Friday, November 12, 2010
The Juxtaposition of Heaven and Hell in Honduras
We're back. Got back midnight Monday, having spent 18 hours in airports, jets and vans and up at 6 a.m. to return to work. Not smart. Being born in the USA (thank you, Bruce) it's always difficult adjusting to life in the USA again. Not to mention I'm still dragging four days later. Ok--I'm done whining.
It's a strange experience. You spend weeks, months, maybe years in your routine. That abruptly ends and within hours you're in a totally different culture, radically different socio-economic status, foreign language, lempiras not dollars, filth, squalor, majestic beauty of mountains, poverty unparalleled here in the states, the serenity of rain forests, dirt-clad kids joyful over your attention, destitution that breaks your heart. And then you abruptly resume middle-upper class life back home. Typically, predictable and cushy. I think my mind, body and spirit require a longer transition. My body's back but my mind keeps lingering in Honduras. I crawl under my covers but my spirit remembers the poor in a fetal position sleeping on a cold dirt floor. I hope I never completely adjust; there needs to be an uncomfortable edge that does not allow me to forget my brothers and sisters in Honduras.
Juxtaposition: the act of positioning close together to show similarities or differences. Eye level, all I see is filth, garbage, feces, shacks made of anything the resident could scavenge to throw together, malnutritioned dogs with their bones nearly protruding through the skin, shoeless children begging for attention. I raise my head and within a few hundred yards are beautiful mountain ranges lush with foliage, the forest greens glistening in the sun. The glorious and the gory inhabit the same place; the exquisite and the excruciating hand-in-hand.
Our team resumed where a previous team left off and we were able to finish a house for a poor family living in the dirt. A 20x24 concrete block house. The husband and wife were smiling in anticipation of the completion and in hope for their children. Shelter--a fundamental survival need that doesn't even register on my scale of concerns for my life. Shelter--a fundamental survival need that many hope and pray for daily.
We hiked up into the mountains to serve the poorest of the poor who have little if any access to care and resources. The four hour hike was preceded by a two hour and fifteen minute very bumpy drive (who's counting and hoping it ends soon?) to where the road becomes impassable. Therefore, the hike. I've hiked it before, but this was the most difficult one for me, at 61. It was comforting to hear from several twentysomethings that they had never engaged in such a physically taxing endeavor. We had several mules carrying our supplies, materials, and food up the climb. The Lenca Indians live up in the Opalacha Mountains. They are an impoverished people. We poured a concrete floor for a family as the begining of a solid shelter for them. The husband had spent the previous two months making adobe blocks, one by one, to create the walls that will rest upon this floor. It's so labor intensive. Minimal tools and resources. We needed a board trimmed; a Honduran took his machete and carefully whittled the board down to the desired width.
We had to leave. It will not be until January that another team heads up there. Hopefully, soon this family will have shelter for which they have been hoping and praying. An elderly lady told a previous team, "I was born in the mud and thought I was going to die in the mud." Out of the mud and into a 14x18 mansion.
We hiked back down (down is not always preferable to up) and 7 or 8 hours later we were back at the mission base. I was on one of these outreaches into the mountains several years ago. Our team leader, Vinnie, was Rambo-like and highly motivated. He would lead us in a team cheer:
Vinnie: What are we gonna do?!!?
Team: Leave it all!!!
Vinnie: Where we gonna leave it?
Team: On the Mountain!!!!
It was exhilarating and exhausting. I am so proud of our team. I can honestly say, "We left it all."
If you would like information about this organization and mission base I've been going to through the years, Mercy International, go to: http://www.beyondmercy.com/index_files/Page391.html
Henry Lowman and his wife, Cindy, direct this organization. They are a couple wh possess unparralled integrity and compassion.
Let's not forget the easily forgotten.