Working, Sweating, and Otherwise Having a Great Time
“Man, do I ever miss those kids!” is a comment I have heard more times than I can count in the last month since returning from our mission trip. Ten of us from Trinity Lutheran Church in Walden, NY were joined by Greg Crary and Jacob Ayers from Washington and Moriah Merritt from Texas, and together we had the privilege of participating in Summer projects at the Children’s Village. Our assignments were to 1) build some much-needed wooden shelving units for the boys, 2) the “sizing project” to keep up with the kids’ needs for clothing as they grow, and 3) to provide Summer programming and activities for the nearly 60 kids at the village. What I can happily report is that the trip was very successful in all aspects, even beyond our expectations. Not only were we able to complete our assigned projects (at least as long as the wood supply lasted), but the very noticeable added bonus was that of developing positive relationships with the kids at the village, as seen in these pictures. Although the children are served very well by the several house-mothers who work in shifts on the premises, and although they are visited throughout the year by a number of international groups such as ours, they are nevertheless starving for adult attention. So one of the unavoidable benefits of a trip of this type—often unforeseen by first-time visitors—is that the kids quickly become attached to you and steal your heart.
They did this in several ways: First of all, the kids very willingly participated in our projects wherever they were able. For instance, many of the older boys were eager to work with us in building the closet units—after all, what great fun it is for boys to work with power tools! Secondly, the kids were more than cooperative in the sizing project to update their needs for clothing. Thirdly, both kids and adults loved using the pool after it was cleaned—a great way to beat the heat! I don’t think we had a single moment alone in the pool, as kids were continually climbing all over us and playing games. And even outside of the pool we were never left alone by our new best friends. On our last day at the village everyone was fighting back tears as we said our goodbyes. At our departure the next day everyone was saying that the trip had been much too short, and that they wanted to come back as soon as possible.
So how did such a successful event happen, especially when this was a first mission trip for most of the participants, and the first time our congregation had sponsored such a trip to Honduras? Several identifiable elements made positive impacts: First is the matter of careful advance planning. Special thanks are due here to Pastor Ryan Clark (who as of this writing is beginning another call in Minnesota!…but anyway…) who initially brought Worldwide Heart to Heart to my attention nearly two years ago, and suggested that we might consider it for a mission trip. Second is the matter of publicity and fund-raising: Bulletin inserts, verbal announcements, and fund-raising events all the way from a Super Bowl party on a cold day to a car wash and ice cream on a hot day, the efforts of several individuals in keeping this in the active consciousness of the congregation resulted in overwhelming support. Thanks are likewise due to so many people who worked with us to organize and prepare the several fundraising events, and donated time, talent, and funds to make the events successful.
Third, there is the simple matter of donations, and in several kinds: Prayer support, financial support, transportation support to the airport, and even tool support (Yes, most of the tools we used in the building projects were given by willing donors!). Fourthly, we are thankful that God assembled for us a wonderful team of participants who were easy and fun to work with at every stage along the way. In spite of the fact that some of us did not know one another very well at the beginning, we were able to quickly get past any personality issues to focus on the tasks before us. From the organizational meetings, to the fundraisers, to the details of catching flights and going through customs, to meeting a whole lot of new people and learning a new culture in a new part of the world, these guys proved to be resilient, eager to learn, and reflective of the love of Jesus. Finally, we are thankful to the folks at Heart to Heart—especially to Oscar and Amy Serrano in Honduras—for helping us to coordinate a myriad of details.
I would be lying if I did not admit that there is a widespread desire among many of us to return, for all of us felt that we were blessed at least as much as we were able to be a blessing. Exactly when and how this will take place is beyond me, although there will surely be talk of it in the coming months. We are thankful for the opportunity that was ours to live out the message of Jesus in that place, and trust that we shall have more opportunities in God’s time, both here and elsewhere.