John and I recently returned from our fourth (his fifth) mission trip with the LEAP Foundation. This year was particularly special with my oldest sister, Shannon, able to join us. (Be sure to check out the slideshow). To say that I left feeling inspired, humbled and with a deeper hunger for serving would be an understatement. I always do….but this time was different. The majority of our team arrived in Orangewalk, Belize on a Friday afternoon after a long bumpy bus ride, sweat pouring down our faces from the Central American heat and excitement for what the next three days would hold. We pulled into the hospital to hundreds of eager eyes – either potential patients or family members – hoping to get on the rigorous schedule for the next two days of surgeries and procedures. My job was to take pre-op photos of each patient as well as document the work we were doing. I, by no means, find this to be a trivial job, as non-profits rely on donor contributions to keep them alive and successful. Imagery is a huge part of marketing and showcasing the work they do. With a background in journalism, I find joy and purpose in this job by telling a story and shining a light on those called to serve and making a difference in so many lives. But I never really thought about how I may be making a difference to even one life, specifically, on these trips. Until now.
After a late night and very early Sat. morning, we were in the midst of surgeries, procedures, recovering patients, admitting patients and entertaining nervous families waiting for their loved ones to come out of surgery, when I was approached by a man I had photographed the night before. With very broken English, he put a plastic bag in my hands and said “These are for you. I picked them from my tree.” I was confused. Looking around I saw a fellow team member who quickly said, “He’s been looking for you. He asked specifically for the photographer that took his pictures last night.” I thought for sure he had me confused with a nurse or someone else. After all, I had only taken Roman’s photograph. With tears in my eyes, I opened the bag to find a handful of beautiful cashew fruits. My heart melted and I was overcome with gratitude and love for this man, this stranger I’d only spent a few minutes with the prior evening. It was then that I truly felt Jesus’ love and an overwhelming sense of purpose and direction. Sadly, I can’t even think of my conversation with Roman that evening before, and clearly it wasn’t a long one due to the language barrier but somehow, I touched him. And isn’t that what serving really is all about? We are called to love and serve others as Jesus did. It doesn’t have to be on a mission trip in another part of the world. It doesn’t have to take a lot of your time. And it doesn’t require any special skills or a medical degree.
Many lives were touched, changed, and even saved that weekend in Orangewalk through the miracles the LEAP team performed. I can humbly, happily, say that my own was…and all by a bag of cashews.
Thank you Roman. I pray you and all of LEAP’s precious patients are healing and doing well. God bless you!
Please view my slideshow of the Belize mission HERE