Friday, June 29, 2012

Mom goes to Honduras - day 4

Saturday was a long, emotional day. We started the day by making 300 baloney and mayo sandwiches. It was an interesting assembly line around the dining room table. We were preparing to head out to the Crematorio...the city landfill. About 100 people actually live there, and another 300 or so work there on a daily basis...not as city employees, but as individuals scavenging through the mounds of trash to find something that might bring them a few coins. By the time it gets to the landfill, the garbage truck drivers have already sorted through it for themselves, so the pickings are slim. They hope to make enough to feed the family that day, until they can go back again the next day.

There are several missions organizations that are actively involved with the dump, some by feeding people, others try to make more manageable conditions, and others are working to help families break the cycle and get out of the dump. Soyla tries to go every saturday with a lunch of sandwiches, water or tang, and cookies, if she has the finances to do so.

In our devotionals that morning, we all knew it was going to be hard, and we prayed for the ability to see and smell past the outer appearance, and see the people as Jesus sees them, and be able to treat them with dignity and respect. I was already emotional before we even got on the bus. As we drew nearer, our team leader annointed our hands with oil, symbolic of being the hands of Jesus reaching out to those in need.

As we came around the bend in the road, the stench was overpowering. Cattle, dogs, people, vultures, and mounds of trash several feet deep, plus the heat and humidity left behind by the rain the day before. We knew we had to deal with our reactions before we got off the bus. We were instructed to raise all the windows before we parked, not to keep out the smell, but to prevent people from trying to get in the bus.

When we parked, they literally mobbed the bus - pushing and shoving each other in an effort tot get as close as possible. They obviously knew why we were there. Soyla got off as soon as she was able, but told the rest of us to wait. We were trying to watch without staring. One of the team members prayed against a spirit of fear, and we heard Soyla outside starting to sing. It took a while, but she finally got them into lines of men, women, and children and rest of us could get off.

There was a pregnant woman holding a baby standing not far from the bus, and smiled and found out her baby was 2 months old. I couldn't imagine raising a baby in those conditions. She was waiting so patiently. Because I was still standing close to the bus I got recruited to stand on the ground, blocking the doorway with my body and holding the tray of sandwiches for Soyla and others to hand out. For the next 20 minutes or so, that's what I did...hustling to replace the empty tray with a full one as needed, feeling the dripping bag of tang and water being passed out of the bus over my head, and feeling endless hands on my back. The people were trying to reach over my shoulders and take food. They had to stay in line and do things in an orderly way.

I was touched by a woman who was standing at the front of the line. I know that she was just as hungry and in need as everyone else, but instead of taking any for herself, she stood and made sure the line stayed orderly and everyone else got something. She was one of the few I could see from where I was standing, and it affected me a lot. Found out later that Soyla gave her 5 or 6 of her own afterward, and knew the woman as a Christ follower.

We had to leave before handing out the bags of rice, beans, and cornmeal as we had intended. One of our team members wanted to give her shoes to a woman and got back on the bus to change into another pair. She tried to hand the shoes out the door to the woman, but as other people saw shoes coming out, they got agitated and started surging toward the bus again. Soyla made the decision to leave for our own safety. We got everyone back on the bus and drove away as quickly as could, although backing out was difficult with that many people.

300 people got some decent food in their stomachs because of the financial support our team received from our church, our families, and our friends. We were the hands that delivered the blessing, but it is multiplied knowing how many people contributed.

Not much the rest of the day...another mall food court for lunch and shopping in a marketplace. It was a difficult day, but I'm glad I went. I'm glad God allowed me to see how some people live. It makes me more thankful for the things I am blessed with, but also makes me realize how easy it is to overlook those in need. Where are the people in my town who are hungry? Do I bother looking? Would I know where to look? What would I do if I found them? It reminds me of a song...

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mom goes to Honduras - day 3

Friday was a slower day. Headed back up the mountain to do more medical work and some construction. We went to a different village where an American missionary named Charlie lived. We set up the medical clinic and supply distribution in his home, and several team members went up the hill a bit more to work with concrete block and masonry on a home for a village family. I stayed to help in the medical clinic because of the injury to my knee the night before. I logged patient complaints, helped count out pills, poured water, and did whatever else I could to help.

We had resolved not to be caught in a similar situation leaving the mountain as the night before, so wrapped up around 2:00. It was hard turning people away, but it had been raining all morning, and we needed to be back on paved roads before dark.

We ate at a mall food court - such a weird transition between poverty on the mountain, and a typical American scene in the city - albeit with armed guards at the entrance and patrolling the inside. There was a caricature artist walking around, and a friend and I paid him 25 Lempiras each (about $1.25) and hopefully contributed to his meal that day. The cartoon was interesting, and will probably never see the light of day.

Spent the rest of the day back at the house, resting, talking, calling home, and bagging the beans, rice, and cornmeal into small bags to hand out. It was good to have some downtime just being together...heavy day ahead on Saturday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mom goes to Honduras - day 2

Thursday was our first full day of ministry in Honduras. We left the house around 9:30 to load up some boxes of clothes and shoes, as well as all our medical supplies. We stopped at a pharmacy in town to buy deworming medicine and antibiotics.

Rode in our school bus halfway up the mountain to the village of Ostralia. The mountain roads aren't really roads, more like dirt paths with lots of gravel, boulders, potholes, and traffic coming in the other direction, not to mention the people, dogs, chickens, and other animals grazing beside the road. We had to pass a cemetery every time we went up the mountain. It was so unlike American cemeteries...crosses made from pieces of pipe, no nice neat rows, no big mausoleums, just a collection of homemade crosses with names and dates written on them.

We set up at the school in the village, which appeared to be a gathering place for the whole community. People were already lined up outside waiting. We had clothes and shoes, school supplies, and candy for the parents and children, and two separate areas for medical care. We all stretched our Spanish skills that day, trying to help and understand what was needed. I got to hold at least 5 babies while their moms looked through the clothing. I would just walk up to a woman with a baby and hold out my hands. Universal language of moms, I guess.

Met the director of the school, Elizabeta, who was there all day, despite being 7 months pregnant. She wanted to find new shoes for her teachers. Definitely gave me a change of perspective on schools - we want things for our kids like iPods, while teachers in these villages would appreciate pencils and notebooks. These classrooms had concrete floors, few decorations, and very old furniture. There were 2 outhouses next to the large central courtyard, which had a dirt floor. They did have a small computer lab, but I'm not sure how much (if any) internet access they had. I'm hoping to partner my school with this one to have our students communicate as possible, and ask our kids to collect supplies to send to them.

Ended up leaving the mountain around 6:30 after a huge downpour. We were beginning to load the bus when it started, and ended up stuck for a bit while it stormed, and the medical people finished up. It got dark around 7 pm every night, so you will have to imagine the interesting ride back down the mountain on those dirt roads that had turned to mud. Add to that the endless parade of people returning from work in the city. The rode motorcycles, cars, and buses, all of which we encountered on our way down.

We asked for authentic Honduran food for dinner, and ended up at El Gordon with the 22 people in our group. It was good food, but we were all very tired. I tripped on some stairs and fell and bruised my left knee pretty badly. Ordered pescado frito grande (fried fish), and was surprised to have a whole fried fish...head, eyes, tail, fins, and all.

When we left the restaurant, it was raining. A little girl was standing outside with an umbrella. I was carrying a box with the remains of that fried fish, some vegetables, and plantain chips that were leftover from my meal. The girl offered me her umbrella to use, and I handed her my box of food. There was probably enough food in there to feed her family that night. She followed us to the bus, where she reclaimed her umbrella and stood waving as we pulled away. How many times have I left a restaurant with leftovers, not even thinking of the many who go hungry? Another change of perspective.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mom goes to Honduras - day 1

I'm going to hijack my Josh blog for a bit so I can blog about my recent missions trip to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Pictures are available at

We left late Tuesday night June 12 for a 5:30 a.m flight out of Chicago. Didn't sleep on the church van or the plane. Arrived in Miami for the second leg of our journey, and realized we had been upgraded to first class - the whole team. I can cross something off my bucket list now! It was a little blessing from God before our long week. The airport in Tegus is one of the trickiest in the world to land in, since the runway is surrounded by mountains. It didn't seem that bad to us, until we looked out the window as we turned, and there was only about 50 feet of runway left.

We were met at the airport by Soyla, the missionary who runs the ministry we were working with, and our bus driver, Tito, as well as a family of Hondurans who help Soyla out when she is in country. She lives in Texas and makes it to Honduras about twice a month. She rents a place in the city where we were all able to stay...close quarters with 7 girls on 4 bunk beds with narrow aisles in between, but it contributed to the family feeling.

After stopping at the house to drop off our things, we went to a nearby marketplace to buy large 100 pound bags of rice, beans, and cornmeal to be separated into smaller bags and handed out throughout our time there. Ate some dinner at good old American Pizza Hut and returned to the house.

We were given the option of going to church that night, and although I was bone tired, I decided to go- knowing I was not likely to understand much of anything. 6 of us set out, along with 2 honorary team members, Lisa from Texas and Marty from Georgia, as well as our Honduran hosts. It was a good service...Lisa translated the sermon for us, so that helped. They were very excited to have North Americans there and wanted to take our pictures afterward.

It was spring break for the schools, so we had to change our plans a bit for Thursday and Friday, but it gave us time to refine our program for the kids. Fell into an exhausted sleep around 11 pm.