April 2007 Trip

 
Caitlin Ascherl & Kendra Collins with Moya children
Am I an Instrument of Peace?
¿Soy un Instrumento de Paz?
 

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Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras
‘Changing Lives’
Student Trip

On Thursday, March 29th, nineteen high school students and six adult chaperones left for Honduras marking the 8th straight high school trip into the third poorest country in the western hemisphere. The previous day, Wednesday, March 28th, the entire Gehlen Catholic School community, along with representatives from Spalding Catholic, Le Mars Community, and Kingsley-Pierson schools, gave the mission team a wonderful send-off from the Gehlen Catholic gymnasium. After a short overnight stay in Omaha the team was on their way to Honduras early Thursday morning, landing in San Pedro Sula by 1:00 P.M. After a six hour bus ride through the mountains of  Cortes, Yoro, and Comayagua Districts, the team finally arrived in Esquias, Comayagua, around 8:30 P.M., carrying 48 bags of precious ‘collected items’ to be used and given while on their mission. Team members included Kendra Collins, Le Mars Community High School, Kirby Washburn, Kingsley-Pierson High School, Caitlin Ascherl and Heather Schneider, Spalding Catholic High School,  and fourteen seniors and one junior from Gehlen Catholic High School. They were: Tyler Sitzmann, Cody Langel, Corey Adair, Jesse Kraus, Annie Woods, Brooke Langel, Alex Loutsch, Ryan Langel, Amanda Cronin, Adam Oetken, Thomas Henrich, Tyler Holton, Stacie Duckwitz, and Jared Langel. The only Gehlen junior selected was Shahryar Naqvi. The team had a wonderful group of new and veteran chaperones in Francis Seivert, Elkton, South Dakota, Fr. Jim Tigges, Carolyn Bickford and Amy Woods,  Le Mars, Iowa, Sister Juanita Polak, Omaha, Nebraska, and Linda Reichle, Alton, Iowa. Francis Seivert commented, “This is one of the finest groups of young people I have ever had the pleasure to work with. Gehlen can be proud.”

2007 Gehlen Catholic Mission Team just before leaving Le Mars

Be the change you want to see in the world.
                                     
~ Mahatma Gandhi

Planning for this mission trip began last June, 2006. Due to some problems in El Guante, the site of all previous mission trips to Honduras, Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras  ‘Changing Lives,’ made the decision to relocate to Esquias, Comayagua. Esquias is a colonial village of about 3,000 people, about three hours north of the capital city of Tegucigalpa.

 

Since the founding of this program, prompted by Hurricane Mitch and the great destruction caused in late 1998, the Gehlen High School trip travels to Honduras during Easter each year. This mission program has three major goals for each high school team: To do a work project in a poor rural village, to immerse themselves in Easter week religious celebrations, and to experience poverty from a personal standpoint.

Fr. Tigges celebrates Mass in Esquias, Honduras

God must become an activity in our consciousness.

                           ~ Joel S. Goldsmith

2007 Mission Team at work in Moya

Corey Adair, Fr. Tigges, Caitlin Ascherl, Reynario, Luciano, Thomas Henrich, & Carolyn Bickford celebrate with water in Moya

The work project this year was a water project in the small rural village of Moya, Francisco Morazon. Moya is a very poor village of 21 homes and 93 people. Our student teams first day in Moya was Friday, March 30th. This water project was funded by numerous sources. The Brookings, South Dakota Rotary Club donated approximately half of what would be necessary. The remainder of the money came from various sources in Le Mars and Kingsley, Iowa. The project involved construction of a water tower, placing an eight hundred gallon tank atop the tower, the purchase of a new electric pump, the digging of trenches throughout the village, burying water lines from the tank to each home, and chlorinating the new water system. On completion of the project on Holy Saturday, April 7th, the village elders told our group of high school students that the government of Honduras had promised them a water system each year for the past 20 years. He spoke of how it took a group of U.S. teenagers and their chaperones to finally fulfill a village dream of water to each house. Linda Reichle said, "To see the faces of the village people as they turned on their own water faucets outside their homes brought joy to my heart.” The Moya project also called for digging of 12 latrines. During the time we had in Moya our team got started on 5 of the latrines to a depth of 5 foot each. The remainder of this phase will be finished by the people of Moya. The team celebrated that day with speeches, sharing of photos, and gifting the children of Moya with new shoes, clothes, and many other products like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo, lotions, small toys, and soccer balls. It was an amazing and very emotional day for all villagers and team members. Carolyn Bickford commented, “The people of Moya were some of the most grateful, hard-working, and humble people I have ever met. I cannot begin to relate the exhilaration I felt when we turned on the water at the culmination of our project. It is amazing that something we take for granted can mean so much to so many people.” Amy Woods said, “The villagers taught us more than we brought them…the love of family, the value of taking a moment to laugh together and share stories, to enjoy the day.”

villagers of Moya & 2007 Gehlen Catholic Mission Team pose for a group picture


Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

~ Leo Buscaglia          

Stacie Duckwitz pins a 'You Are Loved' button on an orphan girl

Shahryar Naqvi swims with a little girl from the orphanage

As stated earlier the mission program from Gehlen includes a major work project and involvement in many Holy Week church services, along with special events like visiting the orphanage ‘Nuestros Pequenos Hermanos.’  The orphanage holds approximately 650 children. This year the student team met with many of the orphans at Rio Grande where they were swimming; a part of their Easter break.  Richard Seivert, director of Gehlen Mission Honduras, commented that these student trips wouldn’t be the same without a visit to the children of Nuestros Hermanos, even if it was at a river.  He said the student missioners come away with a totally different outlook on the plight and conditions faced by the poor of the world – a valuable lesson learned. Shahryar Naqvi commented, “Coming from Pakistan I have always lived around the poor but in Honduras for the first time I lived amongst them.”

The best things in life aren't things.

common view of poverty in Honduras

Stations of the Cross on Good Friday

The value of life does not depend upon the place we occupy.  It depends upon the way we occupy that place.

~ St. Therese de Lisieux    

This mission team also fulfilled another of the program goals through all the religious celebrations held during this very holy time in the Catholic Church. To experience Easter in the Spanish speaking culture of Honduras is very special.  A wonderful addition to the mission team this year was Fr. Jim Tigges, pastor of St. James Church, LeMars, Iowa. Fr. Jim was making his first visit to Honduras and immediately jumped headlong into all the activities of the student trip.  He worked on the water project, side by side with the students in the village of Moya and said Mass on their return each night. On Wednesday evening he celebrated a Mass of Healing for the people of Esquias – according to all present it was a very powerful and amazing celebration. Of course Fr. Jim and all team members continued with the rest of the Holy Week celebrations; Holy Thursday,  the Good Friday ‘Way of the Cross’ through the village as well as the procession of ‘the weeping widow’ Friday night, and culminating in the Easter Vigil Mass in the parish church of Esquias. On some occasions he concelebrated with Fr. Inez Bonilla, pastor of the Church of Esquipulas in Esquias. Fr. Tigges commented, “What a refreshing way to revive my faith by digging in the dirt of a poor Honduran village. The gift of poverty is a Godsend when it is attached to the life of God-filled people like the Hondurans. The thirst for more is diminished as one creates a bond of friendship with these simple but beautiful people.”

Digging a water trench in Moya

Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.

~ Helen Keller


Everyone smiles in the same language.

 

Amanda Cronin visits with the teens of Esquias in the compound

While in Honduras our high school students were encouraged to immerse themselves in the culture and to interact with students their age.  From soccer matches and celebrating birthdays to swimming with the orphans in the Rio Grande our student team got a taste of what it is like to live with very little. From hand washing their own clothes and doing daily chores, to one minute cold showers and sometimes bucketing water for toilets, to working in the daily heat over 90 degrees, our students and chaperones experienced the normal life of a person in Honduras. The team worked hard at using Spanish and many of the students said they improved greatly. Stacie Duckwitz said, “There are a thousand languages in the world but a smile speaks them all.”  This team made many new friends during their short ten day mission trip. Many did not want to leave. The team received a special invitation into the home of Elizabeth Sanchez where they were served chips, cake, and soda. Some of the Sanchez children even sang and danced for the group. One morning they were awakened at 4:45 A.M. with a 30 minute concert celebrating the birthdays of Fr. Jim and Thomas Henrich. The celebration ended with fireworks at 5:15 A.M. When they loaded the bus at 3:00 A.M. on Easter Sunday morning, for the 7 hour ride back to the airport in San Pedro Sula, a large gathering of young people from Esquias were there to say goodbye. Richard Seivert, director of Mission Honduras, on hearing about this event commented, “If nothing else shows the power of this program, the power of young people, the send-off given this mission team at 3:00 in the morning certainly does. The impact the Hondurans have on our young people is absolutely amazing. My sense is that many of our kids will be changed forever.”

Thomas Henrich & Fr. Tigges at their 4:45 a.m. birthday surprise

Moya village leaders Reynario & Luciano wearing the 2007 Mission shirts

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Water tank in Moya

 

The Gehlen team returned to their homes early Easter Monday morning.  The theme of this year’s student trip was ‘Am I an Instrument of Peace.’  Or as we put it in Spanish, ‘Soy un instrumento de paz?’  Each missioner, touched by the experience of ten days in Honduras, was changed - many forever.  Each missioner encourages others to get involved in helping others around the world. Each missioner when commenting on their just completed trip used the word ‘incredible.’  Each missioner was sad to leave the wonderful people of Honduras – we will never forget you and we will pray for you. We hope we were instruments of peace to the good people of Honduras. You certainly were to all of us. God Bless Honduras. God Bless The Poor Of The World.




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