Twenty-eight years ago  I was in Olancho, Honduras, running a small clinic in the village of Yocon, I had been there for twelve years and was living rather comfortably, even though it was quite far off the beaten path and not the safest  place to be. Gun and machete  wounds were common  injuries that showed up at my clinic… sometimes accidental and other times the result of feuding families or gang activity. I felt fairly safe, however, because I treated anyone who came in, regardless of who they were, or on which side they took.

There were days of course when I thought about leaving… but where else could I go? My desire had always been to return to Asia, because of the atrocities I had witnessed and took part of while serving as a Corpsman with the US Marines… but after the war both Viet Nam and Cambodia were closed to westerners and therefore that was not possible.. 

I was 52 years old when I read an article in The Banner, which is a publication of the Christian Reformed Church, that they were opening an office in Cambodia. The idea of starting something new at my age seemed impossible at the time, but I did share the article and my dream with some of the young people in the village. The idea that I would consider leaving Yocon was not received very well by any of them and so I did not mention it again.

A year passed by and I continued to walk the mile or so distance to the clinic every weekday, going to the big city of Tegucigalpa one weekend out of every month to get medicines and supplies, mostly gallons of Piperazine (intestinal worm medicine)  and usually a couple of pairs of shoes for some of the village children. 

On one of those occasions I packed my small travel bag with the clothes I would need for the trip to town and started my walk to the clinic. I felt someone take ahold of my hand and turned to find that it was 14 year old Joel. “No school today,” I inquired?  

“No,” he responded quietly. We walked hand in hand to the clinic and when I unlocked the door, he looked up at me and seriously asked, “Are you going to come back?”

Of course I am,” I responded. “I will be back on Monday like always.” 

“Okay,” he said, appearing relieved, “I go to school now.”

I attended to the patients that were waiting and finished up shortly before noon. As we were cleaning up, Christina, my nurse assistant, looked over at me and asked, “Are you coming back?”

“Yes, of course I am, I just need to get more medicine. I will see you on Monday,” I added, a bit confused as to why she would ask that. I finished locking the clinic doors and walked up the steep incline to the road to wait for the bus. 

As I was waiting, an older lady came down the mountain trail and when she saw me, came over to where I was standing and put her hands on my arm and said, “We are really going to miss you here.” 

I smiled and assured her that I would be coming back… but again wondered what would cause them to think that I was leaving? I boarded the bus and we started the slow climb up the side of the mountain to the lookout where, 12 years earlier, I had first seen the quaint little village of Yocon, nestled deep within the fertile  valley that had a river running through it. As I looked down on the village once again, tears came to my eyes as I realized that I would not be returning. I flew back to the States the very next day.

Twenty-seven years have passed and there is no doubt now that the premonitions of that day were the motivating factors that forced me to leave Honduras, so that I could begin my work in Cambodia.

Joel, who is pictured on the left of me in this picture, came down from Canada yesterday, along with his brother Anival from Indianapolis, to pay me a visit before I return to Cambodia. We spent the day reminiscing and even considered making plans of returning to Yocon one day. Seems like an impossible dream… but then, who knows what Life has in store for us?


At times Life speaks to us in silence,

As we meditate beneath the trees

Or softly whispers words of comfort,

Through the rustling of the leaves.

Life also speaks through falling water,

Or songbirds in the air,

It tells us not to worry,

For God is everywhere.

And in those times when we are stubborn,

And it’s voice we do not hear,

Life speaks to us through others,

In a message loud and clear. 

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