After flying from Atlanta to the capital city of Honduras, twenty-seven people boarded a bus for the next leg of their trip. They would arrive six hours later at their destination--El Rancho Paraiso.
This was not a group of college students setting out on a fun-filled spring break. It was not vacationers headed for one of the all-inclusive resorts for fun and sun. It was not a civic group. Neither was it a church mission team although there were several who were active members in six North Georgia United Methodist Churches and a couple of other denominations. Many of the folks were strangers to one another.
The group included a retired vice-president of a major apparel company, the editor of a prominent business publication, teachers, nurses, a doctor who has practiced medicine for over four decades, two persons who work in public relations, an artist, several persons employed in high-tech industries, a retired pharmaceutical salesman, a lawyer, a marketing specialist with one of the leading international corporations, a university professor, a retired Air Force pilot, a retired banker, a biologist, a fire fighter/EMT, an attorney, and one other preacher besides me. The age ranged from twenty-thirty something to "very mature" citizens.
The destination was remote. The last two hours on the old school bus was traveled on poorly maintained dirt roads. The residents of the area were very poor. Most of the people did not have electricity or running water. The task at hand required a lot of hard, physical work. The next few days would find most of these folks mixing concrete by hand, transporting it to the site by wheelbarrows, and manually pouring the floor of a library that is under construction. It will be the only library for many miles around. Others of the team would work on a mural of trees, flowers, and twenty-seven birds (one for each team member) that would cover one wall of the soon to be completed library.
The goal of this eclectic group of people was to improve the quality of life for the people of the Agalta Valley of Honduras. One of the team members emphasized that they were passionate about this work. That passion was obvious in the way they worked and the interest they had in the welfare of the residents of the surrounding villages.
Education is a primary emphasis of "The Ranch" and its staff. In the nearby village of Coluco there is an elementary school with about 150 students and a middle/high school with another 150 students. Approximately 600 children are enrolled in 42 kindergartens operated in the villages of this valley. There are also extensive programs for agriculture, community development, and health/medical care (their four clinics in the area attended nearly 9000 patients last year).
All of this takes place in a Christian environment that is overt in its faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. The ministry operates under the auspices of Honduras Outreach, Inc. which is based in Decatur, Georgia.
During the week of this mission I was reminded of how fortunate I am. I did not choose where I was born and neither did the people of the Agalta Valley. Although the people we saw and met in the surrounding villages had very little material possessions, they were happy and grateful for what they had.
They deserve "the good life" as much as I do. They have as much right to a good education and quality health care as anyone else. They need Jesus just like everyone does.
As I enjoyed a week without a cell phone or computer, I remembered the instruction of the Bible that those who have much (that's me) are expected to be generous with what they have. I experienced the truth that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. It is clearer to me that I need to do more. Not just one week in a distant land and a different culture but here and everywhere all the time.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," April 5, 2010, North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]