Honduras Mission: Day 5

Mission Trip: Day 5

Our day began with mass at the cathedral. The priest is a visitor from Colorado for one month filling in for Padre Ramon (Raymond, SJ) who is visiting family in the United States. The mass was packed! A group of college students from the University of Scranton sat behind us. They’re visiting the School Sisters of Notre Dame and doing community service/mission work. I think the good sisters will have plenty for them to do.

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Our children from COPPROME arrived a little too late to all sit together, so they spread out. Some of them found us and sat with us which was sweet! My favorite homeless guy found me during communion and gave me a big bear hug – right there at the front of the communion line! I’ve included a picture of he and I in front of the Our Lady.

That evening, the children gave us a “despedida” or farewell. They sang to us and then gave us cards that they made for us. It was so hard to leave the children! Several of our group were quite emotional as we said our goodbyes. Every child who hugged me said “please don’t go,” which was followed by, “when are you coming back?”

Our van was completely quite as we made the long drive to the San Pedro airport to begin our journey home, but that is another story!

Peace!

For more information about you can help, visit the Friends of Los Niños website at http://www.friendsoflosninos.org/.

If you would like to learn more about our mission trips, please fill out the contact form below.

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Honduras Mission: Day 4

Today, we went back to the village of Monte Olivos to deliver some clothes. All of the dresses were handmade by Dress A Girl Around the World – a group of wonderful volunteers in the United States. The children were so excited to receive their clothes! I told them that hopefully we’ll be able to bring more clothes during our trip in November.

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More info to come!

Peace!

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Honduras Mission: Day 3

Today we visited the village of Monte Olivos. The community is coming along very well. A few houses are under construction now and the town hall has been finished. Yet despite the progress, the community is still very poor. We were able to pick up some basic supplies for each family including beans, rice, lard, coffee and soap. Our team distributed the supplies to each family.

I’ve always been impressed with this little village. They were displaced and have been living in a shanty town for years. Now, with the help of a priest, a nun, a lawyer and generous missionaries of different faith traditions from the States, this community is rebuilding on new land. They’ve had to overcome great hardships, violence and stigmatization, but through it all they’ve stuck together. I think there’s a lot we can learn from this village.

We’re going back tomorrow to deliver some dresses that were made and donated by kind and talented women in the States. I’ll be sure to post more pictures tomorrow.

Peace!

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Honduras Mission: Day 2

Today after spending some time with the kids at the orphanage, we went out to visit the two tutoring centers. These two tutoring centers are neighborhood based programs of the orphanage. The goal is to provide education and other supportive services to at risk families as a strategy to prevent broken families and more abandoned children. The program also is a source of screening children in need of additional services, like medical help or groceries. It’s a great program but like everything here, in need of money. The most pressing need is to replace the roofs on both buildings.

Today, when it rains, water literally gushes into the tutoring centers. If the staff are not careful about covering the books and educational supplies with tarps, they’ll be lost to water damage. One of the buildings also needs to be treated for termites. The estimated cost of the repairs to both roofs is $15,000 which doesn’t seem like nearly enough money.

While we were visiting the tutoring centers, some of our volunteers joined in a game with the kids. The kids are so lively! Only through education do we stand a chance at breaking the cycle of poverty. Giving these children a chance may be all it takes to help them become productive citizens.

Friends of Los Niños applied for a grant that we hope will provide the some of the funding to replace both roofs. Donations of any amount, however, are always appreciated to help the children! Contributions are accepted via PayPal.

Friends of Los Niños is a not-for-profit organization with a 501(c)3 designation by the U.S. government. We are a volunteer-run organization with negligible operating expenses. The vast majority of all funds raised goes to support children in Honduras through one of the orphanage’s programs or to the village, Monte Olivos.

Someone once asked me why I do things like this mission trip. Today, I was reminded about my answer. Sister Teresita, the amazing nun who is the driving force behind these programs, was explaining to one of the staff about a new program she wants to start. As she explained her reason, she quoted me  – well actually, something I said to her several years ago. She said when we receive the Eucharist, we become the body of Christ. We aren’t to hoard that precious gift. Rather, we are to bring the Eucharist into the world through our loving service to others. I’ve never been so humbled than when I heard this humble nun give me credit for something I said.

Will you help me bring the body of Christ to others in desperate need of human love? Thank you for your prayers and your help!

Peace!

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Honduras Mission: Day 1

3:15am.

We woke to the sounds of my iPhone alarm, the nightstand alarm and a wakeup call – all at the same time. All the beeps and chimes – it was like waking up in an arcade.

We got ready to checkout and head to the airport. I dropped everyone with the bags at the terminal then drove on to remote parking south. Once there I hustled from the car to the bus stop. It was a lovely early-morning walk albeit in the dark! The air was cool and filled with that wonderful smell of rain. Yes, I was a little concerned about the weather today, but right now I was set on living in the moment.

We got through security okay and regrouped at Dickey’s for breakfast. While there a storm blew through. Lighting hit the jet way at a gate outside Dickey’s. Nice! Despite the weather, we were eventually allowed to board. A fierce wind rocked our plane to and fro. For a minute I thought I was on a boat! After a brief delay, we were Houston-bound. We arrived without incident, boarded our next flight and took off. This is it!

Our flight was thankfully uneventful. I was able to power through a book on slowing down on the flight to Honduras. Not sure I fully grasped the meaning…perhaps I’ll power through it on the flight back home. :)

The airline showed an in-flight film – The Vow. I’d never watched it but I remember thinking that it looked interesting. I started to get into to the movie. It’s a nice story about a newly wed husband who fights for the love of his live. Then, they turned it off with about 15-minutes before the end to go through the landing procedures. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

We had no problems at the airport or with the rental or at the gas the station. Once we filled up, we headed out for the orphanage. We arrived after lunch. Almost immediately, the quiet calm of the front steps of the orphanage exploded with children! They’d been waiting for us. Before I could get out of the van we were mobbed by the children. They were so thrilled to see us! It’s great to be back! We had a blast with them! This would have been a great time to take pictures except that I didn’t have a chance to grab it.

The staff served us a lovely lunch – homemade soup. It was incredible! It was filled with large pieces of potatoes, plantains, carrots, squash and other veggies as well as some chicken. They served it with rice and homemade corn tortillas. Quite a welcome! The staff even made me a lovely fresh cup of Honduran coffee. In that moment, all the stress of my journey melted away. Despite the challenges and the risks, I knew that this is where I was supposed to be today.

We stayed a bit longer and then headed for the hotel. It was only 3pm local time (4pm US cst), but we were exhausted! We ran to the grocery store for some basics then to the hotel to relax a bit. We had dinner as a team before turning in for the night. We’ll need all our energy tomorrow!

Tomorrow we hope to get out to the neighborhood tutoring centers to take some more pictures of the repairs that need to be done. We are hopeful that we’ll get a grant from the diocese to replace both roofs. Hopefully, we’ll be able to arrange a movie night for the kids before the end of this trip. Later in the week, we plan to spend some time with the villagers of Mount Olives. We’d like to help out with building houses there, but we’ll take it one step at a time.

After we get the roofs of the tutoring centers replaced, assuming we get our grant, I’d like to try to raise money to build a chapel in Mount Olives as well as space for fulltime missionaries to live and work there, with the local bishop’s approval of course. It’s a lofty goal, but I think it is achievable with the help, prayers and support of people.

Stay tuned for updates from the orphanage tomorrow!

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Honduras: Mission Possible!

Image reading The church has left the building. Gone outreaching!Well, the day began with a buzz! I couldn’t believe our trip to Honduras was about to begin. With the Memorial Day holiday, I wasn’t even fully packed! But we got out the door pretty much on schedule.

Small snag.

I hadn’t factored in construction around the airport. That set us back about an hour, but we were still at the airport about two hours before take-off.

Small snag.

Our flight was cancelled! That’s right – cancelled! Apparently weather issues in the Western US hopelessly delayed our plane that was to meet us in Florida. The nice people at the airline put us up in a hotel and booked us with a different airline which leaves tomorrow bright and early! We’ll have to leave the hotel around 4am, and we’ve had to lighten our bags to conform to the other airline’s baggage rules, but that’s okay! As long as we get there!

As much as delays can frustrate me, I had to stop myself and live in the moment. You see, after we all got squared away at the hotel, my son and I went out to eat – just the two of us. Yes, he was a little preoccupied with my iPhone, but I enjoyed spending time with him. I enjoyed watching my near grown child acting like a little kid as he played a game on my iPhone.

Patience is something is much easier to preach about than to practice. It’s even harder to practice if you’re not aware of your frustration meter. Today, I was given a rare opportunity to practice practicing it.

Thank you, God, for trying to teach me patience today! Please be patient with me!

More from Honduras.

Peace!

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Street Retreat: Saturday

Picture of Homeless Breakfast at University Methodist ChurchI can’t feel my face.

Am I frozen? I was woken up by the sound of the guys packing their gear. Could it be morning already?

I have no idea how cold it had gotten overnight. The only part of me exposed from my mummy sack was my face. It felt like my cheeks were frozen, but the rest of me was nice and toasty. Do I have to get up?

I noticed a steady stream of guys walking one by one to the “bathroom”. I resigned myself to the reality that I’d have to go too. So, I got up and walked over. I can’t say that I followed Mike’s advice well because I was struck by the sign at eye level which read, “monitoring in effect”. Oh my! Am I being watched in this most compromising position? My head frantically searched the sides of the buildings. If there were cameras, I couldn’t see them. Oh well! Time to push off!

I packed my gear and joined a very quiet procession of guys. I had no idea where we were going. All I knew was that we were on the move. Our two other groups who’d broken off from us last night somehow found us and rejoined us on our quiet march uptown. At last we arrived at a 7-Eleven. Mike said he was buying coffee for all of us. Snuffy stuffed some money into Mike’s hand to help pay for the coffee. What? A couple of homeless guys are going to buy coffee for all 17 of us? I couldn’t believe it, but they insisted. We were, after all, their guests. Well that’s a great way to start the day – letting homeless guys buy me coffee! Would I like a dash of humility with that?

After coffee, Mike led us up to the University Methodist Church. He said they’d be serving breakfast to the homeless today. Sure enough, more and more men and women of all ages began arriving in the parking lot. We used the opportunity to say our morning prayers in the parking lot. It was such a great blessing to me to be praying with all these men outdoors in a public place! Even some of the homeless joined in!

Once the doors opened and once I was inside I was struck by the efficiency of it all. They would probably serve several hundred or more people this morning. The line of homeless snaked around the perimeter of the cafeteria where different stations, like coffee, juice and food, were set up. You got what you needed then grabbed a seat. There was even a station of books. Some homeless returned books that they’d borrowed and others took books. The saddest thing I saw as the stack of children’s books. Yes, sad as it is, kids are homeless too.

After breakfast we made our way to Church Under the Bridge where a live concert was starting. Yep, people come to minister to the homeless in various ways, including through music. Nice! On the way we met Chris. Chris is a self-appointed Catholic missionary to the homeless. I was struck by how well educated he was. He was also very clean for a homeless man. He has a camp set up somewhere in town. He chose to give up his life to live and work with the homeless. On our way another homeless came up to him and asked for some change for coffee. Without hesitation, Chris pulled out some change and handed it to the homeless, looked him in the eyes and said, “for coffee, ok?”

He was preaching to us about the importance of confession and mass, and how we can look to the saints to help us live better lives. Finally one of our guys told him that we were all preparing for the diaconate. Chris stopped in his tracks with a look of admiration on his face. He praised God right there on the street and shook each of our hands. I was a little overwhelmed. Could we mean so much to other people? Chris left us after a little while then and said he’d pray for us.

We hung out at the concert for a bit, but I was eager to get to the Cathedral in time for confession. Now I didn’t have a watch so I didn’t know how much time I had. One of the homeless told me that if I wanted to know the time, all I had to do is read a parking meter. Huh? Curious, I went over to a parking meter. Of course! The city installed digital meters and all the meters display the time! Neat! Once I checked the time I realized I needed to get on the move. I told the guys I was heading for the Cathedral. Several decided to come with me and so we set off.

After a nice long walk through town, we finally arrived and to my pleasant surprise many of the guys were arriving as well. We’d separated again after Chris left us, but within a few minutes, we were all together at the Cathedral. After confessions, mass began and this is the part I really want to share. So, we’re a group of 15 deacon aspirants plus 2 sons plus our shepherds. We’re attending mass, though not all sitting together. We were scattered around the nave of the church. I had no idea what the readings for the day were. And then I heard the First Reading.

“At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, ‘It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.’ The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith,”(Acts 6:1-7).

Now for those who don’t know, this is the scriptural basis for deacons. Talk about a God moment! I don’t think a single one of us had dry eyes. Here we were on a random retreat. We weren’t required to come to this particular weekend. We could have gone to one of the other weekends earlier in the year. The retreats are not limited to deacon aspirants so it’s not like this was staged for our benefit. But as it happened, the majority of my class were here on this retreat; on this weekend trying to discern God’s will for our lives and what do we hear? God’s word about the first deacons! To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement!

I had to wonder what more does God has in store for us this weekend because I was emotionally spent? What more do we need to see and learn? Who else would touch our lives this day?

But that is another story.

Peace!

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Street Retreat: The First Night

Mike found us.

Funny thing was I didn’t know who Mike was or that he was looking for us. Mike had been walking up the strand when he ran into us. When he found out that we were retreatants, he was so excited! He couldn’t believe that Mobile Loaves & Fishes hadn’t called to let him know we were coming.

Yes, he has a cell phone. Mike is an interesting fellow. He’s a thin Hispanic of average height with a brilliant smile that although missing a few teeth is as bright as the sun! He’s a day laborer whose parents live in a farming community close to town but too far to easily find day jobs. So he lives on the streets during warmer months and lives with his parents in the winter.

It was pretty obvious that Mike had plans that evening, but he dropped everything to spend time with us. He said he’d help us find a safe place to sleep that night. Snuffy however wasn’t ready for bed. He was eager for a cigarillo (mini cigar). A small group was going with Snuffy. The rest of us were about to head out with Mike.

Now this was a dilemma. Do I go with Snuffy downtown to learn the fine art scoring a cigarillo or go find a place to sleep? Then Mike said before we get ready for bed we need a lesson in the fine art of dumpster diving. Ok – with Mike I go!

We kept to the alleys as we made our way across town. I’ve lived here for a while, but from the alleys I had no clue where I was! Mike told us all about dumpsters. We learned the difference between trash dumpsters and recycling dumpsters. We were after recycling dumpsters, specifically cardboard recycling dumpsters. He explained that if you sleep on concrete without padding you could freeze. Now it wasn’t supposed to freeze that night but we did what he asked. We set up the most curious assembly line picking out useable pieces of cardboard and passing them down the line.

When we exhausted the supply, we carried our cardboard unto the street. To my surprise, we were right by the capitol. How on earth did we get here? He took us to a nearby church where we could find a safe place to sleep outside. By this time the shelters were full. But there’s safety in numbers so sleeping on the church steps was our best bet.

When we got to the church, all the stairs were full so he led us around the side to a cement ramp which leads up from the parking lot. We arranged our boxes two-by-two along the ramp and prepared to bed down for the night. One guy asked about the bathroom which caused Mike to smile again. He pointed to the parking garage across the way. He said just past the garage is a wood fence. Then with a serious expression on his face he said, “don’t hit the fence.” We all looked at each other.

When I laid down I was struck by the beauty of the sky that night. The stars were so clear in part because of the lunar eclipse. What a peaceful place in the heart of downtown! Then I looked down and I saw it – the top of the capitol dome. Light seemed to radiate from the gold-like dome. Then it hit me. Here I was sleeping on the street surrounded by homeless people and there not a stone’s throw away was the very symbol of power and wealth. The only thing separating me from there was an iron fence.

That night I had a restless sleep in part because of how chilly it got and in part because of the irony of my situation. Not a week ago I might have been the person who drove his car ignoring the homeless guy on the side of the road. A few years ago, I might have been the guy who could recite a litany of reasons why people were homeless and what they should do to get off the street – like I had a clue! And yet here I was walking in their shoes. To say I felt uneasy would be putting it mildly.

Despite how easy it had been for me to look away, to not make eye contact with the homeless, it was the homeless who made sure that I had a meal. Despite my checking to make sure my car doors were locked as I approached an intersection where a homeless guy was panhandling, it was the homeless who made sure I had a safe place to sleep that night. I did so very little for them, and yet they were doing so much for. Why would Mike drop his plans for the evening to help us out? Why should he care if whether we were warm or cold that night?

I felt like I was going nuts! I couldn’t wait for the morning! I couldn’t wait to get on the move. The sooner we packed up the sooner I’d be able to get some coffee and more importantly the sooner I’d be able to distract myself from my thoughts.

But the morning is another story!

Peace!

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Street Retreat: Day 1

We couldn’t bring watches so I’m not sure how long we’d been at the park. Honestly, it seemed like an eternity. After a while, I dropped to the ground. I think I was emotionally exhausted! I pulled my hat over my eyes and I tried to take a nap but sleeping was pointless. I looked around from under the brim of my hat at the large number of people gathering in the park – young and old, male and female. Are there really this many homeless?

They’re waiting for dinner.

I heard that a food truck was on the way and soon we’d eat. Gradually, a line began forming by the road adjacent to us. As the minutes passed the line grew longer and longer. Eventually a small silver Mobile Loaves & Fishes truck finally arrived. I was skeptical that it could feed everyone. Snuffy, one of our new homeless friends, said that we’d all eat off the truck, but we weren’t so sure. One of my brothers said that he volunteers with the Mobile Loaves & Fishes and he didn’t think there would be near enough food for everyone.

Snuffy went over to the truck to get some lemonade.

Later, he came over and noticed we weren’t eating. One of the guys explained that there wouldn’t be enough food to feed us all. Snuffy thought about it for a moment, and then said, “no one goes hungry tonight!” He thrust his hand into the air and began making circles as if trying to lasso someone with an imaginary rope. Like obedient little ducklings, we marched up the street behind him. We must have looked like a strange parade of guys marching through downtown. We had only been on the streets for a couple of hours but we already looked like a ragtag group.

Now Snuffy is a cool dude! He was dressed well, albeit a little dirty. He even had some cool little sun glasses with octagon-shaped orange lenses – completely impractical. They were smaller than the sunglasses that Gary Oldman wore in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The glasses conveyed hipness through and through.

Finally we arrived. Snuffy had brought us to a little vegetarian restaurant on the drag. He explained that the place is owned by Buddhists. It’s against their religion to let someone starve. He assured us that we all would eat. I couldn’t believe that any business would give so much food away. There had to be close to 20 of us who had followed Snuffy.

Through the windows of the restaurant we noticed an Asian woman stack small to-go boxes on the counter. She carefully carried the boxes to a small table just inside the front door and then walked away. Snuffy said we were to go one at a time, grab a box and a spoon and then leave. He asked us to make sure we didn’t block the door so the paying customers could come and go. We each took a turn at collecting a small box and then leaving. It was an odd ritual but we all did it. My box had a small scoop of white rice, a dribble of sauce and piece of steamed broccoli. It was a meager feast to be sure, but I was overcome with gratitude.

Why would Snuffy help us? He knew we weren’t really homeless. Why would he care if we ate or not? And why would the restaurant owners feed us? How could they possibly afford it? We’re not their responsibility, are we?

We all walked away humbled by the experience. That evening, we remembered Snuffy and the owners of that vegetarian restaurant in our prayers.

It was time to move on. We needed to figure out where we were going to sleep that night, but that’s another story.

Peace!

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What? Star Trek is Commie?

Here’s a post in light of the recent May Day celebrations around the world.

You know, sometimes I can be a bit naive, but I’m not sure about this one. A couple of months ago a friend floored me with a comment he made.

We’re sitting in class talking about the assignment and somehow we got on the topic of Star Trek. He said Star Trek is commie. Communism? Really?

He gave me all sorts of reasons for this idea, all of which sent my head into a tizzy!

What?

Are you serious?

Can’t a show just be a show?

What do y’all think?

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