As Chris’ plane is probably close to landing in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, I thought it fitting to share this message he shared with our church family earlier this year when asked to speak about the mission. Many have asked why he goes back after getting sick after his past two trips. I think this answers as to why.
(Overlooking Tegucigalpa on last year’s trip)
In Chris’ words:
I’m not sure I’m the best spokesman for the Honduras mission. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve made the trip to Honduras four times now. Two of those years went perfectly well – with no issues whatsoever. In 2013, I came down with flu-like symptoms a couple days after returning home. After several days of not getting better, I was finally diagnosed with Dengue Fever. Dengue is a mosquito-born illness that is fairly common in certain areas of Honduras. No, I didn’t use mosquito repellant on that trip. It wasn’t as if I was trying to be careless, or reckless – but I never saw a mosquito during the whole week we were there. Joe later told me that he killed one in our room the first night we were there. So even if I had used it at the work sites, I wouldn’t have had it on in the room so chances are I still would have gotten bitten. Like I said, for me, Dengue felt a lot like the flu. Just overall “feeling bad,” slight fever, headache. But apparently it also can affect your kidneys which tends to get the doctors pretty excited. That led to a short hospital stay but thankfully no lasting effects.
This past year, I returned home with just a feeling of “not feeling good.” Once again I ended up with a short hospital stay. This time with a diagnosis of a bacterial infection. Like the year before, I wasn’t reckless or careless. I didn’t eat or drink anything that the rest of the group didn’t. It could have come from anywhere. I could have shaken hands with the wrong person and then touched by face. I could have gotten water in my mouth while showering. Actually, it could have even come from the airplane or airport back in the U.S.
When we got to the emergency room, one of the nurses thought she recognized us and asked if we had been there recently. Brandi and I looked at each other as Brandi told her, “Yes, we were here about this time last year…” That led to a whole series of questions about where we had been, what we had been doing there, the length of our stay, and details about my illness the previous year. I’m sure this lady had the best of intentions when she suggested rather bluntly that we not go back to Honduras. Hers was the first of many unsolicited comments, opinions, and suggestions regarding our travels to Honduras. We heard,
“Maybe you should rethink this Honduras thing.”
“I hope you aren’t going to try that again.”
“Maybe mission work isn't for you.”
“Y’all are crazy.”
and my favorite…
“Maybe God is trying to tell you something.”
I’ll just tell you, every time I heard one of these or a similar comment I got mad – really mad. It wasn’t because I don’t like being told what to do – well maybe that was part of it. But seriously – the ignorance of every one of these people that should have known better is what angered me. Health care workers that should have known how much good an American mission team can do in a week’s time. Friends and family that should have understood that a few days under the weather isn’t that big of deal when given the chance to do so much good. And fellow believers who have read and studied Mark 15:15 as much as I have. “And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” In each case I was tempted to say, “Okay, you go next year so I won’t have to,” but I didn’t.
I can remember saying to someone in our group at one of the job sites this past year, “Can you imagine waking up tomorrow morning and THIS is your reality?” Let’s do that together – imagine with me.
You are a young, single parent of two or three small children. Your spouse has left you to state a new family with someone else. You live halfway up a very steep mountain on a narrow, dirt road. The road is so steep it takes either a 4-wheel drive or running start to make it around all the curves – but that doesn’t really concern you because you don’t have a car. You have to walk almost everywhere you go. The terrain where you live is what we might think of in many places in the United States a light beige, sandy type soil covered in scattered pines. The scenery is beautiful, but you don’t think about that – you are too busy trying to provide for your family every day. Your house is made out of sticks and mud – literally. Your bathroom consists of a hole in the dirt. You have stuck four sticks in the ground and wrapped a sheet of black plastic around three sides for privacy. You have a blanket draped over the fourth side for a door. You have a metal roof on your house, but it is full of holes. It is already leaking, and you know that it is sure to get worse as the rainy season will soon be here. You have tried to stop the leaks by covering the roof with everything from scraps of tarp to plastic shopping bags, but it hasn't helped. The leaks are so bad that the bedding where your children sleep stays damp, and it is starting to affect their health. Imagine that – during last night rain your roof was leaking so bad that there was not a dry place in your house for your children to sleep and you have neither the means nor the ability to replace the roof.
I hope I was able to paint a picture for you. This was one of the projects that we worked on this past year. I think you’ll be able to see the pictures of the actual site on Ricky’s slideshow in a few minutes. For me, this project epitomizes the Honduras mission. I think of this family when I read Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of there brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” This was a situation where for a few hundred dollars in material and a couple hours labor, we were able to change a family’s life if not forever then at least for the foreseeable future.
This is just one family that we were able to help. The need is so great in Honduras I’m sure that there are thousands of more families just like them. I strongly encourage each and every one of you or get involved with the Honduras mission. And to be involved, you don’t have to get on a plane and fly to Tegucigalpa. There are many ways to be involved. you can collect eyeglasses, make baby blankets, donate clothes, purchase bi-lingual Bibles or children’s Bible storybooks. And of course money is always needed.
This trip is not for everyone. Even though we are very well taken case of by our Honduran guides and military escorts, it is still a third world country. A quick Google search will show you that Honduras can be a dangerous place. The crime rate is staggering, and I can tell you first hand that the tropical diseases and stomach bugs are no fun. But I promise you that any uneasiness or discomfort that you may feel along the way will be far overshadowed by the rewards of this trip. You will never meet a more genuine, loving, appreciative people anywhere. You will make friendships that will last a lifetime. After you’ve been one, each return trip will feel like going home.
Speaking of friendships – when I mentioned to my dear friend Nahum that I would be speaking tonight (anyone who has been to Honduras in the last few years knows Nahum. He’s one of those people who it’s just hard not to like. He has done everything from helping Rickey preach to order for us at Wendy’s. And, he has become one of my dearest friends over the past few years. We chat over Facebook almost daily and talk on the phone at least once a week.) Anyway, when Nahum head that I was speaking tonight, he asked me to convey this message:
“When I first started helping the brigades from Washington Street, I was waiting for work, Now it is like I am waiting for my family to return. The work they do is wonderful Sometimes it is difficult to communicate but God does everything for you. We almost always understand everything though most don’t speak English or Spanish. With patience, we can accomplish most anything thanks for God’s love.”
(Chris and Nahum 2010)
As I was typing this, I received a text from Chris that they are in the airport in Tegucigalpa. I’m thinking about his going through customs, picking up his baggage and going through the doors to see out friends, Nahum, Marvin, Johnny, and Franklin. I wish I was there with him. I hope we are both able to go back next year. I hope you will join me in praying for our team this week.