Monday, November 22, 2010

Honduras: Reflections and Update

What follows is a letter/email I sent last week to our support-base regarding the mission trip to Honduras we led the first week of November.  Some of you who follow my blog also Honduras know us and we want to thank you for your support and encouragement; some of you don't know us and I hope this will be informational  and maybe also inspire you to reach out to the marginalized. 

Dear Friends and Family,                                                                                          

It has taken some time to re-enter normal life here and re-adjust.  It's a strange phenomenon engaging in a mission trip.  For weeks and months and months life goes on as usual.  That abruptly stops and within hours you are cast into a completely different culture, different lifestyle, different climate, different language, completely different socio-economic level of poverty.  You no sooner begin to acclimate and it's time to leave, and within hours you are dropped back into life as you have always known it. It is quite a jolt  in both going and returning.  Les and I love serving in this manner but it has taken a while longer than usual to re-adjust.  Thanks for your patience.

We led an incredible team from our church, Imago Dei.  11 of us flew into San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  The director of Mercy International, Henry Lowman, met us there and then it was a 3-4 hour drive to get to the mission base.  It is located in a rural area, the nearest little town being Yamaranguila (for those of you who have geographical interests.) 

We accomplished a lot in a short period of time.  We were able to finish a house in the local area that a prior team from the states had begun.  This family was living in a shack with a dirt floor.  Their new house, 20x24, has a concrete floor.  The concrete block walls were up; our team built the trusses and put a roof on, and finished the two doors and windows.  This family now has a safe and solid shelter that will last them for generations.

One of Mercy International's goals is to provide shelter for the poorest of the poor who reside up in the mountains.  The poor in the local area where we finished the house are unbelievably poor compared to U.S. standards.  The Lenca Indians who reside in the mountains suffer an even worse plight.  They are removed from access to resources and medical attention.  They depend on and survive upon what they can grow for themselves; they are presently undergoing, in Henry's words, a famine.  He has committed to slowly build shelter for one family after another.  Here's one of the difficulties:  to get there you drive for over 2 hours and a mountain road that constantly shakes your own skeleton and the chassis of the van unmercifully.  At that point the road becomes impassable.  We embark on a rugged four hour hike further up into the mountains just to get to this village, Santa Maria.    It's a hike, not a walk.   An entire day is spent just getting there. Mules are utilized to haul up materials and supplies. 

Once there, we bedded down for the night on a concrete floor,  and the next day we began a house for a family of 6.  This house will be 14x18.  We graded and poured for them a concrete pad for their floor.  The husband, months earlier had, by hand, made large adobe blocks to form the new walls.  All these blocks were stacked in his shack to dry out.  I saw a single bed in the space remaining; I assume most of the family is sleeping on the cold earth that has served as their floor.  Our pre-determined goal was to provide them a floor for their new "house."  Mission accomplished, but it was difficult leaving  them with so much more to be done.  We had to get back to the mission base, particularly  in light of a storm front moving in.  if we were to get caught in a storm--and on a previous trip  that happened--the dirt quickly turns into a slippery clay and hiking becomes brutal.  so, we packed up our gear and bid them farewell.  Sadly, it might be January before another team makes it up there to resume where we left off.

It's frustrating.  It's so labor and time-intensive and, seemingly, so little to show for so much time and energy spent.  Are we to ignore them?  To my knowledge, no one else is working up there to provide shelter and to establish a church.  These families are destitute and not because they're lazy; it's an extreme environment.  Somehow, those families need to know that there are others standing with them--people like you and me.

A lot of the team also spent significant time establishing friendships with the children and their families.  These kids are like sponges and soak up hugs and attention.  We engaged the kids in games and memorizing bible verses, providing them some soft, cuddly Beanie Babies to cling to after our departure and prayed with some of the moms and families.

We are grateful for your support.  Some of you provided financial assistance.  Others prayed for us while we were there.  Many of you have provided words of encouragement that served to bolster our spirits.  It is your support, in what ever way it is shown, that makes it possible for us to do what we do.  We are in this together.  Some are Goers, like Les and me.  Some are Senders.  Others are Mobilizers.  You Senders and Mobilizers make it possible for us Goers to make a difference.  I want you to know that YOU have made a difference.  Several families now will not have to wonder about the fundamental need of shelter.  Generations of their family will be protected for a lifetime. 

Thank you for your own heart for the poor.  We go as representatives of the church, as mirrors of God's love, serving as reminders to them that in the midst of their destitution God has not abandoned them nor will he ever forget them.  We are grateful for the privilege to serve in this capacity.  If you could see the expression on the face of one of these parents or their children, you would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they, too, are deeply thankful for someone caring.

A previous team had poured a concrete floor for an elderly lady up in this same mountain area.  She was overwhelmed with not only gratitude, but overwhelming relief.  As she put it, "I was born in the mud--and I was afraid I would die in the mud."  She is no longer afraid.   We thank you and, if possible, this dear lady would wrap her frail arms around you and thank you, too.

Grace and Peace, Steve and Leslie Harris

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