2018 Team

2018 Team
2018 Team in the original church built for Suyapa

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Trip complete

Tegucigalpa, Honduras
28 March 2015
0710 hours

Hello to parents and families of the Gehlen Mission Honduras team.

I have again spoken with my brother Dick and he told me that the team had arrived in Omaha, Ne. about an hour late.  I had spoken with him about 10 minutes before the flight was to arrive in Omaha.  I am very thankful that they were able to meet their connecting flight.  I know it was a long day for all.

Both Dick and I told the team that the trip would be high in the mountain, hot, dusty and hard.  When you listen to the stories they will tell, it was all of that.  We told then "it wouldn't be easy, but it would be worth it", and that is was and so it is.

To all parents, that you for trusting us to let your kids and family members travel to a developing country, Honduras, keep them safe, and then have them return to you with what I hope will be life changing perspectives.

Their are many people that make this team trip a successful.  My brother Dick spoke about them in his message to the team before they left Honduras.  From me, I want to thank all of you parents and families for letting me be a small part of this team, and for the opportunity to spend but a brief moment of time with them.  God bless.  Peace to all.  I will return to the USA soon.

Mr. Francis

Friday, March 27, 2015

And So It Ends...

What an emotional day! Our morning began by delivering three of our bunk beds to the homes we built. We had enough mattresses to install them with the beds. We returned in time to play soccer with the students at their 9:30 recess. It was the United States vs. Honduras, and the Honduras team was pretty young. Each team scored during the game, but I believe the Honduras’ team scored a goal just before the end of recess to win that game. The missioners continued playing soccer with the PE classes for almost two hours. We were all glad that they had an opportunity to play some soccer before leaving.

The highlight of our trip came when we had our ‘handing over the keys’ ceremony with each family. We started at Hilda’s house (Bruce’s). Marta read the contract/deed for the home and everyone signed the paper. Then Fr. Doug read Psalm 127 and presented the cross made by the men on the team. We turned over the key and hung the cross inside the house. Fr. Doug blessed the house and finally the missioners sang the blessing song. 

We next traveled to Ludi’s house and repeated the ceremony. Our last stop was at Paola’s house. At her house Dilcia, Paola’s mother, read a speech she’d written, expressing her heartfelt gratitude for everything the team had done for her and her family. There were plenty of thank you’s and tears and hugs before we left their house. Oh yes, we took a group photo at each house.

Upon returning to the compound, we distributed the rest of the gift bags. The rest of the afternoon everyone showered and relaxed. 

After supper we had Mass outdoors, which ended with a commissioning ceremony – similar to how we were commissioned to travel to Honduras, except this time we commissioned each other to carry on our mission at home.

We had our final junta meeting and headed inside to finish packing our carry-ons and check bags. As I type this blog, I can still hear students visiting with each other in their rooms even though I’m sitting in the hallway. I know they are processing their trip, and that’s a good thing. They may still need to do that for a long time.

Thank you to my fellow chaperones for helping me on this mission trip. Thanks to every student missioner for all your work on the trip, from doing chores to building homes. Thanks to Marta Sosa and her helpers for the planning work necessary for our successful trip. Thanks to ACOES for allowing us to stay on the school grounds. Thanks to Julio for watching out for us and driving us around. Thanks to Carlos for our bus trips and for also helping on the construction of the homes. Last, but certainly not least, thanks to Francis Seivert for all the preliminary work he did, as well as the work he did while we were here. Thanks to Richard Seivert for everything he has done, and continues to do, so we can have successful mission trips into Honduras.

Every missioner has just experienced a life-changing mission trip. My prayer is that this is only the beginning.

The house of Dilcia (mom), Enrique, Paola, and Javier with us

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The End Is in Sight

All crews went into finalization mode today. The final touches needed to be put onto every home. We did touch-up painting, finishing painting any trim and all the doors, hinges were switched around, door locks were installed, etc. All teams returned to the compound for lunch to report that everything was done.
Dave and Alejandra paint a door
 After lunch we attempted to deliver eight gift bags. First we waited for the students to be summoned. Next, we loaded the eight gift bags and started down the road with the students leading the way to their houses. As we questioned the children, some of them said they lived in the opposite direction. We were confused. After walking a block Marta called us back, and we went in a different direction to a lady’s house, only to discover she wasn’t one of the eight. So, we turned around and headed for the original boy’s house. We did actually find it. It was eye-opening to see the poverty he lives in. Then we tried to find another house in another direction. We were able to deliver three gift bags before having to return for Mass. We’ll try a different strategy tomorrow.

Distributing gift bags
Fr. Doug concelebrated an all-school Mass with Fr. Patricio, the priest in charge of all the schools for ACOES. It was fun hearing all the kids participating whole-heartedly in the singing. Our choir missioners sang “Always There” after Communion. They did a great job. Abby sang the responsorial and Janet played the guitar with both Abby and the choir missioners. Afterwards we excited the students at the school by presenting the principal and students with twenty soccer balls, headbands, bracelets, and gumballs. The soccer balls really were a hit!

Presenting soccer balls to the school
Tonight we began talking about final preparations. We have only one day remaining. We will distribute as many of the bunk beds as possible tomorrow. We’ll also try to do more gift bags. Shortly after lunch all missioners will travel to the individual homes we built to sign them over to the families. Fr. Doug will bless the houses; we’ll sign the necessary legal papers and turn over the keys. I have a feeling it will be an emotional day for everyone. We’re also celebrating our last missioner Mass at 7 tomorrow night. It’s almost over. Pray for our families with new homes – that it gives the children pride in who they are and what they have. So many people in poverty have negative viewpoints of themselves. I pray this will give all the families a boost up!

Missioners singing "Always There" at Mass
To the seventh graders: Those are all great questions, but I'm too tired to answer all of them tonight. Save them for me on Monday, and I'll try to answer all of them. If I can, I'll get a photo of the inside of Paola's house tomorrow after we've put in their newly built bunk bed.
Grand Jefa Carolina uses a moto-taxi to check the various crews
Distributing pillow case dresses

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

La Comida

Everyone was a bit more rested this morning, since we got to sleep until 6:30. After pancakes, syrup, plantains, and mixed fruit we boarded the bus for Talanga. The views along the way were very similar to what we’ve been witnessing all along. We’ll see extreme poverty, and then we’ll see very nice houses. There is so much beauty here, and yet we see trash lying on the ground almost everywhere. It seems to be a country of extremes.

Angel Paz, the Honduran engineer for our water projects, met us on the edge of Talanga and led us to the Feeding Center. There we met Miriam, the young lady who was in charge of the meal. She guided the youngsters through prayer; then had each one wash his/her hands properly before sitting at the table. The missioners then served each child his meal of beans and chicken mixed with rice. Most of them ate it quickly. 

Molly serves girls at the Feeding Center in Talanga
The youngsters also enjoyed playing soccer with our student missioners, while others blew bubbles. The mayor showed up with his entourage to welcome us to the Feeding Center. He thanked us for our selfless service and said he hoped we would return for visits or even to live there! 

On the way home we stopped at a local restaurant to eat our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It seemed strange to me that a restaurant would let us bring in our own food, but we did purchase our drinks there. The ice cold drinks were a real treat.
Views of poverty as we drive
Our afternoon projects included finishing the ten bunk beds and making the gift bags. When the students came out for recess, we had an extremely difficult time keeping them from climbing all over the beds. I think they thought they were a new type of jungle gym.

There was a little problem with our gas stove tonight so supper was delayed. That gave us time to have our nightly junta before supper. The missioners have not had a lot of “free” time. They’re looking forward to a little soccer practice and just visiting tonight. It also allows me to get the blog posted before midnight for a change. I’m really appreciating that!
Bruce and friends
Tomorrow Bruce says we will finish ALL the homes by noon. After lunch we will begin delivering our gift bags to the poorest of the poor in this area. As the principal of the school told us, here there are poor people, poorer people, and the poorest people. She tried to give us a list of the poorest people for our gifts bags and bunk beds. We hope to deliver as many gift bags and bunk beds as possible tomorrow and Thursday.

Poverty along the road to Talanga
Fr. Patricio and Fr. Doug are concelebrating an all-school Mass at 4 (5 in Iowa) tomorrow. Perhaps all of our blog readers could join us for a few moments at that time and say a special prayer for all the students here at Santa Teresa de Jesús School. Our missioner choir members hope to sing our theme song at some time during the Mass tomorrow. Afterwards we’ll present the twenty soccer balls to Principal Jessica for the school.

Read on for the missioners’ blogs:

Caroline Ascherl:  Hey Mom and Dad! I didn’t say much yesterday, so I thought I should let you know that I’m doing well and having a great time here. I have lots to tell you.J Also, I haven’t been having many headaches here, and I’ve only used my glasses a few times, so that’s nice. Can’t wait to see you all Friday. Now I would like to say hi to my Spanish class. I hope my table is doing well! I hope Aaron isn’t driving Jaycee crazy. Also I would like to say thanks to all the native speakers in our class. My listening skills are a lot better than last year. I’ll see you all soon. Adios! 

Building the bunk beds among the children at recess
Dave & Janet Klein: Hi everyone – things are going great!  The weather has been perfect - warm in the day and cool at night.  We are nearly finished with the homes.  The 10 bunk beds and 3 picnic tables are finished. The bunk beds will be delivered to the poorest families. Many of them sleep on the floor. I can’t wait to see their faces.  We are meeting many people, and they have gotten very close to our hearts.  Hope everything is good at home – we will be home before you know it.  Thanks for all your prayers and support. 
P.S.  Ribeye steaks medium rare.    (Just kidding)  
Josie becomes an unofficial member of the bomberos (firemen)
DJ Loutsch: Hey, everyone, glad to hear from all of you, especially my church history class. Don’t worry, I am still looking for squirrels and nuts. The tradition in our family is being passed down, and I wish you all could experience this with me. I miss everyone at school, Loutsch Farms, Deb’s Daycare, and finally Emerson along with the rest of the family. Glad to see they got you back out there, Roman. I am having a lot of fun and can’t wait to see you all again. See you on Friday.

Janessa tackles her laundry at the pila
Fr. Doug Klein: Thanks to all for the prayers and your support. You are all part of making a big difference in the lives of the people here in Honduras and the smiles you have been seeing on the blog. You can be so proud of our young missioners. They have really jumped in wherever needed, working hard and soaking in the experience of meeting new friends. (Parents, you may find it hard to believe some of the tasks your kids have been willing to do.) They can get a bit crazy too and seem to have lots of energy, whether marathon singing on the bus or night soccer practice. It has been a privilege to be a part of this group, and I know they will all bring a renewed spirit back to their homes.

Doing laundry Honduran style
Nathan Klein: To Mrs. Henrich’s CSP class and Mr. Meyer, David and I definitely want to go to the National Quiz Bowl competition if you can get everything worked out. We’d be willing to foot some of the bill, if need be, and Doug says that while in Chicago we’d have to swing by Six Flags J. To Dad and Emily, it’ll be nice to see you again this Friday, and we can watch at least some of the NCAA tournament together, although it’s already mostly ruined (glad I didn’t have to see that game). To Matt, Michelle, and Becca, I can’t wait to see you at Easter to tell you all about our trip.

David Puhl: Hi Mom and Dad! With regards to the big hat, the Capitals hat is doing just fine, and to the CSP class, those of us down here definitely want to go to the National Quiz Bowl Tournament. Work has been going well on the houses, and we hope to be done tomorrow (Dad, if you have any projects for the house or office this summer, I’ve got you covered), and we continued to work on our soccer skills today. Love you and miss you all!

Ashley visits with some little friends
Sydnee Theisen: Hey Mom and Dad, how do you feel about adopting a Honduran child? They are so cute! The three houses are almost done, and we should be finished tomorrow. Dad, when you said I would need practice carrying wood down here, you were right! We do a lot of wood and tin (for the roofs) carrying here! Rylie, tell Moss I do a track workout everyday by walking up these hills. Love you guys! See you Friday! 

Melissa Schmit: Hello, Clayton, this is your reminder to sign up for prom if you haven’t yet! In case he doesn’t see this, someone fill him in for me! Much love.

Rushing toward the Finish Line

Today’s breakfast of eggs, ham, beans, and fruit greeted us at 6:15, after waking at 5:45. We felt the urgency to start a little early so we could get to the work sites earlier in the hopes of completing all of our projects before leaving.

Bruce assigned work crews for the day and off we went. The main event was painting at Paola’s house. With the painting crew in full gear, the outside of the house was painted in two hours. Dennis worked on the electrical wiring, while Pat and his crew put the finishing touches on the windows and doors.

The painting crew then moved to Dave’s house and began painting inside and out. Dave and his crew also worked on windows and doors.

One of the paint crews hard at work
After lunch all missioners, along with Marta and Sofia, walked to Paola’s house while carrying the roof tin. We had to be very careful not to bend the tin or it would ruin it. No worries, though. The missioners did an excellent job of walking together over rutted, rocky roads up the mountainside to deliver the tin to Paola’s house.

Carrying the tin for the roofs
While we were there, we sang “Feliz Cumpleanos” (Happy Birthday) to Paola and presented both her and Enrique with a small birthday cake and gifts. You can’t tell from the picture above, but both Paola and her mom were barely holding back the tears.

David presents the birthday cake
Then it was back to work. The paint crew continued working at Dave’s house, while Bruce took a small crew with him to do the finishing touches there. When the painting neared completion at Dave’s house, Linda sent a crew to Bruce’s to get started there. I am pretty sure it won’t take much more than a couple hours to finish that painting on Wednesday.

Tomorrow we take a trip to Talanga to serve food at the Feeding Center. Hopefully, the missioners will also have some time to play with the children. We’ll have a little picnic lunch of peanut butter & jelly and granola bars as we travel back “home.”

We’ll be working on gift bag creations and finishing the bunk beds tomorrow. We’ve decided to place a bunk bed inside each of our homes. If time permits, we hope to deliver more of the beds to other families.

I informed the missioners that we would sleep in until 6:30, and David and Alissa, I want you to know that Josie stated, “Yes! I never thought I’d be so excited about getting up at 6:30!” Just thought you should know that.

Please continue reading for other missioner messages:

Bruce and Alex
Hi, Mother.  Miss you and can’t wait to see you on Friday.  We are having fun and all the houses are going well.  Dad wants to bring a little kid home in his bag.  See you later. Love you! (P.S. You are lucky you got this many words out of us.)

J.D. and Lucas
Hi, Mother/Mary ---- get a crib ready – Dolly is coming home with us on Friday --- You will love her! Miss you lots. We are doing fine (except for some cuts on our hands to match our leader Bruce). Hope all is well there. Love you lots!

Nicole and Mark
Kris and Becs- We miss you lots but have been staying busy with the houses and talking to the Hondurans. Went to church in town on Sunday and went shopping in a lot of little shops for Nicole. Dad couldn’t find a Bomgaars or Bass Pro and was pretty disappointed. By the way, we are bringing the little girl in the picture home with us because Nicole wants a little sister that is actually smaller than her. Love you and can’t wait to see you on Friday!

Mark and Nicole with their little Honduran friend
Hey Fam! Thanks for sending a message so quickly.J ConCon, I am SO happy you are having fun with soccer. I know you’ll have stories to tell me! Mom and Dad I know your lives seem worthless and empty without the bright shining star that is your daughter! I’ll have lots to tell you when I get home. Stefan, Happy belated Birthday! I hope it was as wonderful as you are! LOVE Y’ALL

Mom, I’m glad to hear Evie’s shower went well. I’m sure she was spoiled rotten. I am really happy you and Dad have posted and not forgotten about your middle child. ;) Dad, I never thought I would say this, but I miss your big booming voice, and I’m expecting a great big hug when you pick me up on Friday. I love and miss you all, and I am eager to tell you all about my time here!

Family, I miss you guys a little bit. Tell Rylie she can wear all the clothes she wants...NOT. Tell Travis that just because he got a job at Bob’s, he should know I am still Nate’s favorite Theisen. Love you guys all! See and talk to you Friday!

Aunt Nita - It has been extremely odd waking up so early, but hopefully I can learn to do that back at home too! Mom, Dad, Michael, Miyah, and Marcus- Even though I haven’t heard from you, I miss you all very much! Can’t wait to tell you all about the wonderful life-changing experience I’m having. I can’t explain how grateful I am to be on this trip with such amazing people. Morgan and Taylor- I miss you both lots! I’ll see you soon, so don’t go too crazy without me. J Morgan, tell B Happy belated Birthday! Love all of you, and can’t wait to see you!

Hi, everyone (not just Mom, since I got into trouble for that last time). Dad still isn’t into computers so I’ll speak for both of us. We are both learning so much about how blessed we are back home, and I think it is safe to say that we have both been touched by the lives of so many people here in Honduras. I miss everyone, but it is going to be so hard to break off the connections with the children here. Dad is even starting to learn some basic Spanish! Meghan Heying- This is your shoutout that I promised you! I miss you so much and can’t wait to see you! Taylor- I also miss you very much and can’t wait to see you! Love you all and see you soon J

Carolyn Bickford – Well, I’m glad at least one of my sons could write me a note. Drew, I know from your own mission experience that you know the changes we are making in our own lives. We are having a great trip. You would have loved working with this crew. Wow, Cayden! He is getting to be quite a big boy! That’s really good for his age. Give Cayden and Mya a big hug from Grandma. Jay, give Marshall and Paige a hug too. Love you!  - Mom/Grandma Bickford

Oh yes, thanks to my jr. high students for following the blog. (Aubree, you would really love the food here. Too bad I can’t share it with you.) Seventh and eighth graders, I hope you are really working hard in class and being good for Mrs. Schroeder. I expect to be impressed with the knowledge you’ve attained in my absence. Thanks Mrs. Christoffel and Mrs. Henrich for writing for the students.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A Partial Day Off

We got off to a little earlier start this morning (5:45) so we could be on time to Mass in Santa Lucia. It was nice to watch Fr. Doug concelebrate with the Honduran priest. The priest’s homily actually focused on our mission group. He told his parishioners they needed to be like our mission group and help the poor. He said it wasn’t enough for them to give money; they needed to go out to places like Nueva Capital and work with the poor people of their country.

Attending Mass at Santa Lucia, built in the 16th century
After Mass we visited a beautiful oasis created by Marta’s brother. He has a large acreage with various plants, including trails on which to explore the area. He even provided us with a couple of his college students to take our missioners on a tour. Then we had a Honduran sandwich with food prepared by Marta. The sandwich had what she called stewed chicken, which tasted a little like barbecue to me. Then she had sliced tomatoes, shredded cabbage, and shredded beats you could put on the hoagie bun. We also ate banana chips, watermelon, pineapple, and mango – all fresh and delicious.
Fr. Doug concelebrates

Then it was off to Valle de Angeles for our tourist shopping day. The missioners were given almost two hours to find the perfect souvenirs for their families. We also got to eat ice cream! I believe most missioners took advantage of that chance.

Starting to fill the first of 25 gift bags
As soon as we arrived back at the compound, the group went to work building bunk beds. Bruce put everyone on a special job, and it looked like an assembly line. Though the crew was unable to finish them tonight, bunk bed work has been added to the work schedule over the next four days.
Wood measuring and cutting crew

Tomorrow’s goal is to get Paola’s house painted, wired, and roofed. Then, as soon as Pat’s crew gets the doors on, it will be completed. Hopefully, there will be a finished house photo on the blog tomorrow night.
Frame-connecting crew

Here are the latest missioner messages -

Molly Suntken
            Hey family! I love it here! I am having a great time. It’s been hard work, but I am so excited to finish the houses and let the families move in. Today we went shopping, and I got a lot of cool souvenirs for you guys! See you in a few days. I love and miss you all.

Rachel Kellen
It’s so amazing here. I’m having a great time here, even with the hard work. People became smart after watching me struggle with the first nail. In total I have now hammered five nails. Instead, I have been carrying boards and holding them in place. I am excited to start painting. This is such a fantastic experience. Thank you, Mom and Dad, for letting me go! Love you bunches!

Mary and Nathan Klein
Hi, Jim, Emily, Michelle, Matt, Becca, Marilyn, Vince, and friends!  We are doing great here!  We have one house almost done, and the other two have all the walls up.  We are getting a lot better at using a hammer. J  It’s been really fun to meet the moms and children who will be getting the new homes.  One little boy (Javier) said his new house was so big!  One of the bedrooms is bigger than his whole old house.  The poverty is very hard to see, but the people are so beautiful.   We hope you are all doing great, too!  We definitely miss all of you and will be very anxious to see you when we get back.  We love you! 

Brittany Schmit
Hey, Everyone! Everything is going great. I am having an amazing time down here. So glad you gave me the opportunity to come. All the Hondurans are so welcoming. Not to mention I’ve become a pro at hammering nails. Can’t wait to tell you guys all about it. Miss you all!

Thanks for the UNI updates! I heard Wichita St. won too, MVC baby!! I can’t wait to hear how they do in the upcoming rounds. Glad that the kids miss me along with Emerson. I miss you guys too. This trip is exceeding my expectations. I can’t wait to see you all and talk to you. Lastly, shout out to all the Iowa St. fans who said that ISU was better than UNI - haha!! Also Ryan Stoll haha Kansas lost to a team UNI beat. Love you guys and miss you all!!

David “Dizzy” “Sure-Foot” “Google” Puhl
Hi, Mom and Dad and the sibs! Thanks for the (unhappy) updates on the tournament. It’s been amazing to work on the houses and learn how to use power tools and hammer nails (even if some of the kids are a lot better than me).  I’ve loved getting to know the kids and have fun with my fellow Missioners.  Love you guys and miss you all!

Ashley Schmit
Hello to everyone back home! I miss you all, but I am having a great time down here! I can’t wait to tell you all of my stories and hear about all of the things that I missed! I hope that Mom and Kaylee had fun in Chicago and that the boys survived at home alone. Also happy birthday to Cody on Tuesday! Special shout out to Mrs. Lehmann’s first grade class. - I miss you guys and can’t wait to get back into your classroom when I get back! Bye for now!

Keith and Michaela Bretey
Greetings from nearer the equator! We are happy to inform you all that the farmers’ tans have set in. They represent hard work and good times under the hot Honduran sun! But even more, they represent a labor of love for our Honduran brothers and sisters. We’ve made lots of friends here, and Keith’s Spanish vocabulary has expanded exponentially under my influence, as I attempt to serve as an interpreter for my work crew! I was sure glad when Kathya (Carlos’ daughter) came on Friday afternoon and spoke English well!! We’re having a great experience; all is well.
Jackson—loved your act of solidarity in sleeping on the floor like we are. Mom and Carlyn – we miss you tons! Love you lots.  CBY
P.S. Bruce and J.D. have been assigning nick-names, and today I was dubbed “fork lift”… coulda been worse….

Abigail Chagolla
Hola familia!!!! Los extranos mucho, cada dia pienso en los dos. Me estoy divirtiendo mucho en Honduras. Estoy bien quemada, pero bien contenta. Hoy fuimos a misa y empeze a llorar por lo hermoso que estaba el servicio. El coro la mejor parte de la misa, porque cantaron canciones que conocia. Solo los queria decir que los amo y los extrano a ti y a papa.

Slat installer crew

Frame finisher/mover crews