We’re getting in to the swing of another summer full of missions here in Honduras! We recently had an awesome group from Baton Rouge, Louisiana come down for a mission in the mountains. We were in a town named Carizal, very simple and without electricity. Here are some different stories from our week:
-We had a priest with us for one day in the village, and we had a Holy Hour, praying before Jesus in the Eucharist. It was the first time this village had EVER had a Holy Hour, and the people were coming up and touching the altar with so much reverence, stroking the altar cloth tenderly. They just wanted to be close to Jesus! Their faith and humility astound me.
-Near the end of the week, a little girl came up to one of the missionaries, Anna, with a little toy mermaid. She said just one word: “suya,” which means “yours.” And she gave her the mermaid and ran away. This little girl most likely didn’t have many other (or any other) toys, and without even thinking she just gave it away to someone she barely even knows!
-We always split up in to a few groups to visit the houses of the villages we are in, just to get to know the people and pray for them. One of the groups visited a house, and the women was very cold and standoffish. She didn’t really want to welcome the missionaries or talk to them. Eventually she let them in, and throughout their conversation she began to open up more and more. At one point she began to share about various struggles and problems in her family. One of the missionaries, Kelli, couldn’t understand this woman speaking in Spanish, but she could still feel her pain and struggle. The two of them, from two different cultures and without being able to communicate, began to hug each other and cry together. And then this woman, Doña Santos, transformed. She became super friendly and joyful and welcoming. She invited us all over to her house and served us three meals on our last day in the village. She shared her wedding pictures with us, and she even gave us her wedding guest book and asked us to add our names to the list of her guests! When it was time to say goodbye, her and Kelli again just hugged and cried. The connection that they had was beautiful and beyond language barriers. It was a connection of two people just loving one another. It’s amazing what can happen to someone when you just treat them with love – transformation.
-Speaking of transformation, we witnessed another transformation right after the mission ended. We always take the mission groups downtown to see the cathedral, the main square, etc. So after visiting the cathedral, we were walking through the streets, and a little boy, probably about 9 years old, came up and began to ask us for money. He looked, for lack of a better term, like a typical beggar-child: sad, a bit aggressive and persistent in asking for money. He literally asked each person in our group like five times. Our mission tries not to give out money to these kids, because a lot of times it doesn’t get used for very good means, but if we can give them food we will definitely help out. We headed in to a smoothie shop, and the kid followed us in, so we offered to buy him a smoothie. I asked him, “What kind of smoothie do you want? What’s your favorite flavor?” He responded, “I don’t know…” I don’t think he had ever had one before. Eventually he picked pineapple, but as he waited to receive it he kept asking us for money. One of the missionaries, Ana Sofia, sat down with him and began to talk with him. Then she took a napkin and began to teach him how to play tic-tac-toe (or in Spanish “gato”, or “cat”). And again – transformation. His face changed from one of sadness and desperation to one of joy and excitement. He changed from being a little beggar boy to being just a boy, and one with a name, Gerson Isaac. His smile shown and he began to laugh and talk. Each time we would start a new game of tic-tac-toe, he would grab the sides of his head in anticipation and say, “I’m ALWAYS gonna win!!”
Eventually we left the smoothie shop and were headed to a souvenir shop down the street. Gerson said he had to go, and he turned around to leave. But he kept looking back over his shoulder at us, and we invited him to tag along. He sprinted back to join us, and walked along chatting happily. He hung out with us in the shop, and accompanied us back to the central park, where we had to leave him. He joyfully said goodbye to each one of us as we loaded up in our truck. As we pulled away, he went skipping and jumping in to the park, scared a big flock of birds, and ran away, waving wildly with a great smile on his face. He transformed. Why? Because we treated him like a person. We didn’t treat him like a little beggar boy. We treated him like Gerson Isaac Gomez. And why does that simple act of kindness transform? Because we were made to love and to be loved. As it says in a book I’m reading: “What deeper pain could you have than to have little love?”
It almost seems too easy: loving people in these small ways. So often we feel like we have to do GREAT things in order to change people or change the world or serve God. But the Bible offers us a beautiful reflection. There was a man with leprosy, and a prophet told him: “Go and wash in the river.” The leper, finding this too easy, wanted to go away, but his servant said, “Something simple can always be tried.” So the leper went and washed, and was cleansed. We can do the same. God doesn’t ask for huge things. He asks for the small. He asks for the ordinary actions: eating, drinking, sleeping, working, our whole day, lived with love and gratitude. Couldn’t we try something so simple, so small? Couldn’t we just try? Maybe we would see ourselves transform…