A group of people from the First Presbyterian Church of Allentown, PA, traveled to Honduras in March to dig a well in a little village of 200 families. The experience was made possible thanks to a Synod of the Trinity Mission Travel Grant. What follows is a recap of the trip, which was first published in First Presbyterian’s Tidings magazine, as compiled by the Rev. Jack Haberer.
Seven of us FPCAers returned on Sunday, March 31, from a week’s effort to dig a water well for the village of Mezapa, Honduras, in partnership with Living Water International. We drilled a 4-inch-diameter hole to a great water source at a depth of 95 feet. But our attempts to ream the hole to the required width of 7 inches were thwarted by a powerfully strong rock shelf between 12 and 18 feet deep.
We left the site without completing our mission. We did not despair. A super-high-powered drill was soon to arrive, and villagers were soon to be drinking fresh, clear water.
Our disappointment was countered throughout our sojourn as this rural village of 200-plus families overflowed with joy just to embrace these visitors from the north. Their enthusiastic and sincere welcome turned our whimpers of frustration into tears of joy. This was especially in evidence during recess as 150 elementary students poured outside to play with us, given that drilling was taking place on their school playground. Their love was guileless: pure and simple.
As we waited in the Honduran airport for our return flight, we received an email from Karen Ensley, a leader of FPCA’s International and National Missions Team. It was extremely timely, as our emotions ran high and low before boarding the plane. In it she wrote:
“As you return home today, I wanted you to know that we have been with you in spirit throughout your journey … The smiles on your faces and the faces of the adults and children you befriended showed how you were sharing the love of Jesus through your interactions. We were dismayed when we learned of the drilling troubles and prayed you might find clean water. When we read that Living Water will need to continue the work, we could only imagine your disappointment; yet, it is my hope that you will ponder God’s reason for having you answer His call.
“You have shown love for your brothers and sisters. You have taught and shared the Gospel. You have helped Living Water to successfully eliminate poor well sites, and we rejoice in knowing that Living Water will continue the effort and will eventually bring clean, safe water to ‘your village.’
“Yet I wonder if there’s more in God’s plan. He brought you there to witness firsthand the need for His people to have clean water. Why?
“C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying, ‘Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.’ I wonder, will the hardship you faced help fuel your determination to help those who thirst? Will memories of the people in the village and the sweet smiles of the children spur you to serve as God’s messengers, so others will know what you have seen?”
So, there it was — a question posed to each of us: Why? Why were we called? What was God’s plan for us being there? Here are the responses from our team:
I would guess that most people go on a mission trip to give their time, talents, treasure and message to those who need it most. However, I feel that I actually received much more than I gave. Most importantly, I developed relationships — with the children and adults in the village, the teachers in the village school, the Living Water staff and my fellow FPCA team members — that I will remember and treasure for the rest of my life. Each day of the trip, I took a piece of our morning devotions and looked for God through those lenses. I realized that there is no such thing as “first” or “third” world, only God’s world; that with God, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; and that you should not get discouraged if things don’t work out as you planned — because if you are doing what is right and good, you will eventually harvest good things.
Our congregation is truly blessed to have a missional focus and I certainly intend to be a part of mission, whether international or local, in the future.
Everyone was looking for it; kids were climbing the tree, adults were shaking the tree, and I just went over to ponder where it went. A boy approached me with a coloring sheet he had done, and I thanked him for it. He then hugged me and started sobbing. He pulled away and then took money out of his pocket and tried to give it to me. I was confused, so our translator reported that it was this boy, Oscar, who had hit the ball into the tree. Oscar said he had been given a gift and lost it. He felt excruciatingly bad about this and seemed to feel the needed to pay somebody for his offense. I told him that these things happen, that no one is mad at him, that it’s all going to be OK, and that all is forgiven. He cried and hugged me, and we left.
The very next day, Oscar wrote me a letter in Spanish, later translated, that thanked me for showing him what God’s love looks like. But the gift I had given him was nothing compared with what he reminded me of: that God is always there to forgive, love and show mercy to us — all we need to do is ask for it.
Going on this trip, I was excited to meet and make an impact on those in need, but I never imagined the impact of being completely selfless and giving for only one week. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ precious faces and knowing that they saw and felt Jesus’ presence and love through our team fulfilled our mission. I am certain that each and every one of us left an impact on that village one way or another.
Seeing how much they appreciated us, although we didn’t get to finish building the well, showed me faith and love in a new light.
God uses each of us in different ways toward His mission. Going to Honduras was an easy decision for me. What better way to witness Jesus’ teachings than to provide an entire school/village with fresh, clean, Living Water? The engineer part of me could help with the mechanics of the drilling rig; the father part of me could spend quality time with the children; and the adult part of me could work with and witness to the adults in the village, the wonderful people from Living Water International, our church team members and Wisconsin church folks we met at the compound. This was a truly special opportunity for me. My faith as a Christian has grown many-fold, and I benefited greatly from the experience.
I had such a wonderful time on the last Honduras well-building trip that I wanted to go again. I asked our son, Nick, to go with me and he said sure! With God’s help and contributions from friends and family, we were both able to afford the trip.
I think it made the rest of the group more comfortable having someone along who had been there before. I tried to help prepare everyone by telling them about my first trip without giving them too many expectations. This trip would be in a completely different area than the previous trip, so we did not know what sort of accommodations we would have.
Everything went smoothly with our travel, and we had wonderful accommodations. Everyone in Honduras was very nice and friendly. We never felt uncomfortable, even when we could not communicate due to the language barrier. Having a translator with us added a layer of confidence.
The location of the well was at Alfonzo Guillen Zelaya Elementary School in Mezapa. Currently, children drink water from a fountain where water comes from a stream a few miles away. There is no water treatment, so it has bacteria that can make the children sick. Sometimes the stream runs dry and there is no water at all. Once the well was in place, they would be able to fill bottles with clean water to drink during the day and take home each evening. Living Water plans to drill at least two more wells in this community for everyone to have access.
Unfortunately, we were not able to complete the well, but we have confidence that Living Water will return with a larger drilling rig to complete the project. I hope we made an impact in the lives of the children and families while we were there, teaching them about hygiene. I know they made an impact on my life, with their hugs, smiles and personal notes. I look forward to going again and taking a new group of church family with me.
Having been on multiple mission trips and work camps before, I have had my share of seeing poverty and the need that people have here in the United States. However, this doesn’t even compare to the needs in Honduras. While many people there have homes and places to stay, they don’t have one of the most essential needs: clean water. That makes the pleasure of digging a well to give the people clean water even greater. This experience has truly changed my view on the challenges that some people face, and I will remember it forever.
In the end, we all concluded that giving the gift of Everlasting Life through Jesus Christ made so much more of an impact than clean water from a well.