Thursday, November 23, 2017

Healing Hearts in Remote Areas

By Tina Presnell, who works for Children’s Heart Project as an administrative assistant

My position with Children’s Heart Project gives me the opportunity to transport groups on occasion. Most recently, I had the privilege of escorting Yeny Cortez Ramos back home to Honduras.

Children's Heart Project Yeny

Yeny and her mother were excited to travel back to Honduras after spending nearly three months away.

Yeny is a 12-year-old girl (in an 8-year-old’s body) from a remote village in Honduras near the border with El Salvador. She was 10 when she was diagnosed with a heart defect. Because of her age, she was at risk for sudden death and few hospitals are willing to take such a difficult case. Thankfully, Yeny was accepted by a hospital in New York after entering our project and had successful open-heart surgery. Yeny, her mom, Maria, and their interpreter, Jenny, were full of excitement when I arrived in New York the evening before our departure.

When we arrived in Honduras, our staff there had prepared a treat for me. They wanted me to have a good experience, so they planned for us to take Yeny all the way to her home. Jenny said, “You are getting ready to have an adventure! I am so jealous!” Little did she know just how much of an adventure it would be!

Shortly after turning off the main street onto a dirt road, I asked how far away Yeny lived. “Cien kilometers,” the driver said. Thinking I had misunderstood him, I said, “Ten kilometers?” He replied, “No, 100 kilometers!”

I didn’t know the exact conversion from kilometers to miles, but I knew it was more than 50. (One hundred kilometers is actually 62 miles.) Due to extensive rains, the road was rutted and rocky. I had a passing thought of what it might be like to have an emergency and not be able to get the medical care I needed in a timely manner. I wondered how Maria felt knowing her daughter had a heart defect and how relieved she must be now that her heart was repaired.

Children's Heart Project Yeny

On the way to Jenny’s house, the group stopped for a shoebox distribution in a remote area.

Some distance away from the family’s house, the staff had prepared a small distribution of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes at Yeny’s church. We had only brought enough boxes that fit on the roof rack. (To be honest, I just knew the boxes were going to take flight as much as we bounced in and out of those ruts!) Not all of the children received a shoebox, but every family represented received at least one gift. There was no complaining–only gratefulness for the gifts they received from complete strangers. There was no display of attitudes of entitlement, and that touched my heart.

We hurriedly left as we still needed to accomplish our primary objective of getting Yeny home. She had not seen her family in almost three months. We had seemingly climbed to the top of the world, and then we began our descent. Maria told us that this is where Yeny would catch a ride to school. She explained that Yeny spent two hours getting to school, six hours at school, and two hours making the trek back home.

That morning, God had awakened me with Chris Tomlin’s “Whom Shall I Fear (The God of Angel Armies).” I had mentioned this to our staff, jokingly saying, “I hope we won’t need any angel armies today!” As we ventured up and down mountain after mountain, we came upon a wet red clay mire that stretched downward. Our driver courageously pushed on. The rear of the vehicle began to fishtail, first to the right, then to the left, until we were perpendicular to the road. At one point it seemed that the vehicle might tip over in the rut. Naturally, my first response to our predicament was, “God, surround us with your angel armies!”

Children's Heart Project Yeny

After nearly three months, Yeny returned home to her father. He was happy to see that she was healthy and happy.

Miraculously, we made it out only to reach a second stretch of the same mud. This time, three of us plus Maria got out of the SUV. The driver and Yeny went fishtailing down the next stretch and rode off around the bend. Minutes later, we heard a spinning sound. Believing he was stuck, we began to pray together. Soon, all was silent.  We found out that Yeny’s family had set out on foot to look for us as we were much later than expected. Although things did not go as planned, Yeny and Maria were safely home.

Please pray for Yeny’s continued healing and for wisdom in her school situation.  Children in her community generally only attend school through sixth grade. Yeny’s parents are leaving the decision of further education to her. She is such a bright young lady. Pray that God guides her down the path He has planned for her life. I know that He will use her in a mighty way in the building of His kingdom.