By Allison Lindsey, Advocate Contributor
When Katie Cawthon attended her first United Methodist Volunteer in Mission (UMVIM) Team Leader Training seven years ago, she had no idea the doors that God would open to serve alongside the people in Subirana, Honduras. But through the United Methodist Church connection, Cawthon, Missions Coordinator at Perry United Methodist Church, has seen a beautiful partnership launch, relationships built, and a deep love planted and nurtured for the people of Subirana and their culture.
The UMVIM team leader training Cawthon attended was led by Dr. Gene Barber, former UMVIM coordinator for The South Georgia Annual Conference. Barber had a long standing relationship traveling often to Honduras and enjoyed sharing his experiences as teaching tools during his training. Following this workshop, an invitation was extended for participants to join him on his next trip. Four members from Perry UMC took him up on his offer. This became the springboard for a new relationship and partnership to grow and flourish between Perry UMC and the church in Honduras.
This March, Cawthon and a team of 16 other volunteers embarked on their sixth mission trip to Subirana to serve.
“One thing that stood out to me about our time in Honduras is how much the whole trip was soaked in prayer,” said Cawthon. “I prayed for this trip for months leading up to it, our church prayed through a daily prayer guide while we were gone, and our team prayed with each other and for each other. And, man, did we see God move! It is amazing to see God answer our prayers and in ways we never could have dreamed of - open doors, confirmations, blessings on blessings.”
One of the team’s Honduran interpreters happened to have a friend who was a doctor at the hospital where the baby was being sent. With one quick phone call, the doctor was waiting on the baby upon their arrival. As the hospital administered fluids, they soon discovered internal bleeding and decided to transfer the baby to a bigger hospital in San Pedro Sula. The cause of this infant’s bleeding was a cultural practice of running a baby’s limbs to stimulate blood flow, and then giving the baby a laxative. The hospital the baby was sent to in San Pedro Sula engages in research on this same cultural practice, so they can educate and raise awareness on the harm this cultural practice can cause.
Cawthon and the team were in awe of God at work through this encounter.
“First of all, if we had not been there, the family would not have sought medical treatment and the baby would have died,” said Cawthon. “If our nurses had managed to get an IV in the baby, the family would not have taken him to the hospital. And then to get sent to a hospital where they are doing a research project on the exact thing that harmed this baby, so he can be a part of their research, it just blows my mind how perfectly God orchestrates things like this.”
God’s timing always has a purpose
Several times throughout the week, the team recognized and acknowledged just how perfect God’s timing is - even when it didn’t line up with their plans. God always has a purpose.
Another life saving event that was evidence of this purpose unfolded as the week came to an end, and the team was gearing up for departure. They received notice before leaving the hotel of their flight cancellation. After hours of frustration in an attempt to reschedule, tickets were finally secured for the next day, but the team would be flying separately on four different flights for part of the journey home. On the first leg of the trip to Miami, a male passenger suffered a medical emergency, showing symptoms of a heart attack. The flight crew called for medical assistance, and the Honduras team’s nurses were the only people on board able to assist. They stayed with him and cared for him until the plane landed in Miami, and he was released to paramedics.
“I’m just so proud of our team, and I have so much love for the people of Subirana,” said “I’m also really proud of our partnership with the Methodist church in Subirana. Every time we go I ask God if our season in Subirana is over, and every time He just blows the door wide open and confirms that we are supposed to be there, that there is still work to be done.”
Throughout the years, singing “God of This City” over Subirana has become an honored tradition before the team leaves. This continues to be the team’s hope and prayer for the church and the people there: “greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city!”
Allison Lindsey is a member of St. Mark UMC in Douglas, Ga. and chairs the Conference Nurture Team.