Dr. Michelle Jude, DVM, with her husband, Steven, during their veterinary mission trip to Honduras in May.
By Dr. Michelle Jude
Sheabel Pet Care Center
This past May, my husband Steve and I were given an amazing opportunity to travel to Honduras on a veterinary mission trip. This is our story of how this life-changing experience came to be.
A drug company rep, Dr. Randy Lynn, called on our clinic in January. He told me about his trips to Honduras to vaccinate animals. I told him we were thinking about doing a mission trip ourselves. Later, when we were having dinner with him, he told us that most people he meets with regarding this trip never go. I felt challenged and wanted to go right away. My husband, who was recently diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, was not so sure.
About a week after that meeting, my husband read the book Radical by David Platt. It challenges Christians to sacrifice one week a year to do God’s work out of our comfort zone. We have two little girls that are 4 and 2 and have never left them overnight, so we knew this would definitely take us out of our comfort zone. The reservations were made and we started getting excited about our upcoming trip.
So fast forward two months later, just two weeks before we were supposed to go. I was in the emergency room having chest pains! I had my gallbladder taken out that following Monday, just 12 days before we were scheduled to leave. That weekend my husband said we were not going to go on the trip, even though I was feeling 100 percent better. On our way to my follow-up appointment, my husband said, “I just don’t have a good feeling about the trip.” We went to my appointment and an elderly couple commented on our girls. We got to talking about our upcoming trip, and they said their good friends had lived in Honduras for 30 years as missionaries and had loved it. We left feeling more sure God was calling us to do this.
So we packed our bags and were on our way. At first we second-guessed ourselves, wishing we had gone close by for a weekend for our first trip away from the girls – instead of to a third-world country. But that soon subsided.
The first day was spent getting supplies divided up between the veterinary teams. Thirty five people went with our group, 23 took part in the public health teams that went to local schools, while 12 of us were on the veterinary teams. The first night we had a major ant infestation in our room, which cost us $14 a night.
That first day was an exciting day. Steve and I vaccinated more than 400 animals by ourselves. We worked the “small animal clinic” and we were overwhelmed by a sea of dogs, cats and chickens. We were told to get animals in bags up to the front because they would die if they stayed in the bags too long. I think we counted 24 chickens in one feed bag, and often found kittens and puppies in the bottom of the bag after all the chickens were out.
Steven and Dr. Michelle Jude, DVM, with Dr. Randy Lynn in Honduras
The people were so excited to get their animals vaccinated for preventable diseases such as rabies, which is a common problem there because of bats that feed on livestock. It was at this stop I also used an outhouse that consisted of a piece of tin, a tarp and two sheets, all of which came to my shoulders, in the middle of the large animal clinic. I tried hard not to make eye contact with the many eyes that were upon me. Luckily everybody potties!
The next three days were equally as exciting, traveling in the back of a pickup truck with five team members, up the mountainside to remote villages. We were lucky to have only two injuries in our group. Dave, an amazing Texan rancher in his 80s, was taken down by a pig gone wild, removing about a fourth of his skin on his left arm. He is one tough man who has gone the last 20 years with the group. Then Pete, a veterinary technician that has also gone the last 15 years, got the tip of his finger almost bitten off by a dog. Luckily they were able to reattach it.
We also visited a birthing center while we were there. I was told that when the group first started going more than two decades ago, the birthing center was in worse condition than most barns. They now have a state-of-the art facility were mothers can deliver in a clean, safe environment. I was amazed when they told me that new mothers stay in the facility only eight hours after childbirth, then they are sent home. I saw a new mom leave with her newborn who had to stop several times for a break just in the parking lot. If that doesn’t tell you how amazing these people are then I don’t know what will.
Steve and I grew closer to God and each other on this amazing journey. Being in Honduras and seeing how poor the people are makes me appreciate what I have so much more It has made me hug my girls tighter at night and realize that I serve an even more amazing God, one who loves all people. We are planning to go back next year, and Steve is trying to learn a little Spanish. If anyone would be interested in going with us next year, please feel free to call me at 859-268-4444. Remember “Dios te ama,” God Loves You!
Dr. Michelle Jude is a veterinarian at Sheabel Pet Care Center. She graduated from Campbellsville University in 2000. Jude worked as a technician at Sheabel before attending veterinary school at Auburn University.