Inside a Mission Trip

Posted on August 23, 2015


For the past three summers I’ve packed my bags and headed down to Honduras with a mission team sponsored by the Baptist Medical and Dental Missions International.

This team is locally recruited and organized by the Valley View Baptist Church and led by one of its members, Stan Gray.

But it’s not all business.

Much of what goes on is removed a bit from Scripture, salvation, and illness.

Take, for example, a rooster who crowed, almost mathematically on time, beginning at 1:30 a.m. right outside our “dorm” window, the dorm being a schoolroom in the local high school which was our mission “headquarters.”

This rooster, we’ll designate him “Rooster A,” had alliances all throughout town, but I believe he kicked off the nightly singing of his tribe. If you happen to have missed the 1:30 a.m. call to arms, not to worry, he usually crowed on the hour until near dawn when I guess he went to sleep.

I thought the rooster crowing business was the reverse.

This prompted someone to comment that since “Rooster A” was not behaving according to the rules, he was probably a Mormon rooster, since the Mormon temple adjoined the high school and our dorm window faced their backyard.

Another mission team member remarked that for Rooster A to be a Mormon he really had to have a partner since they always traveled in pairs, “…and have at least three or more hens back home,” someone else observed.

We never satisfactorily determined the denomination of Rooster A, although he was most certainly an apostate and sent to obstruct our job by keeping us awake all night.

Once we awoke, of course, most headed to the latrines to do their natural thing. This is no big deal at home. You do your thing, flush the toilet and then get one with the business of the day.

Not so in the mission “compound,” remember, a school in the Third World.

“Remember,” we were admonished several times by our Maximum Leader, Stan, “DO NOT to put any toilet paper in the toilets!”

For those of us on who had been to Honduras before, this was not news. For newbies, this was big news.

“What did he say?”

“I dunno, something about toilet paper in toilets.”

“You absolutely cannot put toilet paper in the toilets. If you do, you have to fish it out and deposit it in the trashcan next to the toilet, where it all goes.”

And then once you have followed instructions, you scoop up a half bucket of water in a big water reservoir, and flush your toilet that way. The tank is just a useless appendage from the First World. That’s where we live most of the time.

Some of us who have reached a certain age are wont to decry the modern world—rap sucks in my opinion, for example. We remember the “good old days” with much fondness.

While Elvis the Pelvis may not have been many bars above modern rap in the estimation of many, he reminded us of apple pie, motherhood and the heydays of Rock and Roll, kind of like the era of the big bands, like the Dorsey brothers and Benny Goodman transported our parents and grandparents into the swing mood.

But in Honduras, the “good old days” reminded me of the outhouse in the back of my grandparents’ house in the countryside near the town of Central in South Carolina.

Many of the streets in Talanga, and other towns and villages I visited in past years, were actually paved. Most were not, and so navigating up and down the hilly, rock strewn streets could be tricky, especially if you were pushing a patient in a wheelchair.

I asked one of my companions, Ford Nixon, a sturdy fireman back in Tuscaloosa, to help me push a little old lady in her flimsy wheel chair back to the compound one day after a sermon in church.

Ford and one other missionary jumped in and off we went, about two feet before hitting a rock and almost propelling our passenger out onto the dirt. We caught her, and the chair, just in time and thereafter slowly navigated the rocky street back to the mission compound.

She was happy to get to the doctors and nurses and never said a peep. I think shock set in at the first push and the adrenalin gave her the courage to continue.

All received the message of Jesus Christ in the church services, hundreds more had rotten teeth pulled, and thousands received gifts of shoes, clothes, eyeglasses, prescriptions and medical care.

I miss the camaraderie and good spirits already.

My nostalgia passes quickly when I realize I can wash my hands in a nice stream of clear, clean water in my bathroom, the toilet works as advertised, and “Rooster A” is not around to call out the early morning hours.

This column was published as “Mission Trips Have Some Interesting Moments” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, August 23, 2015