Hope In Honduras

Posted in: Stories

Content warning: This article has images of a helicopter accident that may be triggering to some.

Even knowing that the Lord had transformed and put my life in order, I still felt a need, for there was an emptiness. I felt that something else was missing. –Sammy Zelaya

Sammy Zelaya was a new believer in the Honduran Air Force. But something was still missing; and he was ready to chase that missing piece.

Bible Study“And so I contacted my brother in the Lord, Joaquín Tome, and told him what was happening in my life,” Sammy said. “He saw the opportunity to invite me to meet early mornings to study the Scriptures and pray for my friends and colleagues in the Honduran Air Force. We prayed that they, too, may be reached with the Gospel through the different Cru Military® activities available.”

Sammy and Joaquin met one morning at 4:30 am for prayer via Zoom. 

“We prayed to God, asking for His protection,” Sammy said.  “We finished our morning meeting, and I continued my work routine that day. With the crew assigned and the mission planned, I thoroughly inspected the aircraft and prayed again that God would direct the flight that day. We started the helicopter and followed all the procedures, checks, and tests before the takeoff.” 

The Accident

“As we became airborne, I felt a rumble, and in my mind, everything went off. I did not know what was happening, and my mind seemed to be in an endless maze from which I wanted to get out but just couldn’t. The helicopter immediately hit the ground, and I received a solid blow to the face.”

It was later determined Sammy and his crew were already unconscious when the helicopter hit the ground, the impact coming in probably less than 3 seconds from the initial mechanical failure. Some soldiers on a nearby soccer field acted quickly and pulled the crew from the crumpled wreckage right before what was left of the helicopter burst into flames.  

Helicopter crash

“What I remember from when I was pulled from the wreckage until arriving at the Toncontín airport in Tegucigalpa, Honduras via a medevac aircraft is mostly a jumble of images, sounds, and other fragments of remembrances,” Sammy said. “I do remember that in the ambulance, one of the doctors told me that they had begun to resuscitate me because I was dying. Yet still in my mind I remembered struggling to live, knowing in my heart that God was with me and that He was not going to leave me.”

Sammy arrived at the hospital, and the doctors decided to intubate him and place him into a medically induced coma, where he remained in the intensive care unit for 9 days.

The Recovery Process

“I remember that time,” Sammy said. “I could hear everything the nurses said. I remember my wife singing to me. I count those days as a time when the Lord ministered to my soul as well as my body.  I remembered the struggles, too.  I can recall wanting to give up and asking God to take me with Him because I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to stop the suffering, even though I didn’t feel the physical pain. However, once again, I remembered my wife, Yeni, singing. I found His peace as mine once again.”

For nine days of the coma, Sammy had maxillofacial surgery, a tracheotomy, a gastrostomy, a plate placed in his face, and wires all over his mouth. 

“I also lost part of my teeth,” Sammy said. “My nose had deviated and had a warm plaster cast of about 50 pounds.  God was rearranging me in ways that would literally change my life!”

According to doctors, Sammy should have been in the hospital for six months, and even at that, the diagnoses were not very promising.  They even said that he would not be able to speak since half of his palate was lost in the impact. 

“I never stopped having faith and trust in that God was the one who had delivered me to live in this moment,” Sammy said. “He put His healing hand on Me.”

After 12 days of being hospitalized – NOT the 6 months predicted – Sammy returned home to begin an even more difficult recovery.

“At home, I struggled mentally,” Sammy said. “My emotions when looking in the mirror were not the same – though I must say that I never blamed God. However, I felt helpless whenever I got angry, annoyed, or indignant. I also cried many times at night, especially when I was alone.”

During the inevitable follow-up on surgeries and during recovery, Sammy read the book of the prophet Jonah. 

“I understood that I should not hold a grudge against anyone and forgive whoever I had considered responsible for the accident,” Sammy said. “My faith in God and my growth as His follower over the next months reassured me that I should enjoy what He gives me every day, and that worrying does no good. His Word and His presence were a constant reminder for me to look into the future and focus on doing more for His kingdom.”

The Future

Months have passed since the accident, and Sammy can sense the goodness of God being reflected in his life.

“The Goodness of God continually encourages me, even in many negative circumstances, diagnoses and ongoing challenges,” Sammy said. “Throughout this event, the Lord has shown me that He will indeed care for me and that He is the source of my healing and restoration on a daily basis.  I may not be much to look at, but just walking about is a testament of God’s care, even in the midst of this accident.”

This journey with the Lord has given Sammy a new passion for God – and a new mission.

“I am currently focused on working in the Lord’s vineyard,” Sammy said. “I do not waste any opportunity to tell everyone my testimony and share how God cares for His children. I know that I might not return to being the same as I was before this accident, at least not physically.  Yet, I know that in eternity, when I finally join Him and see Him face to face, my face will be the same as when I was born and smiling at my Savior who delivered me and sustains me still. But for now, and until that day, I am determined to let God guide me and use me for His work.”