Jose and Me
By Dan Zinn
Friends have told me they do not believe in love at first
sight. In the past I argued only theoretically having never before
experienced love at first sight myself. Jose Reyes changed that
for me when he stole my heart the moment I saw him, albeit this
is not a standard love at first sight story.
The mission team I went to Honduras with consisted of a medical
group and a construction team. During our first full day in Honduras,
the medical group split into two teams, one stayed in La Ceiba
at the compound and my group drove into the mountains for a remote
clinic. Sitting in the bed of our truck, I held on as Dr. Camp
bounced and bobbled along the unpaved mountain roads. We ended
up in a village known as La Donta III, which translates in English
as Female Mountain Donkey III. Apparently, female versions of
this animal are rare, so three different villages are named for
the animal when they found her in the area. Pulling into La Donta,
we interrupted the local boys’ soccer game, but they regrouped
shortly after gawking at us.
After snapping a few photos of the church under construction,
we settled into our medical proceedings. Most of our people set
up a station to hand out vitamins and de-worming tonic. I went
along with Dr. Camp to help him treat the most sick people in
the village. Imagine cross-pollinating Grizzly Adams and Santa
Clause and you end up pretty close to Dr. Camp. He wears his curly
salt’n’pepper hair short on top and drawn in a longer
ponytail in back. On most people, this would describe a raging
mullet, but Dr. Camp’s hair looks more like a coonskin cap
that you might find in high fashion with the Lewis and Clark team.
He avoids the mullet look by balancing his long hair in back with
a long beard in front. While he changed his clothing everyday,
colorful suspenders and high-class leather bowling shoes are a
Jose and his mother were two of the villagers we saw that day.
Jose was 22 days old when I first met him. He weighed about six
pounds and was about the size of an NFL regulation football. The
hair on top of Jose’s head was not growing in dew to, what
I learned was called, a Cradle Cap. Apparently, bacteria were
preventing his hair from growing in properly. Jose’s cheeks
were wrinkled like a raisin and he was lethargic. Dr. Camp gave
Jose to me to cradle in my arms while he examined his mother.
Jose’s mom was bad shape too. Both were severely malnourished
and anemic. Dominga (Check moms name), Jose’s mom, had given
birth to eight babies. Five of them had died because she could
not nurse them. She gave Jose’s two living siblings away
to keep them alive. Now she was afraid she would have to give
Jose away too. Her diet consisted of flower mixed with water and
a bit of sugar. She could not consistently make milk to nurse
Jose, though she continued to breast feed him as often as possible.
In order to build up Jose, we needed to also fortify his mother.
When we left the village we left behind a can of peanut butter
and a package of tortillas we had bought at a gas station on the
way. We also gave the mother some multivitamins. The preacher’s
wife came with us to bring back the villages prescription drugs
the next day from the compound in La Ceiba. We sent back fixings
for PB&J sandwiches, vitamins for both Jose and his mother,
formula with iron and a bottle, and whatever medications they
needed and made plans to bring them to Le Ceiba for lab tests.
The rest of our trip was based from the clinic in Limon. We returned
about a week later to La Ceiba where we flew out the next day.
Dr. Camp and myself peeled off from the group when they went into
town for a bit of souvenir shopping. Jose, his mother, and their
lab results were waiting for us back at the compound. There were
still problems with them, but the difference the week had made
was profound. When I help Jose this time his cheeks were filled
out and more rotund, he was more animated, his hair was growing
back and his eyes were engaging his surroundings more. His mother
was also healthier looking. While she was still anemic, her breasts
were fuller and she was able to nurse Jose more regularly. Dr.
Camp made me a deal. His end of the deal was that he made arrangements
for medication, vitamins and formula to be delivered to Jose and
his mother every three weeks. All I had to do was put together
a Christmas package for them. Pretty good deal (though I am sure
Dr. Camp would have held up his end of the bargain regardless
Jose’s story acts as bookends to my experience in Honduras.
Had our team not been present, I believe Jose would have died,
or at least not survived with his mother. It is not that I did
something, or that Dr. Camp did something, but it was the entire
group of people putting together this mission. Knowing that I
played a small part of that process makes me feel pretty good
and brings to life my faith that is so important to me. Jose was
not the only experience I felt that with either. I witnessed actions
that somehow saved peoples lives everyday I was in Honduras. This
trip helps me to believe that we are all truly parts of God’s