Our March 11-16, 2011 Mission Trip to Honduras!
Friday, March 11, 2011
6:40AM and we packing our last items. We will all met at BBTS at 8:30AM we were on the road to the airport by 9:00AM. We were fortunate and were offered 1st class check-in for the second year in a row. Susan mentioned we were a mission group and they moved us to the front of the line. We all checked in, cleared security and were at our gate with plenty of time to spare. Note- wear socks when going through security - ask Rick why. We had a slightly bumpy ride and there were 2 crying babies onboard but the flight was fine. We arrived in Honduras, cleared immigration, retrieved our luggage and we found 10 girls from the home waiting for us in the airport. We loaded our luggage into the mini-bus and left for the Retreat Center in Santa Barbara. The ride took a little longer than expected due to friday rush hour traffic but we made it in about 90 minutes. The Retreat is AMAZING! We were so happy to see the completed building, lanscapped grounds and beautiful interior. We were each given a room, Cecie held a prayer service and then we settled in for dinner and an evening of games with the girls.
Everyone played cards, Dominoes, Jenga, Ants-in-the-Pants, and a version of vertical Twister (hoops). It could have gone on all night, so it was difficult trying to get everyone to quiet down and head off to bed.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Saturday morning we awoke to the sounds roosters, bird songs and the sound of coffee being ground in the kitchen. The climate is beautiful in the mountains above San Pedro Sula. The air was clean, cool and the view of the mountains calls out to you. As everyone awoke we had breakfast of eggs and tortillas prepared by Juana and her daughters, who live in the Retreat Center. After breakfast we had morning prayer and then we went for a walk in the local pueblo *Pueblo Nuevo*. To our surprise, the town was very clean, new houses are being built and everyone gave us a welcoming Hola. Now on the negative side, we should have known to take sunblock and hats with us. The sun was strong and everyone came back a little red. After the walk into town we stopped by the river behind the retreat. The girls caught tadpoles, some played soccer along with Eric and Try and the rest of us just sat on the ground and talked. It's nice to see that the art of enjoying outdoors hasn't been completely lost in this world of distractions and electronic isolation.
Everyone returned to the Retreat tired, hungry, hot and fulfilled. We had a delicious roasted chicken lunch, loaded the mini-bus and departed for San Pedro.
We made 2 stops at the local grocery store to buy cake, soda, a pinyata for the birthday party, about 10 lbs of candy to fill it, refreshments for the apartment.
At the home we were greeted by 50 girls anxious to see us. We tossed our bags into the apartment and spent the rest of the evening having fun with the girls on the playground. We danced, played soccer, basketball, ate cake, opened presents, destroyed the pinyata, and spent time catching up on the past year. The girls like hearing about our families, our work and about of lives. We all received too many hugs that we could count. Even Cecie took a turn dancing once we managed to find some music from the 70's *Earth Wind and Fire*. The night wound down, we shut down the party, returned to our apartment and had a group discussion about the experiences of the day.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
We woke to the sounds of music selected by Rick to help motivate everyone to get up. The songs ranged from slow jazz and grew to heavy metal until everyone was awake and moving. We had breakfast prepared by Miriam and then we left for church. We arrived early and the girls arrived a bit later and took seats among us. The service was very lively and everyone enthusiastically sang and participated in the service. The homily was in spanish but even if most of the group couldn't understand the words they were captivated by the enthusiasm of the delivery. Rick and Cordella later explained that the homily was about being present in both mind and body. It's not enough to just show up. You must walk-the-walk as much as you talk-the-talk. It was very touching when Barry join others at the altar for a birthday blessing. The service ran almost 2 hours and then we departed for lunch. We had lunch at La Cebollinas, a place we have eaten on past trips. It was a very nice restaurant and they even sang happy birthday for Barry and gave him a balloon motorcycle.
We stopped to buy paint on the way back and then returned to the home. We felt we had been away from the girls way too long so we quickly changed and began our projects. Some of our group gathered on the playground to paint a movie screen on the new wall. The girls helped and we paid close attention so as not to get paint on any of the girls. We only had a few splatters. Others in our group did coloring, helped the girls with homework, made cards or just sat and talked with the girls. Rick assembled a small chair with some of the girls. The day went by quickly and everyone enjoyed fellowship and the "ministry of presence". We had dinner and then prepared to watch a movie on our new screen (Step-up 3).
Everyone enjoyed the movie, in english with spanish subtitles. The girls helped setup and clean up after it was over. We returned back to our apartment and shared our experiences from the day.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Monday arrived way too soon. It was time for half of the group to head back to Miami. It's always a mad dash to pack, take care of last minute conversations and then say good bye to all the girls. It's always emotional saying good bye. The group loaded the van, exchanged email addresses, facebook names and several of the girls made cards which they handed out to members of our group. The van left for the airport by 11:00 and Rick went along for the ride to see that everyone got off safely.
Back at the home, Rick returned and the remaining members of the group helped the girls with their homework, drew chalk pictures on the ground and walked the girls to school for their afternoon class. Some of the girls go off-site to public school while others go to school at the Holy Family Bi-lingual school on the grounds of the home. It was fun visiting the public school 2 blocks from the home. We had a chance to meet the girls' friends, see parents dropping off their children and pop into a few classrooms to say "HELLO!".
The day went by quickly and it was time for dinner. Mariam and Paola made a delicious grilled chicken. We had seconds and then prepared for another movie night (Rango). The little girls enjoyed the movie while most of the big girls sat in groups on the playground and chatted. We managed to shut everything down by 8:30PM to the delight of the nannies, as it was a school night.
The girls helped clean up, put everything away and we returned to the apartment exhausted from a long day.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
By all standards we got off to a late start. Rick was downstairs by 7:00AM to see the Holy Family school line-up and head into the classrooms. On the playground one of the classes practiced a dance routine in preparation for a Fathers Day celebration they will hold Friday morning at school. In all the classes they were practicing songs and reciting poems for Fathers Day. For the girls who didn't have class until the afternoon Rick and Eric assembled a small rocking chair with them. Troy helped Paola study for her algebra exam and Cordella made cards in the kitchen with the rest of the girls.
After lunch the day began to get hot for the first time on the trip. The girls returned from school and others left for the afternoon session. Rick checked with Mayra who said it would be OK if we took some of the girls to Diana's house where there is a swimming pool. It was a great idea and the girls all had fun. Diana's house is about 20 minutes from the where the girls live. Rick and Paola hooked up speakers and an iPod to play music, we had some inflatable toys and everyone enjoyed a few hours of pure relaxation and fun. Seeing the girls have fun like this makes it difficult to believe the difficult background/history each one has and it's absolutely a miracle seeing first-hand how much they have been healed. It's a combination of the support from the groups who visit, the dedication of the staff and blessings we share from this life. After everyone had enough, the sun started to go down and the little girls started to get sleepy. We loaded the bus went back to the home and arrived in time for dinner.
After dinner we setup the movie equipment for one more show. A rain storm and strong wind made it difficult, as we had to keep moving the equipment to keep it from getting wet but the show went on. This time we showed Home Movies. Rick compiled videos and photos from our past trips which the girls loved. It was funny seeing the bigger girls when they were younger. We have them on video telling us how old they are and doing what little kids do when you point a video camera on them. Some of the videos were 7 years old so it was a lot of fun. The photos brought back memories of the groups who visited in the past. Everyone has memories of the time we visited and the things we did on each trip. Mayra later explained that watching home movies from past years is about the most favorite thing we could do with the girls. They don't have family photo albums or piles of memorabilia from years gone past like we all take for granted. To be able to see ourselves with the girls throughout the years and see them grow is such a joy for them and for us. We also looked a bit younger back in 2005. No one wanted it to end but it was a school night so we shut everything down and put it away one last time.
We began saying out good byes knowing tomorrow we would be leaving and some girls leave for school very early in the morning so we might not get to see them before they leave. We returned to our apartment, packed a bit and then turned in for the night.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Our last day. Rick was downstairs by 6:00AM to make sure he was able to escort the girls to school. Cordella and Eric managed to make it down in time just before the bus left. It's fun riding with the girls to school. It gives us a chance to see the morning routine as the city wakes up. The girls go to different schools depending on their abilities. Some go to a technical (vocational) school while others go to regular public school. We exchanged notes on bus and took pictures in front of the schools as we said good bye.
Back at the home there were other girls getting ready for school and others waiting for us since they didn't have school until the afternoon. As usual we tried to pack in as many activities as we could before it was time to leave. In between packing , we would run down stars and assembled another rocking chair, drop off donations, settle our bills, say good byes and exchange cards. We managed to finish everything and we were on our way to the airport by 11:45 for our 2:00PM flight. It was a quick 20 minute ride to the airport. We said good bye and thank you to Danilo until next year. We know they staff at OLR are happy to see us each year, but we also know how much extra work we cause and that we keep them up late and away from their families due to all the activities we plan.
In the airport we checked our luggage (1st piece free, 2nd $30), paid departure tax ($38), cleared security and then we had time to browse the new duty free section added to the airport. San Pedro Sula airport has gone through many changes since our first trip in 2004. They have added a new food court, duty free shops, extra security, a money exchange and modernized it. Much like Honduras and the rest of the world, things keep changing. Some, most, for the better I guess. In some ways we long for the simple days of the past.
The conversation that I had with the girls on this trip, that stands out most in my mind, was about the future. I told the girls to think about themselves in the future. Think about that person as a best friend who is waiting for them somewhere in the future. And then I asked them what they were doing now, to help that friend. We discussed how going to school, exercising, making friends, making good choices, saving money could help "us of the future". I told them that I was there in the future waiting with "them of the future". I explained how I try to do many things for Rick of the future so he will be happy and thank me (Rick of the past). I hope he will be healthy, happy and surrounded by good friends. I think the girls understood what I was trying to tell them. Several of them joked about it during the trip - Yorleny of tomorrow and Maribel of next year. I also tried to demonstrate how simple choices such as turning left or right at the bottom of the stars will cause a different future to unfold. We had fun trying to see how this worked. We would decide to go left as opposed to turning right, and then it was exciting to see who we encountered. Afterwords we laughed about how it turned out and realized that the future would have been different if we had walked in the other direction. Simple choices make a difference - now imagine how much of an impact the big choices can have. A different future is only minutes away, not years. All of our little choices add up and bring about the future we will find ourselves living in. With luck, and the good Lord willing, we will be together a long time enjoying each others company and watching with excitement as each day unfolds.