Lipscomb associate director of athletics for spiritual formation Brent High checks in with an update from day six of the trip to Mission Lazarus in Honduras
The end of day seven finds us at the Clarion Hotel in downtown Tegucigalpa. We are all thankful to be here in one piece. Those of you who have driven in Central America know what I mean. As I’ve said before, five hours of driving on the Pan-American Highway is akin to mixing Frogger, Mario Kart, Pole Position, Tetris and Lego Batman. The problem is you only get one life.
Nine of us who came on the first mission trip to Mission Lazarus last year got up extra early today and made the hour and a half drive to Duyure, Honduras where we served last year. It was fulfilling to let the guys see the house completed that they had worked so hard to build a year ago.
We found Carla and Franklin (pronounced Fronk-lin) first. They had camped out at the adobe work site last year every single day. Franklin has grown and gotten skinny. We almost didn’t recognize him. Carla said that one of our other little buddies, Antonio, was working way off somewhere and wouldn’t be back until late in the afternoon after we had to leave for the hotel in Tegucigalpa.
Jorge was working in a nearby field but his younger sisters were able to go track him down. We gave him a new soccer ball, a neon Lipscomb Athletics t-shirt and some candy. He was thrilled. It sounded like he didn’t get anything for Christmas. Ryan Terry also presented Jorge with a framed picture we took of him back in August when a group of us from the softball mission trip drove to Duyure. You have to realize they have nothing like that in their home. He grinned a huge grin and ran to show his family.
We headed down the mountain into the town of Duyure and drove to Jose’s house. Jose is the assistant minister at the Church of Christ in Duyure. He came bounding out when we pulled up with a thumb’s up sign and a smile from ear to ear. We spent about 30 minutes at his home talking with him, getting an update on the church and the kids we had met last year.
Jose took us to Ronnie’s house. He was not home. His brother said he was out working with the cows. We set out to find him. We drove down a rocky, eroded path until we saw a few cows in the pasture. Jose got out of the van and yelled Ronnie’s name. We heard a whistle coming from far away. The next thing we knew he was right there with us.
We gave Ronnie a soccer ball, an American football, a neon t-shirt and one of the new Bison wobbleheads. We threw football with him for quite a while before saying goodbye.
We dropped Jose off at his house. He thanked us for coming. You could tell it meant a lot to him. We all embraced and traded hasta luegos.
We made a quick stop at one of the pulperias in Duyure (kind of like a mini-Mapco Express that people have in their homes). We bought some soft drinks and sweet bread and drove to the center of Duyure to an amazingly beautiful park called Garden of the Children. We took a few photos there and then headed back up the mountain hoping that by some chance our buddy Antonio might be at home.
When we got to Antonio’s house he was not there. We were bummed. His sister walked down the hill and told us it would probably be six more hours before he was home. He had a long way to walk to his work site and since it was Friday he would be working a full day. We stayed as long as we could before finally giving up. Ryan wrote Antonio a note in Spanish telling him how sorry we were that we had missed him, that we are praying for him and that we hoped he liked the gifts we brought for him including a new soccer ball, Lipscomb t-shirt and some candy. Ryan also had a framed photo of Antonio, Ryan and me from our August trip he left with Antonio’s sister.
We drove away sad. We had found everyone else we had spent significant time with a year ago. Antonio built some very strong bonds with several of our guys and the trip felt very incomplete since we had not seen Antonio’s million dollar smile.
We revved up the van and headed back to Mission Lazarus. The ride was very quiet.
We got about three miles down the road when we saw four kids walking on the side of the road.
“Antonioooooooooo!!!!!!” yelled all nine of us at once. There he was gleaming with joy. Unbeknownst to us, Carla had run off to find him after we saw her earlier in the day. Antonio was several miles away milking cows – just the normal run of the mill job for a 12-year-old Honduran boy.
All of us hugged him and met his friends. Then we drove all of them back to Antonio’s house where we made a proper presentation of all the gifts. It was perfect.
We said goodbye, promised to see him again and then headed back to Mission Lazarus.
We made one last stop in San Marcos before going back. I wanted to see the house that the softball team had helped build back in August. When we left we had gotten most of the foundation footprint and some of the concrete work finished. The house was almost complete and looks fantastic. We found Luis next door, one of the little boys who worked and played with us every day in August. He remembered us and was so happy to see us.
When we got back the other group was finishing up a horseback tour of the Mission Lazarus refuge. They learned about the orphanage that serves 60 kids, most with special needs. The cattle operation, tanning/leatherworks and crops were all included in the tour. For several of our students it was their first-ever time on a horse. I’m told Jae Hwang was one of those first-timers but you would never have known it by the way he got his horse up to a gallop. They were all excited about what they had seen and learned.
We ate lunch, said goodbye to Cameron and Sammy at Mission Lazarus and started our journey to Tegucigalpa. We arrived at the Clarion Hotel a little after six. It’s the first real re-introduction to Western civilization after eight days. We ate at Chili’s tonight. There were just a few hamburgers and fries ordered.
One thing that I’ve been reflecting on today is that I have always thought staying on the mountaintop like we are on after this week in Honduras was possible. It just took keeping priorities in line, reading, praying, studying and making the right choices. I’ve often heard people ask why every week can’t be like church camp. I used to believe there wasn’t any reason that couldn’t be reality.
Today when Ronnie walked out of that field and when we spotted Antonio on the side of the road, I truly believe that was a little preview of Heaven. That’s what it’s going to be like. I am in tears as I write this paragraph just remembering the visual of them being greeted by our guys.
And so, I am finally at peace knowing that every week can’t be like church camp. Every week can’t include experiences like we had this week in Honduras. Why? Because Jesus and His New Earth haven’t come back yet. We live in a very flawed world that is full of sin and disappointment.
That doesn’t mean we should give up. That means we should work even harder after weeks like this knowing that Heaven is going to be so incredibly amazing. We should do everything in our power to make sure our friends and family consider Jesus since He offers the only access to that Heaven. We should call ourselves to a higher standard and be bold in our relationships.
I am a blessed man. These students have taught me this week. Lipscomb is so different than we I was in school there. Things have really changed. Praise be to God for that! Our kids today are so much more mature and spiritually minded than when I was at Lipscomb in the early 90’s.
Please pray for health and safety and travel blessings as we head home in the morning.