
February 2013
December 2012 

March 2013

In patient kitchen

In patient kitchen

Work and Witness at the Ahuas Clinic has definitely accelerated in 2013. There has been an upturn in outpatient visits and surgeries, and an upsurg in patients from all sectors of La Mosquitia not only from the Patuca region. It’s been wonderful to see dozens of people and groups contribute to a variety of Clinic projects, and a challenge for the Clinic administration to efficiently use these funds for their designated purposes. Many large trees have been felled and cut into usable lumber right here at the Clinic while also creating better sunlight for the solar panels; Dr. Ovelio and Karen’s home has been nearly completely renovated. We’re looking for the best way to refloor the Clinic Outpatient Building, renovate the guest quarters located above (and from which termite dust filters down directly into) the operating room, engineer a systems change for the overall Clinic septic and toilet system, renovate the inpatient kitchen and there is strong hope that the new well drill (in April) will finally achieve pure drinking water for the entire campus (among other projects).

Dr. Ovelio and Dr. Kenneth checking in on a post prostectomy patient.

Dr. Ovelio and Dr. Kenneth checking in on a post prostectomy patient.

These results reflect considerable efforts from several volunteer groups (Chris Moir Mayo Clinic and Barcelona surgeons, Tommy Waggoner electricians, Tim Bardell engineering, Sam Gray encouragement, Kenneth Serapio Nicaraguan surgeon, and Frank Monterroso well digging). Local coordination requires further division of time, but it’s been great to watch details work out, people working together, and people’s needs met. Dr. Kenneth, as one example, volunteered to travel from Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and retrain our medical staff to do needed prostatectomies. Now men like Edwin and Marcelino walk about free from indwelling catheters and even in the 60’s and 70’s may get back to their plantations at home.

Sometimes it’s hard to separate life at the Ahuas Clinic from one’s own experiences. March has been so different as Teresa and Benno Marx spent most of it in Washington State. What started as a break and orthopedic evaluation turned into 3 or 4 weeks of time with our kids and grandkids, then enduring the surgeon’s knife (knee meniscus and ACL repair for Benno) and brief recoup time before boarding all those flights and heading back to Ahuas. Dr. Ovelio has been holding down the fort by himself, but then will in April head to the U.S. for an administrative course, then futher deputation with the Reformed Church in America.

Team from Spain

Team from Spain

February 2013

Teresa and I are enjoying the lull between the storms. In late January we enjoyed the chaotic work schedule and surgeries that the Dr. Chris/Jim/Rosalia/Oliver team from Mayo Clinic and Barcelona Spain were able to do here at the Ahuas Clinic. Spanish was the main language at the table as six from Barcelona and two from Mayo Clinic, Dr. Ovelio and Karen, and our own household enjoyed beans and rice, Honduran “baleadas,” then some Spanish tortillas with Nutella at different times. Swapping stories, trying to understand each others’ accents, catching up on old friendships, commenting on the deluging rain, and stretching the days to include late 9 p.m. suppers after the last surgery—all aspects of hosting a foreign medical “brigade.”  Those long hours have shortened. Today Saturday we had a good relaxing afternoon with hot sunshine as we head into the dry season. Teresa’s garden has to be watered now, but I was able to enjoy some good dusty volleyball with the town youth just next door at pilot Wayne’s house.

Tomorrow an engineering couple Tim and Ann, son Josh, arrive from WA state, then on Monday the six man Tommy Waggoner, et.al. electrical team from NC, and late that afternoon Dr. Kenneth, general surgeon, flies in from Nicaragua. So we will be delighted to be pulled in many directions, making sure the concrete and rebar are ready, the English translator is sober, the steril water ready for the multiple prostate surgeries, and guiding the electricians from wire to wire.

Morning staff devotions

Morning staff devotions

Dr. Ovelio and I will still meet with the nurses at 7 a.m. for devotions, then inpatient rounds, do the dressing changes, then to the Outpatient clinic or operating room as the day unfolds. Teresa will help with translation, guide with meal preparations for the visitors, and spice up that menu with river turtle or iguana, while meeting folk at the door always with a glass of cold water, perhaps a bread roll or banana, and always being challenged by how to deal with the neighbor kids who may be hungry, but also know how to work the system. How to “believe all things”yet not foster dependancy in the midst of need.

And it’s (relatively) easy to just “do the medicine” and “put food on the table,” and ignore often covert spiritual needs. Our purpose here, during these months/years of transition, is to encourage folks in their relationship with God, maybe to consider beginning one. Here we deal with cultural expectations as we and our message may be put in a box. So we struggle to know how to encourage our Miskito patients and friends to be God seekers. Two small books, Tozer’s The Pursuit of Godand Frank Laubach’s Letters by a Modern Mystic tackle these themes, but we know that there is no formula to follow. Seeking God takes time when it’s more straightforward rushing to answer emails.

So it’s great to be involved in this“grand work,” yet not to understand parts of it. We give each day to God, want to be part of solutions and not delemnas, and attempt to reflect some of God’s call for integrity, transparency, honesty and yet agree that we are as human as everyone else and bound to stumble.

Thank you for your support in many ways

Benno and Teresa

December 2012

Christmas carols with the family.

Christmas carols with the family.

Good morning on a early cool winter day! As I type I hear the quite munching of a contented horse outside the open study window… and now there is the far off church bell at 5 a.m. announcing an early prayer service today. A rooster answering across the still morning….. It’s the last Friday before Christmas and we look forward to a busy Clinic. Grace has been here for 3 weeks, lending a hand as an internist, and her husband Obadiah, and Luke, rolled in yesterday. Wayne flew them in on the MAF Cessna 206 from Roatan.

Teresa and I feel more comfortable here after three months, of course still with daily challenges of many kinds. We commit each day to the Lord in a pointed fashion; so much that goes on is outside our control. Support from many friends and church groups has been humbling. In the things we received with Luke and Obadiah is a quartz clock that a hispanic Grandview patient of mine sent down, after hearing of a need for clocks in the clinic. Teresa’s mother is making cheerful curtains for the clinic.We treasure that kind of support. Many folks remind us of their daily prayer. And so we carry on, trying not only to “carry on” but to encourage, to improve the care/campus, and indeed to enjoy the life that we and so many Miskito enjoy in this area of La Mosquitia.

Today we plan an early D & C on a lady with early miscarriage, then a drainage of a deep leg abscess in a 6 yr old boy from Brus. Two other very sick pediatric patients came in by 4 hr boat trip from Brus yesterday afternoon, 9 and 12 years old, with severe spectrum of symptoms, but now looking more and more just due to P. vivax malaria. Dr. Ovelio leaves today for Tegucigalpa, keeping a visa appointment at the U.S. embassy for a spring U.S. trip; on the return MAF flight from Ceiba we expect Dr. Melissa back for a week or so before she leaves for good for a 2 year OB/GYN social service stint in Puerto Lempira.

Christmas in Ahuas

Christmas in Ahuas

Christmas celebration preparations are less intense in Ahuas than 20 yrs ago. A cantata is planned in Ahuas; several churches plan feasts with killing of one or more cows at each location. We’ve heard some tambaku folk dancing at night, but limited. We plan to share with the reform and traditional Moravian Churches here in Ahuas on Christmas, but walk to Paptalaya for the Christmas Eve candle light service (donated some money to help with the candle purchase yesterday). Since this weekend is the only one with our kids here, we’re organizing a motorcycle/bike trip to distant Liwa Tnata (translated End of the Worm) to do some monkey hunting very early tomorrow morning. Many folks, often kids, bring up items to sell before Christmas, some edible roots (kalim), a large river turtle or two, bananas of various sizes, limes, oranges, some hulled rice.

Lots to talk about. In January a series of surgical or construction   teams begins. We’ve had significant contributions to upgrade the inpatient kitchen, do a make-over of Dr. Ovelio’s leaky house, buy a used pickup, and the Moravian Board is sending down a large drill unit for wells. Projects of potable water in Ahuas and biodiesel from local palm trees take time, but are promising. Big clinic maintenance challenges are a daily fact. Grace took on our pharmacy cleaning and organization/inventory–a huge task. The tractor is back working after a valve job and welding of a hydraulic line (thanks to pilot George) but the backup Perkins 50 kw generator still not starting after new battery. Solar cell/battery backup system doing an amazing job.

So we near the end of 2012. We thank God for his work here at the Ahuas Clinic. It’s humbling to be a part of that. Thank all of you for your support in many ways, for your prayer specifically. May your Christmas be joyful too as we celebrate God’s ongoing presence in this troubled world.

Christmas greetings to you all,

Benno and Teresa.