For two weeks during the summer, I lived in a place with the stench of poverty. Children deprived of love and food were around every corner, and people were more content and thankful for their few precious possessions than anyone in the United States. The place was called Honduras and the people were in need of love and a reminder that we cared.
As we first entered the country and were introduced to the families that were sacrificing their few bedrooms for us to stay. I realized just how giving and kind the people were here. From outside came smells of oregano and spicy peppers. The brown tiled floor with a layer
of dirt and bathrooms without running water were definitely signs of a third-world country.
The purpose of our visit was to minister to people through eyeglass clinics, dental clinics, and singing in some of the worn, open-air shacks they used as churches. Probably the most vivid and distinct memory I have occurred when we went to an orphanage to do a Vacation Bible School. As we neared the compound after climbing the enormous rolling hills on a narrow, red dirt road, we could see only a dense blanket of green for miles. The sky was a blue gray and the air was heavy with rain. The warm hills with burnt red dirt ran into the folds of the dark green, mountain-side that to my amazement, was topped off with a dollop of snow, just like an ice-cream sundae.
Entering the gates, I saw children playing everywhere. As with any children, their only concern was how much time was left to play. One particular child came running up to our bus. As he came closer, we saw his forehead was much larger than it should have been for a child of seven. The boy waited impatiently at the crooked old doors of the bus, and as each of us exited, he would greet us with his huge dark eyes gleaming and say, "Hola, como estas?" After a while, he became overwhelmed and began to cry. I ran to comfort him saying, "Esta bien," hoping that he would stop whimpering as I offered a hug.
His whimpering stopped and once again his face lit up with a grin. He proceeded to show us the other rambunctious children who ranged in age from three to eighteen years of age.
Late that afternoon, after Bible school when we were about to leave, we uncovered the secret weapon, candy! If only we had known what a serious threat candy was to our message, we could have prepared more games and avoided the greed and selfishness the candy caused. Because of our packages of treats, the same children who had been kind-hearted moments earlier became hostile and unruly, caring only about getting more candy than the others.
Through the Bible study classes I become close to the children. We played Pato, Pato, Gonzo (Duck, Duck, Goose) and generously hugged everyone each time a child reached out to us. They could see that we loved and cared for all.
Going to Honduras was truly an eye-opening experience, allowing us to see just how blessed we are in the United States. As we left the orphanage, I wept because of the condition we were leaving them in. Their sweet innocence and desire to make everyone around them happy was a sign that despite the hardships they faced, their trust was in God. We had spent all morning on a bus climbing mountains and traveling for hours outside of the mean streets of Tegucigalpa in an effort to reach this remote orphanage and what we left behind was a mixture of good and bad. From being in Honduras, we learned many things culturally, but most importantly we learned that living conditions and financial superiority have nothing to do with God's love. fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.