To Frank and Julio: What can I say that rises to the necessary level of thanks and admiration to both of you. Frank went into Honduras two days after Christmas to begin the long, on the ground preparations for four successive mission groups. Julio was with him each step of the way – giving up his family for four straight months to assist in all matters. Much to the surprise of many we had a medical / dental / nutrition team in Honduras prior to the Heelan team. It was a group composed of doctors, dentists, pharmacists, nurses, and translators from the United States as well as Honduras. They traveled and worked closely with a team of nutrition students from South Dakota State in Brookings, S.D. Once in Honduras the U.S. contingent coupled with the U.S. Military from the air base at Soto Cano, Honduras. There were about 70 team members on that mission – nothing easy about it. Their work was outstanding and has changed the life of many children and adults in Montana de la Flor. Then of course came the wonderful bunch from Heelan. What a marvelous job those young people and adults did in building a new home for two families. Can you imagine their feeling on doing this for others. It makes me think of that famous quote, ‘preach the gospel everyday – use words if necessary.’ As the Gehlen team landed in Honduras I knew that Frank and Julio were already a little tired, frazzled, and worn. As I sit here in the relative comfort of my office, in my comfortable office chair, I think about you two a great deal and the places you have been, the places you have had to sleep, the small amount of food you have endured, the endless long drives and bumpy roads of three straight trips, the planning and preparation, the sheer responsibility; it is mind numbing. But to both of you, as you approach the end of this Gehlen team, you will have to shoulder on, keep up the pace a while longer, and make the STM mission experience as important and meaningful as the first three. Both of you must realize this but it never really gets said: This program doesn’t exist without you – all the trips of the past and in the present. Like I used to say to long distance runners in track and cross country, hang in there, keep up the pace, you are almost home.
To Carolyn, Sister Joan, and Linda: You cannot imagine the significance of each of your contributions to this team and all those from the past. From the faith and trust that I place in each of you to those same feelings our families do. Believe me, it is most reassuring to know all three of you are with these mission students. To guide and lead them each and every step of the way is a great responsibility but each of you take it on each year with hope, faith, and love for the people of Honduras. Your names probably won’t go down in any great registry of humanitarianism, but they should. You are all remarkable and I hope these young people realize that. My thanks, my respect, my admiration, to all three of you.
To the other chaperones on this team: like I said earlier, just to say thanks doesn’t seem to fit the powerful expression needed. But to each of you, a million thanks, and it is still not enough. I hope your mission experience has been valuable, one that you will remember and act on in the years to come.
To all our Honduran contingent: Carlos, Angel, Tacha, Fr. Bonilla, et.al., thanks – a thousand times thanks. Once again, to use a sports euphemism, you have ‘stepped up to the plate for Gehlen Mission Honduras.’ You have once again helped a small group of U.S. teenagers realize the true meaning of poverty in the world. Some day your efforts will pay off for them and for you. Thank you all.
To our fifteen mission students: on behalf of those you came to serve thanks for all you have done. From just playing in the park with the children of Esquias, to the wee ones you met at Casa Carolina (isn’t it sad), and finally to the village of Picacho, I hope your mission experience has been valuable. The blogs seem to indicate it has – time will tell. You have formed lasting bonds with the children, teenagers, and adults in Picacho, Esquias, and Sulaco. The bonds were formed in the very dirt of a village that very few people would even know exists, and with your hands, feet, and back, you have made life a little easier for many. I have a question. Do you think the children of Picacho will ever forget those American teenagers that came to help them bring clean drinkable water to their village? I doubt if any of them will ever forget. To them you will be special people the rest of their lives – what will you do with that burden? Within a few short hours you will be back in the loving embrace of family, school, and friends. You will sleep in a soft comfortable bed, clean sheets, a working bathroom, clean water, all the food you can eat, your car, your music, your T.V., your computer, your cell phone, your friends, prom right around the corner. Will you remember any of this mission? Will it change how you look at electricity? Will it change how you look at water? Will it change how you look at food? Will it change how you look at life in the United States? And finally, Will it change how you see God? That is the real challenge to each of you. This is your challenge – not mine or Frank’s, or Carolyn’s, Sister’s, or Linda’s, but Yours. Will it make a difference? Let us know in ‘Your Future.’
To All Of You, a million times thanks, and take care. God speed on your trip home. Take care of each other.