Lipscomb Engineering Mission Trips 2009
This is a journal of students, faculty and friends from Lipscomb University on an engineering mission trip to Benitzul Ulpan, Guatemala, and Catacamas, Honduras.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Trip Perspective from the Honduran Team
Before I left, I knew that this trip would be significantly different than the others I had been on. Our purpose: to build latrines for mountain communities. The design process had been full of uncomfortable research into the world of waste and of course, full of “potty humor”. Being the only Spanish-speaker, I had invested a lot of time in preparing the instructions, signs, and manual for the latrines. Speaking Spanish to mountain people in Honduras is very similar to speaking English to hill-billys in the States: difficult. As time wore on, I became accustomed to this dialect just as I became accustomed to being the only female.
The people of Honduras have genuineness in their expressions of gratitude, curiosity, and pleasure. As we worked together on the sites (I spent more time in Las Delicias), I enjoyed how they responded in helping us: they were always willing to learn more about our project and help in making the latrine construction go as smoothly as possible. Part of this process included some hard labor on their end; several trees were chopped down and formed into 2X4s and boards to line the latrine. This work was down with a chainsaw to amazing accuracy. In the end, I was grateful for the acceptance our latrine designs received and the grace and gratitude the communities showed for our work.
This trip has been a wonderful experience with many great stories to be told. We had a lot of fun and a great learning experience working with the communities in Las Delicias and Agua Caliente. To be able to work side by side with the people from those communities was extremely gratifying and humbling. Although we were not able to complete the projects, we were very productive with our time and made the most of our time there. We did leave the area with two new, working latrines, which was very exciting for me. Overall, I had an awesome trip.
As a freshman on this trip, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, from the stories of the upper classmen and from my own aspirations I was expecting something profound that I could see God clearly in. I’ve actually wanted to be missionary since I was 12 or so, and although I had never had the chance till this week, I had heard many stories from friends and family about the opportunities and chances to see God that resulted from their trips. I’ve always hungered for God, and this past year has seen development in my spiritual life that has brought me far beyond the points I once limited myself too. I’ve opened myself to God, and so in many ways this trip was more of an extension of that continual striving then an awakening of it. Although the trip wasn’t life-changing for me, I enjoyed it immensely, because, for the first time, it allowed me to help other people in a significant way—a major call in our faith. I hope to have many more opportunities like this one and if God wills (his will always comes first over my aspirations) I would love to come every year. I’ve always thought life would be pointless if I couldn’t do something to help other people through my work. Because of this I’m not expecting to be happy in the American job field if I am only working for money, success, or so many other false aspirations. I’ve NEVER wanted too. It became clear to me quite early that the only things that would fulfill me would be something where I could continually build and/or discover, and be a blessing to others. This trip was all of that, and I thank you so much for it!
This trip was my third mission trip but the first time that I truly opened my eyes to the world. I was truly humbled by this experience. Kyle, a hard worker for Predisan, challenged us to view our “mission trip” as a time to prepare us for our own missions at home. His words echoed in my ears throughout the week and made me realize that I can make a difference in this world. This trip has shown me (like my past mission trips) just how blessed I am. I know that God has given me much and much is expected. This trip has made me want to listen to God’s plan for my life and not just listen to my own self-centered thoughts. This trip has also given me a greater appreciation for my family and friends. The Honduran culture is much slower paced and more family oriented than our American culture. They have their priorities straight. They also may have fewer ways to take care of their illnesses, but I am willing to bet that they do not have nearly as many problems with stress. This is because they can distinguish what matters and what is trivial much better than Americans. This year’s mission trip has challenged me to truly be a light to the world whether I am at home or in a foreign country.
With this trip being my first, I was not really sure what to expect. I came in with an open mind and as much flexibility as I could muster. I ended up needing both of those. Working during this trip was great. Our group worked side by side with the local people to create some beautiful latrines, if such a thing exists. One of my favorite memories came from working with a few locals to dig a footer. While digging, we discovered and busted a water line that quickly filled our new hole. After a little while of frustrations I was able to remember two simple Spanish words: “Mas aqua” meaning “more water.” Our coworker laughed and repeated the phrase. Throughout the trip, communicating with the Hondurans was a challenge and such a blessing when we were able to do it successfully. I have thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the trip and am looking forward to next year.
I’m not really sure what all has been written already, but I’m one of the last ones to write, so maybe I’ll still be able to offer a unique post from our trip. As many of you know, one of my strongest passions is Astronomy. Some of my favorite nights are those spent in the countryside looking at stars and marveling at God’s creation. Imagine my excitement when we arrived at Cedeco for the week and we were miles from any light source or electricity. The Heavens were able to shine to their full extent without being inhibited by mankind’s nocturnal side. Granted, we only had one clear night; the rest were cloudy or rainy. But that one night was enough to make an impact on the few of us who stayed up to watch the sky. Familiar constellations were hard to recognize against the thousands of other stars we never get to see in the States, and the rising Milky Way was easily confused with the beginnings of dawn.
Traveling to Honduras is like traveling to another world. You can never know what to expect, and the language barrier only further complicates your connection with the people there. But that night under the stars was a humbling experience, and it truly served to bring us and the Honduran people together as one body in my eyes. Despite speaking different languages and entirely different ways of life, we are still the same people under the same stars and heavens, glorifying the same God who created it all. Language should never keep us from worshiping and serving God together. I’m thankful that He opened my mind to realize how similar we all are under his love and care.
I was not really sure what to expect coming to Honduras since this was my first time. I had a few stereotypes in the back of my mind from hearing others who had been on previous trips. It was almost overwhelming seeing everything when I got here; I had never seen anything like it before. Everybody was extremely busy while having a sense of calmness about them at the same time. We were very well accepted regardless of most of us not speaking any Spanish. Everyone we ran into seemed to be very excited and happy to help us and serve us on anything we needed. The language barrier was a lot more challenging to overcome than I thought it would be. I quickly picked up on a few common Spanish words, but other than that I could barely communicate with other people. I would sometimes forget that the people there did not speak English until I got a very blank look on their face when I spoke to them. I would then try to say it again in Spanish only to remember that I did not know how to speak Spanish. Regardless of this ineptness, the people were very patient and understanding with all of us. Overall the trip was a really good experience for me, and I am glad that I went on it. It really opened my eyes to a part of the world that I had not seen before.
Perspective de Jordan
So this was my first real experience in Central America (been to a few tourist areas on a family vacation in elementary school). The flight into Tegucigalpa lived up to all its expectations. It’s comparable to the best roller coaster I have ever been on without that camera to capture the look on everyone’s face when look out the window and see the guy on a hill waving and notice he is missing exactly 4 teeth. The first order of business was to get a thermal image made to ensure that we were not running a fever indignant of the H1N1 virus. Luckily, I was able to decipher the correct boxes to check on the symptom questionnaire and was granted passage into Honduras.
This trip really reopened my eyes to the fact that the body of Christ exist all around the world; something that it is so easy to forget. Probably the most useful skill that I did not possess on this trip would be knowledge of Spanish. Trying to think a different language, I occasionally attempted to communicate verbally instead of through hand motions only to realize I was speaking French and that probably did less good than English (funny related story: while discussing the similarity in the currency symbol for the Honduran Lempira and British Pound, Luke proceeded to ask Kyle, “How many French people lived in Honduras?” to which Kyle attempted to respond to while the perplexed look on his face was trying to reason why that question had just been asked.) The people were amazing in the mountains where we were working, willing to help out in whatever way possible. It is amazing to see God at work in the heart of people around the world. I feel like the concept of composting latrines was well received although it was hard for some of the people to get past the idea that there was no water involved. While it is amazing to see how just basic engineering task can make such a difference in a community, the cultural impact is so much more significant that I had perceived. It would be easy to bring all of our technology to this country, but it would not be appropriate or accepted into the culture. Appropriation of technology for countries like Honduras is most definitely a greater task than the engineering itself.
God is great!
Friday, May 22, 2009
The Week in Review--Guatemala Team
Sam and his concrete company mixed a bunch of concrete and we made the frames for the spring box. Katie got made fun of as she used the hand saw pitifully. We prepped the ram pump site. All the community came out and dug trenches for the pipe. It has to be known, that when they dug trenches, they DUG TRENCHES. They had a ridiculous distance to cover through walls of wilderness yet if we blinked they moved several yards. They grow those Guatemalan men strong! Heidi, DeeDee and Nathan set up all the components for the filter. It rained really hard in the afternoon and Katie, John, and Stephen got caught in the rain at the ram pump and went slip-n-sliding on the mud. Go to pictures for more details. Jon, Nathan, Kevin, Alex, and Sam poured the pila platform at the clinic and got caught in the rain too. We were all a good looking group after that.
Saturday/ Day 4
Laid pipe. Lots and lots of pipe. Glued and laid pipe. Kris and Stephen worked on site A all day long. They poured the wall for site A, which didn’t look like it would hold at first but luckily through the rain it dried and held. John, Nathan, and Steve built the retaining wall for the ram pump. Nathan and Steve seemed to have several clones on the trip as they helped out with everything and seemed to be everywhere at once. Kevin was a great advisor as he helped us work out kinks and think through the layout of our design. We played the Jesus film in Ketchi at night and they LOVED it. Jon and Kevin left right before dinner to go back home a little early. Sad times, they were missed. Although we did have more room at the dinner table…
Sunday/ Day five
Pipe touch up. We filled the filters with sand, the very sand we filtered through a make shift filter…without any help from the super Guatemalan men. We built the dam at site A. We were challenged (asked) to play soccer with the Guatemalan elite team. We thought it was going to be a friendly low-key game, yet when we got to the field a mile up a mountain we realized that they were serious about their soccer or futbol. The “kids” we thought we were going to play were actually hardcore futbol players who had been training since they were little. Their matching uniforms should have told us we should be scared. Alex made two goals however, and Sam was the jam at being goalie. They gave us two Guatemalans to make it more even, but we still got our butts kicked, and all the villagers crowded around the field to watch it. Fun times. We played another video, the Hope Story for them…once again, a big hit. The Guatemalans packed that school room out.
The end was in sight as the Guatemalan missions team worked hard to finish their project. The spring box was finished and we filled the top of the spring box, although we did not put it on the spring box yet. Some of the pipe wasn’t low enough, so we had to reroute some of the pipe so that gravity could do work. That meant the Guatemalans had to dig some more trenches and watch some of their already dug trenches go unused. But they were such servants and hard workers even through the language barrier. We spent time trouble-shooting the whole system to see where water would flow and not flow. The Guatemalans laid pipe AND glued it themselves all the way to tank B, at the far end of the galaxy. We were able to pipe water to tank B which we never thought was possible. Thank God! We replayed the Jesus film because it was such a hit. They kept asking for another movie and Steve said we didn’t have any others, but they told him to replay the Jesus film again. So we did.
We troubleshot the ram pump the whole morning and rerouted some more pipe until it worked great. We decided to abandon the filters and we did some final touches. DeeDee and Dr. Patterson finished up at the pila by the road on the other side of the grid and installed the facets. Katie got to jump in the 4200 L tanks and clean the debri out. We were done by mid afternoon when DeeDee organized craft time for the kids and other villagers as Kris, Steve, and K-Pat took the water committee on a tour and explained the system to them. They explained how to work the ram pump and maintenance issues. Back at the school the rest of the team blew bubbles which entertained the kids for at least an hour. They never tired of head butting and punching the bubbles. Katie and Sam got to see one of the Guatemalans ring the neck of one of their chickens which was going to be cooked soon thereafter for our parting dinner. The dinner they made for us was quite a sacrifice on their part, however it didn’t compare to Cata’s cooking. Heidi went through all of our pictures and composed an awesome slide show. We showed the Guatemalans the pictures that had been taken of them during the trip on the projector. The kids screamed every time they recognized one of themselves. Pretty righteous.
We woke up at 4:30 in the morning. Some of the guys woke up to Dr. Patterson kicking their air mattresses. Luckily the girls woke each other up with a softer touch. It was raining as we had to carry all of our luggage and supplies down the mountain/cliff. We had to get it all down the mountain by 6 to catch the chicken bus. Thankfully some villagers showed up with their marvelous muscles and got our supplies/luggage down. Alex threw up on the chicken bus. He’s okay now, but we all felt really bad for him. John kept Katie and Stephen really warm on the bus as we were all packed in like sardines. A memorable ride. Nathan rubbed Alex’s back while he barfed. It was really sweet. We got back to the hotel pasado del san fransisco. (?) We had a quick breakfast and hot shower (which felt amazing) and then headed off to the Shampoo Shamay and we hiked through a neat cave. Then we rode in the back of a truck to one of the seven naturals of the world, Semuc Champey. We swam in the crystal clear blue pools fed by a huge waterfall. We all got seconds on cokes at lunch/dinner there, and had an amazing time relaxing after a hard week. We got back late and sang songs, prayed, and reflected on what God has done through us, to us, and what He has shown us through each other and others throughout the trip.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday Update--Guatemala Team
This blog was written last night, but it was not until today (Friday) that we got internet access!! All is well!
Greetings from Guatemala!!!!
We are all alive and well. No one is injured. Yesterday we had a warm welcome from the community. All the kids were watching at us and laughing at us right from the start. We had a ¼ mile trek up the mountain which we had to carry our suitcases and equipment. All of us were out of breath after a few steps up the muddy slopes due to the high elevation (at least that’s our excuse). The Guatemalan men on their “water committee” came and carried two of our bags at a time and had us all amazed and embarrassed. They are a lot smaller than us, but as we found out they are stronger than us. There is quite a language barrier as we have to go through Spanish to Ketchi. They cooked us lunch and killed two of their chickens to feed us. We were very grateful and honored because they share so readily with us. Later they wanted to share their music with us, so a few of the villagers played the Marimbas and drums. Then a few of us danced (mainly because DeeDee pulled us up out of our seats) and some of the women danced with us as well. Laughter is universal, especially when Americans try to dance. Jon Lee, however, whipped out some sweet swing dancing moves and impressed us all. We also had introductions and went around and said our names. We prayed together, and they read some passages out of their Ketchi Bible. It was evident even with the language barrier that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. Afterwards we did some surveying and ran across a couple issues. Our water site near the school could not be found, so we had to move down the hill a little bit. Nothing a couple of engineers couldn’t figure out. In the evening the men in the village invited us to join in one of their religious ceremonies where they would ask God to bless our work. They lit candles and read the passage of the woman at the well out of their Ketchi Bible. They burned incense and placed the candles around the spring source and prayed about the work we would be doing the next day. We all felt very privileged to witness such a ceremony.
We all had an early day today, breakfast was at 6:30. Promptly afterwards we broke up into teams and went to work. At one source, “site A”, we were able to get the ram pump working, and John did a great job with that! Meanwhile, Steven and his many helpers started on the spring box for the spring near the school. By mid morning we had a nice crowd of Guatemalans watching us crazy gringos trying to split 4 by 4’s. After lunch we flagged out a path for the pipes that will carry the water from site A to a couple level areas where we will put the filters and clean water tanks later on this week. The flags are for the Guatemalans tomorrow to go through the hillside and clear away the bushes and trees to make it easier for us to bury the pipes. Alex and Sam did a great job mixing cement and made a platform for one of the three pillas. The pillas will be used for washing clothes and dishes. Kris and a Guatemalan mixed a nice cement base at the spring near the school, and finished just as it started to rain. The first spring box was finished off, and piping was put in at the school site. Kevin was determined to get a temporary rain water catchment pipe attached to the roof of the school, and with the combined powers of John, Dr. Patterson, and Katie, they were able to get a pvc pipe attached to the edge of the roof right as the afternoon thunderstorm rolled in. The rain was a nice reason to stop our work and soon thereafter some of the guys went and showered in a waterfall down the mountain. Cata and DeeDee cooked us an amazing spaghetti dinner which we all wolfed down. I never knew spaghetti could taste so good. We’ve started to learn a few words in Ketchi thanks to Cata and Heidi. Heidi was able to get them to count to ten in English, and they tried to get Nathan and Heidi to count to ten in Ketchi but it was a lot harder for them to make the Ketchi language sounds. Mateosh means thank you, Shanshakeel means Buenos Dias, Ha means water and Sa means delicious. (The spelling is wrong but that’s what it sounds like.) Sam said Sa Ha and all the villagers laughed at him…I don’t know if it was due to his poor pronunciation or the joke. The kids are so fun, they love having their pictures taken but then they will hunt you down to look at their photograph afterwards. They think it’s hilarious to see themselves on the camera. Around 7:30 pm Jon and Christian came back from their day trip of visiting the nearby villages and seeing their needs. They were trying to get a feel for other nearby communities that could possibly need help in the future. We played some cards and made plans for the next day. We are all excited to sleep, even though we are sleeping on concrete floors. It’s only the beginning of the trip but we got a lot of work done today and hopefully tomorrow will go as smoothly and productive. Yay! <3
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Hello Everyone! Our group made it to Honduras safely and we are now in Catacamas at the Predisan Headquarters located there. Flights were smooth and our group had no difficulty getting through customs at the Tegucigalpa airport. Once we were through the health and immigration checkpoints we met our first Predisan representative, the guide Flavio, who led us to the van. Since then we've been driving farther west toward our rural building sites and the base camp CEDECO. Once we arrive there later this evening we will be using it as our our camp and commuting to the the latrine work sites. Before we arrived at the Predisan building we spent the night at a hotel a few miles from Catacamas, where we took our first Honduran showers and ate dinner. There we met a group of nursing students from Oklahoma who had been visiting the same areas we will soon visit, and we had a wonderful evening sharing stories and learning about each other. God's family is too large to grasp at times, but it's wonderful realizing just how much he is doing through others that we may never see. He is the grand designer after all and I hope that our trip can be used powerfully for him here in Honduras.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
Honduras or bust...
Glad to hear that the Guatemalan team made it safely there today. We plan to start our trek early morning to Honduras with a Continental flight out at 6:05AM. We hope to be in Catacamas, our stop for the night, by sunset. Hopefully we will be able to blog tomorrow from there. Just a reminder, no news is good news on both engineering trips. We are both going to be in remote locations where electricity is scarce, much less a starbucks hotspot! In the unlikely event of an emergency, we have contact information for everyone, and will inform you as soon as possible.
I am looking forward to leading my 7th Lipscomb engineering mission team. We covet your prayers for a safe, effective, and rewarding trip.
Team Arrives in Guatemala!
Hola familia y amigos!
We are pleased to let you know that the whole Guatemala Engineering Mission team has arrived safely in Coban, Guatemala for the evening. It has been a long day of travel, and we are ready to head to our comfy beds at the hotel. We are just an hour and a half drive from our final destination, Benitzul Ulpan, and we will head there early tomorrow morning. Thanks for all of your prayers for our safety thus far,and we ask that you continue to keep our travel safety and our physical health in your prayers. We are very eager to enter the community which we will be serving for the next week or so. While we do hope to provide clean water for them, we more importantly hope that Christ shines through us and our actions. Please continue to keep this in your prayers, as well. We are not sure whether we will be able to get an internet connection in the mountains... but if so, we will certainly be posting more throughout the coming week. If not, please remember that no news is good news. Thank you so much for your love and support…
Dios te bendiga
Saturday, May 17, 2008
A Little Bad News from Honduras...
A lot of smog! Sorry family, friends, and loved ones, our flight out of Tegucigalpa has been cancelled due to excess haze conditions today. We have scheduled a flight for tomorrow, same time and flight, but twenty-four hours later. We love you all and are trying to get home! Please pass the word along to other friends and family! Hope to see you soon.
Friday, May 16, 2008
16 de Mayo (We come home tomorrow!)
This is Greg and JD again. The past few days have been very productive. The computer team completed the lab, so far the team has surveyed 6 fields and are surveying 3 more today. Yesterday we went through the jungle on a scouting trip to find a new place for a swinging bridge for next year and found a very promising location and took lots of data(we were only a mile from Nicaragua). We met with the villagers, who gave us lots of good information and bought us some watermelon( which Jarrod said is the kind of thing that you give up a good night of diarrhea for). the radio team finished their project by setting up their last base station at the mission lazarus office in choluteca. We also met with the village carpenter who gave a gift from his homemade lathe. While the Guatemala team has been sleeping the day away in Antigua we have been working hard up to the last minute and are tired and ready to come home. We will be leaving mission lazarus at 8:00 am our time tomorrow and fly from teguc at 1:45 pm. Its been a great trip and we cant wait to come home and see everyone.