This summer I was part of a mission trip that traveled to Honduras for a week. The idea was for us to serve God while spreading love to people who didn’t look like us, live like us, talk like us, eat like us, or act like us.
Because of these differences, I was nervous in the days leading up to the trip. Plus, the idea of traveling to a different country without my family and with no connection to the rest of the world was also pretty intimidating.
When we arrived in Honduras we were greeted by voluntary military guards with massive guns. And I mean massive. But as intimidating as they were, they made sure to smile. On our drive to the remote village where we were to serve, it started to rain. The traffic didn’t bother anyone, and the weather seemed to be a norm for the people we passed. And it didn’t take long for our bus to become filled with laughter as we all sang off-key to American pop from the early 2000s. Even though our guards didn’t speak fluent English, they were definitely feeling the beat, the happiness, and the hope we had heading into the week. It was then when I first realized that we all feel love and happiness in the same way.
At first, because of the language barrier, the interactions with villagers was a little awkward, but as the week went along the children became more and more familiar and open with us. We had a few translators traveling with us, but honestly the kids simply enjoyed talking about animals, shapes and colors, and other things children everywhere talk about. One of our leaders mentioned to us that most of the village children were neglected. Not intentionally, but because most families had many children and there isn’t enough attention to go around.
Sometime during our second day I was playing soccer with the local boys when I noticed a beautiful and sad girl peeking around the corner of the bright blue school. I decided that there was a reason God wanted me to see her, so I passed the ball to a boy and started toward her. “What am I supposed to say?” I thought. “She wont understand what I mean. This is going to be terribly awkward.” A thousand thoughts flooded my mind with each step I took closer to her. When she noticed that I was coming over, she stepped out into the light. She had brown hair and dressed like most of the other younger girls with her rubber flip flops with a worn out shirt and shorts. I smiled and knelt down next to her to create equality between us. I pointed to the field then back at her and smiled (my attempt to have her come play with me.) She quickly looked down in embarrassment, I held out my hand and stuttered a little Spanish hoping it would make some sort of connection, “Jugamos futbol?” She let out a little giggle then looked at the field and back at the ground. I smiled again. Then she reached out and took my hand and a wave of relief flooded over me. We then walked over to the field where we played and played. At first she was hesitant as she was the only Honduran girl playing, but as time passed, and celebrations after goals became more elaborate, a connection had been built.
At the end of the week the same little girl handed me a picture with hearts surrounding the smiling caricature. Her name was written in different sized letters at the top: Alexandra. After she gave me her gift, she hugged me and my heart became filled with joy. It was then that I realized I had fallen in love with a person through God. In one week I had created a spiritual connection with another human being despite our differences in language, age, and lifestyle.
During the course of the week I met, played with, ate with, and created crafts with multiple other village children, but Alexandra will forever be child I remember. This little girl was able to teach me that stepping out of your comfort zone and trusting God in everything you do is the only way to live a full life. The fact that she trusted me by taking my hand and walking out onto that makeshift soccer field in front of a bunch of skilled soccer boys was incredible.
Through Alexandra, I realized that God wants me to always have connections like this. Connections between a school and community, between the sick and the healthy, between believers and nonbelievers, between natives and missionaries, between people and Him.
On our final day of the mission I offered to speak in front of the community and our group (with a translator of course.) It turned out we were the first group from America to ever visit this village. Standing in front of the many eyes only reinforced how I felt for the people I learned to love in such a short period of time. I thanked them for trusting us in their community, and for allowing us into their homes and families. I thanked them for trusting us with their children all week, for letting us carry them around on our backs, and for working through the language barrier with patience and kindness. I thanked them for putting us to work, for laughing through our mistakes, for praying for us during the week, for feeding us each day, and for wholeheartedly accepting us as human beings and not foreigners. I took a second to swallow my tears and continued to thank them for the memories I will forever hold and cherish as a part of my life. “You will never understand how you all have helped me,” I said. Holding a maraca close to my chest that they had given to me earlier in the day, and waiting for my translator to finish, I looked across all of the growing smiles in the crowd. That’s when I knew I’d made a connection—a heartbreaking beautiful spark granted by Heaven. Tears and smiles spread across the faces of the villagers as they listened to my speech, and my heart was completely and utterly filled with love.
It was heartbreaking to say goodbye, but it was a beautiful memory that I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.
Thank you to all the people who helped send me on this mission. It was life-changing. I couldn’t have done it without you.