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the Last Word
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Honduras

I would not classify myself as a rebel. However, when others tell me that I cannot do something, it only increases my ambition to do it. While I was preparing to participate in Mennonite Central Committee's Serving and Learning Together (SALT) program as a volunteer librarian in Honduras for a year, many people told me that the experience would change my life far more than I would change lives. I wrestled with that thought and wondered: If what those people were saying was true, then why should I compromise my momentum and sacrifice so much? Consequently, in August, I set out with rapidly deteriorating language skills, the shortest level of patience, and an informal teaching background in hopes that I could arouse an appreciation for literature in my Honduran elementary school students.

Now, all I can do is sheepishly bow my head and confess that those people were right.

I now call Nueva Suyapa in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras, "home sweet home." When I arrived in town, I hiked down a rocky, muddy hill lined with a variety of house-fronts—some only fairly better than the dilapidated row homes in North Philly, where I grew up—to get to my host family's home. Suddenly, I came to a beautiful magenta house-front with a white porch.

Dona Reina and Don Hernon, a middle-aged couple with three adult daughters, welcomed me inside. Looking around, I was comforted by the nice furniture and decor adorning the living room, and the luxuries that I saw, such as cable TV and a stereo. Nevertheless, the reality of this developing community hit me as I opened the back door to my room and saw the bathroom—an outhouse. I died a little in that moment!

A stairwell leading to the back of the house took me to where I would be bathing and washing my clothes. At the top of the stairs was a room with a four-foot-deep cement box—the family's main water source.

I have now grown accustomed to the outhouse and bucket-bath process. The fact that this community lives without simple things like running water, yet still possesses such joy and hope has shown me that it's more blessed to be thankful for whatever circumstance we are in than to complain about it.

I have been humbled by the hospitality of my host family, particularly my host mother. Being at the receiving end of her warmth and generosity, and seeing the humility and obedience she has instilled in her daughters, has taught me that it is more blessed to give of myself through acts of servitude, charity or kindness than to preserve myself through selfishness and tightgripped frugality, an insatiable desire for more or passivity.

Each work day I travel to El Instituto El Verbo, just minutes away from home. As I begin each day I pray to God for patience or to revive my once Sigma Delta Pi-level Spanish-speaking abilities, so that I can teach the nine first through fifth grade classes that visit the library once weekly. In addition to teaching each class privately, I welcome students who visit the library during recess or come after school for Reading Club to do homework, read and play educational games. I enjoy encouraging the children to read with expression or quizzing a student on what he just read in a book. And although I've had my challenges and I know that I have taught lessons that many probably forgot before the dismissal bell sounded, working with the students has taught me it is more blessed to offer prayer for and forgiveness to someone, such as an insubordinate student, than to clutch sentiments of intolerance and unforgiveness.

In taking this leap of faith, I have learned that it is more blessed to risk myself in pursuit of my inner-most dreams than to protect myself from fear, failure and rejection (This is apt preparation—I want to work in the gospel music industry some day!)

In these months, I have brought smiles to students' faces; dispelled the notion that gringa volunteers are softies; taught my host-father English phrases; and played many amusing games of charades to help me better communicate. However, while I may have thought that I came to Honduras to change the lives of others, I now realize that Christ brought me here to change my life in a way that only the isolation, vulnerability and stillness of being uprooted from all things familiar could provide.

If this year is supposed to be a shared learning experience, I cannot help but think that my community, my students and my family are getting the short end of the stick.


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