Dr-in-front-of-hospital-2bOn this day, February 3rd, fifty years ago, Dr. Stephen Youngberg and his wife, Verlene Youngberg, RN opened their Clinic up to three severely malnourished children in critical condition, to give them special care. On that day February 3, 1965 in an old military tent serving as the first facility the Nutritional Rehabilitation Hospital was brought into existence.  Read the rest of this entry »

Dilia and her mother, the day she came to the Casita Feliz

La Casita Feliz – the heart of the Pan American Health Service Nutritional Rehab Center – is decorated for Christmas. On the wall is a mural where Santa Claus is pulling a sleigh filled with presents… except these presents are the photo of each of the 32 children who are patients receiving nutritious foodand tender loving care. What a precious gift each childis!

This Christmas is a particularly special one for Dilia – the most fragile patient to be admitted to Nutrition Center in 2013 – it will be her first away from her family however it will be a happy one regardless, for she has received the gift of life and restoration of health. In her short 13 years this very small teenager has experienced the extreme effects of hunger in ways that few can survive. Dilia arrived at la Casita Feliz on October 31, 2013 having been referred to the PAHS program by another nutritional rehab program in the city of San Pedro Sula.

Dilia’s medical treatment had begun sometime in late September when she was admitted to the acute care government hospital in the city with third degree malnutrition – extremely swollen and bloated by the protein deficiency in her body. Additionally she was profoundly anemic and presented with a parasite infestation. Worst of all the nutrient deficiency had an effect on her neurological health and she had cerebral atrophy and the motor and verbal skills of a one-year-old baby. The medical personnel knew she would need long-term care and they eventually found placement at PAHS.

The irony is that Dilia’s struggle for survival was waged on the fringes of the most prosperous city in Honduras – its industrial capital, San Pedro Sula – on the edges of the river where thousands of families, seeking a way out of extreme poverty, gather in hopes of finding a better life for themselves and where in many cases their misery grows instead of dissipating.  Such is the story of Dilia’s mother, a woman who collects plastic bottles and aluminum cans from the garbage to sell in order to have money to feed her three daughters. She relates that many days she would return home empty-handed and experience the pain of watching her children suffer hunger pangs just like herself.Dilia smiling after two weeks in our Campus

To make matters worse Dilia suffered from a speech impediment and although she had been referred to therapy which was free of charge her mother could not manage the logistics of transportation when she could barely feed her children.

One month after her arrival at the PAHS Nutritional Rehab Center in Peña Blanca, Dilia – who had been getting around in a wheelchair – took her first steps unaided. The love, good food and motivation received from her caretakers have made a profound difference in her life. Her mother came to visit shortly after Dilia started walking. Hardly able to believe what she was seeing her eyes filled with tears as she repeated: “She’s walking”.

Dilia’s speedy recovery is miraculous and a joy to behold. Perhaps soon she will be able to be more self-sufficient and be able to enjoy a childhood which hunger has stolen from her.

“Mommy, I want a baleada,” (the Honduran version of a “burrito.”)

“Mommy, I want to jump on the trampoline.”

“Mommy, I want juice. Mommy, I want candy.”

I looked down into the faces of 6 little girls surrounding me at their school Open House. Instead of feeling annoyance at the whining sounds directed at me, I felt pure joy!

Our family was just finishing up a month of volunteer work supervising children’s activities at the PAHS campus. We had become acquainted with the children when we came as part of a volunteer building team months before.

Why was their whining sweet to me? Because you cannot whine with that intensity at someone you don’t love, someone you are not 100% sure loves you back unconditionally. Their whines meant one thing to me — they truly meant “Mommy” when they called me that!

People ask me, “What do you do in Honduras?”

They want to hear about some amazing building project, a medical/dental clinic that helps hundreds of people a day, or at the very least an energetic vacation bible school in the evenings. These important activities God has called others to do. What He called our family to do is very simple and may seem unimpressive….to model and provide the love of family and a home for these beautiful children who are separated from their own parents and homes for a variety of reasons.

No, it is not impressive. It is not the type of calling that fills one with pride in the re-telling of mission stories when returning home, but it is a calling of deep joy and immense satisfaction: I am called here to be “Mommy.”

Our days are filled with homework, applying band-aids accompanied by hugs and kisses, attending school functions, fixing healthy snacks, playing — and just plain being there. We have had many children sitting around our table at night, learning (hopefully) manners and how a family functions in a home. We have been able to enjoy the normalcy of life…baking a cake to take to a class party, watching “our kids” play soccer, seeing “our kids” in the school program, talking to the teachers to know what is happening at school and how the grades are going. No, it is nothing extraordinary, but it is the very “ordinary-ness” of it that makes it so special. Sometimes God’s greatest gifts come in very simple packages….and that is what He has given us here in our Honduras home.

“As far as lies in your power, make a home for the homeless,” Ellen White reminds us. “Let everyone stand ready to act a part in helping forward this work. The Lord said to Peter, ’Feed my lambs.’ This command is to us, and by opening our homes for the orphans we aid in its fulfillment. Let not Jesus be disappointed in you.”

I am honored that God has called us to serve by just being a family.

I am honored to be called “Mommy”.


Alica, 7 years-old, has been in recovery from malnutrition for two months. When she came to the Nutrition Rehabilitation Program she was ill, tired and sad. Little did she imagine anything like Christmas on October 28. That day she was merely fighting to survive her hunger and the sickness it had brought her. Food was probably all she could dream of. Toys, Santa Claus and angels singing songs were not even a possibility.

Now imagine her delight at the sounds, smells and sights of Christmas! Read the rest of this entry »

In the Bible, Jesus asks: “ Which of you knowing your children are hungry and asking for bread would give them a stone instead?” He goes on to point out that if people who are imperfect know how to give good things to their children Read the rest of this entry »

I entered the Casita Feliz on a special mission. A joyous place, filled with happy voices, smiling little faces and tiny hands reaching out to be squeezed, the “happy little house” is the new dwelling of Alicia, 7 years old, Read the rest of this entry »

Shane and Rosita

Hi In December 2009, I was blessed with a chance to go to Honduras on a SIMS (Student for International Mission Service) mission trip. I established many meaningful relationships with the babies, children, parents and other volunteers. A fellow classmate, Emily Pinkerton, and I were able to develop and implement a play art therapy program for the children at the orphanage. Read the rest of this entry »

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