We have only three days to reach out to the people living in the countryside outside Tegucigalpa, so today (Monday) we hit the ground running.
One of the first things you learn when ministering in a foreign country is flexibility. Today, we will cook a hot meal for people working and living in and around a dump. Several on our team have helped with this ministry in the past, but details are still being worked out to make it run smoothly. We quickly find we need to have “servant” hands to make this project work.
FCM staff set up the cooking station under trees at the edge of a school parking lot and the team breaks up into three groups to fan out into the hillside. We stop at homes alongside the highway and down paths to invite people to join us for a short service and a free lunch. We tell them to spread the word, and by 10:30 a.m., there is a crowd gathered for worship. With the smell of chicken and rice drifting from the cook station, we hear a message from one of our team members (translated into Spanish) and clap along to Spanish worship songs sung at a microphone by Pastor Rudolpho.
During worship, we mingle among those who have gathered, but the missionary traveling with us today warns us to stay together, not to stray far from the bus alone. We hear rumors that gangs have taken over the dump and that two people were killed in the past year.
The crowd is made up mostly of women and young children, but a few men pick spots at the back of the gathering. Standing off to one side are workers from the nearby dump. Their skin and clothing are covered in dirt and they carry the odor of garbage and refuse. They spend their day sorting the garbage, collecting items which can be recycled for money (plastic bottles, metal). One of our interpreters explains later that they are not proud of this work they do, but it is a job and they need the money. The dump workers seem to be mostly young men and women — it’s difficult to tell beneath the layers of dirt and protective clothing.
I refrain from taking a photo of the dump workers because I can’t bear to have them think I consider them a novelty. I want somehow to preserve their dignity, to give them some reason to think the work they do is acceptable. It’s a thought that stays with me all day.
In orderly fashion, we feed the over 200 who have gathered. Soon we are packed up and headed down the road in our school bus, back to the shelter for our lunch. In just an hour we’re back on the road, returning to Finca Grace where we’ll spend a couple of hours playing games with the boys living there.
There are around 40 teenage boys living on the farm and soon our leader, Cindy, has them engaged in a Bible trivia game. They’re highly competitive and want to please, so they huddle together in teams, searching for scriptures, then heading out to find the item (a rock, a feather) suggested by the verses.
Of course, there is time for soccer, flag football, playing catch. This one thing I’ve learned, if nothing else — boys the world around love to play anything that involves a ball!
Several of the team members walk past the soccer field to a large sign, placed at the edge of an open field. The sign lays out the building project FCM hopes to begin this year. Finca Grace began ten years ago as a step of faith and the ministry continues to function on the faith that others see the vision for bringing all the children to this safe, beautiful region where they can grow and learn together. The ministry is halfway to its goal of raising $500,000 for the building project which will include two new houses for the younger children, a soccer field and eventually two mores houses for the older boys. The ministry goal is to have 1,000 pledges of $500 each, but any size donation is welcomed. (To learn more, visit the Web site at fcmhonduras.org)
We leave the farm with plans to make a stop on our route back to the city to bring beans and rice to several families along the way. This aspect of the mission is perhaps the toughest for many of us. Small wood, metal, plastic and cardboard structures with dirt floors are “home” to many poor Hondurans. We visit Gloria who has received help from FCM in the past and learn her husband has been ill and unable to work. He is a bricklayer and we can see his handiwork in a structure across the road. Gloria asks for prayers for him and for two of her children who also have been ill. The bags of beans and rice will help, but we leave wishing we could do more.
We return to the shelter tired, sweaty, sunburned and hungry, but are revived by the prospect of spending time with the little boys. Games and conversations begin and laughter fills the courtyard. We share dinner and songs with these fellows who have stolen our hearts, then share our thoughts from the day during “team time”. There are tears as we talk about the hardships we saw among those we served today. Such a contrast of experiences — a lot to take in.
A heavy mist lays over the city this morning as I make corrections and read over this post. I know that in a few hours, the clouds will lift and the heat will return. But right now, it is cool and the rooftop of an orphanage in Central America is a good place to be.