2018 Team

2018 Team
2018 Team in the original church built for Suyapa

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

March Preparations are Under Way

Francis and I have recently returned from Honduras where we started the "in-country" planning steps necessary for our spring mission trips. I stayed only a week, but Francis stayed an extra week to do a few more projects for MHL.

Santos stands in his kitchen doorway
Two major duties that we planned were to choose most of the families who would receive homes from our mission groups and to check on the families who received homes this past March. I am happy to report that the families of Elena, Juri, and Santos are doing well in their homes. We did purchase a table, chairs, and a small plastic clothes dresser for Juri because their only furniture was the bunk bed we gave them. Santos is busy building kitchens for all three families. Those are almost finished.

We were unable to select all of the families while we were there, but Marta will continue to send options so we can finalize the process. We did visit the following families, which ACOES (Fr. Patricio’s organization) and Marta Sosa will research further to be sure everything is done properly to finalize the selection. I've included a photo of each above the information.

Jefferson’s family includes 8 members with 2 more on the way. The house was two rooms, one of which had a wall that was a mattress on end. The other room had no roof – hopefully, they have a tin roof now to shelter them – and only one wall made of pieces of tin.

Eric’s family has 4 members. Eric is a bright young man who earned a scholarship to Taular, the top ranked school in Taular. He goes to school with other scholarship students from 2:30 – 7 p.m. He then takes a 40-minute bus ride to Nueva Capital and walks the rest of the way home in the dark. His home is one room with walls of wood. At this time they are storing building supplies – like sand – inside the home in the hopes of being able to use it for a new concrete floor.

Sandra is the mother of 5 children. She rents her home from her older sister. The floor is wood with a thin layer of concrete on top. The walls were mostly thin slats with plastic sheets around them. She and her sister earn money by making and selling tortillas.

Sandra’s sister lives in the one-room home adjoining them. Her house is similarly built. She never married and has no children of her home, but helps her sister in any way she can.

Those of us who have been to Santa Teresa’s recognize Luis, the day-time gatekeeper of the school. He has a wife and 3 children. They rent a room and have been asking ACOES for a home for 3 years. We hope to surprise Luis with a new home in the spring.

Keyssy and her sister live with their mother in a room rented from a friend. There is no father in the picture, and their mother is suffering from terminal cancer. We hope to cheer this family with a home right next to Luis’s family, whom we know will help watch over the girls while their mother is sick.

Alva is a single mother with 3 children. She owns a plot of land with a thin concrete pad, which we will need to replace. She makes and sells tortillas to support her family.

Rosa Cruz lives with her husband and 3 children. Her husband supports the family by packing groceries at a supermarket in Tegucigalpa. They have a one-room wooden house with no pila. 

We saw many typical sights as we drove through or walked the "roads" of Nueva Capital. The ladies pictured here are trying to earn a little money by cutting firewood and then selling it. That often means a long walk from where they cut it to where others might purchase it.

Although extremely poor, children are always happy to see us. The two boys here are obviously very good friends. They were enjoying each other's company.

We often had to walk muddy paths to see the
homes of the families because our 4-wheel Toyota
could not travel these rutted and rock filled roads.
Driving on muddy roads in Nueva Capital

Typical roads in Nueva Capital when it's not raining

At military headquarters we met with Col. Chicas (second from right). He was very gracious and agreed to help our groups with a large transport truck and soldiers. That will make our work much easier because we will not have to carry the wood and supplies to the home sites. Julio Rivero is in the purple shirt and white cap; I am in the blue shirt, and Francis is wearing an orange shirt. The lady in white and the soldier to the left are members of Colonel Chica's staff.
My last Saturday in Honduras we made the 4.5 hour drive to Montaña de la Flor to dedicate a water project. Our good friend Julio is the son of Chief Tomas, who recently passed away. His absence was noted when we made the trip to La Ceiba for our dedication ceremony. Francis has visited with the Tolupan quite often, and they all know him by name. Many of them make a point of greeting him. I do not get to visit this area as frequently, but I am amazed at how these people survive here. The mountain is beautiful! All of the people who came to the ceremony either walked or rode their horses because there are no roads to most of their homes. Some of them still dress traditionally. On my last two visits I gifted Chief Alvaro with a couple machetes. These seems to be the one tool that every Tolupan man owns. After a 2-hour visit, we made the 4.5 hour drive back to Tegucigalpa. We made one pit stop to see Gloria and her daughter Franci. Franci, with Mission Honduras LeMars support, has had multiple surgeries on her leg to lengthen the bone. Since her last surgery she has struggled with an infection. Francis wanted to check on her leg and recommend the next steps they should take.

Francis speaks at the dedication

Posing with some Guaruma residents,
who now have clean water
Young Tolupan mother with her child

One man stops cutting wood to wave when we go by
Chief Alvara is happy
to receive his machete

Driving through one of
multiple rivers on the way to
La Ceiba in the Montaña de la Flor region

Introducing a new baby
to the congregation prior
to baptism
Each time I visit Honduras I discover new things about their culture. During this trip I attended Sunday mass at the Basilica de Suyapa with Marta and her children. It's a large, beautiful church that draws tourists as well as locals. At the end of the service but before the priest left, quite a few people got out of their pews and started surrounding the altar. I was confused as the priest began to take a baby or small child from each of his/her parents, raised the child toward heaven and stated his/'her full name. I was told he was introducing them to the congregation before their baptisms at a later date. I enjoyed that tradition.

I feel good about what we accomplished while we were in Honduras. I am excited for those of you who will be missioners in the spring to experience the joy of helping others. 

Check back periodically to follow our preparations for March.

Saturday, March 19, 2016


For all Blog Readers not from LeMars area. At 11:30 p.m. Friday night March 18th, the Gehlen Mission Team landed at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, welcomed home by many family and friends.
Mrs. Bickford and I would like to thank all of you for staying in touch with this Mission Program through reading the blog. It has been our pleasure.
Richard Seivert

Friday, March 18, 2016

And So It Begins ...

Our day began early again. There was a lot of hustle and bustle around the compound as we put the finishing touches on everything. Garden tools were put away. Dave and Pat did one final job requested by Principal Jessica. Marta and I went over all the bills. The bunk beds were put into place for the three homes we built. The ovens for the homes arrived in the compound and then had to be transported to the three houses. Missioners had to start sorting through all their possessions to create a pile of clothes and other materials we are leaving behind. It has become a tradition that we pretty much leave everything except what we are wearing. All the building tools were sorted and inventoried. Tomorrow they will be put into containers to be stored at Cerro de Plata Foundation until needed again. The last of the donated materials had to be packed and decisions had to be made as to where they would go. And, the final group of gift bag deliveries had to be made.

At 11 a.m. we walked until we found a pulperia that could serve us the Coca Cola in a bag that we all wanted to try. Everyone had a Coke in a bag and a small bag of chips, which cost me a whole $19. It was a fun break from all the activity of the day.

At noon our presence was requested at the afternoon assembly. Principal Jessica thanked us for our work and good example. The students sang the song they'd learned from Janet and missioners - complete with actions. We will repeat this at the 7 a.m. assembly tomorrow. One of the students read a thank you note in English, and an older group of students sang a song in English for us. I gave them a large bag of soccer balls that were given to us by One World Futbol. That usually gets the Honduran students pretty excited. Soccer rules here.

We had a late lunch, relaxed for a bit, and then took the walk to our houses. We started with the prayer service at Elena's house, built by Tom's crew. Father read from the Bible, Marta read the legal papers and appropriate signatures were procured. I turned over the keys to the house, and all the missioners sang the blessing song. The new home owners then led all of us into their homes. It was fun to watch the excitement of the kids when they spotted their new bunk bed and the items that were donated to them. They also appreciated the new stove and groceries purchased for them. We will also purchase a pila full of water for each family. After a group photo at Elena's house, we moved down the hill to Juri's house and repeated everything. That house was built by Bruce's crew. In each house we also hung the cross mentioned in yesterday's blog. The home owners pointed out where the cross should be hung and it was placed there immediately.

Our final house prayer service took place at Santos's house, which was built by Pat's crew. Santos read from the Bible, and the rest of the service continued as before. At this house Santos spoke, thanking all the missioners for helping his family gain a home. He was quite fervent in his gratitude, making an attempt to shake the hand of every missioner.

On the return trip to the compound - down the mountain and then up the steep flight of stairs, which by the way, Fr. Doug stated has 150 steps going down, but 200 when you climb back up - we came upon a stack of cement blocks. These blocks were partway down the mountain, but the man using them had to climb up the mountainside and then back up, carrying what he could. He would have taken him a few days to complete the task himself. Then one of the missioners said we should form  a line and get all the blocks down for him. Thus, no one disagreed. They all lined up and finished the whole job before returning to the compound. The giving spirit of the missioners is very apparent for all.

After our return to the compound, most relaxed, but a few of us walked to check out the houses that were built last year. It was rewarding to find all of them well cared for.

Our final junta took place before supper. It was an emotional one, as I expected. Some of the Honduran children sat among us, not wanting to leave the missioners. After our usual discussion of the junta book questions, I read the letter that Seivert wrote to us. Knowing it was going to have a powerful affect on all, I made sure to take care of the business items at the beginning of the meeting. I'm glad I did because everyone was pretty much a basket case after I read that. If Seivert does not post that letter on the blog before our return, I promise to publish it on Saturday so you can all read the letter yourselves. It will also be nice for the missioners to see it, as they only heard it.

After a supper of enchiladas and fruit, we had mass. Then Fr. Doug had us all gather in a circle an do a "beginning" commissioning. You see, our mission has only just begun. That is why I titled this entry in the manner I did. All of us now have a missioner's heart. We need to take those hearts home and continue our missions!

As I finish this final blog, I hope all are asleep. It is difficult to settle down on our last night, but my wish is they will be awake enough to talk about their mission trip all the way home from Omaha. I look forward to seeing our welcoming committee in the airport!

Pat wanted Julie to see Roman's bracelet.

The girls drinking their Coca Cola in a bag, just like Hondurans.

Jason stands at the garden entrance.

Kindergarten students eating their typical lunch.

Santos poses proudly with his family in his new home.

Waiting line to pick up bunk beds

Family poses with their bunk bed.

Juri's family tours their home.

The group poses with the family in front of a new home. Santa Teresa can be seen in the background.

A Letter to Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras Students and Chaperones 
Published At Mrs. Bickford's Request, From: R. Seivert

To begin I wish to thank everyone for all you have done to make this mission journey what it has become. All you students and chaperones – amazing. 38 of you on this, the 38th mission trip into Honduras. Quite a testimony of Christianity to all who see you. Special thanks to all our Honduran assistants who help us carry out this special part of our program. Many thanks to Francis and Julio and all the time you spent in preparation of this mission. Couldn’t do this without Mrs. Bickford. Following the death of her husband Dan she came to me and asked me to keep her busy – little did she know. I once heard her at a talk she was giving tell the crowd that her involvement with Mission Honduras ‘healed my heart.’ So thanks Carolyn for all the work on this trip this year. You did an outstanding job. To all, thank you. 

The Concrete Faces of People

Well here it is. The final night in Honduras and your final Junta meeting. At this time as I sit in my comfortable office with most of the modern luxuries of U.S. life I can only imagine some of the raw emotions running through your hearts and heads – because I too have had those similar times of extreme feelings of leaving – the sights of extreme poverty,  the look in the eyes of Hondurans of poverty, the worry about those you are leaving, and oh my, those children. So, I do get how you feel right now. You see, you come home tomorrow. You must. And you must go on with your lives here in this place. Some of you are going to resist and say, ‘I’m not ready to leave, this went too fast, way too fast.’ How did this happen so quickly. Some might even ask Mrs. Bickford, ‘can’t we bring so and so home with us, even if we have to stuff him or her in a bag?’ Her answer, as it must be, will be NO. Unfortunately NO. And such is the situation of the average Honduran youth which you have just experienced for 10 days.  Be honest right now, and raise your hand if you agree to the following question.  How many of you want to return to Honduras and Nueva Capital someday? Mrs. Bickford will count. My sense is, in reading the words of your blog, the vote will be almost if not unanimous. That says a lot about you as young people and the power of your hearts. 

One of my frequent statements to thousands of young people when Mrs. Bickford and I give presentations is, ‘they all want to be you, They desperately want to be you.’ By the grace of God you were born in the United States of America while they were born in extreme poverty in a place called Honduras, in an area called Nueva Capital. And when contrasting the two locations, you could almost say, ‘A lottery of birth’. The U.S., a place where we have so much and so many opportunities, compared to Honduras, a place with very little opportunity and virtually no chance of having a life like you and I enjoy. Mr. McCarty referenced it in the blog when he said to his family in Carroll, “this area makes our Kentucky trip look like a 5 star resort.” A lottery of birth – have you ever once thought that you could have been born in Myanmar, maybe Tanzania in eastern Africa, how about South Sudan, maybe Syria or Haiti in central America, or even Honduras.

You know, I’ve had dozens of Gehlen parents who have had children in Honduras come up to me and say, ‘every young person should go on a trip like this.’ Well, the real reason I encourage young people like you to do things like you have now done is because it is often easier to see our own privilege – but also our responsibility – when we travel outside our comfort zones.  What will you do when you come home?  What will you do? How will you change, if at all?   Will you change how you look at and treat food, how about water – will it change how you use it? Will it change how you treat others of different colors, religion, or language? Will this have made a difference to you? And if so how do you react? You have a great many questions to answer in your heart and head. I encourage you to take your time and process this experience within yourself, but be open and honest and always talk with others about your experience but only you can answer those questions. As you came to know some of the people of Honduras, especially the young ones, don’t you think that it comes down to one simple truth in the lottery of birth, ‘talent and love is universal, opportunity is not.’

In our send-off ceremony, when I talked about Dave and Janet, I said, ‘past the seeker as he prayed came the crippled man and the beggar man and the beaten. And seeing them the seeker cried, “Great God, how is it that a loving creator can see such things and yet do nothing about them?” God said, “I did do something, I madeYOU.”                                                                                                                                 

Well, here you are, in Junta on this last night, all kinds of feelings, ready to fly home, and what have you done:  you have constructed 3 new homes for very very poor families – but Ah, you gave them so much more, you also gave them hope and security in living. You have built 20 bunk beds to get some of the poorest children in the western hemisphere off a dirt floor, but oh, so much more, you also gave them warmth and comfortable rest.  You taught English classes to those wee little ones who want to be you, but you also gave them faith in others through language. And how about those hugs from the children – did you ever grow tired of them? As you hugged back you gave them love. The Cardinal of Honduras, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga once said, “For us in the Church, poverty is the concrete faces of people.”

Let the images of this experience of poverty you see inside your head tonight, and in the weeks and months to come, become concrete in your heart. Then you will know you have changed.  It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to pray for those you are leaving. It’s okay to express yourself in all your feelings, and it’s even okay to be angry with the lottery of birth they find themselves in. It’s okay, it really is. And pray, pray like crazy that things will change. And please, don’t wait for others to do it – you now have experienced poverty in this world – change could and might BE YOU.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Final Touches

At 2:36 Honduran time we have multiple crews hard at work, trying to get everything possible done.

#1: Francis is showing Claudia, Marta, and Principal Jessica how to produce chlorine with the CPU he will allow the school to keep for that purpose. Then they can have clean water at the school. The CPUs were purchased by MHL to help the Hondurans treat their own water.
Trying on pillow case dresses

#2: Two different groups delivered gift bags this morning. Eyes were opened to some horrendous living conditions. We were also introduced to Coca Cola in a bag. Students will explain when they are home.

#3: Dave's crew is hard at work digging up the garden area in preparation of putting the fence around it. There are Honduran students helping today, I was told. But when I walked over there, I saw many of them just watching the process. They hope to have the garden at a place where the Honduran students will be able to complete the project.
The girls show off their pillow case dresses

#4: The largest crew is at the houses. I believe they only need to finish painting one of the houses. The wiring is done. They were still attaching door and locks. Francis will get the ovens in the morning so they can be put into the homes. The military guys will help us transport the bunk beds for those three homes so we can put them in place for the families. Fr. Doug blessed the crosses at mass last night. Those beautiful crosses were made by Mr. Konz (Mark's dad) and will be presented to the families when we bless the homes tomorrow and hand them the keys to the doors. Papers will also be signed so the families will officially own their homes. They may not sell the homes or give them to anyone else. It will be an extremely difficult and emotional day tomorrow for almost all missioners.
Distributing bracelets to the students

#5: Janet has been taking a crew to all the classrooms to distribute the bracelets made by multiple students. Her crew also brought over classes of girls to try on pillow case dresses made by many of our generous seamstresses, like Sr. Juanita. I've included photos of those girls in their dresses.
The students LOVE their bracelets.

There are little items we will need to tend to. We still do not have a team drawing on the wall. Tonight the students will start going through their clothes to put them into to a pile for donation.

Although you could not tell, I was just interrupted to do something, talk to someone, asked to complete another little project, etc. It happens almost every time I sit down to blog or to take care of an item. This time I had to deliver a message to "Dr. Francis" because of another medical issue. Since he has some medical training (As an EMS, I believe) he is often called upon to check medical problems. These people have no access to medical care, nor can they afford to pay for it or the transportation it takes to get to a doctor. It's hard to imagine not be able to take your child to a doctor if he/she is sick. So, many die from issues that are most likely easily taken care of in the States.

adding the last brush strokes of paint

delivering gift bags to a family

working on the garden

adding dirt to the garden

participating in the nightly junta

doing the wiring

The house is open and ready for a family

I am going to publish this for now with a few photos of the girls in dresses and the distribution of bracelets. If time permits, I will add a bit more tonight. I will do everything I can to post a final blog tomorrow evening. We have a very full day, but I will do my best.

It is now 8:30 p.m. Junta is finished and I hope to be in bed soon. The students were playing outside, but it's quieter now, so they must have come back in. My nights are usually quite late, so I'm looking forward to an early night.

We have a list of items that must be completed before the end of the day, but I know everyone will band together and get it done.  Thanks to all who have followed our adventure.


Brady & Cindy: Well, it’s hard to believe we’re coming to the end of our mission trip and this is only the second time we’ve written on the blog.  Our days have been busy and full of hard work but most importantly full of joy.  While we miss all of you and can’t wait to see you, we’re going to be honest, saying good-bye to the families and children we’ve been with for the past 9 days is going to be one of the hardest things we have ever done.  Our mission trip has been more than what we ever imagined.  Can’t wait to see all of you!  Keep us in your prayers these last 2 days as we say our good-byes and travel home.  Love and miss all of you! 

Paris Schroeder: Hi, tell the whole family I say hi mother! Yes, my ankle is better. We finished the houses today and for the most part the hard work is done. The trip is almost over, and I will be home before I even know it! I have lots of cool stories and experiences to share with all of you guys. One thing I am definitely looking forward to when coming home is taking a warm relaxing bath. Miss you guys tons and I can’t wait to see you all! Tell Brooklyn I will see her soon. I miss the little munchkins! Love you all!!

Meghan Heying: Hi family, yes I am alive and trying to eat some food. Most of it is staying down, which is a good sign. We are almost to the end of the trip, and I can’t wait to tell you all the memories I have made down here. Linda is taking the “mom” role and asking me typical “mom” questions so no need to worry! I will be home before you know it and can’t wait to see the girls, and instead of Lauren asking to sleep with me, I am asking her to sleep with me! Love and miss you all and can’t wait to see Grandma and Grandpa Friday! See you soon! 

Josie Galles: Hola fam bam. Holy cow, I’m almost to the end of my trip, and I have many mixed emotions. I’m sad to be leaving these amazing, sincere, down to earth people, but I do miss you all. This trip has been amazing. I feel like I need to do more, yet we are limited being here only ten days. You can bet I’ll be doing this again if I get the chance. I can’t wait to tell you guys about all my stories and experiences I have since being down here. See you Friday. Love you guys!
P.S. Mom, thank you for all the blogs and updates. Love you J  

Jill Kessenich-Hola to all! Mom, tell Addison that Grandpa is making new friends for her. He is even getting into the habit of taking selfies…YIKES. I guess he should have brought that selfie stick you got him for your anniversary. Thanks for the posts and love you always!

 Joe Schuch- What’s up, Fam? Last blog, see you guys this weekend. Looking forward to being back state side.
Evan Budden- Hello! I am looking forward to coming home but it will be hard to leave. I miss you all and am excited to see you guys.
Pat and Jason- Great day; got houses done and they look good. Jason likes playing with the Honduras children. It will be good to see everybody in the States soon.

 Chandler Willett- Hey everybody can’t wait to see everyone back home. I’ve really been enjoying my time here, and I will really miss the friendships I have made. This has truly been an unbelievable experience. Mom, Dad, and Katelyn hope you didn’t miss me too much. I’ll be home soon. Love all of you and thank you for all the support.
McCarty and Kuemper Family…..Amazingly, today was our last work day…Ask me about our rock garden…Believe me when I say…simplicity in life can be so freeing,  I love you family…Hope to see you Friday night at the airport in Omaha..  Love to all, Mac

 Megan and Tom Kellen- Hey everybody! We finished the houses today; it was unreal to see how the cement slabs turned into houses.  I can’t believe that I will be home in two days, it seems like we just left.  I can’t wait to see everyone back in Iowa. Hopefully, we can bring some of this warm weather with us. Love you all!
P.S. Dad says Hi
Megan McCarty- Hi family... I’ve met a lot of amazing people here and experienced things I’ll never forget. Although I am excited to come home and see everyone, it will be hard to go back to reality and leave all of the people here I’ve gotten to know and care about. I can’t wait to see you all Friday! Love and miss you so much.

 Dave & Janet- Hi Everyone!  It’s been a great mission - starting to see the end.  Bittersweet - gonna miss all the people here in Honduras but anxious to see everyone at home (Leon included).  Thanks again to everyone who supported us and GCMH.  We will be ready to share all our stories when we get home.