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It Feels Like Home

May 28, 2012

This trip marks my third year serving in Honduras and my fifth international mission trip. What struck me today was how easily I slipped right back into the culture and felt completely at home. For the first part of the trip I couldn’t find my camera, having buried it so far down in my bag. Yet I wasn’t really concerned, knowing plenty of others were capturing those priceless moments. It was actually quite liberating, not to feel like I had to capture every scene on film (well, memory stick), that the scenery was already familiar, and I didn’t have to feel like a tourist. I could just be, and enjoy.

But it has also been thrilling to have half of our team here as first timers, first time on a mission trip and first time in Honduras. Things that have become ordinary are brought to life again as seen by new eyes, and I once again take in the wonder and amazement of it all.

One of my greatest joys is to see members of my church who live so selflessly that giving and serving others is second nature. Dan and Scott are priority flyers and had been upgraded to first class seats. Since they’re so used to flying in style, they offered to switch with Beverly and Ken, who had never had the experience. Beverly and Ken were so overwhelmed at the extravagant outpouring of love, and it gave them a taste of what we hope many others will feel this week.

When you land in Tegucigalpa and step off the plane, you’re instantly surrounded by mountains and the beauty of the country. Typically we would’ve loaded up immediately on the Range Rovers and headed toward Juticalpa. This year we were picking up two additional passengers, veterinarians who were catching a ride to the ranch to join another work team. We quickly found Glenn, a warm hearted, easygoing vet from Louisiana. He met up with our team from SUMC and instantly became a part of the group. It took a little longer to find Jeff, who was coming all the way from Oklahoma and had come in on a separate flight.

Marta, our HOI leader, headed back to check on him, and realized he was caught up in customs, trying to declare whatever medical instruments or antibiotics a vet would travel with. To kill a little time, the rest of us headed to the airport food court to grab some lunch. Mission trips are funny like that. The first rule is to be flexible, and to understand that other countries aren’t quite on the strict and hurried schedules as Americans. Instead of getting bent out of shape or worried about how much later we would arrive at the hotel, everyone graciously sat down to eat Honduran Big Macs and pizza. It was actually a great chance to reunite with our drivers from last year, Nelson and Ubaldo, and bond with Glenn the vet. Once we had finished eating, a young teenager approached our table asking for leftovers, and gladly ate the remaining fries he was handed.

Kinsey and Scott with our new vet friends Glenn and Jeff.

It was this teenager, and perhaps the mute woman begging as we loaded our bags, who gave the new members in our group their first wake up call. Upon reflecting with them later, every single one of them talked about the poverty. You hear about it, read about it, see it on TV, but until you come down to a developing nation like this, it just doesn’t quite hit you. In their words, there’s no way to prepare for seeing this kind of poverty until it’s staring you in the face. Driving through town there were tiny mud houses without doors, dozens of people piled in the back of pickup trucks, and people digging through trash on the side of the road. As we drove over rivers, people were washing their trucks in the same stream where children swam and played nearby. It was probably the same river from which some families drew drinking water.

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Stopping along the way for a bathroom break or a snack, we were reminded of a few rules to get us through the week safely and stay respectful of the people of Honduras. First and foremost, don’t drink the water, including no drinks with ice, and brushing your teeth with bottled water. The fun rule to remember is not to flush your toilet paper. The plumbing here just can’t handle it. Instead of dropping your paper once you’re done, you hang onto it, wad it up, and save it for later. Just kidding. But you do hang onto it, wad it up, and toss it in the wastebasket next to you. Another good lesson is learning that the C on the shower handle does not stand for “cold,” but rather “caliente.”

All of this and it’s only day one. By Saturday evening we enjoyed our first authentic meal at the hotel in Tegucigalpa…chicken, rice, tortillas and some root vegetables. Dan shared a devotional about finding hope when your hands are tied. Reading from John 19:26-27, even when Jesus is tied to the cross, he still has the compassion and selflessness to care for others. He assigns his beloved disciple to care for his mother, and his mother to care for her new son. When your hands are tied…when you feel like there is nothing you can do, there is always hope, there is always a way to serve. Even when the poverty surrounding us feels like it is overwhelming and unfair and there is nothing we can do to make a dent in the situation, there is always hope. Hands tied, Jesus cares for those he loved most the best way he knew how. Let us follow his great example this week.

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