|On approach into San Pedro Sula, Honduras|
Well, this trip had a false start – due to thunderstorms in Houston our flight was cancelled. Unfortunately, the rest of the team was able to make it, meaning that a group of 6 volunteers arrived in Honduras (after overnighting in Houston) a day before Alisha, me and Justin (another EMI staff engineer joining the trip). I felt bad for the team, but since half of them were returning EMI volunteers, I wasn’t too concerned about them having to navigate things.
|Hanging out at the hotel in Houston with fellow EMI staffer|
Justin Rolfs while our team was already settling into Honduras.
|The first group arriving at the site, minus their project leader.|
You can clearly see how upset they are and worried that I
am not there with them.
When we finally made it to the town where our project is – Siguatepeque, a town of around 100,000 people – it was nearly dark on the following evening. We ate dinner and listened to the other team members talk about their day, with inside jokes and stories aleady having formed. It was kind of bizarre, but I was glad they had already bonded and had a successful day. The surveyor, Sean, already had the majority of the survey shot, having taken 370 shots that day! I guess it was a good thing their flights made it through afterall.
|Surveyor Sean, getting down to business|
|Volunteer Marlin digging perk test holes on the site to|
determine the best place for the site septic system.
The ministry we’re serving this time is a unique blend, with the leader Andy Castillo in the center of the equation. Andy and his wife Carmen are actually from Siguatepeque originally, but they came to the US for nearly a decade years ago to complete their undergraduate degrees and seminary training in Michigan. During those years, they formed some lasting relationships with Calvary Bible Church in Grand Rapids, which has become a key partner in their current ministry here. Three members from that church – all in the building industry – are down here with us for the first half of our time here.
Andy and Carmen and their 3 boys returned to Honduras permanently in 2007, launching as missionaries through World Reach to come be a part of a church plant here in Siguatepeque. In time, through his work in the church, other ministry opportunities came about that started to give him a vision for helping out in a more practical way in addition to his work at the church. Through his church home group, they discovered a part of town called San Francisco where there are some real needs, and opportunities to help.
|The site - the ministry had recently burned about 2/3 of the site|
by accident...but it worked out perfectly for our survey crew!
|Arriving on site, scoping out the recently burned land!|
|One of the nicer local houses in the area.|
One such opportunity was in the local schools, where they realized kids were left unattended and unfed each day from 12-1pm while the staff took their lunch break. So Andy started partnering with a woman to provide a hard-boiled egg each day to 3 different primary schools in the area during this break. The schools allow them to share a short devotion with the kids, and then provide them the egg snack. In total, over 400 kids now receive an egg and hear the devotion each school day. Soon after starting this, a program of the local government heard about it and got involved by adding rice and beans to the daily snack. In time, attendance at these schools has increased significantly as the kids are now choosing to attend school so they’ll receive lunch – a luxury they don’t enjoy if they stay home and help their parents pick produce from the fields.
|The eggs being handed out at one of the local schools.|
|Alisha at one of the schools. She went and participated in the|
egg ministry each school day we were there, and led
the devotional time on a couple of occasions.
But through another set of circumstances including some health situations within his own family, Andy began to feel that God was calling him to help provide medical care for the San Francisco neighborhood. As he began to share about this, he came across some land owned by the city but that the mayor was interested in largely gifting to his ministry to help address the medical needs in the San Francisco part of town (a small symbolic fee was paid for the land). As a result, an outpatient medical clinic has become a key part of our project work here.
|The rest of the team arriving on site for the first time.|
|Starting with a 'blank slate' on a project has it's pros and cons.|
It provides a clean start architecturally, but figuring out the
water, septic and power systems can be especially challenging.
In addition to all of this, a need for higher education and opportunity for work is a big need for the people of San Francisco. Many kids stop going to school after 5th grade due to the older grade schools being located a few miles away in town. Since the primary work in the rural community is for the families to pick crops, and since the pay for such work is based on the amount of crops produced, there’s a heavy incentive for parents to utilize their children in this work to maximize the family income. So, Andy wants to provide a high school diploma equivalency program for not only the young people but also some of the adults who never completed their schooling. And for those not interested in schooling, he plans to provide a vocational training center to teach practical skills to increase the opportunity for work. Currently, he already has a group of 15-20 women in a Sunday training program that teaches various crafts that might be used to get a job in town or start a business.
So that’s a summary of our team’s program – to try to fit each of these ministry elements on their 5.75 acre site located in the San Francisco part of town (roughly a 15 minute drive from downtown). We have a team of 11 engineers, architects and a surveyor and we’re trying to complete the majority of our work while we’re here. So far so good – we have a good team mix with a number of past EMI trip volunteers and even a couple of former EMI interns. And, I have Alisha along, so that’s always helpful to keep me sane and balanced! With both sets of grandparents enlisted to tag-team watching the boys, we have every confidence that things are well with the boys back home.
|Francis and Vera (in the front) joined our architects Jordan &|
Janine (in back) for the first two days. They are local Honduran
architects who work in the capital city and gave our team some
very helpful on the ground perspective.