Our May 4-9, 2012 Mission Trip Journal
Friday, May 4, 2012
Safe Arrival in Honduras
Not many of us had the luxury of sleeping the night before we left. Several of us made midnight shopping runs, packed until 3am or just tried to take care of our busy lives before we left on our trip. Unfortunately, Susan came down with a head cold and could not make the trip, and Barry and Nick chose to stay home and take care of their mom. Also, after much agonizing, Bonnie didn't feel she could make the trip. We knew the girls would miss not seeing them and we would surely miss their presence as well.
We arrived at church at 8am with the van and U-Haul trailer, right on time. Everyone weighed bags, loaded the trailer, and marked ALL 26 BAGS with orange duct tape and zebra-striped duct tape. We are very grateful for the many donations we receive prior to each trip. Father James joined us just before we left and said a prayer for the mission team (Cecie, Rick, Cordella, Julie, Lisa, Mary, Katherine, Mariela, MikeTed, and Elaine) In Miami, we were treated to first class check-in, although the extra baggage cost us $40 per bag. The airlines can't afford to be very forgiving these days. Thankfully, we had an easy time going through security.
Everyone napped during the 1hr 45min flight, and before we knew it we were landing in San Pedro Sula.
We gathered our bags and found Mayra (Diana Frade's assistant), Danilo (our driver), Don Hector (our security guard) and Lillian, the new Tia, waiting right outside the airport. After a short 20-minute ride we were safely on the grounds at Our Little Roses and were greeted by smiles, waves, and hugs from many of the girls. We hauled our luggage up to second floor to the apartment and then settled into our surroundings, which were familiar to some (Cecie, Rick, Cordella, and Julie)and new to others (Lisa, Mary, Katherine, Mariela, Elaine, and MikeTed). There have been many improvements around the home and the girls have all grown so much. At 3:30pm, our group met in the chapel for an official introduction from Mayra and Diana. It is a special treat to meet with Diana during our visit. She is extremely busy, but also very generous with her time. It is always interesting and inspiring to hear her speak about the past, present, and future of Our Little Roses Ministries. Afterward, we took a tour of the home and then had dinner, prepared by the cook, Miriam, in the guest dining hall. Following dinner, we gathered in the chapel with all the girls to say a special prayer for Nahomi who is having eye surgery tomorrow in the capitol city of Tegucigalpa. Her crossed eyes will be corrected thanks to a donation from a generous sponsor. Julie led us in song and then we spent the remainder of the evening enjoying time with the girls. We caught up on the latest news, heard about their schoolwork, and introduced them to our first-time visitors. It was a wonderful, exhausting day --- the type of satisfying exhaustion that enables you to fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow, which is where I am going right now. Buenas noches.
Who's MikeTed? (It's an inside joke!)
Saturday, May 5, 2012
Everyone began emerging from their rooms by 6:30am. Rick started a strong pot of coffee and the group was moving about by 7am. Miriam had breakfast ready by 7:30am and we were nourished, packed, and ready to go by 8:30am, as planned. The girls loaded the school bus and Danilo had our bus ready by the time we went downstairs. It was a 1hr 30min ride from the home to the Ocote Water Park. Since we were the first to arrive at the park, we claimed our tables and jumped into the water to cool off. The girls had a terrific time swimming, playing, dancing, and playing soccer. After a delicious grilled chicken lunch, several had the courage to try the zip line. It is a 300 foot cable stretched across 2 ponds. The girls and more than half our group (Katherine, Mary, Lisa, Julie, Rick, and MikeTed) had a great time flying through the tree canopy.
By 3pm, everyone appeared exhausted so we decided it was time to pack up and head out. Most of the girls returned to the home on the school bus while our group with 11 girls continued on to the retreat center in Pueblo Nuevo.
The OLR Retreat Center is one year old. It's utilized to offer the girls some quiet time and time to receive counseling in a tranquil setting. Easter weekend was the girls' most recent visit. It is also available for groups, like ours, to stay in the mountains with a smaller number of girls. This was our second stay and it was great. We enjoyed dinner, a walk to the river, and the girls played soccer with some of the local boys in a field behind the center. In the evening, we played board games, did a few art projects, and some of the girls read their books. Everyone set their own pace. By 9pm, we marveled at the "SUPER MOON". A "SUPER MOON" is when the full moon appears larger and 14% brighter, according to the local newspaper. Everyone enjoyed the (slightly) cooler night air until about 10:30pm. Accommodations at the center are very comfortable. Everyone took advantage of their nice, en suite showers and were off to sleep.
Sunday, May 6, 2012
During the night Rick insisted the roosters' crowing started sounding like small elephants outside his and Cordella's room. There are sounds of roosters, cows, dogs, pigs, songbirds, and tree frogs all night long. It is quite a noticeable difference from our homes which are often sealed-up, air conditioned, and void of outdoor sounds. Everyone was up by 8am. The center slowly came alive as Juana, the retreat center's cook, made coffee and everyone wandered about. We had breakfast at 9am and Cecie led a service in the chapel from 10am-11am. Julie and her guitar led us in song, Lisa read the gospel, Rick did the Prayers of the People, and Cordella was chalice bearer. Cordella offered the wine in both English and Spanish: The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation. El sangre de Cristo, la copa de salvacion. After church, we went for a leisurely walk to the center of town. "Leisurely" was really the only way to walk as it was a very hot day. We purposely did not bring much water with us because we intended to support the town's many small stores by purchasing water and soda. No doubt we were the talk of the town after we left --- what a large group of very thirsty people! Upon returning from our walk, we had a few minutes to sit down and cool off before enjoying another delicious meal. Elaine offered up a lovely blessing - one that was often said at meals when she was growing up. After lunch, we had about 30 minutes to relax and enjoy each other's company before heading back to Our Little Roses. It took less than 5 minutes, after our arrival back at the home, for a couple of the girls to come looking for Mary and Katherine to come outside and have some fun. I think it's pretty safe to say they all had fun - because Mary's chalk-stained knees were a lovely shade of blue that matched her shirt! At dinner, Rick discussed the next day's plans. It's an ambitious schedule --- one that may challenge us all to "be flexible" --- as it begins, for some, at 6am, and ends around 9:30pm. Today ended with a slide show on the "cancha" (the covered, outdoor play area) showing pictures from all of Bethesda's past trips to Our Little Roses. You should hear the girls roar with laughter at the sight of themselves in pictures, growing up! Hasta manana y muy buenas noches!
Monday, May 7, 2012
WAKE UP - It's Monday morning and back to school! Lisa was up at the crack of dawn. She put on her running shoes and went for her morning run around the 2-acre OLR campus. As luck would have it, there is a new and improved stage at the far end of the cancha with stairs on both sides, so Lisa was able to get in a little extra cardio! Julie, Elaine, Lisa, Mary, Katherine, Mariela, and Mike/Ted were up early to watch the Holy Family Bilingual School children arrive and sing the Honduran national anthem at 7am. Rick and Cordella also woke up early so they could ride the 6:30am bus to school with about 18 of the girls.
After breakfast, the group went on a driving tour. We saw one of the two transition houses where several of the older OLR young women live. We saw the house where Xiomara used to live and is now occupied by Tia Belkeys and will soon be converted into a full-time dental clinic for Dr. Jensy. Jensy is continuing at the University where she is now taking classes for orthodontia.
From the clinic the group traveled on to El Guamalito Market to buy hand carved wood, hand woven items, pottery, painting and cigars. While everyone shopped, Mike and Rick went on to a yard to buy two cement tables and benches for the school yard. The tables will be delivered in two weeks. They did so well negotiating they brought back two cement flower pots, a cement frog and a cement rabbit as a bonus. They will all look nice placed by the stage for the mothers day celebration at the school this Friday.
The group returned to the home and were surprised by a visit from Bishop Frade. He just returned having attended Sunday service at Bethesda-by-the-Sea. He had time to chat with everyone and take some pictures with the group.
We had a late lunch and enjoyed conversation with Diana about the upcoming group trip to Cuba.
After lunch Rick went out to buy paint while everyone prepared the new wall to be painted. When he returned with primer and paint everyone got to work sealing and painting the wall behind the new stage built on the playground. Diana asked that we paint it in time for the mothers day celebration being prepared by the Holy Family Bilingual School on Friday. Cordella went to the girls dinning hall and made paper crowns with the girls to be worn at the birthday party we planned for later tonight. Unfortunately Rick had to continue running errands with Danilo until dinner time and didn't get time to participate. He had the import job of bringing back enough cake, soda, ice cream, plates and spoons for all the girls and our group. By dark the wall had two coats of sealer and one coat of paint and there were girls running around wearing crowns. It looked great!
After a quick clean-up and dinner the girls helped setup the playground for the birthday party. Julie entertained the girls with songs until everything was setup. When everything was ready, we sang happy birthday and gave presents to the girls with birthdays in May (Diana, ). Then Rick gave a slide show of music and photos of the girls. He has 100's of photos from 2005 to our current trip. It was so fun watching the girls get excited when they saw pictures of themselves when they were younger. This is something they look forward to every time our group visits. The party continued until 9:00 when we had to end it due to it being a school night. The girls get up 5:30 each morning to prepare for school.
Our group gathered in the apartment where we had evening prayer. Then Cecie and Rick lead the group in what they call 3-plus and 3-minus where everyone talks about 3 things they liked and 3 suggestions on how to make the trip better next time. Then they handed out letters from our prayer partners which is always a very meaningful part of the trip. There is such a deep meaning to the prayers when we know the people we speak about and their faces are clear in our mind.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
This day came too soon. Rick, Lisa, Mary and Julie rode the bus to school with the girls and saw each one off to their class complete with an embarrassing photo in front of their classmates. It's fun taking the ride to school and seeing their schools. Diana works very hard to ensure each girl has an opportunity to attend a school appropriate for their age and learning ability.
Returning to OLR Lisa, Mary, Catherine, Mike and Cecie had to prepare to leave by 11:30 for their flight back to the USA. There were so many things they wanted to finish before they left. Most heroically, Mike worked painting the wall until the very last minute. Everyone made it on the bus by 11:30 and Rick rode to the airport with them to say goodbye.
Cordella, Rick, Julie, Elaine and Mariela had one last day to complete their projects and they took advantage of every minute. Mariela painted the cement pots. Elaine wrote cards for many of the girls. Julie painted the words on the stairs leading up to the apartment. Cordella did craft projects in the dining hall with the girls while Rick jumped between assembling an Adirondack chair with the girls and making soap with another group. Dr. Jensy joined in and did crafts with Cordella and made soap with Rick. Everyone did exactly what they felt called to do and dreaded the thought of the fast approaching end of the trip.
By dinner time all the work was finished and everyone was exhausted. There was time for a quick shower, dinner prepared by Miriam and a surprise farewell celebration on the concha (playground). Julie started off by leading everyone in a few songs with her guitar. The girls sang with loud voices and had fun. Then The older girls presented our group with a certificate, hand-carved wood plaque and thank you letter for visiting the home. It's a very happy and sad event knowing we made an impact on the lives of the girls and the thought we would soon be saying goodbye. Rick finished off the night by showing another slide show complete with videos from our visit to the Ocote water park. By 8:45PM it was time to call it a night so everyone could rest for school the next day. We all shared hugs and said goodnight. Our group returned to the apartment to pack our bags and organize our supplies to be stored away.
We later heard from Cecie that her flight arrived safely in Miami but was held on the runway for 90 minutes due to a violent rain storm raging when they landed. The other planes couldn't leave the terminal so they had to wait on the crowded plane. They all finally arrived at home by 10:30PM
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
5:45AM came very quick. Rick was out the door with Elaine and Julie for the last bus ride to school with the girls. Cordella and Elaine had a few last thing s to finish around the home and they spent time with the girls who go to school later in the day. When the bus returned we gathered for breakfast at 8:30AM. We assessed what we thought we could accomplish in the last few hours of our stay. Cordella inventoried our craft supplies and packed. Rick took care of the administration, paid our bills and reviewed the trip with Mayra. Elaine packed and handed out cards to the girls. Julie, with one last blast of energy finished painting the hand-prints on the stairs along with several of the little girls, Rick and Tia Belkeys. By 11:30AM it was time to say the last goodbyes and we left for the airport. There weren't many girls in the home so it made it a little easier to leave the home but Brenda still managed to draw a few tears as she stood in the doorway and waved goodbye.
Rick was taken from the plane in San Pedro Sula for a “random check”. It turned out the Plaster of Paris in his bag set off all the alarms and they thought he was carrying drugs in his luggage. He was very excited to tell the story of how he was very nicely despite the boarder patrol thought he was a drug smuggler. He made it back to the plane without any trouble. In Miami Rick had more trouble after helping everyone with their bags it turned out he forgot his at the luggage claim. He had yet another exciting story to tell how he was escorted by Homeland Security back through customs to retrieve his bag. Rick's and Cordella's son Troy and Rick's Dad picked everyone up and had everyone dropped off safe at home by 10:00PM.
The trip was a very big success. We were very disappointed that Susan, Barry, Nick and Bonnie could not make the trip they had planned for. Our group of 10 was smaller than expected and as a result we did not finish all the projects we had planned. We plan to do so many things but it is the time with the girls that is most important and the part of the trip that is most remembered at the end of each day. We were fortunate to bring 11 bags of donated items this trip. The group enjoyed spending time delivering the items to the office, organizing it all and neatly arranging the items so Mayra could inventory them. We had shoes, receiving blankets, premi-clothes, shoes, medicine, tooth paste & brushes, dresses, and a mountain of donated clothes. It was appreciated so much by the workers in the office who watched as we hauled all the bags into the office. Being flexible is important on a trip like this. We changed our planned work projects to meet the needs of the home. We were fortunate to have a budget to purchase and bring items Mayra asked for. We also were very lucky to have just-in-time donations from Mike to purchase the items Mayra asked for while we were in Honduras.
A FEW IDEAS FOR NEXT TIME...
The trip to Ocote and the overnight at the retreat was very enjoyable but it seemed to break up our trip and made it fell shorter. It would be better to go directly to the retreat and then remain on-sight for the remainder of the trip. It's always nice to have the girls join us on the work projects but they couldn't this time due to being in school. The girls did enjoy working on our craft projects as always. Diana very much appreciated our delivery of four new patio umbrellas for the courtyard and the Adirondack chair. She asked if we could bring more for the retreat center next time. The girls love seeing videos of themselves when they were young. We should bring more videos and print photos from previous trips to hand out to each of them. And last but not least, reconsider trying to bring Plaster of Paris through the airport.
Our next trip is planned for February 24-6, 2013.