This was most apparent to me watching Mary Henrich visit at length with Gisella at the compound in Esquias. Our group met Gisella almost ten years ago, and we all developed affection for this adorable Honduran young girl. The Henrichs’ tried very hard to relocate her to Le Mars to live with them but could not get their case past Honduran immigration. As I watched Mary converse with this now poised and beautiful Honduran college student, the flashbacks began to pour in.
I recalled how this all began for my family. Molly asked if she could go with Frank Seivert and Cecilia Henrich on a mission trip to Honduras. Classmate Catherine Withrow had recently returned from Honduras, and her positive experience was evident to all. I remember sitting with Teresa, Molly, Jill, and Becca and stating “We’ll see.” Little did I know how I would eventually “see.” I have the Seiverts to thank for this.
Thirteen years later and multiple trips to Latin America, along with countless hours and dollars spent on this “We’ll see project” has forever changed my family. My late wife Teresa and Molly were indeed the first Gehlen group to travel to Honduras. They came back energized with the love of the people they felt while in Honduras, yet horrified at their poverty. Their enthusiasm created this program that developed a life of its own. They have the Seiverts to thank.
|Teresa Vonnahme with kids in 2001|
|Molly Vonnahme with Judy and Cristobal in 2001|
Jill, daughter number two, traveled to Honduras twice, graduated from Gehlen and also from Creighton. She clearly is my “social justice daughter” as her peace and justice BA degree from CU suggests. Now in law school in Washington, D.C., hoping to practice non-profit law, her passion for justice began at least partially in Honduras. She has the Seiverts to thank.
Becca is just back from our trip to Honduras and, like all of us, is digesting what this means to her. How does a business woman fight for justice for the poor while still working in the main stream business world. The late Brazilian Bishop, Dom Helder Camara, is famous for stating "When I feed the poor, they call me a saint; when I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." How does one work in our society to aid the poor and not be labeled as a radical and because of this label become ineffective? These are questions both Becca and I think about. She (and I ) have the Seiverts to thank.
I ask all alumni of these Honduras trips to reflect what this has meant to you. Dick Seivert is above all else a teacher. He has long felt the need for a school mission project to really get our young people to realize what loving God and our neighbor as ourselves is really about. It is my opinion this project has succeeded in this mission in ways none of us could have hoped for. Like Carolyn Bickford, I want to publicly thank Frank and Dick Seivert for this program. Whatever direction this program takes, it has been a huge success story. We have indeed helped Honduras over the years, but Honduras has helped us much more in ways we could not have imagined. Once again, a big thank you to the Seiverts! Good luck and Godspeed. Al Vonnahme and family.