Guest Column: 'God directs his steps'By Mary Jane Holt
Back in January, I phoned his office at Premier Medical and was told he was no longer there. So I called First Baptist in Newnan, where I had been told he was heavily involved in their mission program. The secretary gave me his number. Before sunset I had made contact.
I immediately asked for the interview. It did not happen, but a long conversation graced with much prayer did take place that day, and I became instantly aware of the fact that I had a new forever friend whether I ever got my interview or not.
Worth noting, first and foremost, is that at one point in the long awaited exchange, Dr. Griffin paraphrased Proverbs 16:9, saying, “Man plans his journey, but God directs his steps.”
Dr. Griffin has been practicing medicine for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has gone to Honduras on mission trips sponsored by his home church nearly every year in association with Honduras Outreach, Incorporated (HOI.org).
Dr. Gene Tyre, who was pastor of Dr. Griffin’s church at the time, was instrumental in putting together that first fact-finding trip in collaboration with Decatur Methodist Church. Dr. Griffin was asked to go because the group wanted a physician along as they evaluated the needs of the poorest of the poor in remote regions of Honduras.
When the group came back they presented those needs to First Baptist in Newnan. The church said yes. The rest is history.
Early on, Dr. Griffin went along on the mission trips as sort of a safety officer as the adopted villages were in the catchment area for the HOI medical clinic. He served wherever there was a need, and he tremendously enjoyed pouring concrete, putting tin roofs on homes and installing chimneys, a refreshing break from his medical practice back home.
He also consulted and assisted at the main clinic at the Rancho el Paraiso, which is the ranch where HOI has established middle and high schools, as well as pastoral and agricultural schools. Annually, at that clinic, and others, Hondurans are treated for malnutrition, parasites, infections, hypertension, and chronic cough due to poor ventilation in the homes of those who often walk up to 25 miles to go to school or seek medical care.
When the assigned villages became farther from the ranch and out of the area cared for by the ranch’s clinic, he began providing medical care in those villages, sometimes with other doctors and dentists. At times he missed doing the manual labor and developing the relationships with the Honduran families he so enjoyed. Then, in the spring of 2007, God spoke to him in that still, small, unmistakable Voice he has come to know well: “Don, you are a doctor, and you cannot shed that skin.”
So, that year, with a new resolve to share more willingly in the capacity to which he was called, he packed more medical supplies, gauze and suture than he had ever taken, and for the first time ever, he took injectable pain meds as well. The village was the most remote that the team had ever gone to.
Little did he know what lay ahead and how desperately those supplies would be needed.
On the second workday of that trip, the mission group left the ranch for a lovely town not unlike the small unincorporated communities here in the States, he climbed in the back of an old military style truck with nearly 20 other missionaries. Over two hours later, he and a few others got off in a little village where he planned to set up a temporary clinic at the local school while others worked with children and their mothers.
Within 10 minutes the accident happened. The brakes went out on the old truck he had just climbed off, and at the bottom of a long and treacherous hill it turned over. Three dear friends were killed. Others were seriously wounded. As he approached the scene, he prayed, “God, you are going to have to take care of this because I can’t, just use me however you want to.”
So... God used him. Still, He uses him today. And at the end of that fateful day, my further research has shown me that even the American military who arrived on scene at the end of the sixth hour were praising the work of this amazing physician.
In this space, I cannot begin to share with you all that is Don Griffin. But his patients know... and his fellow missionaries... yeah, he still goes back every year that he can. Says he would move to Honduras if he could... that serving there among what so many refer to as “the least of these” has been among the most extraordinarily rewarding weeks/years of his life.
But God called Don Griffin to be a doctor in America, too. He is presently on staff at Alpha Internal Medicine in Fayetteville.
I highly recommend him as a speaker for your church or group, because I cannot begin to share with you the wealth of spiritual insights that he has shared with me to date.
I closed the interview knowing that for three very short hours I had been in the presence of a man who “plans his journey,” but who readily and humbly acknowledges with a thankful heart that “God does indeed direct his steps.”