Spend time with God. Make a difference and do something.
My mission trip with the Sister Water Project to Honduras began when I arrived at Mount Saint Francis Center in Dubuque, Iowa, on September 23, 2016. It was there that I met the 13 other service team members who I'd be traveling with (that's me in bottom row 3rd from left).We had supper, a send-off Mass, and an orientation before the bus departed for O’Hare airport. In that brief time I came to know them and I realized that our team was hand selected by God. We were a balance of different ages (16 to 75), culture, backgrounds and skills. We blended together and created a unified, supportive, and enjoyable “extended” family. We met our fears, excitement, and challenges together and are forever joined by this journey .
Through the orientation we learned that our service was to help make potable water accessible to people by digging trenches, laying PVC pipes, building a road, and installing a water tank and pump. A memorable moment was during the send off Mass when Sister Carol Besch, OSF, stated, “We are most grateful for this new team and their willingness to break out of their comfort zones and experience a new language, a new culture, a new world.” As tears welled up in my eyes, I thought of traveling to one of the poorest countries on Earth and how it was sure to open my eyes.
We spent our first full day at the Church in the rural village of La Iguala. Adults and children sang worship songs; celebrating Jesus and enjoying fellowship together. My one regret was not learning the language. I realized if I had done so I could’ve created deeper connections. But I let the people know that I was trying to learn and they were happy to help.
The following day we traveled to spend the next few days of our trip digging trenches and making the road. I went into this knowing it would be physically demanding, yet I am still in awe of what I experienced, what I saw and what I learned. We were surrounded by the sincerity and unity of this community. From our host family who prepared a hearty breakfast, lunch and dinner to the workers being patient as we learned to pick, hoe, and shovel. Until you go see for yourself, you can’t truly comprehend just how blessed we are. Even the worst streets in our own areas are better than the man-made roads in Honduras.
Most of us are familiar with the phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle,” yet do not give it a second thought turning on the tap and running the water. Can you imagine if you turned on the tap and nothing came out for weeks or months? Our nightly reflections with the team reminded me of the many things I take for granted and how they could be seen as a life-changing gift. It made me realize to respect the conveniences I enjoy daily, remembering that others would consider them luxuries.Living conditions were very simple where we were. I was in admiration of the strength and commitment of the people and how hard they worked alongside our team. That they absorbed our presence and being allowed to partner beside them is a gift I treasure.
I’m not going to belittle the work that we did. I know we helped many Hondurans in the village of La Iguala and I know that God will continue to work through our labors of that week. I will cherish every moment and experience, however, the truth for me is that we did more for ourselves on this mission trip than we did for them. It gave us a chance to learn a little about life in another country and culture. It was an opportunity for us to know how blessed we really are. It made us aware of other people’s struggles first-hand. I honestly don’t believe we made as huge an impact in the community as they did on us.They were a blessing to me and made a profound difference in my life.
Please take this opportunity to study the reality of the water situation and donate to the Sister Water Project, 100% of the funds go toward materials, transport, and labor for water systems in Honduras and Tanzania. Look at what you have in your life, look at your gifts and resources and pray about making a difference to the Sister Water Project. They need your help. You will change lives by giving. You will bring hope. Search your heart. Spend time with God. Make a difference and do something.
I am very grateful for the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, the Davenport Diocesan volunteer program, and the Sisters of St. Francis for their generous gift of sponsorship toward my mission trip with the Sister Water Project. I’d like them to know that their thoughtfulness is cherished. Their scholarship donation allowed me to take advantage of the opportunity to share that Our God is universal and cares about all nations.