Students in Service – Part 4
During the month of September we will be highlighting how students of Simpsonwood spent time in service over the summer.
Last summer I embarked on an adventure that I would never forget for the rest of my life. My week in Honduras during the summer of 2017 was the single most life changing event that I had ever experienced, and that trip and the people throughout that week will forever hold a special place in my heart.
On Saturday June 17th, my alarm awoke me promptly at 5am, an early start to an eye-opening week where God could truly be seen wherever one looked. From the start of that week, beginning right here in Atlanta’s own Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, God was seen in everyone’s hearts and everywhere our mission team traveled.
As we approached Tegucigalpa, I continually peered out the airplane window where the amount of poverty I saw was shocking. The buildings, the roads, the cars, all looked as if a devastating natural disaster had occurred just months ago, yet this was the Honduran peoples normal. They lived within this poverty every day. Immediately after exiting the airport, God had blessed our mission team with and incredible crew from HOI who were by our side throughout the entirety of the trip. They worked hard to keep us safe and transport us from city to city and worksite to worksite. The staff from HOI were the first people I noticed who God had truly blessed within Honduras. These people worked endlessly to transport us from the airport all the way to the ranch, a 300km (186 mi) journey through rough roads, mountain passages, and a variety of local villages, yet they were so happy and blessed to do it. There were always smiles on their faces as they welcomed us to their country. After arriving at the ranch, the HOI ranch staff were no different. God had empowered them to do His will across their country and throughout the local villages. They were truly kind and loving people, and they were the reason I kept pushing myself throughout the week. The kitchen crew kindly made me soup while I was sick halfway through the week, and several staff members helped me lift bags of concrete that I could not have lifted by myself. The HOI staff was truly a blessing throughout the trip and I sincerely admire their determination and work ethic to not only help missionaries get into and work within their country but to also help their brothers and sister in Christ in the local villages and towns that we worked within.
Secondly, God was seen throughout the week within ourselves and our mission team. I have never been surrounded by a group of people who were so willing and able to jump in and help with anything that needed to be done, whether it was mopping vomit up off the cabin floors, hanging mosquito nets, building water filters, or translating for someone. I was amazed how God was able to bring out the best of the Simpsonwood mission team throughout the week as we all worked to help and support each other with whatever was needed. I vividly remember how gracious Nurse Margaret was for my knowledge of Spanish as I translated an entire book of how to wash hands and kill germs to two classes of students. And I didn’t know I was capable of this skill! On the other hand, I couldn’t have been more blessed to be in the presence of such a qualified nurse when I, along with many other youth and adults, became ill on the trip. It became a popular saying by the end of the trip that “Nurse Margaret saves lives” as most of us had experienced treatment from her at some point throughout the week.
Not only did our team support each other physically, but we also supported each other spiritually. My favorite part of each day was gathering on the porch in the evening after dinner to listen to a devotion. Each day someone new led a devotion, and it was the perfect way to end a hard day of work, apart from a game of Mafia of course. Listening to each of our own ideas as to how God was with us and how we could work in God’s name the next day was inspiring, and was genuinely uplifting and spiritually fulfilling. For these reasons, I am forever thankful for an amazing week the SUMC Honduras Mission team of 2017.
Last but not least, the people of Las Trojas, the village that we worked within, sincerely embodied God’s will throughout the week. The first time our team interacted with the people of Las Trojas was when we were ushered through a line of villagers who were clapping, dancing, and singing along to song that was thanking God for the “Norte Americanos,” a name that was applied to our mission team throughout the week. Everyone from the village had gathered in front of the elementary school, a two-roomed open-air building, with a sign that read “Welcome Simpsonwood UMC”, including many men from the village. This is a sight that is apparently very rare for rural villages throughout Honduras, as many men believe that continuing with their daily jobs is more important than helping mission teams throughout their communities. For this reason, our team was very lucky, as many villagers, including many of the students we taught, continually helped throughout the week. Whether it was pouring cement, staining water stands, building pillas and latrines, or just offering their help where it was needed, we were indeed blessed. The amount of progress our team accomplished during the week would have been impossible had the villagers not helped us. By the end of the week, many of us had made friends out of the students and homeowners we interacted with.
One particular student that I taught in VBS, Hector Ariel, had bonded to me as I not only taught his class in VBS, but also worked on replacing his home’s dirt floor with cement. Similarly, one of the elementary school teachers was forever grateful for our VBS team, who taught popular stories from the Bible, spread awareness of public health, and even painted a mural on the back of her classroom wall. I will never forget the look on her face as Tamara, a team member, presented her phone to her with an app installed called “Duolingo” that enables users to learn a variety of languages. The teacher had been longing to learn English, but did not have substantial resources or service to research and teach the language. So Tamara kindly connected the teacher’s phone to the internet at the ranch, and downloaded the application. Overall, God was seen
throughout the entire population of Las Trojas, and I will never forget about Hector or any of the other helping hands that week that touched our hearts and opened our eyes to what life is like within a third world country.
Without God’s love and affection for us, I can faithfully say that our week in Honduras would have been drastically different. God’s love for His children literally and figuratively crosses oceans as the SUMC Mission Team brought so much hope, love, and joy to the people of Las Trojas. It is without a doubt that I can say the same thing about our mission team, as the Honduran community opened their doors to us and continually supported our mission throughout the week. I have never seen so much love in a single place as I did on Sunday night in a local church outside of San Esteban. At the end of the service, each member of the Honduran congregation took each of our hands and prayed for the well-being of our team and gave thanks to God for our presence and our ability to serve their community. This was the first of many times throughout the week that the power of God’s love brought tears to my eyes, as someone who I had never met before, from a country 1,400 miles from Peachtree Corners, prayed for me and thanked God for our ability to serve. It is one of those unique feelings that sent shivers down my spine, and one I will never be able to accurately describe through words. God’s love worked tirelessly throughout the week, and was abundant enough that it could have been seen from space. Honduras forever changed me and I will forever be grateful to have experienced such immersive love among my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, even if we didn’t speak the same language and came from two completely different demographic backgrounds.