Alabama Honduras Medical Educational Network
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Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Clown on Every Team!

When I was a little kid one of my favorite things to do was open up the silverware drawer and find the old plastic clown faces that had adorned the previous years' birthday cakes. Over my bed a painting of four adults with bright red and white smiles painted on their faces protected me from the boogey man, trolls, and other creatures of the night. When my brother and I used to go to the circus the lion tamer, strong man, and tight-rope walker were all fascinating to watch, but the clowns were what made the “Greatest Show on Earth” fun for everyone. It has been many years since I spent any amount of time up-close watching a clown work tirelessly to entertain crowds. It has been even longer since I actually had any desire to watch a clown be a clown. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, when I grew up my interest in clowns disappeared from my life much as did collections of X-Men cards and Star Wars toys. After going to Honduras in June, however, I know it is time to welcome clowns back into my life. Why? Honduran missions are my life, and I want to see a clown on every team!

Seeing a clown for the first time

I have to admit I was a little confused when I heard Mary “Butterfly” Capps was joining our June mission team. “Holding medical clinics is such a confusing process as it is” I thought to myself, “why would we try to throw a wrench into the gears by adding a clown into the mix?” Boy was I wrong! I have never seen a series of clinics run so smoothly in thirteen years of mission work as I did with Mariposa, butterfly in Spanish, around to provide holistic cures alongside our team's doctors. It was absolutely amazing to watch the positive energy surrounding this team's ability to hold a clinic with zero frustration. I can attribute our success to an enthusiastic and well-organized team, but the lion's share of credit belongs to AHMEN's own clown-in-residence, Mariposa!

Final medical station...save the best for last!

Part of the majesty of Mariposa's role on the team was that she did not want to serve separately from the team itself. The day Mariposa made her first appearance we held a clinic at the local public school in Lepaterique, outside of La Esperanza. We held a clinic the day before. Mary's clowning supplies had not yet arrived, and it was one of those “how many more patients??” kind of days! Enter Mariposa into the rotation, and instantly everything ran more smoothly. We set our clinic up in five sections: registration, doctor visits, pharmacy, vitamins and parasite medicine, and Payasa (clown in Spanish). Registration, the doctors, and the pharmacy all operated from separate rooms throughout the school, but because vitamins, parasite medicine, and smiles contribute to overall wellness, Mariposa worked alongside vitamin and parasite volunteer Mirsha Monterroso administering doses of healthy living to a community where nutrition and laughter come at a premium. Witnessing the value community members placed on both types of medicine, and how this value prevented the “backlog” that occasionally occurs with clinics of this type, is something I have never seen before. . . but I know it is this combination of love and medical science that stands to change the face of mission work in Honduras.

Mariposa and her Payaso protege Manuel Vargas

For those of you who might not have looked into the solemn eyes of mothers and children waiting in line for a “cure” for their health problems I don't know if I can describe the way I feel. All I know is the contrast of an environment with ambivalently hopeful sadness lurking in the air to that of 100 children with painted faces walking balloon dogs and fencing with balloon swords changed the way I think about mission work. To walk out of the pharmacy for just a minute to see the look on the faces of children and parents confident in the fact that both their school and the medical clinics it hosts contribute to the community's well-being is uncannily comforting. To witness a miracle unfold before your eyes is much more..for what are the 200 patients seen and 600 prescriptions filled without the accompanying thousand smiles?

Safe and Sound -  courtesy of a clown : )

It was a pleasure working with Mariposa as a medical professional, but she was impressive on her own too! In Utila our team did not hold medical clinics. We came specifically to build relationships for future educational development there. In this capacity, the doctor stepped back as the clown took center stage. As an ambassador of good hope Mariposa led her band of assistants through the impoverished sections of the island to donate leftover medication to Dr. Mayorkin at the Centro de Salud and stock the local public school's library full of books – all the while raising a growing herd of balloon animals. Lips parted from teeth to accompany that most beautiful and contagious of involuntary human reactions, and the sight and sound of this particular brand of joy is one I don't want future mission teams to have to work without.

Mariposa and company

I don't ever want to travel to Honduras again without a smiles-based missions component, and I would hate for you not to experience the possibilities of a clown like Mariposa on your teams. I invite you to explore clown ministry as part of your team planning. Contact Mary “Butterfly” Capps to find clown contacts. Contact your local circus, fair, carnival, theater, or performance group because in Honduras la payasa es la compaƱera de la paz!

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