Hearts Tied Together

February 14, 2011 • Honduras

The lives of families in the U.S. and Honduras become intertwined as God uses the Children’s Heart Project to show His love

On November 1, 2010, Samir (Sammy) Espinoza flew into the U.S. from Honduras with his mother, Lidia, for heart surgery. The 5-year-old boy had been on the Children’s Heart Project waiting list for two years, but it was just enough time for God to work in many hearts.

“God’s timing is perfect,” said Elizabeth Harmon, whose family hosted Sammy and Lidia. “If Sammy had come just a year earlier, everything would be different.”

Sammy was born with two heart defects—a supercardio TAPVR and a large Auricular Septal Defect. The defects made it difficult for Sammy to run and play with the other children. Lidia took him to a local health center for an examination when he was 1 and found out he needed surgery. However, it was a difficult procedure that could not be done in Honduras.

Lidia and her husband, Julio, felt hopeless. They didn’t know what to do, but continued to search for answers. Two years later, they met Dr. Hector Fonseca,a pediatric cardiologist who works with Children’s Heart Project in Honduras. He told them Samaritan’s Purse could help, and Sammy was placed on a waiting list so that he could be treated in the United States. Because of the seriousness of his condition, he was put on the urgent-need list.

In June 2010, a medical brigade that included doctors from the U.S. evaluated the children on the waiting list. At brigades, Samaritan’s Purse staff members present the Gospel message to the children and the parents. During the event, Lidia prayed to accept Christ.

About a month later, Lidia’s prayers were answered when she received a call from Samaritan’s Purse. Sammy had been accepted for surgery in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She said they could barely believe the good news.

Pamela Moncada, program manager for CHP in Honduras, and Julissa Garcia, the CHP assistant, visited Sammy and his family right before leaving for surgery. Together they told them about the love of Jesus Christ. That day, Lidia’s husband, her sister, and nephew also accepted Christ as their Savior.

“While God was transforming the hearts of Sammy’s family, He was also working in the lives of the Harmons—their American host family. When the Harmons moved to Michigan from Pennsylvania, they found a large house on the market and prayed about buying it. Even though they were just a family of four, Elizabeth felt her family could use it to bless others and made a promise to God to use the house for His glory. When she heard about the opportunity to host a family with Children’s Heart Project, Elizabeth remembered that promise and jumped at the opportunity.They were very moved,” Pamela said. “I saw that they were relieved, and they had a peaceful face. They said thank you 100 times!”

“I remember sitting in the chair at church, and it just came out of my mouth that we should host,” Elizabeth said. “It came out before I realized what I was saying. My family was stunned. But even though I was nervous about it, I knew God wanted us to do it.”

The Harmons had expected Sammy and Lidia in October, but there was a change of plans and they arrived in November. At first the Harmons were disappointed they could not have their relatives stay in their home for Thanksgiving, but God was teaching them a greater lesson.

“Serving God is not about being convenient,” Elizabeth said. “I had to surrender that. So God was even showing me lessons before they arrived.”

Elizabeth’s daughters Emily, 16, and Grace, 13, immediately bonded with Sammy. They played together constantly and connected, even though there was a language barrier. Emily’s favorite memory of their families being together was picking out and cutting down a Christmas tree.

“They added life and love to the house,” Elizabeth said.

As the Harmons grew in their faith and love for others, Lidia was developing her own relationship with God. Every morning she had Bible study with her translator, Berta. She also got to attend a Spanish-speaking church, which Elizabeth’s housekeeper introduced her to. The congregation prayed for Sammy, which was a great encouragement to Lidia.

“That impacted Lidia a lot,” Elizabeth said. “She was so overwhelmed with love.”

As Lidia waited for her son to get out of surgery on the long-anticipated day, she held her Bible close to her heart. Her prayers were answered when the operation was a success. For the next five days, she and the Harmons stayed by Sammy’s side while he recovered.

All too soon it was time to start saying goodbye. The Harmons wanted to do more for Sammy and his family, but didn’t know how to help. At the same time Sammy was having his surgery, another Children’s Heart Project child, Jesus Daniel, was also coming to the U.S. for a life-saving procedure. As Pamela worked with the family she discovered that Jesus’ mother, Cynthia, was a teacher at a Christian bilingual school called New Birth. Pamela asked her, “What is the possibility of Sammy attending your school?”

New Birth immediately offered discounted tuition and reserved a space for Sammy for the upcoming year. The Harmons agreed to cover the cost of his schooling, as well as give some extra money for food for his family.

“When we got a call from Pamela about the school it was such an answer to prayer,” Elizabeth said. “We wanted them to have a better life and a better future. So we were so grateful for that opportunity to stay in their lives. Nothing happens for an accident, and God intertwines our lives together for a reason.”

After Sammy visited his new school in San Pedro Sula and saw his school supplies, book bag, and Spiderman lunch box, he jumped with joy and laughed. “This is what I wanted! I am very happy,” he said. Lidia and Julio would never have been able to pay for Sammy’s school tuition, supplies, and transportation without the help of the Harmon family.

“We thank the Harmon family for helping Sammy to be able to attend a Christian bilingual school,” Lidia said. “We are very grateful to the Lord for giving us this opportunity to raise Sammy in a Christian environment, and for Samaritan’s Purse who helped with the surgery and our stay while in Ann Arbor. God bless you all.”

The Harmons still stay in contact with Sammy and his family, and they are even taking Spanish classes so that they can communicate better. They plan to stay connected with them for as long as possible.

“The six weeks were a joy and not a burden at all, and that’s God transforming us,” Elizabeth said. “I think God gives you a huge capacity to love.”