Arrival – Day 1
We made it. Over ocean and hill, everyone safely arrived at Vida Abundante Christian Church in La Unión, Honduras. Traveling itself was fairly uneventful, as students and leaders alike (but thankfully not our drivers) drifted in and out of sleep throughout the different stages of travel.
A quiet and peaceful van ride brought us to Chicago O’Hare, where we hopped in line and proceeded to wait over an hour and a half to check our bags. Upon getting through TSA, our plane was boarding in five minutes. Some Calvary-style fast walking brought us to the right gate just in time. After the usual mechanical delays, our plane was off to Miami. With nap after nap, time grew hazy.
Another fast-paced gate hunting expedition brought us to the plane heading to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. This luxury liner had screens in front of every seat! (Ben Snoek asked me to mention that his screen was not working, which he was very pumped about.) After some more naps and a couple free TV shows, the mountains of Honduras came into view. A very long customs line pushed our timeline back even further, but we were on Honduran time; we get there when we get there. Then, through some poorly-spoken Spanish and gestures, we successfully ordered food in the airport.
Upon leaving the airport, a familiar-looking yellow school bus waited in the parking lot en route to Vida Abundante. The bus ride swept us through landscapes unlike any in America. Cities gave way to towns and towns gave way to mountains and jungles as we traversed roads littered with potholes and speed bumps.
The constant swaying of the bus rocked several students to sleep as our grip on time loosened. At one point, the bus driver pulled over to transfer all of our luggage to a pickup truck. I didn’t catch all that was said, but there was something about “bus blowing up.” Even with the reduced weight of the lost luggage, our bus failed to make it up a steep mountain slope, and so we were forced to back the bus down the mountain. The only other available route tacked another hour and a half to our bumpy trip. The grind continued.
Thankfully, through all of these setbacks, we remained patient with each other. That long bus ride wound up being a good team bonding experience as we conversed and laughed. Though tired, we are making the most of our circumstances and cannot wait to see what’s in store for us. We pray that God will use us this week through our work and relationships. Though the way to La Unión was bumpy, we are thankful that, for the moment, we are safe and sound.
The 2016 Honduras Team (Written by Ben Gritter)
Day – 2
First full day in Honduras, after arriving later then we had expected last night. Crashing the moment we hit the pillows, but waking up refreshed from a good nights sleep in our dorm areas. We started off the morning getting ready for our day and eating a great breakfast prepared by our wonderful cook. Eggs, sausage and beans is just what we needed to fill up our stomachs before heading out to start working. Well you could say hardly working since we did not do a lot of hard work today.
Taking a 40 minute trip to Nau Paz in the back of a pickup truck was a great bonding experience for all of us. Bumping into each other like bumper cars every turn and hole in the gravel dirt. It started off the team bonding on a great note because personal space was not known in the back of the truck. Conversations were taking place as we got to know our translators and our international interns. As we pulled up to a small church in Nau Paz we were greeted with many face that were smiling and many kids running around the truck as we pulled to a stop.
In the church we were praising God along with the locals. Not being able to understand the song or any of the verse reading was a little challenge, but after a few moments we slowly started to clap along to the beat. Just a little awkward to start our morning off but we slowly got over it.
Taking time to tour the town and see some of the past projects that Calvary Church has sponsored and helped built. We all were amazed about how much Pelas actually help the locals. As we walked we saw a lot of kids traveling to and from school and their home.
The tour landed us back at Oden’s house (The main construction worker’s son). Taking about an hour to eat our lunch and reapply sunscreen. We then split up into our groups for the Pelas and headed to separate homes and one school went to the kinder school.
I ended up going to a house with 6 residents; 4 kids and 2 adults. Though there were only 4 kids of the family that was living at the house we were at there were about 10 or 12 kids running around and playing with each other. Taking time to get to know each of the kids we played frisbee with them and got to know there names as they caught it.
As the afternoon went on we still tried our best to remember names and faces for the kids. But the time soon flew by and next thing we know one of our leaders was calling down to us and telling us we were headed back to La Union.
Settling down after we got back to La Union, watching some soccer and dinner shortly after that. Taking time to share stories and experiences about our day after we separated into groups. Devotions went great. We ask that you all keep praying for safe travels and good weather and that we all experience a deep presence of God in the next days as we travel to different places.
The Honduras Team 2016
Day – 3
Scott here tonight. It was a long day and most of the group has headed to bed. Our meal location moved to our cook’s home to make room for another group. It is a blessing that Alisia opens her home to us.
We were a little delayed in our departure to the Aldea (village) today because I had to go to the bank to exchange some money. That is a new thing in LaUnion! It has never had a bank before. Of course we (being American) were there right as the bank opened, got checked with a metal detector wand and watched by the guard as we were told to wait. They were open, but not ready. We have adopted the phrase “mas o menos” or more or less, because everything is flexible. Fortunately this awesome group. Never a complaint.
We headed back to continue helping to work on the Pilas, playing with the kids, and talking with the adults at our work sites. One site has a very steep hill going down from the road. The mother has to carry water from up near the road down to her home. Some of the kids helped to carry water. Tonight we had devotions as a beautiful rain forced us under shelter. During the prayer time, prayers were offered for that family because rain soaked footpaths would make the chore of getting water much more difficult It is so great to see the students making the connections.
After lunch, we played with kids in the “kinder”. K4 and K5 kids came back to the school for the afternoon and played. Our students played too. They were swinging kids around, being horses (and even being fed grass…) playing soccer and duck-duck-goose. Their simple joy was clear on their faces! Oh, and the kinder kids loved it too.
Tonight for dinner the team broke up and went to different houses in town. You’ll have to wait for details on that though. Our debrief time to share the experiences was taken over by a long game of soccer. Not sure where they get all the energy!
Devotions tonight compared the simple joy we see in the kids and felt in ourselves to the simple joy of God’s grace for us. What a blessing to know that is just how God wants us to be in His presence.
The team is doing great. There are a couple bumps and bruises with great (or embarrassing) stories to go with them, a little bit of sun burn, but everyone is healthy and excited to see what God has for us for the rest of the week!
Be blessed in the simple things,
Honduras team 2016
Day – 5
They call them Widowmakers.
They’re small devices attached to shower heads that, when on, warm the normally cold water – all in an attempt to create a more comforting shower experience. There are three temperatures: tibia (warm), caliente (hot), and super caliente (you guessed it, super hot).
But there’s a catch: The Widowmakers are electric.
Hence the name. Touching a Widowmaker during an active shower sends a surge of electricity through a wet body.
I would know, because that happened to me this morning.
Yes, parents and loved ones, I have survived; however, I may have acquired a new fear of shower heads. In an attempt to warm the cold water, a drowsy Ben thought that it was a great idea to touch the Widowmaker with damp hands. How foolish – I know how disappointed master electrician George Höegen must be with me! Needless to say, the electric surge woke me up, and the expletive I shouted woke up the rest of the room (and, as rumor has it, the dormitory next door).
My day went quite downhill from there. Clothing was a struggle. Language was a struggle. Food was a struggle. In fact, a large number of us are experiencing food illness, so we would appreciate your prayers in this area.
But things gradually improved. In Nueva Paz, we switched locations for working on Pilas, and a lot of us found that we had more to do and consequently a greater purpose at our new sites. Following our work, we hiked down a precarious and narrow mountain path to learn first-hand about coffee farming from a local farmer.
We then returned to La Unión; some of us napped, a few played with kids, and others destroyed friendships playing Egyptian Rat Screw. We ran through a torrential downpour to get to the house at which we had dinner, and we ended the night with a church service at Iglesia Vida Abudante (Abundant Life Church), the church at which we are staying. How lovely it is to see God’s people in community, worshipping the same Father, even through our cultural differences!
Following the worship service, we debriefed in the church auditorium, during which we prayed over and tearfully commissioned our dear friend and former intern, Bayron Rodriguez, as he continues on a new step in his life. We pray blessings on his journey ahead and for strength in such an uncertain moment of faith.
Late at night, the group decided to spontaneously have a private worship session in the auditorium – no lights, few instruments, and nothing on our minds except for praise. It was a beautiful experience, and the Spirit filled the room as we received some much-needed refreshment and strength for the rest of our trip.
It’s amazing how easily a day can go from bad to good. What started with electrocution ended with excellence. Even through our tiredness and dissatisfaction with our Pilas, we trust that the work we are doing here is indeed good, and that it will leave a footprint of love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. As Paul reminds the church in Galatia, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (6:9).
We pray that our work will continue to be more than just a short-term solution but will instead be an impetus for progress. A week won’t change a country, but it will change us. We seek to be challenged to carry our experiences from Honduras back to our home communities in an attempt to be Christ’s ambassador to the nations.
Even when electrocuted by a shower head, we will neither give up nor grow weary, for we know that change is effected through perseverance. The perseverance to press forward despite setbacks. The perseverance to find hope even amidst trials. The perseverance to change from an attitude of frustration to an attitude of faith.
What can I say? Mission trips can be quite shocking.
Grace and peace,
The 2016 Calvary Honduras Team (Written by Ben Snoek)
Day – 6
This morning’s wake up call was the screaming of the Grand Haven ladies next door screaming at a cockroach that wasn’t even in their room. A little while later we all hobbled down the muddy road to Alicia’s house for breakfast. Only a few of us were able to eat however because there has been sadness in our stomachs the last few days. For the few of us who were able to eat the food again was outstanding. Pancakes, scrambled eggs, avocados, plantains, and beans were what made up this meal.
We headed up to Nueva Paz again this morning through the muddy roads and we only slipped a few times with our big truck. The morning was spent helping with any work on the pilas, trenching at the kinder, and playing with the families and children. About halfway through the morning there were some small showers that decided to roll through and made things a bit more interesting but the work still carried on. Around noon, all the groups headed back to Odin and Olvin’s house for lunch. Again some struggled with illness but others enjoyed the baked potatoes with salsa, hard-boiled eggs and more tortillas.
Following some restroom breaks and the meal, one of the toughest parts of the trip began. The team headed to a small church in Nueva Paz along with the families who received Pilas from Calvary and Aldea. With Alan translating, Pedro from Aldea along with many of the community members showed their deep appreciation for us with words of thanks, smiles, and some hugs as well. Kevin and some of us students were invited up to share something with the people if we wanted to. Through tears we expressed that while we came down to help them, we ended up receiving an impact in return that cannot be put into words. As we were prompted to leave and head to the truck we turned and were met by hugs and tears from the children and families of Nueva Paz. We passed out many wooden toy cars to the kids and a bible to each of the families. The time to leave couldn’t be avoided any longer and we all realized this simple truth: goodbyes are hard in every language. We took many photos, gave many hugs, and balled our eyes out. It’s truly amazing how close you can get to people in such a short time.
On the ride back to La Union in the back of the truck the rain began to fall. It pelted us everywhere and fortunately for some of us you couldn’t tell if we were crying or if it was the rain on our faces. It was an adventure for all of us especially with a new driver who wasn’t the best at shifting and enjoyed pushing the speed around some of the corners. We made it back to the church safely, changed out of our wet clothes, and enjoyed some coke floats at Café Zazzo.
Coming back from the café we were greeted by our room by many children from the community. We played many games with them in our compound such as freeze tag, games with a soccer ball, and cops and robbers. We started to hand out cars to the children and it was a little difficult to figure out who had received cars earlier and who hadn’t but it worked out and we were able to give cars to all of the children there too.
Dinner was great too and we had spaghetti with pretty amazing sauce on it and plantain chips. Patrick, one of the founders of Aldea, had been out of town so far on our trip but he joined us for dinner as well. It was very cool to have conversations with him about the coffee and the industry and to have him share things that he has experienced as well.
Debrief tonight was another time for our group where we had great talks and deep thoughts that were shared. We talked about the ups and downs of the day and all of the goodbyes. We shared some of the lessons we learned on the trip and most importantly the things that we thought God had laid on our hearts this trip. It was a time to be vulnerable and also to get to know the other members of our group on a deeper level. We finished with a time of prayer that was a good closure to our debrief time but also to our day as a whole.
As our trip comes to an end in the next few days pray for health for those of us who are still sick. Also pray that we won’t coast to the finish of the trip but give us the strength and perseverance to push through and continue to have great experiences and relationships.
Honduras Team 2016 (Written today by Daniel Walters)
After another great breakfast at Alicia’s house, we headed off to the bilingual school for a tour. We explored the school and got to experience one of the only nature trails in La Union behind the school. The trail gave us great views of the town of La Union, and it was full of wildlife. The school uses it for many activities, but it is also very helpful for their biology classes.
Further down the main road in La Union is the beneficio, where Aldea does all of their coffee processing. Charlie gave us a tour of the beneficio and walked us through each of the steps that go into processing coffee. Aldea’s primary goal is to teach farmers how to produce high quality coffee at low prices. All the equipment that Aldea uses is easily accessible and cheap for local farmers. This allows for farmers to replicate the process in their own fields once they graduate Aldea’s program. A storm was quickly approaching so we had to hurry back to the church, in order to beat the storm.
Once we returned to the church we headed to lunch, our very last meal at Alicia’s house. She was an awesome cook and we are so thankful for her hospitality this week! After expressing our gratitude for her help this week, we headed back to the church once again to pack and prepare to leave La Union. We had to load our bags into the back of the bus and said our final goodbyes to our translators, friends, and the pastor at the church. It was so hard to say goodbye! None of us felt ready to leave the place we called home for a week, or the relationships that we made. An exciting part to leaving was that we got to take two Hondurans with us on our journey back home, Leandro and Mirian, as they will be two new interns this summer at Calvary.
We loaded into the bus and due to being in a school bus, we had to take the long way out of La Union. Approximately four hours later, after a long bus ride, we arrived at the retreat center. We have about an hour and a half to the airport in San Pedro Sula. Once arriving at the retreat center, we were welcomed with Honduran enchiladas for dinner. We spent time as a group debriefing and doing devotions before heading off to bed, after an exhausting day.
June 19, 2016—HAPPY FATHERS DAY!
Our day began with a short drive to the waterfall. It was gorgeous! We walked to a little lookout and took some pictures. Then the adventure truly began! Our group went on a tour behind the waterfall, which if you saw this waterfall you would wonder how this is possible. It was the best twelve dollars we have ever spent in our lives! Only a few members of our group decided to stay back because they weren’t feeling the best.
The tour began with climbing alongside the river towards the waterfall over some slippery rocks, but nothing too strenuous. The waterfall gave off so much mist that you could even feel it from the lookout point at the top. We continued climbing to a spot where we took off our shoes, knowing that this is when the adventure would really happen. We jumped off a large rock into a pool of water, then continued to climb across the slippery rocks. The mist kept getting more intense, and we couldn’t see anything. We entered another pool of water and vaguely saw a rope attached to the rocks. Our guide told us to look down and breathe with our mouths, and then we were off. We walked through the water, grabbed onto the rope, climbed up alongside the waterfall very slowly and trying to breathe, as there was so much water pouring on top of us. At the end of the rope we arrived at a small area carved out of the rock. We tried to fit as many people onto this area because it at least gave the chance to open our eyes slightly and breathe again. As intense as this journey sounds, and was, we had a blast! The tour didn’t stop there though. Our guide split us up into groups of about ten people to go behind the waterfall and into a cave. Again, we were told to crouch down, look down, and breathe through our mouths as we went through so much water. The cave wasn’t huge, but it was awesome!
After both groups made the journey to the cave, we embarked on the same journey back just as intense as the first time. After we made it down the waterfalls, we got to do some cliff jumping into a small pool of water. (No worries, it was deep enough.) There was one height that everyone jumped off of, but then one more height that only some of us chose to jump. It was awesome! We had so much fun on our tour, even though some of our group members would say they almost died. We had a blast!
We changed our clothes because we were soaked, and then headed to a buffet for lunch. We ate a very tasty meal, and it also had souvenirs. We then headed to the town of Peña Blanca for a quick walk around of the town. It’s a very typical Honduran town, so we took some time to shop for some souvenirs.
Our day ended with dinner, debriefing, devotion time, and lastly bedtime after a long, tiring day. We had a lot of fun this week and are very sad to be leaving tomorrow. We have seen and experienced God in the widest variety of ways this week, and have learned a lot! Please pray for safe travels as we continue our journey home!
Honduras Team 2016
Added Note: Monday we have a 15 hour travel journey. Please pray for safety and for health as we travel.