The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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April 21, 2000 Issue
Renew 2000

Renew members see their way to mission aid

Prayers from other participants assist them on their mission

By Kip Vincent
Compass Correspondent

APPLETON - The experience and influence of Renew 2000 beckoned six members of St. Bernard Parish, Appleton, to embark on a real spiritual journey to Honduras this spring to help others.

The idea started with Dr. Gerald Clarke who wanted to provide eye care and surgery to the poor of Honduras.

This idea blossomed and after eight months of preparation, a group of six made the trip. The team included Dr. Clarke; Lori Kray, surgical tech; Patsy Engel and Sherry Clarke, registered nurses; and Sherry's sons, Michael and Eric Gajdostik. Their guide was William Davis, the administrator of "Sight to the Blind."

The first morning they arrived at the Lions' Club Clinic at San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was overwhelming. People had been waiting since dawn to be seen, some traveling for hours and sleeping outside.

Team members said the stories they heard about the children's lives were heart wrenching.

Sherry Clarke shared this story about a boy named Eguardo. "Eguardo was illiterate and had never been to school, sent out on the street to live on his own. This boy had traveled over 100 miles that night to be seen by the 'American doctor' because he could not see and wanted to be able to go to school. His strabismus in his left eye had affected the optic nerve but the cataract in his right was operable and a surgical success".

Surgery was performed in a camper-trailer with equipment considered not ideal but "adequate." As Patty Engel explained, "Dr. Clarke wasted no time in getting to work, working tirelessly examining patients and doing cataract and glaucoma surgeries; in six days, he did 48 operations, some of these were on children who had congenital cataracts and very little vision before surgery. All of them were seeing better the next day!"

In commenting on the experience, Engel said, "I am so privileged to have worked with this team; we felt the presence of God during our work. We saw poverty and hardship in Honduras unknown to most of us here."

The team also was able to visit homes, where they found bare earth floors and buckets, bowls and various containers holding water, which was used for doing dishes, bathing, cooking and drinking - all from the same source. Families had one room to sleep, and children played with simple things like a wheelbarrow or cart, a torn soccer ball or sticks, not with Nintendo, or Pokeman cards.

"Spending time with these families, I noticed that true sense of 'community,' " said Sherry Clarke. "They had everything that they owned right in front of us, and yet, they shared and welcomed us into their homes."

"Are we so advanced in our society," she asked, "that we have to lock our doors to protect our abundance, while these people were willing to share their meager resources with us? Often, we are too busy with where we have to be and what we have to stop and appreciate the simple gifts of family, friends and love."

Concerning the trip to the Lions' Clinic, both Dr. Clarke and his wife, Sherry, agreed, "We counted our blessings and were glad to have achieved something. We saw 140 patients and did surgery on 48 people for better eyesight."

The Lions Club of San Pedro Sula congratulated the team for its work. The club noted that it was the most surgeries ever performed in a one-week eye camp and the highest number of patients a team had ever seen in a week.

In speaking about the Renew 2000 connection to their mission to Honduras, Patsy Engel said, "Joining my Renew small group is the single most important thing I have ever done toward deepening my faith and strengthening my relationship with God. Getting ready for this Honduras venture had the continued support from all of my group, a safe place for all to talk about our lives and share perspectives on being disciples of Christ."

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