The Mission Team engaged in several projects while in Honduras. We knew going into it that this was primarily a working trip. Initially we were to help with a water project for a couple of small communities but there was a delay in that plan. More on that later. Nevertheless there were other important jobs to be done.
A major project was creating a driveway through the Children’s Home. This was needed because during the rainy season it made driving in the compound very difficult unless you had four-wheel drive. We worked along side Hondurans. Some of these men walked miles every day from other communities to find work. They did not speak English and none of us spoke Spanish but with a lot of sign language we worked well together. Long trenches were dug and into the trenches were piled rocks. These rocks were gathered from around the compound and we also brought them in the bed of a truck from nearby fields. We are not talking pebbles here, we are talking ROCKS. Some of them took two of us to move.
Weeks earlier, when I was explaining to folks our upcoming mission trip a couple of people said, “Not to be sexist, but what are the women going to do on a working trip?” Let me tell you, they amazed me. The only flat land I saw in our area was used for soccer fields. Everything else involved either walking up hill or down hill, often at very steep angles. Well our ladies pushed wheel-barrows straight up the hills, loaded them with rocks and wheeled them down the hills to the workers who put them in the trenches. They did this work, in the hot sun, for hours!
Another project was to built a concrete pad for an additional cistern to provide water to the guest house and back up water to the children, who on occasion would run out of water. This involved digging footers on the side of a hill made of rock. Everything we did was done by hand. Mike’s reasoning for this was twofold. First it was less expensive than renting machinery and second he did not want to replace a Honduran worker with a machine. His aim is to do all that he can to support the local economy where an average day’s wage for a man is about $5. We helped the locals dig the footers and then we mixed the concrete by hand. Large amounts of cement were also being mixed at the top of the hill to be taken by wheel-barrow to fill the trenches for the driveway.
It was an interesting process. It’s like making pasta only instead of putting eggs in a crater of flour you put water in a crater of cement mix and slowly fold it in. At first I did not understand why we were making it far more soupy than I had ever done before. But then it dawned on me that it had to be thin enough to fill in around the rocks in the footers. In the US we would have filled the entire footers with cement but here we were using rocks because they are free and the result is that you need less cement, thus reducing costs.
Our pattern was to work or make a visit in the morning, lunch at noon and then work after lunch. Between 3 and 4pm Mike would call us to quit work in order to play soccer with the children. Picture twelve sweaty dirty Americans, and none of us exactly spring chickens, engaging in soccer with over a dozen kids with boundless energy who had been cooped up inside all day. They ran circles around us but some real bonding occurred. I’ll speak more about the kids in another post.
After playing with the kids we would shower (some of us) and walk down to the dining hall for supper at 6pm. After dinner we would have time recounting the day with Mike, say Evening Prayer and then we were on our own. Most nights ended by talking together around a fire pit, which was perfect for the cool evenings. It was a great way to get to know one another better.
Wednesday night we joined the children for worship. They have their own service each week that consists of Scripture reading, songs, testimonies and prayer. I came prepared to say Mass so when Mike asked how I wanted the evening to go I suggested the children do what they normally do and that would serve as the Liturgy of the Word. Then I would continue with the Liturgy of the Table. Just as I stepped up to the altar the community lost power. It is such a common occurrence that it was all taken in stride. Mike said that sometimes the power outages last for several days. So Mike stood behind me using his cell phone as a flashlight. It actually made things go more smoothly because when it was time for my assistant to read the Spanish translation of what I had just read, she knew it was her turn because Mike would move the light from me to her. To my surprise and to my joy, when I came to the Sanctus, the children sang it from memory. I was very moved to be given the privilege of saying Mass in another country with these special children so loved by God.