"God called me to serve my country in my profession as a physician," Dr. Salavarria says. "My vision has been to treat the poor with quality medical service and excellence just as the rich people of my country receive. My vision has also been to teach and train people to prevent the illnesses that most commonly affect the poor population of Honduras. For me, this is the best way to preach the salvation message, healing their physical ailments and opening doors to help their spiritual ailments."
El Buen Pastor Clinic sees an average of 21,000 patients annually, the majority of which come from low-income families. "This medical attention covers the demand for medical services that would normally fall on the government health centers, which have a greater number of physicians," Dr. Salavarria says.
This attention for marginalized people is rarely seen in any other health care center in the province of Olancho. "Olancho is a district known for its violence and much of its population lives in areas difficult to access, in outlying jungle areas," says Dr. Salavarria. "Few people are willing to work in this area of the country." For this reason, Dr. Salavarria feels God is leading him to work here. "Despite the difficulties, it is an area open to the Gospel," he says. This is evident in the 35 new churches planted or started since the Luke Society began there in 1984.
The indigenous Pech Indians are the focus of much of the community work. When the Luke Society began reaching out to this tribe, they found a poor but thriving community. "The work with the Pech has been a challenge to help them overcome their situation of poverty," said Dr. Salavarria. Not only have they improved the living conditions of the Pech, but also improved the overall health of the communities. There are now three government health centers in the Pech communities, staffed by health workers trained at El Buen Pastor Clinic.
An indigenous health training center was built in the Pech community of Vallecito, and it is used for ongoing training of health workers in that area.
During the past three years, Dr. Salavarria has also developed a community health program with World Bank focusing on two of the poorest communities in Olancho: Guayape and Culmi. The communities have a combined population of 50,000. "We began by offering primary health care in their villages, including universal vaccination (children and animal), Pap smear programs, and the training of 140 permanent community health volunteers."
Since the Luke Society partnered with Dr. Salavarria in 1983, he and his staff have trained 900 community health workers and 380 midwives. "This has been a very important aspect of our ministry because these trained people have been able to give primary care and teach prevention in their corresponding communities, forming an essential part of these permanent health teams," he says. "We have seen the impact in the communities due to these volunteers in the overall health of the people, especially in the communities where we have supported potable water and latrine projects."
Dr. Nestor is proud of the strides made in his native country. But he also humbly looks at the changes made in his own life due to the ministry work. "I count it great privilege to serve," he says. "I have been able to see patients who have accepted Christ in our clinic who are now pastors of churches. I have been able to see thousands of people healed. I have been able to see children at risk, transformed and converted into productive adults. I have seen so many miracles."
He likes to see doctors at work at the clinic and follow the model of service that is known throughout Olancho. "My perception of life has changed radically, as my faith has been strengthened," he says. "I have seen in my intervention, in each part of the ministry, the guidance of the Holy Spirit."