From Honduras With Love
(The Cape Elizabeth United Methodist Church sent missionary teams to Honduras in the springs of 2005 and 2006 to work with a local church and surrounding communities. Stephen Bither was one of the team leaders of both missions. This is his first-person account after the 2006 mission to Talanga, Honduras, reprinted from the June 2006 Cape Connection newsletter).
For more information about the UMC in Honduras, click here:
By Stephen Bither
This was the second time I had gone to Honduras on a mission trip. My goal was to make it new and different, not a repeat of last year’s experience. By keeping my mind open, I was able to achieve the goal.
There were many “best” things about this mission trip. Among the best of the best is our teenage missionaries. These young men and women could have gone to tennis camp in Hilton Head, or to spring break in some other locale, where they would have sat by the pool, hung out with their own “peers,” and been involved in the consumer world of which we all are part. Instead, they braved bad water, lived in a dorm with bugs and cold showers, sat by a street where “gray water” was flowing down the sides, and hung out with people who didn’t speak English, and weren’t even their own age!
I remember the work site as a great experience to work beside a 15-year-old Honduran named Armando. He was a serious boy, but he warmed to our smiles and our shouldering together on mixing concrete and mortar. I don’t know if more than 10 words were exchanged between us, but he knew our love for him, and we knew his for us.
I remember walking with Bill Slack in the hills above the town, through the dusty streets and above the noise of the traffic. Sometimes, other missionaries would go with us. It was a way of looking at where we were that was entirely different from being in the middle of traffic jams and the other day-to-day commerce that we saw every day. The only sounds we would hear in the hills were those of voices, dogs barking, and the wind.
Our church gave several things to the church in Talanga. We brought a cash gift, which was the excess of last year’s mission fundraising, and which was used locally to help a woman purchase some medicine and another woman get into a hospital for an emergency child-delivery. We brought some drugs, including pre-natal vitamins. Some people had given money to me in honor of my late mother for use in the Honduras mission, and I gave this to purchase these vitamins. They were greatly appreciated, since all medications were gone from the community. I personally felt a wonderful connection, mother to mother.
Our church also gave toothbrushes and toothpaste, gathered by Lisa Bowman, clothing, and materials for a great Sunday School class.
Our church also gave a beautiful communion Chalice and bread plate, that had been painted and fired by Marta Carmen. The local church did not have a communion cup, and this was meaningful to them. We presented it at a Sunday service.
The next day, our last, after work, we were told that there would be a surprise. Inquiring minds wanted to know: A trip somewhere? A trip to a waterpark? Our interpreter answered that question with “you are close.” At any rate, we gathered in mid-afternoon in the room that served as the sanctuary. There, candles had been lit, and chairs set up for us, and there were the ladies who made our food, and some of the neighbor kids who had hung around with us all week. Pastor Ana Ruth told us that we would have a communion with our plate and cup, and it would be like the First Communion.
She filled metal basins with water, and she got on her knees and washed all of our feet. And I was given the honor of drying the feet with a towel. You could have heard a pin drop, above the sound of tears and breaths being held. This included our regularly vocal teenagers. Pastor and I went around the room and lovingly washed each foot and dried them. She then washed my feet and I hers. This was followed by a communion in our cup and plate. She told each person in Spanish that this was the body and blood of Christ. And, as I gave her the wafer and wine, I told her in English that this was Christ’s body broken for her and Christ’s blood broken for her.
I have been to graduations, weddings, and funerals, but I have not been to a more solemn and meaningful ceremony as this one.
After our communion, we were to see a sugar cane farm, and we celebrated our experiences. That evening, as we gathered for a farewell meeting, the Pastor brought out one of the metal basins, and gave it to me as a remembrance. I felt the humility and honor, and the solemnity and joy, as I accepted it for my own. Another was given to the church, and a third basin was given to Lisa Bowman’s church.
My basin sits in my office. I will tell the story to those who ask about it. I am still trying to reconcile the beauty of humility with the everyday necessity of living. There is no simple, easy answer. But that’s why we went, for questions instead of answers, for receiving gifts instead of giving them, for finding out more about ourselves than we claim to know about others. I am hopeful that I can apply some of these lessons in my life. I do know that my life, like the roads of Talanga, is a journey of many dusty roads leading in all directions.