May 24th saw me bidding farewell to my dear friends Juanita and Nelda in Tegucigalpa, who had graciously opened their home to me during my stay in Tegucigalpa. I boarded a plane heading to San Pedro Sula in NW Honduras where I would be meeting a group of U.S. Compassion sponsors who would be partnering with local missionaries (Allen Sowers and his son Russell) on a work team at a Compassion project in Villa Verde, Gracias.
We endured a 4 hour drive with our entire luggage to Hotel Guancascos in Gracias, Lempira which would be our headquarters for the next week. We soon learned we would have to share our space with little lizards and huge flying grasshoppers who invaded our restaurant space on a daily basis!! The joys of being in beautiful rural Honduras!
We got settled in at the hotel, then I spent a wonderful time of bonding with my teammates for the week, all of whom I had only previously known through Facebook communications and other Compassion sponsor blogs! It’s so much better to meet and experience ministry together face-to-face. Sunday, May 25th saw us visiting an awesome feeding program at a church way up in the mountains of rural Mercedes, Honduras followed by an afternoon spent loving on beautiful children during our visit to a girl’s orphanage in Santa Rosa de Copán. I will share about the unforgettable memories of these two ministry experiences in a separate post.
On Monday evening, May 26th, after a day spent familiarizing ourselves with the Villa Verde area, we then went to the hotel dining room for dinner, where we would be meeting our Compassion translators and driver for the next three days. Was I ever in for a wonderful surprise when I saw Gerardo walk toward me to give me a big hug. He was my driver for two of the three individual child visit days I had just experienced in Tegucigalpa, and I was so thrilled that he would be our driver during the next three days in Gracias!!
Due to the number of sponsors who would be meeting their sponsored kids at project HO133, our child visits would be split over the next three days, my official visit day with Rony being scheduled for Thursday, May 29th. This meant that three of the sponsors were busy getting their gift bags ready for their child visits the next day. The other two-thirds of us spent a good deal of time planning our activities to be held at the project over the next three days, while a rotating group of sponsors would be having an official visit day with their specific child(ren).
Then the big day came when I would officially meet all of Rony’s family!! I had spent the evening before readying all the gifts I had brought for them and made sure my camera’s batteries were fully charged! As I was accompanied by two other sponsors (Deborah and Amanda) who were also meeting their sponsored kids’ families that day, we first went to meet Amanda’s Mario and his mom in their home. We were so moved by the love Mario’s mom showed us in preparing a wonderful meal for us out of the little she had, a token of her gratefulness towards her son’s sponsor! We humbly accepted her wonderful gift of hospitality.
My fabulous Compassion host Isaac accompanied me to Rony’s home while Deborah went with another translator to her Yolani’s home.
I was welcomed warmly by Rony’s mom Clemencia, his sisters Paula and Maribel and his father Otilio, a hard-working farmer and dedicated father. I sensed God wanted me to encourage Rony’s father, and a resulting strong bond developed between us that day. Now it was time to go pile into the van to head to the waterpark. The only problem was that there were now 22 people to be stuffed into a 12-passenger van; only in Honduras, they say! But we made it work! Three sponsors and their sponsored kids and families did not want to miss one moment of our day together! It was such a joy to watch the parents’ faces as they watched their kids having fun! What priceless moments of pure joy!
I had brought Rony’s gifts in a backpack, but to get to his swimming trunks and tank top, he had to pass through ….. his 2014 FIFA World Cup replica soccer ball!! He was thrilled to say the least, and they ended up using his new ball to play water polo with the whole group of kids!
I even jumped into the pool to join in on the fun, and left my camera in the trusty hands of our driver, Gerardo, who captured some fantastic photos for me! He was an invaluable part of our team, and an awesome young man of God!
After sharing wonderful fellowship over a delicious lunch ....
He was also opening up more in conversation, and overcoming his initial meeting jitters! His best friend Lázaro had come along for the Fun Day and it was a joy to have him join in all the activities with Rony!
After visiting the mini-zoo at the waterpark and wolfing down ice cream, we once again stuffed ourselves in the van, now joyously chattering with each other after spending an incredible afternoon together. The van dropped off Rony’s family near their house and it was time to say good-bye to his wonderful and gracious family! That was a sad moment, but I know it won’t be the last time we see each other!
Back at our hotel, we had a debrief meeting after having dinner. So many wonderful tidbits of information we shared with each other about our child visit days, so it was a real bonding moment! I was emotionally drained by this time; and needed some time to process everything I had experienced thus far. I truly believe God was busy giving my heart “stretchy walls” to allow me to accommodate the awesomeness of the experience and the resulting emotions!!
Friday, May 30th came much too soon! It would be our last day in Gracias! We shared breakfast for the last time with our wonderful Compassion translators Isaac, Joel and Robbie, as well as our fabulous driver, Gerardo. Many photos were taken and goodbye hugs shared, with promises to stay in touch.
We then headed up to the HO133 project with Allen and his son Russell for our last day working with the children at this wonderful project. I also had the awesome pleasure of meeting Oscar, the former project director at HO133, who had invested so heavily into the lives of the children and youth during the previous few years.
There was one special 8 year old boy Willians who I had made a strong heart connection with all week. We had actually chosen each other, a first for me! He unfortunately was not registered in the project as he was too old during the last enrollment time, although not past Compassion’s maximum enrollment age. I made myself a promise to check into how he could become officially registered at the project to enable me to add him to my sponsor family. As of the time of writing this post, we are still going through the arduous paperwork process which could take another month or so! If God wishes it to happen, it will, in His perfect timing!
The time came for the highlight of the day – Melania, who was sponsored by my teammate Megan, was celebrating her quinceañera, a coming-of-age party for every 15 year old girl growing up in Latin America. It is an event only surpassed in importance by a wedding in the Latin American culture. I was honoured to act as the translator for Megan during her tribute speech to Melania.
It was a joyous occasion enjoyed by all, with seemingly the whole community in attendance! The tutors even had special gifts that they presented to each member of our team, with mine presented to me by Karen, the former tutor of my sponsored teen boy Rony, and the mother of my soon-to-be sponsored boy Kennet, a 3 year old “boy wonder”!
As Rony is graduating next year, what better way to keep the continuity going than by sponsoring the son of a person so near and dear to him! Rony and I shared a tearful goodbye, with him telling me that I was the best sponsor he had ever had and promising each other that we would continue writing lots of letters! I promised to send him all the photos that we had taken together with his lovely family and we committed to praying for each another every day!
All that was left was to pack our suitcases, which did not take too long, as we had given away all our gifts! I was even able to pack my two smaller suitcases into my largest one, as I had virtually nothing to bring home except for my clothes and a few small souvenirs! Mission accomplished!!
With a heart full of gratitude to God for opening the door for me to minister to the wonderful people of Honduras, I fell fast asleep with incredible memories flashing through my mind. I would never forget this wonderful experience I had been blessed with, and I pray that God will continue to use me to fulfill His plan for my life, to reach “the least of these” wherever they may be and to release children from poverty, in Jesus’ precious name!
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