2018 Team

2018 Team
2018 Team in the original church built for Suyapa

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.


  1. Hey Pat you have brought tears to my eyes and that isnt how I wanted to start my busy Friday. I am sure Gavin is smiling down from heaven on all of you. Gone too soon but definitely not forgotten.

  2. Thank you for sharing Roman’s bracelet “Gavin a friend never forgets” You have no idea how much that means to me...Tears are rolling down my face knowing that a piece of Gavin was with you in Honduras. It made my heart smile…Roman, Patrick, Carolyn and all of the missioners, you are making a difference in someone’s life not only in Honduras but also for us at home. Life is fragile and there are no guarantees, but as Carolyn said “And so it Begins” this is your beginning you have touched someone’s life in Honduras now it’s up to you to continue making a difference at home. Prayers for each one of you on your travels home. A big thank you to each and everyone for making this trip happen. Can't wait to see you Patrick! Blessings!

  3. Wow! All I can say right now is TEARS! This is all just truly amazing!!!

  4. I am one happy momma! You may not see right now as I have tears rolling down my face, but I am! I, too, am so pleased that you all made this trip. I hope that you take Seiv's words with you everyday. God made YOU to do this work...what is next?
    Prayers for a safe trip home! And continued blessings for each of you in the future! I can't wait to see you Sunday, Josie!!
    Love, mom

  5. Thank you Carolyn and Dick for your amazing words!

    It was so fitting that I read a message from Deacon Dan this morning. It was a Lenten Reflection from Bishop Robert Barron called from "Mountain to Mission" based on the events of the Transfiguration.
    With all of you leaving the "mountain" of Honduras today, I know you are changed (transfigured) in more ways than most of us back here at home can imagine. But, just like Peter, James and John you can't stay there in that experience. You have been given a light. Now -- go light your world your world here at home!

  6. Beautiful and powerful words Mr. Sievert, that made me cry too. The quote about God saying...I did. I made YOU, jumped out at me and initiated self reflection and guilt. We all can do more! It is interesting by reading the blog everyday and the responses from both parents and families, actually made me feel I was right there with them. Bless everyone involved with this journey! Brayton's grandmother


    1. My wife would like to thank all responsible for Mission Honduras 2016! Your hard work, organization, updates, and overall running of this God-driven mission reassured so many that their loved ones would be safe! The Gehlen blog was a comfort to so many. Thanks Carolyn, Dick, Francis, Julio, Marta, Carlos, and a host of others, the chaperones, and MISSIONERS, you young people inspired so many. Don't stop the fire within..keep inspiring us, and others. God blessings upon you all. The McCarty family

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