Since we returned so late Sunday night, I am writing both days together. It will be a long one. Just for your information, Sam has admitted that she has not missed texting too much but it has been somewhat difficult. She thinks there will be a major withdrawal on Saturday or Sunday.
Our day began at six with a breakfast of oatmeal. Then we all dress in our church clothes and walked to the other side of Esquias. There was a young man dressed as Jesus and lots of children dressed in robes with long palms like in Jesus`time. Padre Bonilla began the procession by blessing all our palms. Then Jesus said a few words and they helped him mount the burro. We walked through the town singing and occasionally someone would shout in Spanish Vive Jesu Cristo and everyone would shout Vive. Once we were in the church, we had our regular mass. Of course, that would be the regular mass for Honduras. For those of you who have not experienced that, there is a lot of movement. Children going to various people so it is hard to tell to whom they belong. There could also be dogs joining us for a bit. The characters from the procession sat behind the altar and at one point a young boy decided to visit one of his friends. Then he returned to his seat. The sign of peace is chaotic but fun. Everyone goes all over church hugging each other. The little ones go up to the priest and give them hugs. At the end of mass there is usually a big discussion about which day and at one time the next service will be. All of that lasted around an hour and a half or more. Padre Bonilla then met with Sr. Juanita, Miguel, and me as well as his church committee. We both expressed our gratitude for each other. I for allowing us to stay in Esquias with out students every year. He said how much he admires our students and adults for sacrificing and coming to his country to help the Hondurans. He hopes that we are able to participate in more church activities during our stay.
We loaded the bus and truck and started on our way to Sulaco where the malnutrition center is located. It was a hot and bumpy ride. Those of us who were riding with Julio in the truck finally decided to wait for the bus when it did not seem to be with us. We discovered they had had a flat tire, so we sat on the side of the road to wait for them. It was at that time that a lady I will call the stick lady from now on came walking around the corner of the road. She was carrying a huge load of sticks to use for cooking. She stopped a bit to rest then continued up the hill. When she spotted us, she threw the sticks aside and continued toward our vehicle. The first thing she said was a comment to Miguel, something like his mother had fed him too much milk. She talked with Julio for a bit. I guessed she was asking for money. With Julio`s permission I gave her some money to use for food. She commented that it would be enough for ten days of rice. Julio warned her of an approaching bus, so she went to retrieve her sticks. She carried half of them up the hill to a house we had not noticed. It looked like long sticks pounded into the ground to stay upright. It was not very big, maybe as big as a large bathroom for us. The roof was scraps of boards and tin. After she deposited her firewood in the yard, she crossed the road to purchase rice from the neighbor. It left us quite thankful for our own homes and food.
By then the bus caught up to us and we finished the drive to Sulaco. At the malnutrition center we were met with eleven small children standing on the porch. One of them called Poppy to Tim, and sister said it was rare that they received a visit from a man and he thought it was his dad. The team went right to the children and patiently awaited until the children would come to them. All of the missioners hearts were touched for these poor children who are quite sick. The team voted to spend sixty percent of the money they brought along from donations to purchase new high chairs and possibly cribs for the center. They are badly in need of many other items, but our money will not fund all of it. We had brought some shoes and sandals with us. When the little children saw them, they all gathered around to get new shoes. They wanted to wear them right away. The students discoverd that the elastic that connected the sandals fascinated the children, so they put the elastic on the little kids arms for bracelets. After that all the children became attached to the missioners. Our group discussed how something as minute as a piece of elastic became special to these little ones who have pretty much nothing. As I knew it would be, it was very difficult to get everyone to leave. Some of them cried, both missioners and children, on our part knowing they will probably never see them again and we hope they can return to good health.
We stopped at Dulce`s house for our lunch of tortillas and peanut butter and jelly. The bus needed to get a tire repaired. Then we began the long bumpy ride back to Esquias. We had gotten a late start, so our supper was late last night. The park was rather active so we hung around the compound. Some sang songs while Tony played the guitar. Some sat and talked in various spots in the compound. This group of missioners has been one of the most willing to volunteer to help out and they seem to be bonding quite quickly. It is fun to watch the friendships forming in this group. They are also finding lots of friends in La Florida.
We arose at five-thirty this morning, Monday, and ate our breakfast of eggs, watermelon, and pineapple. Then it was back to work in La Florida. It was a balmy ninety-two at the village today. Now that we are back in Esquias, we have discovered it is over 110 degrees in the sun. Just a bit toasty.
The group prayed that no sand and rocks were left to carry and that prayer was answered. However, there were approximately 1,400 bricks to be carried up down the road and then up the mountainside. We carried from two to ten bricks apiece to the first deposit site. Of course, it was Cole carrying the ten. Then we formed an assembly like of missioners and Hondurans to pass the bricks up to the second collection site. After a couple breaks, we reformed the line to start at the second site. The men tossed their bricks and then we women and children handed them up the rest of the way. Francis suggested at one break that we each carry a load up instead. After trying that once, we again formed the assembly line. We all discovered it is much easier to breathe on a mountainside at 4,000 feet above sea level while standing still and handing bricks to each other than to carry them up individually. The Honduran men continue to work at the dam site. There is a spring that comes from the mountainside and they are working to make the water collection site.
Now for our next problem- we have 92 ninety-five pound bags of cement that need to be moved up that same mountainside. We will see what they can devise to do such a job because I know that I am not carrying a 95-pound bag of cement anywhere!!! Angel, the Honduran man in charge of our water projects, said we will be able to begin digging trenches tomorrow. We also plan to celebrate a mass with the villagers tomorrow. They have no church so we will use the school instead. We hope to practice some music tonight in preparation. The villagers of La Florida have invited the neighboring village of El Junco, the site of last year`s water project, to join us for mass.
Well, that about does it in a nutshell. It is so hard to share everything that is happening here. Bruce said every student should have an opportunity to do mission work like this. Just to see the poverty is such an eye-opener for everyone. It is also surprising to see how enterprising they can be - making needed items out of whatever they can find. And we find everyone of them so welcoming to us. I can already foresee some tearful good-byes on Sunday.
Continue to pray for the success of our mission trip - both for the villagers of La Florida and in the hearts of each missioner.