Linda and I worked on some of the inventory here at the compound. We also began to prep the black duffle bags for our return to the States. The men did the tools inventory later in the day, and then packed everything up so it’s all ready for next year.
A couple missioners visited classrooms in the afternoon to distribute headbands, rosaries, gum, and candy. After being mobbed by a whole class, they learned it is a good idea to wait for a teacher to be in the room before doing things like that. The afternoon distribution was quite organized and pleasant.
At 2 p.m. we all returned to the houses and waited for the Hondurans to arrive for our ceremony. Before they did, though, the groceries, chairs, trash can, broom, clothing, shoes, etc., were set up on the tables and beds. The bunk beds were also put into place, but they will have to come to school tomorrow to get the mattresses. We still need them tonight.
Fr. Matt began the Blessing Ceremony with a prayer and a reading from the Bible. Marta read the house contract, which the adults signed, signifying they are the rightful owners of the property. We gave each family a small photo album of the building process, a team t-shirt, and the keys to the front door. We truly enjoyed their faces as they walked through their new homes, amazed at every little thing. The home owners chose where to place the crosses that Chris made, a nail was pounded into the wall, and Chris hung his crosses in each home. Fr. Matt, using holy water that he carried in a small screw container, and using the end of a tree branch, blessed the houses and crosses.
Hugs abounded, and I even saw plenty of tears. All home owners kept expressing their gratitude to both God and the missioners, especially Alex, who worked alongside the missioners the whole time.
Upon our return we each enjoyed a small bag of chips and a Coke in a bag. I think you have to be part Honduran, or a missioner in Honduras, to totally enjoy that.
Before supper we celebrated our last Mass in Honduras. It was a nice way to complete a house blessing ceremony and to kind of wrap up our mission trip.
We enjoyed enchiladas for supper again tonight. Those are a missioner favorite. We’re going to go into fruit deprivation when we get back to Iowa. We’ve had fresh watermelon, cantaloupe, bananas, and pineapple at every meal.
Junta was a little more solemn than usual, as many missioners were feeling the pain of saying good-bye to their newfound friends. I’m not exactly sure how I’m going to be able to pry their hugs apart to get them on the bus, but I’ll do my best, parents. This will be my final blog. We look forward to seeing you at the airport!
A Humble Beginning, Humility Throughout, Love Forever, and a New Me
We fear the word poverty because to face it is to make us believe that we are guilty of its existence
It is time for confession from this writer to you and by extension to all who might read this. Like many people, I grew up with very little compared to most of my friends and school mates – sort of a humble early life – devoted mostly to learning and sports and just getting by, probably like many of you - but with a ‘saint’ of a mother and the wonderful guidance and discipline of good teachers and religious leaders, Sisters and Priests alike, again like many of you. As I grew older, got an education and was paid $6,400 for my first year of teaching in a public school in Iowa I thought to myself, ‘my goodness,’ how can I ever spend this much money. I began to think of the wonderful things of life that so many others had and seemed to enjoy - I thought to myself how I too wanted those same things and how pleased I would be with myself when I achieved some of that same level. Then I came to Gehlen and my world was upended in wonder and amazement at life without so many things as I watched the humble ‘Franciscan’ and ‘Living Word Sisters’ that taught in our school along with the comparable and amazing diocesan priests that I was so lucky to get to know - and I began to think how truly rich I was becoming in so many ways that society would never see and in most cases wouldn’t care about - but for me a growing and continuing humility in all that was around me - the influences of a person’s life and how they form who we might become and my thanks to all of them.
So I ask all you young people tonight, what about those influences and beginnings in your lives? Is this one of them? Here you are, in Honduras, the second poorest country in this hemisphere, and for the past ten days you have been living with those children and families in poverty and the question begs, will they have any influence on your lives? – by flight time, they are only about six and a half hours from Omaha – an almost unbelievable fact that somehow escapes the attention of most in so called, OUR WORLD – six and a half hours. As all of you undoubtedly know and most of the time feel, facts and statistics are sometimes boring and tedious but sometimes quite revealing in their simplicity, meaning, influence, and truth and I think such is the case here. Honduras is a country of roughly 8.3 million people – about the same size as New York City - and sixty nine percent of Hondurans live on less than $2 per day, and of those, 50% live on less than $1 per day – a good statement to say would be that the average Honduran lives on less than $1.85 per day. A dollar eighty five – oh my goodness. Another part of my confession: I got up this morning at my usual time, went to the truck stop, purchased a Sioux City Journal for $2 (I have to pay 50 cents more to have it delivered to the truck stop), my coffee was free, and then I bought a pack of those little Debbie Donuts (the chocolate kind) for 99 cents. Within 1 minute in the truck stop I had already spent $1.14 more than the average Honduran will live on today, the day you are in right now, and then again tomorrow the same, and each day thereafter – a very sobering thought. And yet another part of my confession – simple things like that make me think about those things I have in life and so readily and habitually take for granted. I sometimes ask myself, do I really care enough, do I really do enough, do I really love others enough, and most of the time the answer is - I am not sure.
Thus, I suspect on this, your last night in Nueva Capital and Honduras, you have many similar thoughts running through your mind and tugging at your heart - I can already sense it in the words you have written how you are not ready to leave such a beautiful people – such amazing and wonderful children who live less than six and a half hours from you by flight and yet how different their lives are – how little they have in comparison to us. How is this possible, some of you might wonder? – Why are things this way, some of you might ask? Quite honestly I don’t have the answer to questions like that but I do think this is what the challenge becomes in your young life – how you deal with this new found knowledge upon our return home, to your school, and to your friends. How do you deal with these new feelings about others in a place you may never go to again. What do you do with this new memory, this new information? What has this all been about? Has this journey been about you – has it been about them – has it been about those beautiful little Honduran children you have encountered and want to bring back home? In Chaper One, Part III, of Evangelii Gaudium, ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’ Pope Francis wrote a little about St. Thomas Aquinus – one of my favorite Saints. He wrote that St. Thomas taught that the Church’s moral teaching has its own ‘hierarchy,’ in the virtues and in the acts which proceed from them. What comes above all else is “faith working through love.” Let me repeat that, “faith working through love.” He wrote “works of love directed to one’s neighbor are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the spirit.” Maybe that is what is meant by ‘preach the gospel every day, use words if necessary.’
Do you see yourself like that tonight as you sit in this your last Junta? – the works of love directed to one’s neighbor?, the houses you have built?, the bunk beds erected?, the gift bags delivered?, the hugs you have accepted and given in return to those wee little ones?, the feelings you have? the hope you have given to others?, the questions you have in your hearts?, and now the tears you are about to shed on this your last night? Do you see yourself like that tonight??? DO YOU? One of those boring facts from experience, “you probably won’t sleep much tonight in spite of all your chaperones suggesting you should.” ? Quite honestly, I get it.
I really don’t know if others see you like that, the external manifestation of the interior grace of the spirit, but I certainly do tonight. Quite honestly, it was Mrs. Nussbaum who suggested to me sometime after we started this program 17 years ago that we add something to the name ‘Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras.’ She suggested we add, ‘Changing Lives.’ How perfectly clear this program’s mission became with that addition – but then I got to thinking, whose lives did she mean? Did she mean your lives? Or did she mean the lives of those you went to serve? Isn’t it amazing though – you and only you get to decide that – sort of a new you, a new me, a new us, and maybe a new beginning for the people of Honduras.
At this time if we were in one of my classes at Gehlen you would say to me, ‘but Seivert, wait up a second here, we have no power, we are just 17 and 18 years old, no one really listens to us.’ Well, I would say the opposite. I would say, ‘there is great, great power in the young of today (look at the high school students in Florida), your thoughts, your voices, and especially your actions.’ Mrs. Bickford and I probably would not have been teachers if we thought otherwise – and how very fortunate we both have been in our lives – thanks to young people just like you.
When you return home please share your story and don’t stop until change has occurred – it begins with you and it begins right now. God has given you this wonderful opportunity to grow, reflect, and change – and you have already made a difference. Don’t be afraid what others might say. Think about this for a second, You have held poverty in your hands, you have looked at it in their eyes and seen it on their faces, you have felt it in their lives, and you have communicated with it when talking to and hugging those children of Santa Teresa. The rest is up to you. Be the change that you can be.
And by the way, you are not guilty of poverty’s existence – guilty only when we do nothing about it.
God Bless You, God Bless Honduras, and God Bless the Poor of this World
A Humble Servant – R. Seivert
|Distributing candy and headbands|
|A trio of houses|
|Marta reads the house contract to all|
|Fr. Matt blesses the houses|
|Chris hangs one of his crosses|
|Entering her home for the first time|
|Alex and his wife sign their contract|
|Alex hangs the cross in his house|
|Group photo of all workers and home owners|
|Enjoying a Coca en la Bolsa - Coke in a bag|
|Houses from the front|
|Pat attaches a rain gutter|
|Working together to create items for the homes|
|Building items for the homes|
|Fr. Matt and Matyas take a little break in the shade|
|Final ride in the military transport truck|
|The backyard view|
The girls gave a dancing lesson on our first day at Santa Teresa School. I thought it would be a fun way to end the blog. Enjoy the dancing and check out how much fun they are all having! I have a feeling there won't be much dancing going on tomorrow, as we say our final farewells.