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“How Is Mission Work Going?” (A Day In The Life)

May 13, 2024


At the end of May we'll be going back to the States until August to reset our tourist Visas, bring Tess to her summer job and subsequently to college, let the other girls go to summer camp, and then of course there is Marjorie and Stephen’s wedding in July!!  And I'm sure the main question we will be asked is, “So how is your mission work going?”


Mission work is a broad term, and often misunderstood.  When we first started this adventure we were unaware that many people think of “mission work” as megaphone street preaching, or going door-to-door handing out bibles, and this explains some of the odd reactions we received when we told people we were going to be missionaries in Honduras!  Certainly, mission work can include direct evangelization and church building, and our faith is 150% behind everything we do, but it also includes non-denominational humanitarian work, medical brigades, improving infrastructure, agriculture, education, etc. And our work has definitely evolved over the course of the past 9 months, but in a way that I really feel like God is guiding our path.  We started at a children's home and in a roundabout way have ended up as volunteer managers of a beachside retreat center (Tranquility Bay Beach Retreat, aka “T-Bay”) for other mission groups.


Misión Angelitos and Fr. Luta, after installing a water delivery system to the mountain village of Mirador

Beachside Mass with college mission group


Every missionary has a different experience, regardless of whether it's a week-long mission trip painting a school, or a year of volunteer service teaching English.  But it's definitely not a “normal” life, so what does that look like for us exactly??? That is not an easy question to answer so I thought it might be interesting to describe a typical “day in the life". All of these things might not happen all on the same day, but they all happen with regularity.  I share all of this to answer those who may simply be curious, but also for those of you who, deep down, feel like you may be called to go on a mission trip, but think you can’t.  At 50 years old with 4 kids still at home, we are proof you can, and we want to help you do it, too.  We know all of the anxieties you have.  We know all of the objections.  But we also know what you are capable of if you simply adopt the principle of “be it done unto me according to Thy word!”  You would be amazed at the expansive world God has placed in front of you if you simply say “Yes” to that inner call.

Prepping to do a dental workshop at Corazalta school


A “Typical” Day

6:30 am - My alarm goes off and I head over to the kitchen on the property to start making fresh mango bread or muffins or scones for breakfast for the volunteers. (When there are not mission groups here, we take regular reservations for the 5 cabanas so at any given time there are “turistas” here and breakfast is complimentary.) Pat is always up early and has started the coffee.

Ready for breakfast


At 8:00 am - Luisa and Virginia, the 2 Honduran sisters who have lived and worked here for 15 years, come into the kitchen to start breakfast for the guests.  Mostly “típico” or “baleadas”, but sometimes omelets or pancakes.  Our daughters are often helping serve, and always helping wash dishes (no dishwasher here!)

Vivian feeds “Lucky” the little black and white cat, and Pat makes sure that Anthony (one of the young guys here) feeds the 2 German Shepherds, the 2 monkeys, and the horses. (More on those animals later…!)

Mid-morning we have to carve out time for homeschooling our girls but fortunately they are very independent workers because Pat and I are usually pulled away for other things.

Pat is often checking people in and out, managing online reservations, or communicating with upcoming mission groups to assure all planning details are in order. I might be needed to help the ladies in the kitchen, make a dessert for the evening, construct a grocery list for a run into town, schedule a delivery of drinking water or propane gas, or check that the cabanas are clean and ready for whoever's coming in next. 


Cabaña # 4


In addition to helping homeschool our own kids, Pat has been tutoring one of the teen moms here in math, often spending hours going over her week’s lessons, while our girls babysit her son.  (Helping adolescent moms finish school is another “mission” our family stumbled upon!  We are currently working on a grant to create a free daycare for teen moms who wish to attend normal school.) She's so proud of her progress that she's always reporting back to us with her tests and quizzes. 

Math tutoring


We have also been asked to start doing music with a small church in a remote neighborhood.  There's no priest so they only get Mass about once a month on a Thursday. The parish is run by lay ministers who hold a Communion Service on Sunday mornings and Adoration on Thursday evenings, so having Pat to teach/direct music and possibly some youth programming will really be appreciated.  This means that part of our day is having a jam session with the girls to learn the Spanish hymns and responses.

By 1:00pm, all 6 of us are piling in a taxi or borrowing someone's car (buying a reliable used vehicle is definitely something we need to pray for when we return in August!) to go teach at Centro Básico Dieciocho de Mayo, a public school on the outskirts of Trujillo.  After class, we need to stop for fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, cheese, and whatever else is needed to prep meals for groups or individual guests; also the groundskeeper needs a gas tank filled up; and the kitchen needs a refill of the large vat of cooking oil.  Many times, we can’t get all of these items because they just aren’t always available.  We buy what we can, and have to make do.  For instance, the other day there was no gas to be found in the nearby town. 

After these stops, we get a message on the way home - can we stop and get two large bunches of plantains on the roadside because they need them for dinner.  No problem!  


On one occasion, Linda (the founder of Operation Backpack Honduras) calls to ask if we could stop at another village school in the area to meet the head teacher and discuss recruiting some volunteers from the US to help add some classrooms for the students that are currently having class in an outside breezeway.  While we are walking the school property, the mayor sees us and stops to join in the discussion.  You just never know who you are going to meet.  Also in the conversation is another American expat, who has been living and volunteering in Honduras for decades.  He is willing to help raise money for the project if Cumbre can help find volunteer labor.  So many pieces working together to make things happen here.

Lack of a classroom has these students learning in the outdoor hallway

Discussion on how to add classrooms and improve the school building


We finally get back to T-Bay and find out that the horses have escaped the fence (again) and Osman the groundskeeper is chasing them down the beach with the 2 dogs.  We form a line on the beach to corral them back into the property, laughing about how we never imagined this scene playing out in our lives!

One crisis averted, only to discover that all 3 water tank reserves are nearly empty and only the gravity-fed tank remains full.  We've had leaks in the piping from the road before (none of the piping in the surrounding area is good quality and is constantly needing repair) but this time the shortage seems to be a lack of rain over the past month, so the river that feeds the tanks is very low.  So Pat sends a message to all the staff to conserve water and pray it starts flowing into the tanks before any more guests arrive.  (By the next morning we are back to normal levels and can resume normal usage - flushing toilets, showering, laundry, etc.)


Speaking of laundry, we do have the luxury of a washing machine here, which many Hondurans do not.  But we can only use it if the water is at a high enough level, and there's not a power outage.  Tess has taken it upon herself to be the laundry girl, so she can often be seen behind the kitchen hanging up our clothes (everything is dried on clotheslines.)


Whenever the power goes out, which can happen every other day for a few hours here or there, Pat has to switch the water system over from the regular tanks to the gravity tank since the regular pumps won't work without electricity.  We have solar panels as backup, so fortunately we still have lights and fans when we don't have electricity, but the solar panels just don't power big things like the refrigerators, washing machine, or the water pump.

Pat checking the gravity water tank


On another occasion, one of the monkeys got out and apparently (and fortunately) Pat is somewhat of a “monkey whisperer”. Because of past abuse, this particular monkey has been known to be aggressive to anyone other than the owners, but for some reason she really likes Pat!  He was able to coax her with watermelon and she climbed right into his arms, snuggled in, and let him walk her back into her enclosure.

Pat and Chimi


Sometimes I'm the resident nurse too.  Last week at 10 pm I was called over to the house where 2 of the staff live with their 1-year-old son.  He was burning up with a fever and the parents (16 and 20 years old) didn't know what to do.  I had them strip off his hot clothes, cool him with wet clothes, and give him some infant Tylenol.  Two days before that, I had been over there ministering to the dad.  I fully expected a knock on my door in the middle of the night and I honestly would have welcomed the chance to help this sweet couple who we've grown very close to in a short amount of time, with our daughters often helping babysit their son and making his first birthday cake.

The birthday boy, asleep at his own party


And then there are all the other things that we've just come to accept as normal - like finding gecko poop on the bedspread when you wake up (and just brush it off!).  Or that it's so hot and you're so sweaty that when you get up from sitting, any plastic furniture sticks to your thighs. Or the sound of the birds in the morning is so loud (being in a literal jungle!) that the girls’ friends comment on it on Zoom calls but we barely even notice the noise anymore!  Or waking up to the dogs barking and the smell of skunk - again.  We love the dogs and they're great protection because they announce every single visitor, but they also like to bark at every little noise and to kill skunks in the middle of the night!

Bernadette with Cherokee and Navajo


I could go on and on but you get the picture - every day is an interesting adventure. In between the volunteer groups we've hosted, the other people we meet are also just so incredibly interesting.  I can't articulate the impact so many have had on our family.  We met one young family from Tegucigalpa who, by the end of their stay, invited us to come visit them and stay at their home!  We met one Italian couple (the wife was a human rights lawyer and the husband owned a hemp shop in Tuscany!), then we had one of the Honduran President's closest Ministers here with her staff, and then 4 sweet siblings in their 70s (3 sisters and a brother) who came to spend a weekend together.  Sometimes the mayor will stop by for lunch, or some of the local police on patrol will come by for a cold Coke, or a former missionary who was here years ago just wants to come back for a visit.

Sopa Marinera (Seafood Soup) is one of the ladies’ specialties and a guest favorite.


Our family made a special dinner for the staff on Dia del Trabajador (Honduran Labor Day)


I especially love this hospitality part of what we're doing here (even though it's a constant challenge with my Spanish!!) It's always been a dream of mine to have a Bed and Breakfast in our retirement.  And it's like God has handed us this special place and said, “Here. I want you to use your welcoming and hospitable spirit to lovingly house, feed, and care for the people who cross your path.  And by being in this place and doing this work, it will also enable you to accomplish the mission work you came here to do in the surrounding communities.” What a gift.


Because of this “gift” (this “present”), we try really hard to live each day grateful for finding joy in the present moment and the people in front of us. We're thankful for gloriously full days that have our weary bodies finally falling into bed exhausted at 11pm after closing everything down, but looking forward to the chance to get up and do it all again tomorrow, facing any challenges and people that God places in our path.  We just watched the movie “Kung Fu Panda” last week.  The kids had seen it long ago but I actually never had!  I felt like Master Oogway was speaking directly to me when he said, “Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, but Today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.”


Kung Fu Panda’s Master Oogway


Please keep us in your prayers; we have all of your intentions in our prayers as well.  If you would like to join a group already coming, or bring a group here for a mission trip, we would love to host you and help you get here - there is lots of work to be done!  


Paz y bien,

Shannon

xoxo

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1 Comment


andreamoulton
May 14

Wonderful read! Thanks for sharing! Awesome work you are doing so special to be doing it with your family

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Hi! We're Pat & Shannon.

We have a passion for education and a heart for service. Our goal is to make a global impact beyond our local community.

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