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Back to El Rodeo

May 31, 2012

Monday morning. This was the day we had all been waiting for. Our team was heading to our adopted village of El Rodeo and we would begin our work with the community. For those of us returning from last October, I’m sure I can speak for everyone when I say we were very anxious and perhaps a little nervous. Would they remember us? Would this year live up to our expectations compared to how great it was last year? What was in store for us this week as we gathered with those special people we had grown to love and work side by side with them at their homes? For those who were first timers on this trip, I imagine their nerves were of a similar nature. How will we connect with people we can barely communicate with? What kind of work will be expected? Is this week really going to be as amazing as everyone keeps telling us it will be?

As the Range Rovers pulled up near the schoolhouse, the community had already gathered together and was waiting to welcome us back to the village. Instantly we recognized faces and had happy reunions with the individuals we had especially bonded with before. Hugs were given all around and it was truly a joy to have such a warm embrace from the matriarchs of the community and to be able to greet one another by name. Ramone, also called Moncho (who seems to be the president of the community), began introductions and greetings on behalf of the village and led the group in singing some praise songs for us. We returned the greetings and shared our welcome in Spanish as we expressed our gratefulness to be back among them.

Carlos, Roberto and Ramone welcome us to the village.

Marta and the kindergarten come out to greet us.

From there it was time to get to work. Beverly, Kinsey and Scott headed up to the schoolhouse with the children to teach VBS. We were recycling the theme of Pandamania and today’s lesson was “God made you.” The rest of our team was divided into three different worksites to begin building latrines. Devin, being an expert in construction, felt confident heading off on his own to join the family working on their latrine. Dan, Claire, Ken and I headed down the opposite direction toward more houses.

When we arrived at the first house, we quickly realized our first task. The hole for the latrine was in the back of the house, and there were about 200 cement blocks stacked up outside the fence in front of the house. So move those blocks we did. Each one weighed at least 25 pounds, more if they were wet, so I was grateful we were moving them downhill. My trainer would’ve been proud I’d figured out how to get an upper body workout in this week. With four or more of us carrying two blocks apiece, the project didn’t take all that long. But 200 blocks still required several trips back and forth, and the blocks definitely got heavier the more trips we took. As the sweat poured down our brows and the sun beat down our backs, it felt good to be doing hard work and helping out the best we could.

Claire in front of all the blocks we just moved.

Once that big task was complete, Dan and Claire headed off toward an additional house to work on another site, and Ken and I worked on mixing cement. After a few moments, Enhenio and Ramone got to work on putting down the base layer of the latrine. This is where Ken and I got to wait. The hard part about mission trips like these is the “hurry up and wait.” There will be moments of intense physical labor and getting a great rhythm to your work, and then suddenly there is nothing to do while the two experts tackle the details. The exciting part is seeing the villagers working so intensely and seeming proud of the chance to make improvements to their home. It can be challenging to think that we can come in with fancier tools and more knowledge on making things go quicker and smoother, but here you do things the Honduran way, which sometimes can be slow and simple. But it is not our job to come in and tell them that our way is better; it is our job to come in and work with them side by side.

Making a cement volcano for the latrine.

So Ken and I enjoyed some time getting to know one another better while the other guys had some intense conversations about the best way to lay the base layers. I’m not sure exactly what was being said or who was in charge, since I understood very few of the words being said. But I knew that once the process got started there would be plenty to do. Ken and I shared stories back and forth, and I showed him the curious shame plants; fern-like plants that curl up and shrivel at the slightest touch. There were moments where we didn’t even say anything, but just enjoyed the time together, fellowshipping with our Honduran family using smiles and gestures and laughter.

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