Following a wonderful afternoon send-off ceremony in the
Gehlen gymnasium on Wednesday, March 12th, 31 high school students
and 6 adult chaperones headed to Omaha, Nebraska, for a short overnight stay
before heading to Honduras. After a short night and very early morning the team
was on their way to Esquias, Honduras, by 5:30 A.M., Thursday, March 13th.
Joining them in Honduras, and making final preparations for the team's arrival,
was Francis Seivert, team leader, who had been in Honduras for the previous
week. The team arrived in Honduras as scheduled but missing 23 of the 62 flight
bags packed with personal and donated items. Those team members missing their
personal belongings found ways to adjust to being without – the whole team
pulled together in sharing all necessary items – the bags finally arrived two
and a half days later. On going into Honduras each team member is allowed only
one half of one flight bag for all their personal belongings. They are
encouraged to live simply and humbly while in Honduras.
of a person is to find out the way God is going, and going that way.
Henry Ward Beecher
beliefs and you can turn the world around.
~ Henry David Thoreau
The theme of this year's mission ‘In Grace and Gratitude’
became a reality for the team as soon as they landed on Honduran soil. On their
airport arrival in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the entire team had the pleasure of
meeting Illich Yermian Vasquez Rivera, his parents, and other family members
from Tegucigalpa. Illich is a two-year-old boy suffering from
Trichothiodystrophy (TTD), a rare genetic disorder. Illich had been at the Mayo
Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, last fall for diagnosis and treatment. Illich had
been sponsored by Mission Honduras LeMars and when in the United States was not
able to come to Le Mars for a visit. This was a special moment for the Gehlen
team because all these students were fully aware of this little boy and all the
things he had gone through and the great effort to save his life.
world is only as big as their heart.
~ Tanya A. Moore
that the faith that moves mountains always carries a pick.
This was the ‘ninth’ straight high school trip into the
second poorest country in the western hemisphere, and overall the 22nd
mission trip sponsored by Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras. To date the program
has placed 444 missioners into Honduras. Each year the program assists the Briar
Cliff University, Sioux City, Iowa, team and their mission program. The Gehlen
program takes a medical brigade in January of each year to bring health care to
some of the most remote places in Honduras, and the high school team each year
during the Easter Season. The Gehlen program was founded following the great
destruction in Honduras caused by hurricane Mitch in late October and early
November, 1998. Richard Seivert, director of the program stated, “Our high
school team is the flagship of our entire program. It became the source of all
the other things we do in Honduras. It is wonderful to see so many young people
so involved in helping those less fortunate.” The Gehlen program has three main
goals for each mission journey into Honduras: to do a work project in a poor
rural village, to immerse themselves in Easter week religious celebrations, and
to experience the poverty that grips so much of Honduras and the world.
each of us as if there were only one of us.
~ St Augustine
must care about a world one will never see.
~ Bertrand Russell
This year's team was led by Francis Seivert, Elkton, SD;
Carolyn Bickford, Father Kevin Richter, Mary Hartman, Mike Jaminet, all from Le
Mars, IA; Linda Reichle, Alton, IA; and Sister Joan Polak, a Notre Dame Sister
from Omaha, Nebraska. The 25 high school students represented four high schools
from northwest Iowa. They were Caitlin Ascherl and Jessica Fischer from Spalding
Catholic High in Granville, IA, Morgan Rolfes from Le Mars Community High,
Stephanie Kollasch from Bishop Garrigan High in Algona, and the remaining 21
from Gehlen. They were Cayla Price, Shahryar Naqvi, Kelsi Crawford, Erin
Augustine, Tiffany Sitzmann, Kelsey Sitzmann, Adrienne Loutsch, Amanda Jaminet,
Kevin Puhl, Craig Schlesser, Austin Langel, Robert Swalve, Ellen Sitzmann,
Ashley Langel, Katie Freking, Sarah Gengler, Kevin Shea, Jeremy Rhodes, Kelsi
Kellen, Chad Macek, and Victoria Vaske. This year's team of 25 students were all
seniors at their respective schools and had been in preparation for this journey
since late August 2007. Each missioner on all Gehlen mission trips is
responsible for all the program costs.
After being met at the airport in Tegucigalpa, the team
made a three and a half hour bus ride to the small village of Esquias, Honduras.
Esquias is a small colonial village straight north of Tegucigalpa just inside
the district of Comayagua. The previous four mission teams into Honduras have
called Esquias their home while in the country; prior to Esquias the teams had
stayed in El Guante. Planning for this mission journey began in earnest in early
summer 2007 when the program director Richard Seivert, and team leader Francis
Seivert, traveled to Honduras to lay some initial groundwork.
This year's work project became a water project in La
Cañada, high in the mountains 30 minutes from Esquias. La Canada has always had
surface water for all their needs. This project, when completed, would bring
clean drinkable water to this small village of 16 homes and 105 people. The
project involved digging a well, placing two 600 gallon tanks atop a hillside,
the purchase of a new gas-powered pump, digging trenches from the well to the
tank and from the tank to each home in the village, burying the pipes throughout
the village, running a water line with a shut-off valve to each home, hooking up
the pump to the well, and the attempt to fill the tank with water. Once at the
tank all water projects are chlorinated to provide clean drinkable water for the
village. On different days throughout their 12 day mission journey to Honduras
this team of high school students went about the task of this water system. On
their last day in the village, Holy Saturday, the team celebrated with the
people of La Cañada. Team members and village representatives spoke about the
effort and how important it was to the people. The Gehlen team then passed out a
number of the items donated from the States and carried to Honduras. From
toothpaste to shoes they handed gifts of friendship to the people of La Cañada.
It was an amazing and emotional experience for the high school students to say
farewell to the people of this village.
The best use
of life is to spend it for something that
~ William James
life is limited, but serving people is limitless.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Along with the work project in La Cañada this mission team
got to experience many of the other facets of the Gehlen and Mission Honduras
LeMars program. One morning the team got a chance to stop in El Guante,
Honduras, the site of Clinica Asistencial La Caridad. La Caridad is a medical
clinic constructed by donations through the Gehlen program and Mission Honduras
LeMars, and both programs continue to support the clinic in various ways. Prior
to this clinic, health care for thousands of people in this area of Francisco
Morazon was almost nonexistent. David Castro, clinic administrator, gave the
team a full tour of the clinic. While in El Guante, the team also visited the
Riecken Foundation Library that both the Gehlen and Mission Honduras LeMars
programs had a small hand in finishing. On another day the Gehlen mission team
had the opportunity to travel to Sulaco, Honduras, just inside the Yoro
District. In Sulaco the team got the opportunity to visit the malnutrition
center, the sewing school for girls, and the wood carving school for boys. All
three have been supported in various ways throughout the years by the Gehlen and
Mission Honduras LeMars programs. Gehlen Kids Against Hunger even sends food to
the malnutrition center each spring. Sister Joan Polak, team member, gave the
students the full tour of the three centers. Sister Joan had spent 11 years in
Honduras as a missionary and worked closely with all three – it was like going
home for Sister Joan.
If we are to
have real peace, we must begin with the children.
~ Mahatma Gandhi
above all else, the gift of oneself.
~ Jean Anouilh
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. Kevin Richter, pastor of St. Joseph's Church, Le Mars, IA. Fr. Kevin 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 La Cañada and said Mass on their return each
night. Fr. Kevin and all team members participated in all the Holy Week
celebrations; Holy Thursday, the Good Friday ‘Way of the Cross’ through the
village as well as the procession of ‘the sorrowful women’ Friday night,
the Easter Vigil Mass, and culminating in the 5 a.m. Easter sunrise procession
and Mass in the parish church of Esquias. On some occasions he concelebrated
with Fr. Inez Bonilla, pastor of the Church of Esquipulas in Esquias.
like electricity. You can't see it, but you can see the light.
... listening to God in the depths of our hearts.
~ Mother Teresa
While in Honduras our high school students were encouraged
to immerse themselves in the culture and to interact with students their age.
From working daily in La Cañada, to soccer matches and religious celebrations,
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. This team made many new friends
during their twelve-day mission trip. Many did not want to leave. The Gehlen
student program over the years has developed a custom of returning home with
only the clothes on their back. Each year the individual team members begin
sorting through all their personal items and on the last day stacking everything
in their living quarters. These items will be taken by the ladies and men of the
village, washed, and distributed among the most needy.
The Gehlen mission
team returned home late Easter Monday night. The theme of this year's journey,
‘In Grace and Gratitude’ was experienced each and every day the young people
saw, worked, and interacted with the people of Honduras. Each missioner, touched
by their 12 days in Honduras was changed – many forever. Each missioner
encourages others around the world to get involved in helping those less
fortunate. At their send-off ceremony the day before leaving for Honduras,
Richard Seivert, defined the theme ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ as “the influence or
spirit of God operating in men and women, and the thankfulness experienced by
all of those who are given such a wonderful opportunity.” 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 came into your lives ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ – you
certainly did into ours. God Bless Honduras. God Bless The Poor Of The World.
know who we are until we see what we can do.
~ Martha Grimes
Joy is found
not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
~ Greg Anderson
Click above to browse the March 2008 Trip Photo Album...