The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia’s Captain Omar Rolon and Major Migdalia Lavenbein went to Honduras on a medical mission trip to change thousands of lives. They returned a week later with their lives changed too.
“My mind cannot erase all that I have seen and experienced in Honduras. Quite frankly I don’t want to forget, because I have grown as a person,” said Major Lavenbein. “I suppose it’s impossible to witness suffering and heartache and walk away unaffected by it.”
Major Lavenbein, co-commanding officer of The Citadel Corps Community Center in Northeast Philadelphia, and Captain Rolon, co-commanding officer of The Tabernacle Corps Community Center in the Fairhill section of the city, were called upon by The Salvation Army’s Eastern Territorial Headquarters in West Nyack, New York, to serve as interpreters on the February 2016 trip. The Honduras Medical Brigade, comprised of Salvation Army officers in the U.S. and Honduras, as well as U.S. doctors, nurses, counselors and translators, spent a week there providing much-needed health services, medical supplies and messages of hope.
Four days in Cuba have left a lasting impression on The Salvation Army USA officers and representatives, following an historic trip to the island nation. So much so, the group intends to return for a mission trip next year. The visit encompassed fellowship with the Cuban people and The Salvation Army of Cuba, spreading the word of the Gospel, presenting the gift of music and conducting much-needed service projects at The Salvation Army Corps Community Centers there. The trip, during the weekend of February 20, is the first time The Salvation Army USA officers from the contiguous US have traveled to the once-closed off communist country in nearly 60 years.
The Salvation Army USA group included The Salvation Army USA Eastern Territory Commissioners Barry and Sue Swanson; Lt. Col. Stephen Banfield, Divisional Commander, The Salvation Army of Eastern PA & DE; Major A. Philip Ferreira, Director of Operations, The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia; 30+ members of the renowned Salvation Army Staff Band; and Aaron Cohen, Advisory Board Chair, The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia.
~Major Migdalia Lavenbein, The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia
Our third clinic day took us to an orphanage about an hour away in a village called Orfanatorio de San Rafael. The orphanage also served as the town’s local school. It was a day filled with mixed emotions. I found myself wanting to adopt all the children who were all in desperate need of someone to love them and who needed a place to call home.
Before patients are treated, the entire team gathers in the triage area in front of all the patients for last minute instructions. We then sing the doxology and pray. Usually this is done with the chatter of the locals. They probably all think we’re crazy! Today as we started there was the usual chatter from the children as well as the locals who had come to see the doctors, but as we finished singing you could hear a pin
drop. The people who had gathered together to come to see the doctors joined together in unity to pray with us and give thanks to one God.
The Salvation Army’s Honduras Medical Brigade is Stomping out Disease and Saving Lives Here
~By Major Mig Lavenbein, The Salvation Army Greater Philadelphia
Monday’s expedition started before dawn. We traveled two hours by bus to a school called Santa Cruz de Yojoa. That is the name of the school and also the name of the town. I’m not going to lie. I had to Google that. The Internet never lies. (insert sarcasm)
We left our accommodations around 6:30 am. We stopped halfway to our destination in order to use the last proper bathroom. The journey to our second clinic was up the mountain. And up the mountain. And up the mountain. Did I mention it was up the mountain? We drove up a rather high elevation and onto dirt roads to a school. When we arrived we saw school-aged children in uniforms tidying up and readying the classrooms for us. It made me miss home.
One of our first patients was an elderly man who 85-years young, maybe 4 feet tall and had NEVER seen a doctor in his whole life. His one and only complaint was that his bones hurt from manual labor. He had to work for food. Upon leaving he said “Pray for me, that I’ll live to be 100.” He was absolutely delightful. I felt sad that he was just a small thin man who was 85 and had to work for food.
I can’t help but feel humbled by the privilege I have to serve.
~Major Mig Lavenbein
Sunday, January 31, 2016 – we started our day by worshiping at the San Pedro Sul Corps (church). We were blessed abundantly as we were lead in worship by the youth of the church through singing, drama & interpretive dance. The people of the church welcomed the medical brigade “home,” and said that in the 16 years that they have been coming, it always feels like the family is complete when they arrive.
Following worship we quickly changed into casual clothes and ate lunch, and then set up our first medical clinic. No amount of words I write will be able to paint a picture worthy of our first day with patients at the clinic.
Let us never grow tired of doing for others and serving God.
~Major Migdalia Lavenbein
I’m finally here and boy what an adventure it has already been! You know it just couldn’t be simple when I’m involved. It has been quite the journey so far.
We arrived early Saturday to the airport with my 3 large suitcases, plus 1 carry on and my backpack. They tell you to arrive 3 hours prior to your flight for international flights. Imagine my shock when we arrive only to discover that the airline (no real names will be used to protect the identity of those parties involved) I’m traveling with doesn’t open for business until 4:30.
I walk up to the security check point line and it seems to wrap around about 100 times. It takes me about an hour to get through and not without complication.
I place all my items on the belt. I help the mom in front of me who forgets that she has items on the belt. My turn comes up and they trick me! They call me through – not to say you get to go on your merry way – but to say that I am about to get a pat down. I got a for real honest-to-goodness pat down. In. My. Uniform. I proceed through the remainder of the check point feeling slightly horrified, without a thank you. In fact I didn’t even know the agent’s name. When what to my wondering eyes do I see? My carry-on bag is missing!!! OMG…I think to myself, someone has taken my bag. Suddenly I hear a TSA officer say “miss, I’m going to have to search your bag.”
Everyone can help someone, we just have to make a choice and decide to do something.
I am incredibly excited about departing for Honduras tomorrow. Many people have expressed concern over my mission trip to Honduras. People have shared that it’s dangerous. I’ve been told it’s the murder capital of the world. Several have encouraged me to “think” about not going since I have children. Yet here I am the night before excited to go.
I believe that happiness stems from serving those in need and we never have to look far to lift those who have fallen on hard times. We have to get past the stereotype of thinking that those in need are people on welfare who are strung out on drugs and can’t manage their lives. Sure there are some that fall in this category too but the reality is that those in need are our very neighbors who are the working class. Perhaps they have lost their job. Maybe they are going through chemotherapy. They may have experienced the death of a spouse or a child. Whatever their circumstances they now find that they have to make some tough choices. Do they pay the mortgage and keep a roof over their heads but have no food and no heat? Do they pay their car insurance and have no way to get to their job? No way to get to chemotherapy? There are no easy answers.