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In reaching out to meet Honduran Miskitu spiritual and physical needs, the Moravian Church expanded the medical work started in 1934 by Dr. David Thaeler in Bilwaskarma, Nicaragua. Nurse Cleave Fishel began medical service across the border in Ahuas in 1946 following the footsteps of the Rev. Werner Marx who did itinerant medical work along with evangelistic and pastoral outreach.
The wide spectrum of medical needs required greater skills and services, so Dr. Sam and Grace Marx were called to Honduras and began building the Ahuas Moravian Clinic in 1952. Initially very rustic facilities limited medical care, but regular trips up the Patuca River and across the savannas brought pastoral and medical help to many Miskitu across La Mosquitia. Small clinics were started in Brus Laguna and Cocobila.
Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) began intermittent flights early in the 1950’s but by 1972 had based a plane in Ahuas, providing an access to daily medical care for people suffering in distant La Mosquitia villages. By then full pediatric, obstetrical, and surgical services were offered as buildings were constructed and medical equipment was donated–always with generous help from volunteers.
(MAF is no longer active in La Mosquitia, but has “given birth” to a new ministry, Alas de Socorro. George Goff is a pilot who serves the church [especially the Medical Program] by providing transportation, as well as ministering to the spiritual needs of the people. He and his wife, Ruth, and their children, Rachel and Abby, are based in Ahuas.)
By the late 1980’s, as the Nicaragua civil war raged, refugee medical problems brought a shift of responsibilities. Honduran and Nicaraguan medical providers took on the leadership of the Ahuas Moravian Hospital, reflecting the growing autonomy of the Moravian Church in Honduras.
A satellite clinic established years before by Martha Housman across the Caratasca Lagoon in Cauquira was upgraded by Dr. Edward Capparelli, a Reformed Church in America medical missionary. Across the western mountain ridge in Ocotales, a second clinic was founded for the Spanish-speaking frontier people living in that region.
A network of small government clinics–now including the Brus Laguna and Cocobila facilities-led to a sharing of medical responsibilities, with Ahuas being a crucial referral center.
In the 1990’s Directors Gerard Rudy and Norvelle Goff became the joint directors of the Ahuas Clinic with its triple emphasis of preventive medicine, curative and surgical care, and spiritual guidance. The medical program of the Moravian Church in Honduras is guided by a board of directors elected by the Synod of the Moravian Church in Honduras. Dr. Ovelio Lopez, a Miskitu native of La Mosquitia, is the Director of the medical program.
Role of the Board of World Mission
From the inception of the medical program in Honduras, the Board of World Mission has provided personnel, administrative and financial support. Although the medical program is self-governing, under the authority of the Synod of the Moravian Church in Honduras, the Board of World Mission continues in a close supportive relationship. The Reformed Church in America is also a mission partner of the Moravian Church in Honduras.