Hello! I’ve decided to start a blog, and the main reason I started it was so I have a place to tell you all about my mission trip! So this first post is dedicated to those, whether through prayer or financial means, supported this trip. I’ll try to put my other goings on, or other thoughts here too. I’m not sure how often I’ll post, but we’ll see what happens (and I’m sure most of my other posts won’t be this long)!
So the mission trip? I went to Honduras this past March for a week with 12 other brave students and three priests.
We flew out to Miami and stayed overnight before we flew into San Pedro Sula, Honduras. We stayed overnight with host families, we had two missionaries per family. Now one thing about San Pedro Sula that may surprise you is that in some ways it is like a suburb in some ways more than a city. So there aren’t any skyscrapers but we did see a McDonald’s, Little Caesar’s and a whole host of other eateries that are very American. The families we stayed with were dentists, engineers, and other well paying professions. It is beautiful to look at their lives and know that they are similar to ours. It is also beautiful to see the Catholicity of the Church. We had a Vigil Mass in San Pedro Sula in a replica of the Portiuncula chapel. It was beautiful to recognize the Mass, even in a language that is less familiar than my own.
Sunday we took an eight hour bus trip to Trujillo, across the north coast of the country. The distance between Sand Pedro Sula and Honduras is similar to that from Pittsburgh to Washington D.C., which takes about five hours. It takes eight from San Pedro Sula to Trujillo because there are not interstate highways in Honduras like in the US. It’s mainly two lane roads and they’re not in the best condition either…
So we get to Trujillo, but the journey does not stop there. We arrive on the coast of the Caribbean Sea, and stay at a little place called Tranquility Bay. It is owned by a couple from Vancouver (That’s right Canada). There are several cabanas that the mission team stayed in until Monday we went up the mountain to the villages. Fr. Gilday, the local parish priest, was planning to go up the mountain that day so he helped get the team up the mountain, in classic Honduran style, up the mountain in the back of a pickup truck. So two pickup trucks, four guitars, and 16 missionaries all make it up the mountain.
Well, at least we thought…
Headed up the mountain is not your regular one lane gravel road. It’s a dirt road that’s less than one lane. Rain waters have pounded it again and again leaving ruts all over the road where the water runs. So in order to avoid a ditch our fearless driver ever so carefully maneuvers the vehicle…
into another ditch… Oops.
I don’t have a picture of the truck getting stuck, but I do have a picture of one of the roads on this mountain, just to give you an idea…
We called the area in the picture above the “valley of death.” I hope you can see why. There were only a few of us who passed by this slightly terrifying, um, pothole… Our team of 16 split up into three different villages. Two of the villages we were already established in, previous teams helped to build chapels. However, the third village had not yet seen missionaries from Franciscan U. So our smaller team of four missionaries and one priest walked to Las Breisas every day, 40 minutes one way. We walked three days to this village and on the way there was a beautiful waterfall, two streams that we had to walk through where the water was up to our knees, and you guessed it, the valley of death.
So now we’ve finally gotten to where we are going, so what was it that we did?
I’m happy you asked. We did a few things on this trip and the first was English lessons (they only speak Spanish in these villages). Moving to America is a big hope for some of these kids. Since we only taught for three days the goal was not to get them fluent, but rather to get them to learn a few words, and to connect the experience of learning English to the faith that we taught. We taught them about Christ, and we also taught the kids through movies. Fr. Luta, who came with us, brought his laptop and showed movies like “The Passion of the Christ” and “For Greater Glory” (a movie about Bl. José Luis Sanchez), both of which are fantastic movies.
The school was fairly basic as you can see in the picture above, but what was even more basic was the chapel. St. Mark’s Catholic Church was built in 2001 and has been abandoned for a few years. Another mission team at a parish in Texas came and cleaned out a lot of debris in the chapel, but it’s still in need of a little TLC. Doors are falling off the hinges, there’s no art in the church, but only a few picnic benches. However, we were able to have the first Mass in this little chapel in a number of years, which was beautiful. The villagers from La Colonia (basically home base for the smaller Las Breisas team) came and mopped out the whole church. It was a beautiful moment to bring the Eucharist to this village for the first time in years. The day before we were doing a house visit with a Catholic family near the chapel. Fr. Luta was telling a story of St. Francis’ call from the crucifix. St. Francis of Assisi was praying in a church and heard the voice of God say to him from the cross, “Go, rebuild my church.” I realized in that moment we were helping to fulfill that call. The call to not only build up the physical building but also the community of the Church, the Body of Christ.
Along the way, walking back and forth between Las Breisas and La Colonia we met an older woman, whose name I’ve forgotten, who would walk to La Colonia (to remind you it takes 40 minutes one way) anytime she heard there was Mass there. Even if she would have to walk back in the dark, she would do it just to receive out Lord in the Mass. It was a beautiful witness to me that this older lady (pictured on the left in this picture) would walk all that way, just for Mass. Amazing.
So, what did you learn?
Another wonderful question you’ve asked! Two words come to mind in reflecting on this trip. Those two words are patience and presence.
Patience comes to mind because there is no rush to get anywhere, there are no big soccer games to rush to, there are people that go to work in the fields, but it’s not like there’s a huge worry about getting there exactly on time. So anytime things start a few minutes late, or end a little late, or someone is late for a meeting, I’m not as stressed. In the grand scheme of things worrying about time is not super important. Granted, I still try to be on time to things, but not at the expense of my peace.
Presence goes hand in hand with that. It is important also, to really be where you are and be with the people you are with. One of my favorite bible verses is when Jesus sends his disciples out he tells them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.” (Mk 6:10) You might be thinking, “Stay there until you leave? What the blue blazes does that mean?” It goes back to this notion of presence. The greatest thing we can give someone is to present our presence to them. So put the cell phone down, don’t worry about those things that are weeks away, but be where you are!
These people have the right perspective on life, something that America is lacking. They are present to each other and see what is truly important. Since they have their priorities straight they have such an authentic joy it’s contagious. The kids take joy in just being picked up and played with, and take joy in the simple things. These villagers had a joy even though they lacked the material things that we have. I would venture to say that some of these people probably owned less stuff than one of our missionaries brought down for the week, and they are more joyful because of it.
Here’s where I get up on my soapbox. We’re immersed in a culture that is based not on reality but on what is man-made. We put importance on money, and on material things created by men. The people in the villages focus on people instead. Not to say that they don’t make mistakes, or don’t have problems with each other. But when they do they address it face to face.
So why the title “Baptize the World”? That’s the mission of every Christian today, “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…” (Mt 28:19) This baptism is more than just what the priest does by pouring water over our heads, but rather making every interaction, every little everyday work, and baptizing it, putting Christ at the center of everything. I think a little patience and presence to others is what we need to baptize the world. ✝
To see more pictures of the mission trip click here.