Bernstein, a former Army officer and Spanish teacher, and Slay, a pharmacist, have been co-captains since 2005. This was Bernstein’s 11th trip and Slay’s 15th.
This year’s trip was to Vivistorio in the state of Copán, mainly a rural area. They were there from June 30 until July 6.
As a former member of Parker Memorial Baptist Church in Anniston, Slay helped with the trips there from 1994-97. He was instrumental in initiating the trips at First Baptist. This year, Slay dispensed medication to about 1800 persons. Many of those had a foot fungus. He gave medications to pregnant women to help see them through their pregnancies and to many residents to help cure or prevent lice and worms as well as others with medical problems.
“They have a variety of aches and pains, just like we do,” said Slay. “Everything from headaches to stomach aches. A lot of it is pretty common, but a lot of times, you run into a special needs case.”
He recalled cases in the past where a teenage girl who couldn’t hear was given a hearing aid and children with club feet who were treated. There have also been other cases like a 2 year old child who was found to have a hole in her heart and severely dehydrated. One of the nurses was able to rehydrate her over two days, and a collection was taken up to send her and her father to Tegucigalpa, the capital, to be seen by specialists, and then on to the United States to be operated by cardiac doctors.
“Before they get to see the doctor or get medication, they go to church and hear the gospel,” said Slay.
“Once they hear the gospel preached, then they get a ticket to see the doctors. The primary reason for the mission is the spiritual needs of the people, not the medical. It’s not a humanitarian trip in nature. Our motto is ‘Medicine is the Magnet That Draws People to Christ.’ ”
This year there were 261 professions of faith and two rededications.
“We use medicine as a magnet for bringing them in and being able to present the gospel,” said Bernstein. “That’s the basic premise of the trip. I’m always pleased with what we do and, what’s more, I’m quite pleased with the fact that people from around the country want to go and minister there. We had four states represented this time.”
Two stations are set up to hear the gospel -- bound and rebound. Before anyone can get medication, they are registered and then they’re given an opportunity to attend a church service. This is the bound station.
“We have preachers in the rebound,” said Bernstein. “They witness to them again before they leave the compound. If the people hadn’t already made a decision, they have a chance to do so before they leave.”
Bernstein cites a lady from Honduras, Irma, who works in the rebound stations. “She’s a fantastic witness and probably accounts for a third of the decisions made,” he said. “We always ask for her to be a member of our team.”
Many of those who went from Jacksonville were from First Baptist Church. Also represented from this area were West Side Baptist, Bonnie Brook, Eastaboga Baptist Church, Saks Baptist Church and Southside Baptist churches.
Volunteers from Georgia, Kentucky and Florida also went, which included a total of 43. There were roughly that number of Hondurans who helped, including medical personnel and 18 translators as well as drivers and assistants.
The trips are affiliated with the Honduras Baptist Dental Mission of Laurel, Miss.
Bernstein was one of three who is fluent enough in Spanish to help translate. He also worked in triage helping move everyone through to the medical and dental stations.
To help finance the trips, First Baptist has an annual yard sale. Church members add to that with financial help from West Side Baptist and Bonnie Brook Baptist. Those who go pay their own way.
Dr. James Yates is the team physician. Optometrist David Chandler sees those with vision problems. His daughters, Chelsea, Courtney and Christen, went along to help. Dr. Bruce Young provided dental care, along with his wife, Susan, and three members of their dental staff, Katie Young, Dottie Adams and Traci Baker. The pastoral team included Donnie Machen.
Pam Norris was the lead nurse. Other nurses were Jane Oswalt, Karen Murray and Beverly Krake of Birmingham, Slay’s sister. The nurses were allowed to see patients and dispense medication. There were doctors in each of the two medical rooms, so if the nurses had questions they could consult with the doctors.
Senior pastor Derek Staples’ sister, Debbie Mattingly of Kentucky was a pharmacy technician. Diane Gable was the lead triage technician, and Terry Gable was operations officer. James Gray, Steve Harrison and Betty Mahaffey made up part of the operations section.
Chun Heacox was designated to cook.
A veterinarian, Jack Noah Jones from south Alabama went with the group. He saw 556 animals, including dogs, horses, goats, sheep, one cat, six pigs and 361 cows.
The missionaries are housed in the village schools when they are out in the field, which is where the actual work takes place. Once they leave the field, they are housed at a compound belonging to the Honduras Baptist Dental Mission.
Bernstein said he believed the group achieved its purpose, “because we are required to plant the seed. Biblically, we have to present the gospel, and the Holy Spirit will take care of everything else. We do manage to see some of the results, and I’m sure there are other results that we don’t see.”
He indicated he’s awed of the team that the Holy Spirit puts together for the co-captains to lead every year. The past nine years have seen different teams go to Honduras and each one came together to form a cohesive team.
“It’s always fantastic to watch people come together as a team and accomplish what they set out to do,” he said. “We have a nice organization.”
Patients hand in their registration card to the pharmacy. Each card goes into a separate basket, filled with the prescribed medications so indicated by the medical personnel, and goes to the pharmacist who reviews them to make sure they’re the correct medication and proper dosage. Assisting Bob Slay and Beth Bell, the two pharmacists, are Bob’s wife Janice Slay and Rhonda Tinker, who have been with the team since 2006.
Erin Tinker, Deborah Machen, Courtney Chandler and Debbie Mattingly were also assigned to work in the pharmacy.
Also in the baskets are fun items for the patients. Children get toys and candy, older women get purses and other feminine items and men get hats. Nurses made t-shirts from diapers, which are given to babies.
“I’ve always said you go one time and you never go back or you go once and you fall in love with the people of Honduras and what God‘s doing there,” said Slay. “For me, the reward is much more than we’re able to give them. We’re so blessed in this country with material and spiritual blessings. There’s such a need there that God keeps calling me back. As long as God wills it, I’ll go.”
Slay explained a new ministry there that First Baptist is involved in, Jerusalem Jericho In-keeper Ministry.
“It’s kind of like the story of the Good Samaritan,” he said. “Our missionaries there are Michael and Alba Henderson. They work specifically with special needs projects and a clothing project. We provided school clothes for three different schools in the last four years and clothed around 1200 children. That’s just the kind of a sideline that we want to continue.”
When asked why he makes the annual journey, Bernstein said the answer is quite simple.
“Well, I’m just following what Christ told us to do in Matthew 28 and that’s to go and present the gospel.”
(Contact Margaret at email@example.com.