This story could begin with the phrase “following God to the New Hope Clinic.”
In the year 2004, First Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg stepped out in faith when a small group asked the church to help them open a health clinic in a remote mountain area of Honduras . This group called themselves the Foundation for International Missions (FFIM) and thus our journey began. After several years of mission trips to Honduras with the Tampa Bay Presbytery, we (FFIM) felt called to renovate an abandoned medical clinic at a place called La Joya. The First Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg session approved a six year commitment of $20,000.00 a year to support the effort and we were off and running. Donations from individual donars also helped a great deal.
First clinic opened in La Joya.
We hired a young Christian Honduran doctor, renovated the clinic, and opened in December 2004. The clinic served the people in 53 rural communities, with the closest hospital 4 to 5 hours away by bus over terrible roads. The clinic offered office visits for a nominal fee and sold prescription medicine at cost. If a patient could not pay, there was no charge. If a patient had to be sent to the capital, Tegucigalpa, for additional medical treatment and could not pay for transportation, the clinic paid for this too. Annual expenses were $60,000.00 at the time. Other Presbyterian churches in the Tampa Bay area and private donors helped to cover this. Members of First Presbyterian Church of St. Petersburg also did two major car parkings (Ribfest and Mainsail) a year and this added at least $10,000.00 a year to the funds.
In December of 2005 we realized that we had a major problem with the small group of Honduran men who shared the La Joya property with us. We were afraid for the safety of our personnel in this remote place since they had been threatened. The vision we had for the clinic was not the same as theirs for the total property. As a result, right after Christmas that year we went to the clinic and moved all of the medical equipment to storage in Tegucigalpa .
The next day one of our members felt called to return to the vicinity of the clinic. With the help of several residents in the small village of San Francisco (1/2 mile from La Joya), one of our founding board members identified property that would serve as a location for a new clinic building, a house that could be rented and renovated as a temporary clinic and a small house that could be rented as a Monday through Thursday house for our doctor.
Land identified as potential property for the new clinic. This would become the site for Clinica Nueva Esperanza!
At this point, let's be clear: We felt called by God to open a clinic, called by God to close that clinic because of safety for our personnel, called by God to return to the same area and seek out a new space for a clinic.
In March of 2006 the clinic reopened as the Clinica Nueva Esperanza (New Hope Clinic). The name was no accident. It is an expression of the new hope that God would be with us in that place. The clinic continued with charging only what patients could afford and making sure they got to the charity hospital (Hospital Escuela) in Tegucigalpa if they needed additional treatment.
What followed was the purchase of the property at the outskirts of that same village, San Francisco . In 2007 we hired a Honduran architect/builder and just over 2 years later, on January 14, 2010, we celebrated the opening of a beautiful small clinic also named the New Hope Clinic.
That’s the background. Through it all we progressed in fits and starts. We knew we were on the right track when we moved forward. When we hit a road block we knew we needed to stop and discern the will of God. It would be clear to us that the way was not clear and we needed to pray for guidance. We did this a lot!
We had been working for several months to arrange for the arrival of two 20 foot containers from World Medical Missions (Samaritan’s Purse) which had been facilitated by our good friends Robert and Lynell Bell of First Presbyterian Church. These containers had been packed tightly with medical equipment and supplies specifically requested by our Dr. Cesar Davila. We had built special container pads at the clinic since once the containers were emptied they would remain there for use as additional storage. The passage through Honduran customs was like trying to get through a maze while blindfolded. For several weeks we heard from different sources that the containers were about to be released, and then there would be a new hurdle to jump. We had to figure out how to get the containers over the dirt roads through the mountains to the clinic. A crane would need to be present to lift the containers off the transport vehicles, and this would have to also come from the city. The week before the opening we heard the containers would arrive the next Monday, but by Thursday, the day of the opening celebration, the containers had still not arrived. We continued to pray.
About ten minutes into the ceremony, what a marvelous sight to see two containers and a crane turn off the dirt road and wind their way up to the clinic on its hill and position themselves for off-loading in the rear of the property! Once more we learned that God’s timing is perfect. He knew that such a blessing should be celebrated by the 300 village folk who had gathered there that morning!
This has truly been a venture of discovery. God took a few people who wanted to open a clinic for their brothers and sisters in rural Honduras but who didn’t know how little they knew about how to do this. He led us through valleys and pushed us over mountains. He waited for us while we worked on discerning His word. He spoke to our hearts and filled our spirits. He did this when none of the Hondurans could speak English and only one of us could speak Spanish.
But Hondurans and North Americans together knew that we share the same Lord and Savior, and that made all the difference.
We have had many partners in this blessing; in First Presbyterian Church and in churches throughout the Presbytery and in California . We have received donations from our friends in other states and from friends of friends. This is a story we love to tell.
The six year commitment from First Presbyterian has been completed. We are grateful for this faithful support. Now we have more work to do. The operating expense now (2014) for the clinic run about $120,000 a year. We have recently built a bunkhouse that accommodates mission groups and medical residents who are seeking a medical mission experience in a tropical third world country. We ask you to join us as we continue this journey. I promise you’ll have the time of your life!
One of the two containers that arrived from Samaritans purse on grand opening day!
Ribbon cutting at the grand opening celebration in 2009