What an emotional roller coaster we experienced today! The team headed out of the school grounds toward our new homes, but made a pit stop along the way to install our first bunk bed. The lady who received it had six people living in her one room home, including a baby and a special needs girl. She makes and sells tortillas and does laundry to earn money. She had one bed and blankets on the concrete floor for others. She was not home when we delivered the bunk bed, so we hope she was surprised and happy to find it when she returned.
The three house teams finished their designs, carried the new stoves inside, put the groceries in various places in the common room, and then locked the houses until 1:30. The family members kept trying to peek inside their homes, so it was tricky keeping them outside.
After lunch we had a little play time before heading back up the mountain side for the house blessing ceremony. Since we had traveled without a priest, Marta got us a priest, Fr. Gustavo, who was originally from Columbia. Juan liked that. He brought along an interpreter, a seminarian who was originally from Glenview, IL.
Fr. Gustavo did a general blessing of the group and had the seminarian read from the Bible. I handed the house keys to each home owner; they unlocked their doors and walked into her their homes. Each face told the whole story, as you can see from the photos. Fr. G blessed the houses and the crosses made by Jim Konz and signed by every missioner. The men who helped with the home design in each home put the cross on the wall for each family. Then the families had a chance to explore their homes to see the special touches the missioners had put into them. They loved all of them. Before leaving we took a photo that included all missioners and the family that belonged with each house. This group was “Standing in the Light” both literally and figuratively as they posed for photos in the hot Honduran sun and truly were standing in Christ’s light as missioners, using their hands and feet for Jesus.
We did our final junta shortly after returning to the compound. The last one is always the toughest one because we all know that it is now final. We had accomplished our goals – actually surpassed them. And though there were lots of tears, all missioners need to remember not to cry because it’s over, but to smile because it happened.
To end junta tonight I read a beautiful letter that Seivert had written for the missioners. Instead of explaining it, I have included it at the end of this blog. When I finished reading it, there were more tears and total silence.
Thanks to all for following our mission journey. You can follow our flight back home, or theirs actually, as I will remain behind to greet the Kuemper team on March 29. I have a special request for Pam Schmit – Will you please take a photo of the team coming up the ramp toward you at the Omaha airport tomorrow night and email or text it to me? I’ve never gotten to see the team from that direction because I’ve always been with them. I will definitely miss the greeting the team gets from all their families and friends upon their return. Give them an extra hug from me for their excellent work and meaningful mission work.
|delivering the first bunk bed|
|climbing the mountain to the home blessings|
|Karla enters her new home|
|hanging the cross|
|enjoying their new toys|
|groceries provided for each family|
|Luis and Maria's family|
|signing home ownership papers|
|handing out gumballs|
|Lucas's purchase in Valle de Angeles|
Sometimes I Feel So Small / No Danger in Forgetting
So this is your last night in Junta and more than likely most of you are just not ready to go home – not quite yet anyway – and I sense this in the messages you have been posting on the blog – this has gone too fast you are saying to yourself in that silent voice inside your head, way too fast. But, the reality is clear. Tonight at this moment you are sitting right here in Junta, in Honduras, immersed in the poverty of this beautiful land and its beautiful people, especially those little children, but at this time tomorrow night the reality is you will be in the United States and all that you have experienced for the past 10 days will be in the realm of memory. The only major question I want to ask all of you tonight is simple, ‘what will you do with this new memory?’ You see, this new memory, it’s not quite like all the other memories you have – it seems to be something totally different, doesn’t it, something you have never experienced and felt before, and how you begin to handle this new memory tonight, and quite honestly in the near and far future of your life, might signal a path for all of you.
In 2003, on de-boarding the plane in Omaha on our return from our mission that year, Charlotte Langel asked me how I liked it. I responded, “I loved it and hated it all at the same time - I truly, truly did Charlotte.” “A major contrast that I am sure would make sense sometime down the road. But certainly not now,” I said to Charlotte, “and possibly not anytime soon – I know it will take time for me to unravel everything seen, felt and experienced.” So here you are tonight in a similar frame of mind as was mine from so many years ago, some tears are probably already flowing, and I don’t have all the answers to the poverty of Honduras and life around the world for you young people sitting here in Junta tonight but I can only hope that your mission experience will help you continue to see yourself within the larger context of helping the poor, and not just in Central America. At that time in 2003, that contrast between our lives in the United States and theirs in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere caused me to appreciate and loathe, almost within the same thought, and can be quite confusing at times. See, you now understand, at least a little bit better, there doesn’t seem to be the clear cut, black and white answers that we all like to secure ourselves within – a sort of safe place – a Personal Place that all of us can go to from time to time. That mission trip in 2003 caused me to break out just a little from within and made me face the world’s reality up close and personal, and maybe it will you as well – and I realized in that experience that it’s one thing to lecture in a class about the poor around the world, and it’s a totally revealing thing to see, touch, feel, and smell it. What a wake-up for me that year! In spite of all the hours, tapes, letters, pictures, and conversations with people who had gone on our mission trips prior, I wasn’t prepared – imagine that, Seivert not prepared for something. The poverty and yet the happiness in and on the faces of Hondurans is remarkable. It makes me think of what Steph Germann said on her return from the 2001 trip, when she said, ‘the danger, now that I am back home, within my own bedroom, clean sheets and soft pillow, my TV, my computer, my phone, my music, all the food I can eat, and all the clean water to drink, The Danger Seivert is that I will forget.’ I told her that night I didn’t think she would, as I never will either. I don’t know about you, but that’s the memory I was talking about in the beginning of this letter. Actually, that confusion of poverty and happiness all at the same time, only caused me to want to return, and return very soon - to keep the spirit I currently have burning for such causes alive and growing, not only within myself, but for others. And I hope, along with
my brother Francis, Carolyn, and Linda, that we cause you to keep a burning flame of love for those children alive in your hearts, minds, and actions in the future.
I sincerely want to personally thank each and every one of you students and chaperones for making this decision. It was a wonderful decision that many cannot make. To give so freely of yourself for others – Christianity in practice – being Catholic in truth – we are a Missionary Church after all. But then are not we all called to that same service in all that we do? You’ve probably learned some of life’s lessons real early here. I suspect that some of you have begun to change your viewpoint about the world and different people within it – and that’s good. I hope you will protect your memories of this mission with care. Let them teach and make you feel things you normally do not learn and sense. Cry if you want to but tell your story, don’t just put them off on the side – rather, let them out and give them a chance to make a difference in who you become, but also a difference in others lives as well. Let them flow throughout your thoughts and deeds each and every day from this moment on. No danger in forgetting. There is a Mother Teresa quote on the bottom of the ‘letterhead’ we use for Mission Honduras LeMars. It says, “Just Begin…One,One,One.” At this point, for all of you, I would add, now that this mission is complete, ‘Continue, Continue, Continue…’
I can tell you this in printed words – maybe not in person – but I feel very special when I am in the presence of children in poverty- almost small. Almost like I am standing in the shadow of greatness – because they, children in poverty, have caused me to be everything I am today. Thus, I hope your relationships to the children and people of Honduras continues to grow and flourish in all the years to come. I know you have made a huge difference in their lives. How about you? Have they made a difference in Yours?
Take Care Everyone – Safe Travels Home – And Bless the Poor of the World