AFE Mission: Honduras November 2009
Friday, October 30th, 2009
I left with a team on October 30th, 2009 to begin our journey to Honduras. There were 6 of us: Lance Mudgett, Al and Julie Steiff, Ruth Hallin, Colleen Duffney, and myself. We would be meeting Marilyn Knapp who was coming in from Michigan on the 31st and meeting us on our plane that would take us into Honduras.
As we checked in through Minneapolis with our passports, Ruth called out that she could not find hers. We kind of all froze on the spot and started digging through her carry on making sure it had not slipped out of its holder. After a couple phone calls we found it had been left in the copier at Church when she went to make a copy earlier that day. A call to Ruth’s husband put him in route for a 2 1/2 hour drive to us with her passport. It sounded like our plane was going to be significantly delayed so we all waited in a restaurant. Sharing our team dinner together that we had planned. We thought we would be ok until they moved us into another plane that was leaving soon. We had to leave Ruth at the Minneapolis airport and that was hard to do. I knew we had to move the team on and pray that she would catch a flight yet that night and catch up with us in Texas where we were staying until our Honduras flight the next morning.
I have to break here and tell you how wonderful Continental Airlines is. Through out all of this they were very supportive, giving us advice, offering to put Ruth on a later flight, taking care of us when a flight did come in to make sure we caught it. As we left for the plane Ruth had sent me a text message saying that they may even put her on a Delta flight to get her to us. I reluctantly had to shut off my phone as we taxied to the runway – hoping and praying that she would be with us soon.
In Texas when I was able to turn my phone on I found out she was on a plane that was coming in at about 1:00 am in Texas. It had 4 people on it, basically just bringing Pilots in to Texas and Ruth was able to join us at the hotel where Colleen and I got up to meet her at 1:45 am.
The team was reunited.
God is so good.
Saturday October 31, 2009
On Saturday, we caught our 9 am flight to Honduras. We knew Marilyn’s flights were close – she was coming in at 8:15 on another plane and joining us on this flight. We had not met Marilyn before. She was a woman who had been prepped to go on another mission and that one had been canceled. She connected with me asking to join our team and we had been conversing through email and the phone for the past 5 weeks. Marilyn is 78 years old.
As we stepped into our plane, we still had not seen Marilyn. She had mailed me some pictures so I knew what she looked like. She called me as our plane was taxiing to tell me that they had just landed and she would catch up with us tomorrow as their is only one flight a day into Honduras from this airport. She was calm and collected and I was excited to meet this woman.
Off we flew into Tegucigalpa Honduras.
Once in Honduras (and made the amazing landing on one of the worlds shortest runways), we went through security and met Mark Miller who would be our “go to” person for the week. Mark took us to the guest house where we would be staying. We were able to get our rooms and get settled. After a lunch, we made our way as a team up to the Americano Expresso coffee shop where we sat outside and learned more about Mark and his family and what exciting things were happening at AFE.
Walking back to the guest house I think is when the rhyming of Lances name began…. I want to say Mark’s kids started it but I am not sure if that is true…. it went from Lance to Pants. Then we called him Pants for most of the trip. At some point we added ants…. and I believe there was a prance…. (these work teams really bring you close to people and this is my third trip with Lance, my 6th trip with Al and Julie, and my first time with Ruth and Colleen).
Back at the guest house I made a dish washing chart for the team and after dinner and devotion time together in the great screened porch area, we had an early night to bed.
Sunday, November 1
Up at 5:30 am. We eat at 7 am each day and I think most of us had taken Ambien the night before (a prescription sleep aid that I use in Honduras as many times the noise of the dogs, the horns, and other street noise can keep you awake). At breakfast we always have fresh fruit - I love that! No Dole sticker here – these are fresh from the market! Pineapple, papaya, bananas and more!
Today is our day we go to Jeoneys Church. Jeoney is the man who started AFE, the school that helps get kids out of the dump. He is an incredible man, a man who really is hearing Gods call and using this call to make a hige difference in the lives of many children and their families.
It is always interesting going to a Honduras Church. The language is Spanish and Julie has a fair grasp of it but the rest of us are pretty much clueless. This day was our first time they had an interpreter for the service, Reys wife, who did a wonderful job and it was a great experience.
The church looked amazing. Two years ago they were meeting in the community center in this area, but they now had there own building with a beautiful floor. A bus brings kids from the dump to church. While there are adults from the area that attend, the congregation is mostly children.
After church we are taken to a restaurant for lunch. The name was Pasteo Laraversahero. The food was delicious, but I am a huge fan of Honduras style food, so I may be bias. Actually the whole team really enjoyed this experience and we were able to spend time with Mark, his wife Melanie, and their three children, Madeline, Marya, and Breylon. You will see a picture of the food below.
This is where Marilyn caught up with us. Her flight had come in and Colleen and Terry Hawk who care for the Guest House brought her to us. She is a petite little woman who would we would soon learn had experiences that far surpassed what most people would ever do. What an incredible addition to our team!
After eating we had the opportunity to go and see El Picacho National Park, which is known for its large stutue of Christ that overlooks the city of Tegucigalpa. You can see this statue all over the city, but I had never had the opportunity to go up the mountain and into the park and actually see it up close. This was a huge treat for the team!
We then made our way back to the guest house in time to change and be ready for dinner. This was a great day and a busy one so afterwards we were pretty tired out, we had our devotion time with marilyn at 7 pm and then had the evening to relax and recap the day on our own. I always encourage the team to journal their thoughts and the day to day activities because things happen so quickly and can blend together by the time we get back to the states.
Monday, November 2, 2009
Up and ready to go to AFE today! We take the van to AFE which is about 40 minutes away from the guest house. We pack a team lunch each day. When we arrived we started out in the new dining hall where all the kids had gathered. This is so great as up until this point the cooks worked on a hot flame outside cooking beans for the kids and a tortilla which the kids would then take and go find a place to eat on the ground. Now they have tables and chairs.
Note about the kids from the dump: These children up until the AFE School (AFE stands for Love, Hope, and Faith) knew nothing of eating at a table or even how to use a toilet. Think about this a minute. Many were born in the dump and they scronge for food in the garbage bags or for something they can sell. many of the yound girls will sell themselves as they get into their teen years to have money to eat. What AFE is doig is giving these kids hope, skills to do more, earn a living, and get out of there current situations. AFE is a miracle in action.
Two years ago when I was working with an AFE team we were mixing cement and building a wall out of bricks. The cement was hauled in wheel barrows and a couple of the kids of AFE and I would take turns writing our names in the wet cement in the wheel barrow. The kids were Fernando and Samir. These kids have clung to my heart through the past years and I was delighted to find myself in the dining room sitting next to Samir. Even more delighted when he took one look at me and said, “Cheala” (The “Sh” sound is hard for them, so I am usually referred to as Cheala there or Chili as Julie usually calls me.)
Is it possible for a young boy I met two years ago for a week to still have that hold on my heart?
After we had introductions and Rey spoke a bit we were given our assignments. Part of the team – Julie, Colleen, Marilyn, and the two girls who were joining us for a couple days – Erika and Sarah, would be painting the kindergarten room. Al, Lance, Ruth, myself and Tyler (boy who was helping us for a couple days) would be working on an addition on to a house in the community. This was the first time they were doing this so it was exciting to be the team that was able to do it. We were building on a room to Salena’s Aunts home (Maria Matilda). Salena was in need of housing and a safe place to be. Maria’s home was too small to take another child in having three of her own, so our job was to build on a small room in the back of the home.
This project meant we had to take apart Maria’s “kitchen” which was a 50 gallon barrel in back of the house filled with rock wood, and ashes with a screen on top to cook on. We had to empty the barrel and then take it out of the space. In the pictures you will see a narrow walkway – hardly 2 feet between buildings, that was where we had to bring the supplies through and work in the back of those buildings.
Day one half the team finished painting the kindergarten room and staining the shelf and the other half worked to clear out the space where we would be digging post holes and putting a cement floor in on Tuesday.
At lunch we gathered back together and afterward Lance and I prepped a large container of chinese food that was delivered by motorcycle to AFE to take into the dump. We would be going in and handing our food and water to the people in the dump.
The Team goes into the Dump
Thanks to Duncan, we have pictures of this. (Duncan is very involved in AFE and is familiar with many of the people who live and work there so he has no problem getting in with a camera). We do not take photos in the dump as it is unsafe to take a camera in as well as it is a hard thing to do when you see people who are living here. I know I will stumble with the words in this part so please hang with me here. It is a hard experience and it is hard to write about. I have been in the dump about 6 times and it never gets easier. This is where people live and work so to speak to find food in the garbage or things they can sell. In this place, the kids all want to grown up to be the dump truck driver. The dump truck drivers pick through the garbage after they pick it up so by the time it gets to the dump it has been:
1. What people have thrown away
2. Picked through by the dump truck drivers
3. Gets to dump and is picked through again.
Food leftovers, chicken parts, etc… are a part of everyday survival in the dump. It is a vision that never leaves me.
A note about the babies: Babies in the dump had been being left in cardboard boxes while their moms searched the dump for food and items of use. Many times, the babies would die due to the exposure of the sun as they were left in the box for hours. Now AFE has a nursery where the babies can stay during the day and melonie walks with other women from AFE through the dump looking for babies.
The food line worked like this: Serve five children, one woman, one man, and then back to 5 children. We do this until we run out of food. And yes, we ran out of food.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Up and on our way again by 7:30 am to AFE. We seen that the paint job of the kindergarten room looked wonderful! Now that half of the team moved on to sheet rock – in the far building that was being used for the older kids of AFE. The other half of the team made their way up the hill from AFE to go back to the project in the community. I have to say – this was an exciting project. Being in a small community where people knew we were a team from AFE was a good thing for AFE.
We worked a long day on the projects and then headed back to the Guest House to get cleaned up for dinner and then we were being picked up by Jeoney at 7 pm to go out on the streets to offer food and water to kids who lived on the street.
Street children are defined by different organisations as children who live on the streets, children who work on the streets and children who spend the majority of their time on the streets. The children who live on the streets have either been forced to leave their home or a children’s home or have made their own decision to live on the streets rather than at home. Sadly, some children are born on the streets and grow up knowing the street as their only home. A street kid is any child or young person under the age of 18 years who sleeps regularly on the street as a street child. Their are also many more children at ‘high risk’ of becoming street children and these include children who work on the streets, children begging on the streets and children who spend most of their time in the streets because of their family situation or culture. There are about 20,000 street kids currently in Honduras. I have seen them as young as 5 years old. Many of the girls you see on the street are pregnant.
The Street experience is another tough one. It is one that I think is important when we are there to do, but it is also hard. Most of the people on the streets huff glue which is a glue that we would make model airplanes with. This glue is cheep and takes away their hunger. Of course, it also kills their brain cells. We always see kids huffing on the streets. Colleen and Ruth seen a man on the streets who looked fairly well dressed who came up for food then went and sat on a curb and just held his head in his hands. It is a picture that will not soon leave them. Many questions come to mind on the streets. As you look at all these kids – many look older than their years. The streets are not kind. The pictures you see here of the street kids are all taken with permission from each one. many of them ask for their picture to be taken.
Wednesday, November 4
By this day, we have a pretty good rhythm to what we are doing at AFE. As soon as we are there we split into our two work areas. Now Al has joined the sheet rockers as they need peices cut and so it is not Lance, Ruth, and I from the team who head up into the community project.
Today the community team is mixing the cement. We do this by hand mixing sand, rock and the cement mix on the ground. I call this building relationships around the mix. There is not a lot else to do during this process. It is slow work, mixing and then hauling it to the area we have prepared behind the two buildings through the narrow walk way.
After lunch we finished the cement floor and left it to dry. We came down and met up with the rest of the team and headed back to the guest house.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Last work day and we have much to do! We first make a pit stop at Dunkin Donuts (I know, right?) to purchase donuts for the kids up in the community. The two girls there are twins and it is their 8th birthday. I purchase 3 dozen donuts at 179 limperos a dozen. 100 limperos is about $5.00 American so the donuts are about $8.00 for the dozen. I have no idea how that compares in the states as I can not remember the last time I bought a dozen donuts. Back at AFE we get right back on the jobs, Sheetrock for half the team and now we are doing walls for the other half of the team.
At around 10:30 Mark drives the Sheetrock team up to the home we are working on so we can have a little birthday party with the donuts. This is a lot of fun. I had bought three dozen in case more kids showed up then we had planned on…. that is usually the case when we offer anything to the kids.
The kids loved the donuts and we had enough to give to the adults in the area as well as the team. Al played with the kids and Marilyn sat down and had them singing Jesus Loves Me in Spanish. Oh wow.
That evening we went to Jeoney’s home for dinner. We had wonderful tacos with chicken or beef and a great spicy sauce that was made out of sour cream and diced chili’s. YUM! Jeoney told the story of how AFE began which you can see here. Salena was there with Maria Matilda (aunt). Salena thanked us for the work on her room.
Friday, November 6
What ever mission I am on, AFE or Manuelito, we always try to get a chance to see the other mission. This was our Friday plan. In the morning we went early to AFE so we could say good bye to the kids. They had a little program for us and Salena gave us each a card that she had made thanking us again. When this was done the kids all gave us hugs… this is like being mobbed by 150 little guys and gals that just hold on so tight. Definately insert tears here.
At AFE I had a wonderful surprise. There was a boy at Manuelito that I had met 5 years ago, my first time to Honduras. His name is Aaron (pronounced Arone) and he had a special place in my heart. A few years ago he had left Manuelito and was living in Tegucigalpa with the Pastor of Manuelito’s son, Jorjito. We had head that a couple years ago he had fallen away from the church and we lost track of him. So guess who shows up for our last day at AFE? I seen him and instantly started to cry…. thinking the whole time he is wondering who this crazy white woman is who is hugging him… ( ha ha) We learned that he is working for another project of street kids called macah Project. he is doing well and in a good place. Thank God.
We had been given an assignment on our first day at AFE. It was to learn how to say “See you at the University” to the kids. This is to really let the kids know they have a chance to do something with their lives. They are worthy and smart and they can move on through school and into college (university).
At the end of our time there, Ruth and I approaches a group of kids playing ball. Together we said our practiced sentence in Spanish, “See you at the University!”
The kids looked at us blankly. Lucky for us, a woman who spoke english was with them and she asked us, “Are you trying to say, see you at the university?”
She said it in Spanish for us and then the kids laughed becuase we had butchered it so badly. :)
Our next stop: Nathanials Church in Talanga. Nathanial is an amazing Pastor we had met years ago. Talanga is the town in which Manuelito is. Talanga is a poor community and looks nothing like Tegucigalpa. Here you see ox driven carts, roads that are more pot holes than road, and homes with no doors. Our local church helps support Nathanials church so we stopped to see how he was doing. He is such a great guy!
He showed us the sewing machines that women of the church use to make clothing – which was so cute, to give out in the community. He also had some of the feed the children food that we had bagged here in Brainerd last year. That is so exciting! He had 30 boxes that they ahd cooked and fed the community. He now had 5 boxes left. We had a team picture of us all holding up the food. That was a great moment.
Then: Manuelito. It was so great to see the kids we have known for years as well as meet a few new ones. We toured the project and went out to my favorite tree in the world. (Team Picture moment). After that we had lunch at Manuelito which was a wonderful traditional Honduran meal…. rice and meat and really big yummy beets.
After lunch we left for Valley of The Angels which is our time to shop a little. It was really raining by the time we got there. It really is like a Honduras tourist trap. This is where we pick up any t shirts, art work, or whatever. We stopped and had a quick coffee break. We hit the little shops and looked at the great wooden bracelets I really like and I finally settled on buying a ring for $2.95 American and a few little scrap metal children that were magnets. I really liked these and they reminded me of the kids of AFE… taking a life that to some would look like scraps… and with Gods power making it something beautiful.
We ended this day with a restaurant stop in the Valley of Angels. This is a great restaurant and we laughed at Marilyns big plate of food as she eats so little. The food was delicious and it was great to sit with Mark and Melonie and little Breylon and enjoy some more time with them.
Saturday, November 7
This morning we packed. We leave for airport at 10 am to catch our 1 pm flight. On this morning, the airport is closed and we are not sure if we are going to be able to fly out due to the effects of hurricane Ida. We are experieincing low clouds and a light rain.
Our flight is 1 1/2 hours late but we do leave and we do catch our next flight in Texas to Minneapolis. We say our good byes quickly to Marilyn so we can catch our flight…. our good bye is way too quick. We are coming home.
I have been back in my home now for over a day. Yesterday I pretty much hung around the house doing a few projects here and there but nothing really. Today will be about the same. It usually takes me a week or so for me to come fully home.
I have been thinking a lot about the team that God had put together and I can see why each one was there and I am so thankful for them. It takes a while to process through what we each have seen and then bring that back with the way we live here. It can be a tough transition. While I sit here at my computer my prayer is that each team member processes well and while they return to their normal life of work and home, friends and family… that a piece of AFE and those children are frever engraved on their hearts.
~ Sheila “Chili”
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