Day 1, July 10th, Saturday - We arrived at the church at the lovely hour of 4am. Our drive and flights were uneventful, which we appreciated. Everyone was just excited to get to Honduras. The landing at the Tegucigalpa airport was very exciting. We flew so low to that we could see the white teeth of those on the ground smiling at us. Hopefully the photos or video show the true experience. The pilot did an excellent job. Yeah American Airlines! We made it through customs counting, 28 suitcases, 14 carry-ons, 14 backpacks and 14 people. We boarded the school bus full of anticipation for our trek to Juticalpa where we spent the night. We are fortunate enough to already know some of the members of the other team traveling with us. They are from Steven’s Creek church in Georgia and they were the other team on the ranch with us in 2008. Our evening meal was wonderful and consisted of chicken, mashed potatoes, veggies and tortillas. The newbies were very happy. We went to bed exhausted and happy to be in Honduras.
Day 2, July 11th , Sunday - We had breakfast at the hotel and then walked to a church in downtown Juticalpa. The difference in affluence from the hotel to the church is unbelievable. We strolled through an open market and saw many varieties of fruit, some of which we hadn’t seen before. The meat was hanging out in the open and the smell was most unpleasant. The church had a painting of Jesus that was so colorful and imaginative. In the top right corner of the painting were ships bringing the word to the Americas, the main central portion was Jesus with all of his people and children, and in the upper left part were buildings to show Jesus in cities. This was quite impressive. Our 4 hour drive at times was like a roller coaster. All of the rain has really impacted the quality of the roads. I must say our driver, Nelson, was excellent and got us through many a mud trench. While on the drive I was reminded of how beautiful God made our world. The glorious mountains, the awesome valleys and the low hanging clouds are the perfect background for meditating on God’s word. A scripture verse that comes to mind is: Psalm 145:5. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty and I will meditate on your wonderful works. We, as the St. Andrews/Zion travel team, are so blessed to have this opportunity. Thank you to everyone at home that is praying for us and all you have done to make this mission come to pass. You can’t understand how much it means to us to know that God is hearing your prayers.
Day 3, July 12th , Monday - This morning we awoke refreshed and ready to work. Our evening devotional the previous night reminded us that God has called all of us here to do His work. We are to build relationships; that is our primary focus for this mission. Yes, we are to do the manual work of mixing cement, building latrines, mudding homes, but relationships are most important. My morning inspirational message was What you see depends on what you are looking for. This was a good reminder to me that if I look for God, I will see Him in many places. He is here in abundance. The faces of the smiling children, the Honduran workers who work beside us, our amazing team, the mountains, the cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and so many more show the love of God. Our journey, and boy was it a journey, went from a 2 hour drive to a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour. (Think of Gilligan’s Island theme song). We rode the school bus, which in two respects was good; we could stand up on the bus to move around and we each had our own seat. It was bad because the drive took longer. Part of the road we are on is called Road of the Fallen Angels, because of the dangerous drop-offs. The views were muy bonita (very pretty). We were able to stop at a look-out point to enjoy the view and also relieve some of our burdens. When we reached the village we were greeted by all the children, the villagers and a team of girl drummers. The drummers were a surprise and they were wonderful. We had a short presentation from the village and prayers done by their pastor and Roy. The girl drummers performed again, this time with their shades on, and we had two Honduran children dance for us. We felt very blessed and welcome. We worked a full day, completing 4 floors and VBS with the kids. This village has K-5 and 6 - 9th grade. The children loved the book showing all the pictures from St. Andrews’ events and of our congregation. The school bags were a huge hit, thanks to our awesome Presbyterian Women of St. Andrews. We made it home just in time for dinner.
Day 4, July 13th , Tuesday - Today we were all very excited to get to the village, but not too thrilled about the drive, since we now know how long and bumpy it is. About an hour into the trip part of our exhaust fell off the bus, so we weren’t sure how this would work. Our driver just wired the piece that was hanging with barbed wire that he cut from a fence and we were to get back on the bus. Many of us worried about the trip home, if the bus would make it, but our group leader, Marta said something that really helped to bring focus back. She said that God is in control and everything will be okay. The villagers were waiting for us when we got there and each team went to their assigned house. The beginning of the day for our team started out a little rough. The Hondurans didn’t want us to shovel or do anything at first. We were a little disappointed and didn’t know why we were even there. This made us interact with the homeowners and learn more about them. Sometimes when you aren’t fluent in Spanish this can be difficult, but God’s love and joy breaks language barriers. God was trying to tell us to let go of control and to remember that He is always in control. This is a message we need not only here in Honduras, but back home too. By the end of the day, our team felt much more connected with the people of La Balsa. There was much laughter shared and we worked hand in hand. For the kids of St. Andrews, please know that the kids of La Balsa are enjoying the VBS activities and crafts that have been brought to them. They also love Frisbee, jump rope, bubbles and tennis balls just like you. We send them your love through pictures and they send their love through their smiles. This evening after devotionals we will be celebrating Jayne Dowdy’s birthday with a little taste of home, chocolate cake in the form of Little Debbie snack packs that Barry packed for the little surprise.
Day 5, July 14th , Wednesday - Oh, what a beautiful day the Lord has made! Our trip to the village had no mishaps and we were to break into teams of two to finish latrines and floors at three homes. If yesterday started out slow and hesitant, today was a 100% turn-around. Everyone had a wonderful day. I worked in the clinic at the village. The clinic is a small 3 room dwelling that is sparsely stocked with some powdered antibiotics supplied by the government, along with some antihystamine medication and aceteminophin. We supplimented their small stock with first aid supplies of bandages, gauze, over the counter medications and other misc supplies. Rosa was very appreciative. There is no physician here at La Balsa, and the nurse Rosa is responsible for consulting, diagnosing and treating all the complaints that are brought to her. Today a woman traveled 4 hours by donkey with her 3 year old son who had a fever. Each person was given single attention, nutritional information, and vitamins. Rosa also gives the mothers that are dutiful in bringing their babies to all their well visits and get all their immunizations a Diploma of Good Parenting. Debi's team learned Spanish and taught English while building a latrine. We were given the ultimate compliment, we were no longer “gringos”, but Norte Americanos. We built such a wonderful relationship with our Honduran friends today. The people of Honduras have truly captured our hearts. Tomorrow we plan to visit a terminally ill elderly lady to pray over her and anoint her with oil. She enjoyed the visit from today’s team. They really lifted her spirits and we want her to know that she is loved by all of us. After this we will have our fiesta! Everyone is looking forward to it. I don’t know if we or the Hondurans are more excited. The children were practicing their dancing today at the school. We are preparing our banner tonight after devotionals which will have pictures that everyone has taken all week. This is only one gift we are giving them, but will most likely bring the most joy. We will also give out first aid kits loving donated and assembled by Zion Episcopal Church, the Wisconsin leg of the home team. In addition hygiene kits, books for the school and of course all of the items in the piñatas for the kids. The ride didn’t even seem that long and bumpy today. Well, some on the team may disagree with me on that, but with each fulfilling day, the difficulties seem smaller. Our daily devotional scripture verse for tomorrow is perfect; This is the day the LORD had made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
Day 6, July 15th , Thursday -Today is our last day in the village. It is very bittersweet. We are glad that the 3 hour drive to the village and the 3 hour drive home from the village is over, but we will miss our new friends. We feel like we have known some of them forever and others we were just getting to know. We are also amazed at how quickly you pick up Spanish. Some of us are saying “Gracias” and “Si” to each other just by habit. When we arrived today we went directly to Carmella’s house. She is the elderly lady who has a fever and we think she has a stomach tumor. We all gathered around her and prayed in English and it was translated to Spanish. She was so sweet and hugged each one of us and told us something about God. Roy anointed her with oil and we all laid hands on her. This was a God-filled moment. Some of us were very emotional and you could just feel God’s presence with us. The school was decorated with balloons, the rainbow banner that the children created in VBS and some special messages to St. Andrews. We did the piñatas first and talk about mass chaos! We almost had a team member at the bottom of a pile-up. We had 7 piñatas and hundreds of kids. Some of the pictures of their faces are priceless. Actually there are some pictures of our team watching the kids that are priceless. After the piñatas we had our presentations. They want us to give hugs to all of you when we get back home, for they love you too. And yes, they did say that. They thank you so much for helping us to get here. They were so welcoming and even had refreshments for us. Fortunately they were single portion snacks and soda from 2 liter bottles. It was very nice to sit, relax, eat and listen to them sing for us. They had special gifts for each member of our team and we gave them our gifts. There was also dancing and all of us had our turn on the dance floor. Make sure you see some pictures when we return. As we left to come back to the ranch, there was much love passed between both groups. We each shared a part of our hearts. Our scripture for the devotions tonight pretty much sums up our week at the ranch. I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Phil. 4:10-13