Seeing God in the “Image of a Stranger”

by Jim Conrad, Blooming Glen congregation

In Holy Envy, Barbara Brown Taylor quotes Jonathan Sacks, who said, “The supreme religious challenge is to see God’s image in one who is not in our image.”

The 11 US volunteers who worked in Honduras the last week of January with Healthy Ninos. (Photo courtesy of Jim Conrad)

While in Honduras in January with Healthy Niños Honduras, I was privileged to experience God’s image in many ways as our team of 11 volunteers served five remote villages during our one-week stay. Four members of our team — Linda and Vernon Martin from Salford congregation (Harleysville, PA) and Glenda Bergey and myself from Blooming Glen (PA) congregation—were from Eastern District & Franconia Conference. 

Healthy Niños Honduras (HNH) began in 2017 as a continuation of the MAMA Project in Honduras. HNH is operated primarily by Honduran professionals who welcome teams of volunteers from the U.S. to aid the program in their mission of helping children and their families to fight malnutrition. 

To achieve this mission, medical and dental teams (as well as construction crews) travel to remote villages to aid those who have no access to clean water or adequate healthcare. The villagers receive visits from these brigades of workers and volunteers about every six months. An HNH team member connects with the village leader ahead of the brigade’s visit to be assured of safety and assess the specific needs for the brigade to effectively prepare. 

One of the many children who come to the Healthy Ninos clinic for healthcare. (Photo courtesy of Jim Conrad)

Some of the brigade pour concrete floors for a few village homes where only earthen floors had existed. Meanwhile, other brigade members distribute and demonstrate how water filtration units can be used by villagers to provide clean water. Medical and dental services are offered by the Honduran and U.S. medical team. Deworming medication and Vitamin A are given to everyone over two years of age. 

Some volunteers check patients’ vision and provide reading glasses. Other team members distribute gifts to each family, generously donated by individuals and businesses from the US. All children are evaluated for nutritional well-being. For those children needing further nutritional attention, the child and mother travel to HNH’s home base. There the mother receives education regarding nutrition while the child receives treatment. During their stay, children receive schooling, appropriate for each child’s age.

One of the visitors to the clinic, with Jim Conrad. (Photo courtesy of Jim Conrad)

During my week, I was able to see the faces and hear the voices of the village residents as they demonstrated deep appreciation for the care they received from the volunteers. Wishing to be seen, listened to, and examined with care was important for recipients as well as the caregiver during these “holy moments.” As a retired physician, I witnessed the image of God in many unfamiliar faces. I will cherish these images, etched in my memory, for years to come.

Many teams from within our conference have made this journey of caring in the past and many more will in the years to come. If you are interested in joining a team, visit to www.healthyninos.org.