Tuesday, January 03, 2012
Eight Lipscomb student-athletes led by Brent High, Associate Athletic Director for Spiritual Formation, arrived in Honduras Saturday for an eight-day mission trip to assist with the rebuilding of buildings at an orphanage damaged by recent flooding. This is Brent's dispatch from their third day.
This morning we left the refuge at 7:30 a.m. bound for the town of Duyere. The views of the mountains on the way to Duyere were absolutely spectacular and reminded me of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Lake Tahoe, California. The beauty of this place continues to amaze and surprise me. I was not expecting Honduras to be so beautiful.
Once we topped the mountain and headed towards Duyere it was like we had entered a time machine and turned the clock back to 1840. I remember one of my favorite field trips as a kid was going to Land Between the Lakes and learning about pioneer living. The people of Duyere are living that way in 2012. Their houses are extremely simple and use natural materials for the most part. There are cows and donkeys everywhere. Many of them roam free on the roads and in town. There are crops and gardens at every turn. The people seem to be focused on simply surviving.
Today we started working on an adobe house for one of the Iglesia de Cristo members. The man of the house was there working alongside us today making adobe mud bricks. We were told that this adobe house should last at least 90 years. Pretty amazing for a house made of dirt, sand, water and pine straw!
All of us started at the brick-making station. Then we split up into three groups in three separate locations. One group continued to make bricks and used pick axes to dig up more dirt for future bricks. Alexander McMeen from the cross country/track team was the official stomper and mixed up the dirt with the pine straw with his feet. Another group headed up the mountain to the home site and began laying bricks and filling the cracks with mortar. They also had to painstakingly dig a two-foot wide drainage ditch outside the house with pick axes. The third group transported water from one of the streams below to the work site on top in a huge reservoir in the back of a truck. It had to be filled up one bucket of water at a time. That group also picked up, loaded and transported bricks up and down the mountain several times. They also had to make a run to pick up a gigantic pickup truck load of 100-lb. rocks that will be used in the foundation of another church member’s house.
The sun was shining brightly today. Most everyone has very pink arms and necks. Some of the guys are looking forward to heading back to class next week with tans the second week of January. It was not too hot today. The nights up here have been much cooler than we expected. A lot of that has to do with the elevation change here on the mountain where the refuge is located. We go through several different climate zones each day as we change altitude dramatically on our drives. The plant and tree life is very different in each zone. One minute you’ll feel like you’re in a Georgia pine forest. The next minute you’ll swear you’re in a New Mexico desert.
About 5:30 p.m. we thought our work day was coming to an end. The first group had finished making 55 new adobe bricks. The second group had finished two levels of bricks and mortar for the new house. We thought we’d be headed back to the refuge for dinner. Boy were we wrong! The adventure was just beginning.
We headed back to the ranch to pick up an old Toyota Landcruiser. Then we headed to town on a mission to pick up 10,000 pounds of beans that will be stored at the refuge and used for meals for the children’s home. About a mile down the road the rear tire on the Landcruiser went flat. That seems to be a very normal occurrence down here. Cameron and some of his friends from Nicaragua that had come over to help with the beans jumped into action and had a spare tire on the vehicle in short order. We then drove to the tire repair shop and they spent the better part of an hour fixing the tire that had gone flat. We then drove into town and picked up a flatbed truck. Cameron asked me to jump in and drive the Landcruiser. He told us that we weren’t going to be getting the beans because of everything that had happened and asked one of his Nicaraguan friends to jump in the Landcruiser with me. He said the man would show me the way to go.
All of us from Lipscomb assumed we were headed back to the refuge at that point. That wasn’t the case.
The Nicaraguan man directed us down some back roads and then pointed off the road to a rough dirt road with a gate. I followed his instructions and pulled down the road. He jumped out and opened the gate and then got back in. Very quickly I realized this was the rockiest, most rutted, challenging, four-wheel drive challenge course type road I had ever driven or even imagined existed. It seemed that we truly were headed for the middle of nowhere. There were no buildings, no lights, no nothing. We were in the middle of nowhere somewhere in Honduras and I was getting a little apprehensive.
Then the Nicaraguan man told me to stop the truck. He jumped out of the vehicle. The rest of the Nicaraguan men in the truck following us jumped out too. They congregated near our vehicle and began to talk in Spanish. No one in our truck could understand anything they were saying. Now I knew we were in trouble. I just knew these guys had taken us into the middle of nowhere and either we were going to be kidnapped or worse.
Finally Ryan Terry from the golf team came up to our truck and talked with the men in Spanish. He has done really well speaking Spanish with the locals since we arrived. He quickly told me that the Nicaraguan men said we were there to get the beans and that we needed to continue to go down this treacherous road until we got to the beans. I told Ryan to tell the men that Cameron had shared with us that we weren’t doing beans tonight. The Nicaraguan man disagreed and assured me that we were in fact going to get the beans. Since they had cell phones that were working I asked them to call Cameron and let me talk to him.
Once I got Cameron on the phone he told me that he was just joking when he said we weren’t getting the beans tonight. He said in Honduras you just have to roll with the flow and oftentimes that means having your schedule interrupted.
I breathed a gigantic sigh of relief as did all of my young passengers.
Then we went to work carrying 100 lb. bags of beans quite a distance from a storage building to the trucks. It was backbreaking work.
We finished loading up the beans after a couple of hours and started heading back to the refuge. On the way the same tire on the Landcruiser went flat again. We rearranged vehicles and I drove the guys back to the refuge for dinner at 10:30 p.m.
I was so proud of these guys today. They were absolute machines out there. All of you who are their parents should be commended. John Hudy and Will Osburn have obviously been doing some things right in the weight room with these guys. They are in fantastic shape and it showed as they owned each and every task set before them with an eagerness to serve and finish the job at hand.
One of my favorite parts of the day was meeting a little 11-year-old boy named Ronnie. His aunt is going to be living in the adobe house we are building. Ronnie helped us all day long. He probably only weighs about 55 or 60 lbs. He was very respectful and I got to practice my Spanish with him during our truck rides up and down the mountain. That little boy was a warrior with the adobe bricks. They had to weigh at least half as much as he did but he jerked them out of our hands, slung them on his shoulder and put them where we needed them. He did more trips than anyone out there today. Later in the afternoon one of his donkeys got loose and started heading down the road. He jumped in front of it, started twirling a rope over his head and the next thing we knew he had lassoed this donkey and then led it back to its pen. If it’s possible to have an 11-year-old hero, Ronnie is a new hero of mine. I wish my two boys could see him in action.
A few thank yous…..First to Melanie Grogan for teaching me to drive a stick shift when I was 17 years old. I have been driving these little Nissan 4x4 trucks up and down these mountains and it is extremely challenging. The next thank you goes to Nancy Covington, my Overton Spanish teacher and Eloy Guerra, my Lipscomb Spanish teacher. I have been able to communicate fairly well with the locals because of my four years of Spanish. It’s amazing how it all comes back to you so quickly when it’s all around you.
Finally, I was saddened today to hear of the deaths of Ernest Seamon and Bob Forrester. Ernest is Jonathan’s dad. Jonathan was my youth minister growing up and went out of his way to hire me back in 1996. I will forever be grateful for his friendship and belief in me and grieve with him in his loss. Bob was a selfless servant with Lipscomb Athletics for so many years. He was a favorite with our office staff and was always there to lend a helping hand. He was also a hero to many including me at Brentwood Hills and specifically each summer at Brentwood Hills Christian Camp. My heart goes out to Jane, Robbie and Mark in their loss.
Please continue to pray for us in Honduras. There are going to be some incredible surprises I can hopefully share with you tomorrow. For now it’s time for a couple of Aleve and a meeting with my pillow.