Aug. 15, 2005: What Am I Doing In Honduras? Blame It On Dr. Gil

As you read these words, I am in Honduras, a place I couldn’t have found on the map a month ago and would never in my wildest dreams thought of visiting. I am not sure what I will be doing here, but I am told I can expect anything from construction work to entertaining a group of children. What in the name of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John possessed me to dismount my bully pulpit, stow away my slings and arrows and go on a mission trip to one of the poorest areas in the Western Hemisphere? Blame it on Dr. Gil Watson, the World’s Greatest Preacher.

In case you haven’t heard, Dr. Gil can preach the fuzz off a fly. That’s good. But his sermons always seem to be directed at me. That’s bad. The law of averages would say that there is more than enough sin and sinners in this world to give him ample sermon fodder, thereby ignoring me and my sanctimonious self on Sunday mornings. Instead, I find myself slinking down in the pew while he points out all my many faults. He says he isn’t talking about me, but I know better. Otherwise, why do I always have such a guilty conscience?

Here is an example of what I am talking about: Recently, Dr. Gil announced to the assembled that life is short, (Amen!) God is good (Amen again!) and that we need to make every moment on this earth count by doing good works. (Oops, I didn’t need to hear that part.) One of those opportunities to do good work was to spend a week in Honduras, helping a group of people who need everything we could bring them. Drat. I was hoping I could just write a check and call it a day, but would you know it, my guilty conscience tapped me on the shoulder and said “Shame on you. You know that is not enough. If you want to be a good Christian and get Dr. Gil, the World’s Greatest Preacher off your back, then give a week of your life to people who need you and would welcome your presence.” Thanks a lot, guilty conscience. I should have sent you to Vermont when I had the chance.

Now, I find myself without air-conditioning, the Internet (gasp!), cell phone (gasp! gasp!), television, newspapers, fax machines, CD players, golf clubs, fancy cars and a king-sized bed.

What I do find are people who never get to see a dentist and will now, thanks to Dr. Paul Smith, who is donating time more valuable than mine to the cause. I am told that the lines will be long and the patients grateful. Dr. Mark Dunbar, an Atlanta ophthalmologist is also giving his time to tend to the myriad health needs of the local populace. Remember these two men the next time you complain about the greedy medical profession. There are students, executives, nurses and homemakers in attendance, as well as one befuddled columnist whose only known talent is hiding the broccoli on his plate so he can pretend he has eaten it. (I sure hope I don’t have to eat broccoli in Honduras. Even my guilty conscience would have a hard time selling that one.)

I suspect this trip is going to be much more beneficial to me than for those I go to serve. It will certainly be a good reminder that our faith isn’t about whether women can preach in the pulpit or if the Ten Commandments can hang in the local courthouse, or having a child with a rare digestive disorder denied communion because a bunch of knuckleheads in the Catholic Church say eating a rice wafer “violates Roman Catholic doctrine.” (No wonder non-believers laugh at us.)

Our faith is about doing good works, helping those in need and not judging them while we do. I hope I come back a new man with a new outlook because of the Honduras mission. Maybe then Gil Watson, the World’s Greatest Preacher, will preach about somebody else on Sunday — although that’s highly unlikely. Once a sinner, always a sinner.