The Honduras trip was, honestly, just “one more thing” on my schedule for the summer. It came on the heels of the CBF General Assembly (which I was helping lead) and even meant I had to fly back early just to board a plane to Honduras with the group. It was also the week before our trip back to Texas to pack our house. Talk about a crazy time in our lives! I didn’t know much about the trip and I really didn’t know anyone on the trip. But, I also knew that there is no better way to really KNOW a community of people than to take a trip to a 3rd world country with them. Energy spent to disguise your flaws and put up barriers is quickly stripped away in the hot, humid, primitive environment you’re living in and you are – for a rare moment – real. And of course that “one more thing” was life changing.
I have done many mission trips but never a church wide, intergenerational trip. This trip included 33 people – from high school age to 75+. What a true picture of the Church! We all had different expectations, gifts, and goals when we arrived together at the Charlotte airport early on that Saturday morning for our flight to Miami, and then onto Tegucigalpa.
Our plan was to travel 1.5 hours outside of the capital city of Tegucigalpa to a town called Jalaca. There in Jalaca is New Life Children’s Home. New Life has 51 children, age 3-17, that they care for. None of these children are up for adoption; actually, most aren’t even orphans but instead were taken from parents due to abuse/neglect, or their parents could no longer care for them. Amazingly, only 4 of the 51 technically had special needs and only 2 were “obvious” special needs (autism and downs syndrome).
A family who has served in Peru for years came on board to take over leadership less than a year ago so the home was still in transition. In addition to that American family, they also hire local teachers for the school on campus. The high schoolers attend a public school and the preschoolers were without a teacher still (they are praying one comes along). Caregiving is mostly done by Tias who stay in the houses with the kids, help with bathing, dressing, feeding, cooking etc. Those women work HARD. They also have interns that come for various amounts of time to help.
When we arrived in Teguicigalpa, we were met by a random man exchanging money. $1 = 19 lempira. Most of us didn’t have a clue what we were doing, so Lawrence (in the middle of the picture below) helped us out with translation. Lawrence is actually from Texas (Weatherford) and he spends most summers at the children’s home overseeing the interns and any other work that needs to be done.
Once all the luggage was claimed, we headed outside with Lawrence and Ron, the director of New Life and dad of the family, to board a rented school bus for the journey back.
When I first learned of the trip, I was told there was a Walmart so I figured all would be well and I could always just get to Walmart if I needed anything. What I didn’t realize was that Walmart was actually in Tegucigalpa and it was NOT easy to get in and out of. It took us awhile of winding around the crazy streets to get to the mall that had the Walmart. I thought the roads in Manhattan were chaos – there were no rules on these roads!
This is a picture of the mall we went to, from the window of the bus. Since a circus had set up tent (literally) in the parking lot of the mall, the bus wasn’t allowed in. So, we ran across traffic. It was totally safe, mom. I promise. *wink*
I worked on the Bible study and activities at the Miami airport during our layoff and created a list of easy to do crafts using easy to find supplies. What I didn’t realize was that this Walmart, and our Walmart, are not the same animal. I had a limited amount of time in Walmart before we had to meet back and absolutely NO knowledge of the language. This was the extent of the craft supply selection (notice there is rarely more than 1 of any one item; it was a hodge podge of seemingly leftover supplies from another store – lots of Christmas crafts thrown in!)
The aisles were crammed with people and they drive their grocery carts much like their cars. I scrambled and using the items I could find all over the store, reworked my entire plan for the week and pulled together some activities. Then I went to check out; never again will I complain about the lines at my local Walmart!
(okay, that’s a total lie but it sounded good)
The lines were not only long, but they didn’t move. The cashiers were on “Hondurian time” (something we finally grasped by the end of the week) and they didn’t bag anything for you. I was one of the last out but I had my items and a thrown together plan for the week.
After a crazy, bumpy, dark ride to Jalaca, we got in late to the children’s home – long after the kids were in bed. It’s only about 40 miles outside of Tegucigulpa but none of the roads are really paved, and they’re windy in the mountains, so it takes twice as long as it would at home.
Most of us lived on the 2nd floor of the largest building on campus. Downstairs was the school, kitchen, bathrooms, etc. Upstairs were bunk rooms, a meeting room, full kitchen, 4 bathrooms, and some supply closets. The interns also lived in that area. It was also there that we realized there was no air-conditioning, you couldn’t flush any toilet paper, there was no hot water in the showers, and the bathrooms were grody. But it was a bed!
The next morning, regular church service wasn’t been held due to a town hall meeting that was taking place in the building instead. However, the kids were going to Sunday school in Jalaca. Never wanting to miss a chance to observe a children’s Sunday school class, I volunteered to go along for the ride as did a few others from our group.
This experience may have been the highlight of the trip for me. Or if not, was certainly the very BEST way to start the week. The kids walked along the dirt/gravel/rough road, avoiding trucks, horses, cows, and anything else that came along, into the actual town of Jalaca. Annette, Ron’s wife and mom of the family, led the way.
Jalaca was fascinating to me. We were told to not speak to or even make much eye contact with the various men hanging around. There were TONS of children, stray dogs, and people just milling about. A random group of cows would be led through, or a man on a horse would gallop by. The level of poverty was overwhelming yet people were genuinely happy. Americans could learn something from that 🙂
One of the interns stopped at the store to pick up bottles of water for us after our trek. He came back, instead, with bags of water. Evidently, you bite the corner off and drink from it that way. Since we were all leery of germs in the area, we decided to use hand sanitizer to clean the corner before biting it off. Which meant the water tasted like… you guessed it! Alcohol 😦
Lori and her bag of water:
Lauren and her bag of water:
Sunday school consisted of all the kids sitting in plastic lawnchairs in rows facing a stage – much like a worship service. The church is open air and literally in the front lawn of the pastor’s house. Dogs, roosters, random children, etc all wandered in and out as we met and since it was on a “road” there was lots of activity going on throughout that I took note of and the kids didn’t even seem to notice!
For the first 30 minutes or so, the kids sang songs and sat strangely still in their seats. Even the three year olds!
Following the music time was a time of prayer. The pastor invited us, the Americans, to pray over the children. He played music, the kids sat with their head’s bowed, and we walked around and prayed over them.
To say this was emotional was the understatement of the century. The reverence shown by the children blew me away. Even though many of them spoke no English, they cherished the prayer said just for them. I went row by row, crouching beside each child individually, and always laid hands on them while I said a short prayer. It reminded me how seldom we truly pray over children at our own churches – and what a powerful thing touch + verbal prayer is to a person, of any size!
There were tears shed for sure – and not by the kids 🙂
Following the rather lengthy time of prayer (which all the children sat quiet and still for, I might add), we moved to the Bible study portion. The group was split into older and younger and moved to opposite sides of the space for a short lesson and activity.
I learned quickly that these kids love crafty activities; it’s a fairly rare occurance for them, as supplies are so limited, so there is a novelty to it that keeps them engaged.
On the walk back, I realized that even though Sunday school looked nothing like the typical children’s Sunday school, and we didn’t understand a word being “preached” – we had church that morning in Jalaca, Honduras.