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Medical teams, clinics open doors to share gospel in Honduran villagecomment (0)

November 20, 2008

By Brittany N. Howerton

In the remote village of Punta Piedra, Honduras, you won’t find medical centers, educational institutions or corporations. You won’t find grand homes, dental care or wealth. But you will find a well-established church, flourishing under the care and provision of Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Curry, and a people who understand God’s mercies are new every morning.

In 2000, Richard Bowie, a member of Mount Vernon Baptist, journeyed to Limon, Honduras, with a medical missions team. Overwhelmed by the needs of the people there, this Walker County pharmacist made it his mission to further medical efforts in the surrounding areas.

After traveling to Limon three times, Bowie recognized the people’s health was improving there and began to inquire about places where this was not the case. So after learning that Punta Piedra had never received medical help, he and his wife, Sharon, knew this was a place God could use them.

Located on the northeast coast of Honduras, Punta Piedra is a village of between 5,000 and 6,000 Garifina-speaking people, the descendants of escaped slaves. Most of them make a living as fishermen or farmers, earning an average annual salary of about $750.

 Although the nearest hospital is 60 miles from Punta Piedra, poor road conditions and limited vehicle access make it nearly impossible for residents to make the journey. So if it were not for the help of the Bowies and the missions teams, then “they wouldn’t have anything,” explained Sharon Bowie, who serves as team leader and organizer for the trips.

On their first journey there in 2003, the Bowies were shown a small parcel of land where it was hoped a church would one day be established. Burdened with the possibility of making this a reality, Richard Bowie headed home to propose that his Walker Baptist Association church fulfill this role. The church agreed and raised $12,000 for funding the first year, Sharon Bowie said.

In 2005, Mount Vernon South was completed on the parcel that just two years earlier sat vacant. But the completion of the church was only the beginning for the Bowies and the members of Mount Vernon Baptist, who now take annual trips to this Honduran region. For these travelers, the trips are about more than just meeting villagers’ physical needs. The people of Punta Piedra practice Voodoo and Satanism, Richard Bowie said as he described a village filled with witchcraft and fear.

“If we had said we were going to build a church, they would have said, ‘No, we’re not interested.’ But in 300 years, they’ve never had a doctor. So [medical missions] opens that door. If I had not had this medicine to give away, we wouldn’t have been able to get there,” he said, noting the hundreds of prescription pills the team distributes, including vitamins and worm medicine.

And now because of the ability to meet villagers’ physical needs, “we’ve shown them (that while) Voodoo or Satan worship is a worship of fear … Christianity is of love,” he said, explaining that love is something the Garifina people do not understand.

Cindy Woodley is one Mount Vernon Baptist member who has been to Punta Piedra twice and plans to return with the group next May. She expressed that while, as a nurse, her main work there is to serve in the clinic, that is not her ultimate purpose.

“Our main mission there is to spread the gospel,” Woodley said. “We do medical work but we do it through Jesus, and hopefully someone will see love in our hearts for God and will want what we have.”

So the team’s medical care, medicine distribution and dental work serves to link the abstract concept with real-life application.

“Then they see love in action and say, ‘Why did you do this?’ And we get to say, ‘Because of Jesus Christ.’ Then they understand, ‘Oh, that is love,’” Richard Bowie explained.

Then the team takes advantage of other opportunities to share the gospel through backyard Bible clubs, prayer, puppet ministry and pastoral training, led by John Gates, pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist.

To create infrastructure, a sewing school has been established and a soup kitchen is in the works. The church has also assumed the role of benefactor of Pastor Roberto, who leads the Punta Piedra congregation.

Because of the poverty level in the village, Roberto was having to travel out on fishing boats for nearly six weeks at a time, Sharon Bowie explained. By supporting the pastor with a monthly salary, he is able to remain in the village and spiritually care for his church.

It is about doing work where it is needed, Richard Bowie explained.

“There are 17 drugstores in Walker County. I like to think I’m important here, but if I close my door tomorrow, [my customers] will get their prescription filled somewhere,” he said. “But if I hadn’t made the effort to spend the money to be [in Honduras], people would have died. I like being able to say that I made a difference. … God led us into Honduras, and as long as I am able, I will continue to go.”

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