I heard from a long time friend, Lane, a couple of days ago. He read the blog discussing the “good old” days of Torch, back in the early 1990’s. As with me, Lane has vivid memories of the early days of Torch Missions. It is amazing the things you remember, isn’t it? Lane started going on Torch trips his freshman year of high school at Friendship Christian and helped raise thousands of dollars to help build the living quarters at the Jovenes en Camino Children’s home. His project is still carried on today at school as they collect coins for “Change for Honduras.”
As I mentioned in the earlier blog, the guys stayed on campus in the dormitories at Baxter Institute of Biblical and Cultural Studies while the girls stayed with family members. Now, if you were not there, you might think the girls got the better end of the deal. But not necessarily so! Baxter is a beautiful facility and the men’s dorm was quite nice. Red Spanish tile floors, solid wood paneling, exposed beams, hardwood ceilings, and large rooms with plenty of storage space. The doors opened up to the inner courtyard, which was a beautiful grassy area.
The only real downside to the dorm was the public restrooms and the showers. The bathroom stalls were built for small Honduran men, not gringo mas grandes! And the showers? Without knowing for a fact, I would guess the water was piped directly from the iced capped Andean mountains of South America! I have never felt water as cold as the water coming out of the showers of Baxter (that was not in the form of ice). Baxter did not have to worry very much about wasted water because you could not stand in the shower more than just a few seconds at a time. We might not have invented the speed shower but we certainly perfected it!
I conquered the cold shower problem the second trip. I was at Wal-Mart shopping for supplies to take on the trip (back then you had to take just about everything you needed, the stores were not stocked for gringos like they are today). Low and behold I wandered through the sports department and into the camping equipment. I found an outdoor shower kit! Basically it was a large, black, rubber bag with a nozzle on it. It held 2 ½ gallons of water. You left it outside and the sun would heat the water up for a nice warm shower in the afternoon!!!!! Goldmine!
I had struck it rich. I shared my newfound discovery with a few friends and we showed up at Baxter with our snazzy prize. It worked to perfection! At the end of the trip we donated our bags to worthy Baxter underclassmen and returned the next year with new sun showers. Others of the Torch group followed suite and it wasn’t long before dozens of black sun showers were basking in the sun! Life was good. (Isn’t it amazing the things we take for granted?) Now, you might be thinking, “2 ½ gallons of water????’ Trust me, it was plenty of water to take a shower.
The guys also ate at Baxter. We had breakfast, lunch, and dinner with the Baxter students. Food was meager and we ate a LOT of beans and rice. My favorite was the baked chicken. Not because of the taste or the seasonings, but because Senora Chung (the Baxter head cook) used some kind of funky marinade or something (to this day no one knows what it was) that looked like the byproduct of a nuclear power plant! It was a neon green liquid… sort of scary to look at but tasted great! (To my knowledge no one glowed in the dark after eating the chicken). We also ate some of the largest carrots ever grown! (I am pretty sure if Guinness Book of World Records officials could have been there they would have agreed) I could go on and on about the food but I am sure you get the point. Most of us supplemented our meals with Pop Tarts, Beef Jerky, and Vienna Sausages. Even Spam tasted good during the early years of Torch!
Guys had to observe the 10:00 pm “lights out” policy in the dorms. The students were not allowed to stay up at night since their day began very early in the mornings. This was quite an adjustment for the Torch guys since we were not the least bit sleepy at 10:00 at night. We would stay up, in the dark, and talk for hours. (We did have our handy dandy flashlights too) We must have kept the Baxter students awake because they went to great lengths to make noise in the mornings when they got up while we were still trying to sleep! I guess it was fair, but the singing that came from the showers was awful! Of course I am sure it partly had to do with the temperature of the water too!!!
And of course the Baxter students played soccer every morning before breakfast. They would run around the dorm knocking on the doors trying to get us to get up and go play soccer with them. Usually the first day or two we would go out to play. Why not? We were up for a good game of soccer… oh, wait! Soccer! Most of us did not play soccer. But of course, how hard could it possibly be? All you have to do is run around and kick a ball around and into a net. Well, you can easily imagine what happened. These Baxter guys had been playing soccer from the moment they exited their mother’s womb. They killed us. Destroyed us. Embarrassed us. Shamed us. By the third day we were hiding in our closets when they knocked on our doors. No way were we going out as a lamb before the slaughter. We could get exercise somewhere else, thank you very much. And that, my friends, is why we went out and bought a basketball goal! Ha! Payback was sweet.
The Baxter students were actually very cool and a lot of fun to be around. They took their studies very seriously, which is a good thing. We certainly did not take our classes very seriously… what can I say. They loved practicing their English with us and of course we helped out by teaching them all of the useful phrases they needed to know! (Have you ever thought about how many words we use today that have nothing to do with their definitions????) One of my favorite students was Saul. He spoke very good English but always acted as if he could not speak or understand it. Very tricky man he was… Today he preaches in Honduras and is one of the finest preachers around.
Most of the Baxter students were from other Latin American countries besides Honduras, and nearly all of them were former military soldiers. On the surface they were Bible majors, dressed in their standard long sleeved white shirts, red ties, and navy blue pants. They were smaller in stature, thin, and very non-threatening. However, we found out that they were not ones to mess with! Very few practical jokes pulled on the Baxter students turned out well for us! (Although it did not stop us from trying…) The worst was the infamous water balloon battle. Without going into detail, lets just say broken windows in Honduras are very expensive to replace and you do not want to play a game of water balloon battle with ex-military commandos.
Next blog will discuss life on a Torch trip from the girl’s point of view. Today’s trips are a far cry from the early days of Torch Missions. Like Lane said, today’s mega teams can get a LOT done and you have the chance to meet so many new people from so many different places. You can be at many different places at different times and provide so many different types of services and ministries. But back in the “good old days” the teams were small. You became very close to EVERYONE on the trip. You did everything together and shared everything. It is part of the experience that we have lost over time. Something that was very unique and certainly very special. Something that only the ‘old time veterans” will remember. Those were the days my friend….
Until next time, take care and have a blessed day!