Welcome to Honduras!!! (editor’s note: this phrase is used whenever something has gone wrong, a plan has fallen apart, or something beyond your control has happened. In other words, it takes the place of “Its not my fault that…). So, with that being said, let me again say, “Welcome to Honduras!”
The May trip was absolutely wonderful. What an awesome team! 41 of us made the first Torch trip of the summer and we started the summer off on the right foot for sure. We had 10 incredible days of work and experiences while we were there. Not to mention some new stuff too, enough that even the long time veterans had to say it was the best trip ever. (editor’s note: veterans tend to say every year’s trip was the best ever.) The May team was a very diverse group, coming from many different places. But we bonded together to make a well oiled machine at the end and a lot of ministry was accomplished.
This was a really balanced team. Nearly a 50% - 50% split in veterans to rookies, nearly a 50% - 50% split in guy to girl ratio too. Just enough “adults” to balance the team too. All in all, I don’t think I could have asked for a better group. And since most were collage age, they could stay up late and get up early and it was almost impossible to work them too hard. They left wanting more, and I believe them!!! And for a few of us, saying goodbye wasn’t too hard because we knew we were coming back in just a few weeks for more!
But, I have to write a brief description of what I believe was the most memorable “Welcome to Honduras” moment in the 15 years I have been going to Honduras. It happened on the last day of the trip, the day we were scheduled to go home. We were staying at the very luxurious Hotel Copantl, about 20 minutes from the airport, on the mountain that the Mission House is located, enjoying the end of our 1 and ½ day retreat. Our flight didn’t leave until 2:20 so we were not suppose to leave the hotel till 10:30 so that we could be at the airport at 11:00. We were to sleep in, have a late breakfast, load the bus and leave. It was to be very relaxing, very laid back, very low keyed. WELCOME TO HONDURAS!
Cary Hadley woke up at 6:00 am because he had to go to the airport early to take one from his group to catch an early flight since he flew on another carrier. He turned on the TV and our whole world turned upside down within a couple of minutes. Cary woke me up to watch the local news (in Spanish, which I found amusing since I don’t speak Spanish!). However, I didn’t need to speak Spanish to understand what was going on. A transit strike was happening. All taxi cabs and public buses were not operating to protest high fuel prices and low pay. (editor’s note: Honduras strikes all of the time. It is not unusual to see a strike any day of the week. Interesting enough, Hondurans are so peaceful that even their strikes are peaceful too.)
Now, this strike was different in the fact that the drivers were well organized and used their vehicles to block all of the major roads, intersections, and bridges in the city. And they were WELL organized. Our early morning departees took off and had little trouble getting to the airport because it was so early in the morning. But by 8:00 and entire city was shut down and nobody was traveling in or out of the city. Businesses closed up, schools shut down and a bunch of American gringos were about to have the ride of their lives!!!
We decided to leave at 9:00 to give us an additional hour to get to the airport. Great plan, but WELCOME TO HONDURAS! The bus drivers, bless their hearts, cannot plan more than 5 minutes ahead of time. As we jumped on the bus to leave for the airport we had to stop to get fuel (we used the buses all day the day before, do you think they thought to tell me they needed fuel then??? Noooooooo, of course not). As we stopped at the bottom of the mountain to get fuel, we literally watched the roads all around us shut down and get blocked. So the buses took off, left the two pickup trucks to stay to pay for the bill, and headed off for the airport.
I will leave out a lot of details here, but those of us in the trucks pretty much thought we were in the filming of a movie involving James Bond, Indiana Jones, the Fast and the Furious, and the Cannonball Run all wrapped up in one!!! It was the most exciting thing I can ever remember in Honduras. So, we will fast forward by saying that every way we knew to get to the airport was blocked by a very peaceful strike. We hired some locals who told us how to get around the blockade by going through some neighborhoods so we hired them to take us. They did a great job of taking the back roads and they got us to within a couple of miles to the airport but even their route was blocked. But amazingly enough (or a God thing), we found our buses on the same road and we reunited with them!
Randy Kluge got out of his car and went to speak to the drivers of the blockade. He told them how much he appreciated what they were doing and that we totally supported them in what they were striking for that day. He told them that he hoped that they would get the fuel rebates the government promised them and that they would all get raises. Then he told them of our dilemma. He told them that we were missionaries and that is was critical that we got our plane to go home. He explained that if we missed that flight that hundreds of other missionaries coming down this summer might not come because they would be afraid of Honduras. The drivers met together and literally came to a decision 15 seconds later. “Move the cars and let the gringos through!!!!!” It was like Moses parting the Red Sea! It was so awesome!!! And we made it to the airport in plenty of time and caught our flight and came home. What a God thing. What a moment of faith. When we did everything we could do within our ability, God made it happen.
A lot of people missed their flights that day. The strike ended at 2:00 when the police went out and sent everybody home. (editor’s note: that is how all strikes end. Hondurans strike, they make life tough for a couple of hours/days, the police come in, everybody goes home.) But for us, it was a memory that will be told for a long time. (another editor’s note: save this blog. It is accurate. In a few years, you will catch me stretching the truth on this story because it will get better and better as the years pass! I am famous for this.)
Here are the totals for the May trip. To the other Torch teams coming in this summer, the May team set the bar high. May people were touched by this group and a lot of spiritual seeds were planted. I can’t wait for God to produce the harvest!
* Painted the dinning room for the nurses’ station on the children’s ward of Hospital Santa Teresa in Comayagua.
* Bought new table and chairs and cartoon posters for the children’s ward of Hospital Santa Teresa.
* Dug a HUGE drainage ditch in front of the Comayagua church of Christ to help solve the road problem in front of the building.
* Spread 6 tons of gravel in front of the Comayagua church building on the road to fix the ruts and pot holes.
* Painted the inside of another congregation about 30 minutes outside of Comayagua and had a picnic lunch with the members.
* 2 days of visitation at Hospital Santa Teresa passing out toys, stuffed animals, balloons, hugs, smiles, and prayers.
* Visited a special needs orphanage in Comayagua and learned sign language. We passed out toys, balls, coloring books, and more.
* Built one house in Comayagua for a Christian women who was disabled and caring for 4 children.
* Built 4 houses in San Miguel, a colony in Tegucigalpa.
* Painted the newly built kitchen at the San Miguel church building that will provide a hot meal every day for 300+ children when up and operating this summer.
* We did an unbelievable 1 day VBS in San Miguel with about 100 kids present (preacher’s count… we forgot to get an official count).
* We had a 3 day Bible study with the adults of San Miguel with Ben Wright from Kittanning, Pennsylvania, leading the class and Cary Hadley from Orlando, Florida, translating.
* We witnessed 5 baptisms on the trip in San Miguel and received work another took place after we left and 3 more scheduled within the week!
* We visited Hospital Esquela twice and passed out coloring books, Bibles, toys, stuffed animals, etc., and had intense prayer time.
* Packed and distributed 230 care packages of food (each package will feed a family for 2 weeks).
* Dug another drainage ditch in Santa Ana at the children’s home (Casa Esperanza). Moved rock and other chores as needed.
* Played 4 exhibition soccer games (Faulkner University men’s team). These “Good News” games received a lot of press while we were there. (editor’s note: even though we did not win any of the matches, a huge learning curve was achieved. The Americans learned that speed kills! Hondurans are very fast and have played soccer in the worst of playing conditions since they were 5 days old…)
* We had 15 incredible devotionals.
* Had 235 in attendance at the San Miguel church on Sunday!
* Bought really nice Spanish Bibles for the families that moved into the new houses and for the ones that were baptized.
* Bought a portable baptistery for San Miguel.
* Collected $600 for Sunday morning collection (the equivalent of 1 year’s collection during a “normal” service.)
Thanks to all for a great trip. God was indeed glorified and we saw His glory. Have a blessed summer. And for those about to go, get ready, it is going to be totally awesome!!!!!!!