One Year in Honduras
When I stepped off the plane on August 2, 2013 I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours and it was really hot, but I was so excited. That first day in Honduras is still a bit of a blur, but it was then that I began one year as a volunteer for the Young Adult Service Corps (YASC). YASC is program of the Episcopal Church that sends young adults on one-year assignments all over the world. One year ago, as I began my service work in Tela, Honduras, I couldn’t wait to see what lay ahead. Looking back, I can’t believe how quickly it passed. I experienced the whole range of emotions from frustration and sadness to wonder and joy. In the end, I’ve come away with a deeper sense of who I am and what it means to serve.
After one week in Spanish school, I settled into my apartment and began planning lessons for the school year. I was to work for Holy Spirit Episcopal Bilingual School and the attached church, Espiritu Santo. I taught English to both students and teachers, helped students apply for college, led chapel services for the high school students, assisted with Sunday School, and interpreted for short-term mission groups. It was a year of new experiences and on-the-job training.
Through these experiences, I have become more aware of the gifts God has given me. First and foremost, God has given me the gift of compassion, which sparked my interest in the program and enabled me to complete a year of service. Second, God has given me the ability and desire to learn, and this was a year of constant learning. I learned about the culture, customs, politics, history, geography, and economics of Honduras. I learned Spanish, and as I learned I had more opportunity than usual to listen. When learning a new language, you have to listen carefully to words and tone of voice and watch facial expressions and hand gestures; otherwise you won’t understand. Learning Spanish gave me the opportunity to see what it’s like to truly listen, and that is a wonderful gift.
It was also a year of personal growth. I never thought I would be able to interpret a sermon from English to Spanish or preach to high school students. But I learned that I am capable of more than I thought.
Beyond that, I learned to trust that God will always be there. There’s a common saying, “God will never give you more than you can handle.” But I have to say, there were times during the past year that I felt like I was given more than I could handle – the days when I taught seven classes and followed them with SAT practice, or when I was disheartened by the suffering, poverty and corruption that are so prevalent in Honduras. But it was in those times, when I had more than reached my limit, that I saw God come through. I believe that living a life of faith means being pushed beyond our abilities. God’s promise is not that we will never be given more than we can handle. Rather, it is that there is nothing that God can’t handle. Where I was weak, God was strong. During my year in Honduras, I began praying that God would work through me. And each time God came through I learned to trust him a little bit more.
Above all, I have come to understand more deeply what it means to be a Christian, a neighbor, and a friend. As Christians, followers of Christ, we are told the two most important commandments are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself,” (Luke 10:27). We are told that everything else depends on these two commandments.
In our baptismal covenant we are asked, “will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?” And we answer, “I will with God’s help” (Book of Common Prayer, 305). Each of us has unique gifts, but we are all called to share the love we have received in Christ with all people. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. We are constantly given opportunities to be good neighbors in the little things. When I was in Honduras, my neighbor welcomed me with a meal. The secretary and vice-principal of the school showed me around town and took me grocery shopping on my first day. A child at church gave me a pipe cleaner bracelet he made. It was in these actions, and so many more, that I saw the love of God.
When I walked through security at the airport leaving Honduras, I cried. I cried for the friends I was leaving behind. I realized that when all was said and done, the work I did wasn’t the most important thing. Neither was my personal development. What really mattered were the people. All the good works in the world are empty if there is no relationship behind them. So what does it mean to be a servant of God? It is sharing the love you’ve been given in Christ with everyone you meet. It is using your gifts and talents to come alongside your brothers and sisters, working together toward a world that is just a little bit closer to the kingdom of God on earth. +