Our very last work day in Honduras led us up to the mountains, not far from the community of Casa Hogar Vida where we worked on building a home. A family had a need. Their “roof” had many leaks and was in desperate need of repair. They’d had this need for quite some time, and today was the day.
So up the mountain we rode. After picking up a few ladies from a nearby neighborhood, our amazing bus driver, Luis, expertly maneuvered this massive vehicle as if we were in a VW bug. It’s barely a one-lane path and we’re carting a bunch of people AND supplies up a mountain, and I’m assuming back down in reverse. And then, we stop. Right in the road, we stop. And one by one, like little ants, we grab something needed and start hiking up this… driveway. What are we carrying? Tables, chairs, tools, a cooler, ladder, and even a speaker.
It’s humorous in looking back, but on this last day, none of us even asked a question. We didn’t know who these lady passengers were, we didn’t know where we were going, we didn’t know what our items we were carrying would be used for, and somehow none of that mattered. Later we would learn that these precious ladies were from the church, and they’d come to help prepare our lunch. We brought our own tables and chairs so that we could all sit around together “Thanksgiving-style” at meal time. We brought our own purified water to use for cooking, and we would use the tools to demolish the old and build the new. All while sharing some tunes together! Community. Family. In real life.
I loved capturing this photo to the left. See the “grill”? It was build just the day before. Why? Because people were coming. See the man with the hat? That’s Luis. Yep, the bus driver. He’s now the grill master, and I’m telling you, that carne y pollo was hmmmm-hmmm good! It got me thinking… doesn’t matter where in the world you are, men seem to gravitate to the grill don’t they?
Other groups helped with the demolition of the old roof (literally sticks woven together basket-weave-style), cleared materials, dug holes for the new posts, cut beams, and nailed a new frame, all while it drizzled. The tiles they used were made of asbestos. We cringe. It’s all they had. It will insulate well. No codes here, just needs.
While another group walked down the hill to do some evangelizing, I felt drawn to get dirty again! During our work projects, we’d learned to watch and then simply jump in. So, if someone is cutting wood, step in and hold it; if chunks of dirt and clay need moved, use your hands to move them; if said chucks needed to be broken up and leveled out, use a heavy log; if a post needed to be leveled, use a string connected to the house and get at eye level. It was so simple. And the work was hard. And I loved it. It reminded me of following my Dad around the house as he would undertake projects. I learned by watching. I learned by listening. I learned by participating. I had forgotten just how much I love that. Until today. True apprenticeship does still take place in this world.
And the skilled workers that helped lay the tile and built the frame? We worked alongside them too, limited language to limited language. And at lunch, we talked about Jesus. And I met Edwin. Edwin lived in Texas for a few years. He greeted us in English. While eating, we found out a bit more about his life. He’s made several decisions in his life that led him down a path with a wheelbarrow full of regret. He feels that he needs to clean himself up before he can go to church (one block from his home). He reads his Bible 15 minutes every day, as penance. Maybe one day he will have done enough to pay off his guilt, and earn his right to come back to God. And beneath all the “coolness” he so desperately tried to exude, a deep battle raged. And we spoke of scripture. And I prayed. I’m still praying. One young man, on a roof in Honduras, trying to pay a debt that has already been paid. One lost sheep. And Jesus left the 99 to find the 1.
After lunch, we worked some more. And then we were done. As we turned to continue our trek down the walkway, I felt compelled. One way I had learned over the week to show love, despite my language barrier, was to embrace. I’m telling you, nothing like a Honduran hug. No words necessary. I decided to greet the lady of the home with a smile and leave her with a hug. I truly appreciated the lunch they worked all morning to prepare (picking food, washing food, cutting food, cooking food), and as I turned to go, she reached into her apron and she pulled out a gift. She smiled and handed it to me. And I smiled back. I clutched it to my heart, said, “Muchas gracias”, held eye contact for a moment longer, then turned to go.
SHE had a gift for ME. And she was so happy to give it. It wasn’t something store bought. It was made. Time, energy, heart, and soul was donated to me – someone she may never see again, this side of heaven. And it inspired me. I spent the rest of the day handing out small tokens – nail polish to the ladies on the bus, candy to the workers and villagers, a necklace to our cook at the hotel, small toys for her girls that my girls had given to donate – the joy just kept multiplying. Could I have an in-depth conversation with these wonderful people? No. But I could give, and they could receive. No strings attached. And it was beautiful.
God, however, arrested me one more time before leaving the mountain. There was a woman, standing near the bus. We had just learned that she had buried her son just two days prior. And there was a need. Again, beyond the physical, right to the soul. And everyone was already on the bus, and Luis, the driver/grill master turns and says, “This would be a great time to talk about heaven don’t you think?” Well, yes I do. And, with the assistance of my fabulous friend Debbie, I was able to hear an English translation of the entire exchange. Time didn’t matter. Nothing else was more important at this moment than engaging this precious woman in a conversation about her beliefs in a loving, eternal God and Savior Jesus Christ. She now owns red nail polish (to compliment her newly-washed feet), a reminder of the blood shed for her and for all. I’ve prayed for her every day. And for Edwin.
And I can’t imagine ever forgetting my mountain-top experience. And I pray that as I return to the “valley of Ohio” that these stories convict me and convince me to share the news of Jesus with those He brings my way as if their life depended on it. Because in all reality, it does.
Challenge: Who has the Lord placed in your path to ask – Who is God to you? If you were to die today, where would you go? Why?