Time moves differently in Honduras. We’ve only been here for four and a half days, but it seems so much longer than that. I just asked Mike what we did on Wednesday, which was only two days ago and it took three of us to remember. Days go by quickly and become a blur; however, today was one of the longest days I’ve had in a while. You would think that yesterday would have been a long day, building houses in the blistering heat. Today seemed by far the longest day of the week. It may be because we visited four different places and spent time with a lot of kids. Playing with kids takes a lot out of you.
The first place that we visited was the state run hospital. There are so many children in this hospital with illnesses ranging from AIDS to just a simple broken bone. Visiting these children is one of the saddest/toughest things to handle throughout the trip. We handed out blankets, beanie babies (thanks Kaci), and silly bands. This is another instance where not being able to speak Spanish really wears on me. I would love to talk to these children, ask them how they are feeling and pray with them. There are so many kids in that hospital with so many needs, but unfortunately, not all their needs will be met. I left the hospital wishing that I could have done more to help these children.
Next we visited a special needs orphanage. There are many children who live in the orphanage, some in wheel chairs, some with deformities, some with mental handicaps. At first, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to connect with or know how to connect with the kids. As I was sitting on the swing with one of the children, I think his name may have been Carlito, I began thinking how these children are no different than other children. Sure, they may have a handicap that make their lives more challenging, but that doesn’t mean they are any less in God’s eyes. They are human beings with a heart and a soul. God love’s them just as much as he loves me. As I sat there with Carlito on the swing, it seemed as if he was not enjoying himself. It seemed as if he was not able to enjoy himself. He didn’t show emotions or really make indications that he was having fun. To be honest, I thought to myself that I may have been wasting my time and might as well go and sit in the shade with him. Eventually, I decided to take Carlito off the swing and go for a walk. As we started to walk around the play ground area, it was apparent that Carlito wanted to keep swinging. As he walked back to the swing, I realized that just because I couldn’t tell he was having fun swinging, doesn’t mean that he wasn’t. From this point on, I decided that I was going to let myself have fun swinging with Carlito. This was one of those typical backyard swing sets that have the two seater swing on one side, with the seats facing each other. We swung as high as we could go, Carlito even helping to propel the swing with his legs. This is when I started to really pay attention to Carlito’s expressions. All though it was subtle, I could tell the he was having fun. He did this thing with his head where he looked up as if looking at the clouds, just enjoying the wind in his face. At one point I let out a “woot, woot” sound. Carlito responded with his own “woot”. We were communicating. For the rest of our time swinging, I proceeded to talk to him, even though I knew that he couldn’t understand me. Eventually, he began to make noises and it seemed as if he was trying to communicate with me. It doesn’t matter that we didn’t fully understand each other. I know that some day we will fully understand each other in heaven.
From there we headed to a juvenile detention center housing boys up to age 18. Picture a room smaller than an average classroom filled with 40 plus adolescent boys, with bars on the windows and no air conditioning. I’ve never been to prison, but I have a feeling that being in that room is similar to what prison feels like. Actually, Matt and I were allowed to use the restroom at the facility and we saw a kid who was locked in a cell. He must have been in trouble or something, I don’t know. I didn’t ask. Not that I am capable of asking anything except “how are you?” in Spanish anyway. I do not know the reasons why each individual kid was at the detention center. I don’t know their stories. But I do know that they were kind to us. They allowed us to watch Honduras play in their final World Cup match. They cheered with us as we thought Honduras scored a winning goal late in the game, only to be disappointed when the referee made the off sides call. Once again, these children were normal children. They loved to watch soccer, or play board games, or sell us these neat bracelets that they make from yarn. It is unfortunate that their circumstances have landed them where they are. I guess it’s better than being alone on the streets.
The last place we stopped was the state run orphanage. We brought little Caesar’s pizzas for the children to eat. This is an interesting place. It is basically a temporary home for children who are waiting to be placed in a long term orphanage or home. There are children of all ages basically living on top of each other because the orphanage is so full. There were so many kids there, I didn’t know where to start. I decided to grab Mario, one of the Honduran brothers that have been with us the whole trip, to translate. Keep in mind that Mario is only eight years old. I could not have had a better translator. Mario is incredible, just like each of his brothers. He goes to a bilingual school and is getting very good at speaking English. I could sense that Mario was eager for us to talk with the children. He had this serious look on his face as we were walking by the playground area. Then he stopped and looked at me and said “I used to live here.” I knew that the boys were all orphans at one point, but it hadn’t dawned on me that they had lived in that orphanage. This put the whole experience in a totally new perspective for me. Here I was, with an eight year old Honduran child, passing out silly bands to orphans, coming from a completely different background, and Mario was one of these orphans in the not so distant past. This was his life. He had been in these kid’s shoes. It broke my heart to see how eager he was to show compassion for the children. He knows what it is like to live there.
The boys’ story is amazing to me. I don’t have time to tell it all right now and do it justice. I just want to say how awesome it is to see God at work in their lives. They are growing up to be great men of Christ. You can see it in their actions. You can hear it in their words. You can feel it in their smiles. Their story gives me both joy and hope that God is in control. It helps me to know that what we are doing down here, what missionaries like David, and Amber do is truly making a long term impact on the lives of many people. God is so good. I know that He has amazing things in store for those boys. I look forward to watching them grow into the men they are destined to be. I hope that I can continue to be a part of their lives in any way possible. I could write for hours about each of them. I could write about how Antonio is the cutest kid in all of Honduras, always smiling and giggling. I could tell you how Francisco is only six, but is already quite the ladies man. I could go on about how Mario is the sweetest, most humble of the brothers, always seeming to be reflecting on the situation, mature well beyond his years. Marvin takes pride in being responsible and is constantly helping translate, directing the bus drivers where we are going. Then their’s Giovanni, with his Italian american accent, the goof ball of the bunch, but still as kind and caring as any kid his age that I’ve ever met. Lastly, there is Johnny. Johnny is the oldest of the boys and lives a slightly different path. He was never orphaned because he was old enough to work. He doesn’t speak much English, and at times is overshadowed by his bilingual brothers. The thing about Johnny is that he is tough. You can tell by the way he carries himself that he is responsible to take care of his brothers. I could say so much more, but it is getting late and I’m tired.