23 Jul 2013 Honduras mission trip with Peace Lutheran Church
by Karl Lenser
In May, Peace Lutheran Church’s Lutheran Student Fellowship Collegiate team traveled to Honduras on a mission trip. Our focus was an orphanage near the city of Siguatepeque, which is located in a mountainous region in the central portion of Honduras.
Our team consisted of 10 college students from the University of Central Arkansas, Hendrix and the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton in addition to Mark Tooley, director of Lutheran Student Fellowship.
During our preparations and planning meetings, I was naturally interested in seeing if I would be able to get in some running workouts while we were in Honduras. I remembered the thrill and excitement of running in Hong Kong during our last overseas mission trip, and I was hoping to add this country to my running “resume.”
It was a tough decision, but after musing over the pros and cons, I decided that I would not run while on this trip. Call it “gut instinct” or divine intervention, but this ended up being a very wise move not to pack my running shoes. I think I set a personal “rest day” record by not exercising for eight days in a row. I enjoyed this fitness siesta and used the time as a mental and physical rest and recovery period.
Our group departed Little Rock at 6:15 on a Saturday morning and flew to Houston. After a fairly short transition, we zoomed off to San Pedro and landed around 11:30 a.m.
When we stepped outside to board our van, I immediately noticed the humidity. It felt like Arkansas in August. We also were a bit surprised at the sighting of automatic rifles that the security troops were carrying throughout the airport.
We boarded a van and proceeded south on the Pan American Highway and basically went uphill for two hours. The humidity definitely dropped as we climbed through a very beautiful country that was full of banana trees, pineapple orchards and coffee plants. The highway roadsides were full of retail markets that were selling fruit, vegetables and many other assorted products.
We arrived in Siguatepeque and immediately went to La Providencia, the orphanage where we would be working throughout the week. This facility currently has a medical clinic, school (K-4) and several homes for orphans. Our task was to help build a new classroom for fifth-graders.
Food is always a concern when visiting other countries. We were fortunate that we began each day with a nutritionally packed breakfast that was a self-serve all-you-can eat-format. There was a plethora of food and beverage options that included orange juice, fresh pineapple, mango, papayas, yogurt, pancakes, waffles, rice/bean tortillas, pork, beef, chicken, muffins, etc. We needed every calorie as the site work was very physical in nature.
In essence, we had to dig trenches with 5-foot long tools that resembled ice picks (Northern ice fisherman may know this tool) and weighed about 20 pounds for the foundation of the classroom. This was exhausting work because the ground was rocky and laden with compact dirt. As usual, I tried to turn the negative into a positive by re-emphasizing that this physical work was great for the core area in addition to the shoulders, triceps and upper back muscles. Fitness psychology has no limits!
We also had an opportunity to have lunch and recess with all of the elementary students, which was very enjoyable, fun and rewarding. The students were a lot of fun, and despite some language barriers, we managed to entertain them and create a lot of memories. As with all mission trips, the interaction with local residents is what makes the trips so rewarding and fun.
Fitness/physical activity: Many individuals utilized bicycles for transportation, or they walked. Taxis were popular, as well, and they resembled a golf cart, but with three wheels. I did not observe much obesity within the population, and that may be linked to their diet and amount of physical activity they get every day. Soccer is played everywhere. Any piece of land that is flat will be home to a soccer game. Most of the fields are rocky and have minimal grass.
Mostly based on agricultural and retail trade. Pineapples, bananas and coffee are the top three foods. Nearly 70 percent of the population does not have a steady source of income. Honduras is a poverty-stricken country where many individuals literally scratch and claw for a living or existence. Some citizens simply do not want to work, or they obtain money through illegal means, such as drug dealing and stealing.
Minimum wage is $10 per day. The director of the orphanage (who is also an architect and pastor) makes $15,000 annually. His full-time assistant makes $10,000 per year.
Gasoline was around $4.75/gallon. The lunch buffet at our hotel was $6. Our $100 cell phones cost around $300 in Honduras. Medical bills: We had to go visit the local hospital one day because one of our college students was suffering from nausea and intestinal woes. The total bill was $75, and that included the admittance to the hospital ER, the doctor’s fee and the medicine that the student received for nausea and dehydration.
In Honduras, the term “landfill” means “fill the land with trash.” It is sad that this beautiful country is marred by a tremendous amount of garbage that is simply dumped along roadsides or behind stores and homes. I don’t think I saw more than a handful of trash bins. In fact, on our return trip to the airport, we saw a lady dump her trash directly into a small creek that ran alongside her home.
Many homes are the size of our garages. Tin roofs were the norm along with blankets that served as window curtains. You could take our poorest sections of homes in the 501, and they would be palaces compared to what we observed in Honduras.
They are economically poor, but are rich in having a warm spirit and desire to make friends with Americans. Honduras is fortunate to have many schools throughout the country that offer English classes. Many of the third- and fourth-graders had impressive English skills. We met many wonderful and friendly Hondurans that were hospitable and warm-hearted. They were very appreciative of the gifts that we brought to them and that we prayed with them and for them every day.
God’s love has no physical boundaries or language barriers!
A Conway resident, Karl Lenser is the director of wellness programs at Hendrix College. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse. An accomplished runner, he can be reached at [email protected].