May 20, 2020
[ˈmerəˌTHän] “a long-lasting or difficult task or operation of a specified kind.” May well describe my first adventure into international missions. For some time, I had considered traveling abroad especially after serving on many mission teams in the continental states over the years, but this could be the coup de gras for me. Resilient yet fearful… not of the tropical heat, malaria, strange intestinal torturing cuisines or even extreme manual labor… simply put, I have a fear of flying. This journey would mark my return into an Aluminum Condor for the first time after a long, long hiatus. Experience and reason taught me that facing our fears can end in the way… curiosity cured the cat. I will not go any further into the lucid details of a near death experience, but it all ties into the story of our second journey into the land of milk and honey… I love Valium, a wonderful soother of the soul.
“From first to last
The peak is never passed
Something always fires the light
That gets in your eyes
One moment’s high
And glory rolls on by
Like a streak of lightning
That flashes and fades
In the summer sky”
Power Windows, 1985, Peart
Day 1 Year 2 began with the elusive caravan that consisted of packing the transportation units with everything needed to sustain life for the next two weeks. Along with our necessities, we also brought several cases of Federation Contraband that Jefe was duped into muleing for them… toothpaste, clothes etc… all discrete items and innocent for the most part. Passing thru Check Point Charlie there were no issues with the excessive items claimed.
We met up with a team of four people from the Primary Federation zone in Atlanta, Jeff, his daughter and her friend and Uncle Samwell the rooster. We exchanged a brief salutation and loaded up to Honduras… My valium was still in effect, no need to take another one currently. Arriving in Honduras later that morning we passed through the customs portion without issue. Their process of baggage claim was much different than in any airport. These dudes would come up asking “How many bags”? In Spanish of course… none of us could understand anything they said. But it was not the first time they had dealt with a group of Green-gos. In a timely manner they had consumed all our baggage from the belly of the beast to present to the security station at the exit of the terminal… It was about that point it all went awry!
My bag was being torn down and scrutinized like a post-race NASCAR inspection, but off to my right Jefe’s extra ‘Cases’ had drawn quite a stir among the guards. The toothpaste was the primary focal point… Apparently the officials did not take kind to him bringing ‘out of date’ gifts into the country! Through some whining and whimpering, Jefe was able to claim the crates of contraband and proceed past go, collected $200 and did not go directly to jail or the ‘Darkroom’, which will be a topic of discussion in later blog post.
Passing thru the exits a blast of super-heated humidified air hit my face causing me to gasp as if I had been sucker punched in the thorax. Catching my breath and wiping the sweat off my brow I was greeted by Daniela, Maynor and Mario for the first time (ore on that trio later). Loading all the luggage, bags and contraband into a small truck and stuffing 18 or 19 people into a small van for the trek to our accommodation for the next couple of weeks… welcome to Honduras. Settling into the Federation compound after an eventful 2-hour journey, I surmised… It was just plain hot! I tried to take a nap and recoup from the Condor flight along with the sleepless night prior… no way that will be possible while laying in a puddle of my own sweat. The starters pistol has fired, and the marathon had begun… “What a long strange trip it’s been”
On the second day the team divided up for two separate projects: Team A consisting of Jefe, Jeff, Daniela, Maynor, Samwell, Alex, Jared and Team Akien & Hurtin’ worked on a local school kitchen. Team B consisting of Marco, Mater, Stanley, Jennifer, Brad, Lorie, Dane, Aaron and Rigo worked on Gloria’s home building a new indoor bathroom. Not going to spend much time and word on recounting all the details of the work performed, (much of which was recorded On the Federation’s now defunct blog site) but in the virtual realm I want to recount some memories that shaped and affected me on that first marathon.
One of the fondest memories from that trip was the day that Lorie, B-Rad the Former Blogmaster’s sister, was working with my team on Gloria’s home and some local kids stopped by peddling funnel cakes for a little extra scratch. The deal was done, and a price agreed upon… Lorie paid them and brought her score to the rest of us to share… if we dare. “How much did you pay for that Lorie?” “16 Lamas.” The crowd went wild and the rest is history. Her Honduran team name was cast in stone for evermore… LAMA!
The second memory was that one day while laying block for the new bathroom at Gloria’s home, I was standing or perched perilously high in the air on the Death trap 3000 scaffolding system that we had constructed from a 55 gallon drum, some rotten planks and a listing stack of blocks. I was sipping some cool water… like the Matrix, I imaged it was cool, more like 100 degrees from the scorching sun… I looked down as Aaron, Dane and B-Rad were mixing the ingredients for cement on the ground. I noticed that as the water was added… and the more they mixed it… it looked like a very large ‘Cow Chip’. Of course being that this is a Christian trip you could not call it what it was, ‘A Pile of **** ‘ so my inquisitive mind set to work on finding another vernacular composition that would be less derogatory to the blog vetters of Federation perspective… ‘Mook’ was born on that sweltering afternoon in Gloria’s front yard. After we returned from that trip, Jefe received several questions from the Federation command inquiring what is this word ‘Mook’ they are using in the Blog? They had researched its meaning and thought we were referring to the natives as Slaves. That it was not, nor was it ever intended to be anything other thing other than an ‘Easter Egg’ in the blog post.
Finally, one of the events that forever changed my thoughts, perspective, and heart on that first marathon was one day while we were traveling in the auto bus. I do not remember the destination, because it was meaningless then and still now… the marathon is not about where you go, but what shapes you take along the journey. That day I saw a small girl on the roadside… She may have been or looked to be only 3-4 years old. She was digging through a pile of trash… looking for something… A plastic bottle to recycle? Was it an article of clothing to wear? No, she was looking for something to eat! I saw her pull out, what looked to be a chicken bone and clean the rest of the meat from it… A cerebral moment… what could I even have to complain about in my life? Literally from that moment, a God moment! He used it to change me… that I may be a bigger instrument of change for the world in His name, even if that is only one brick, block, or nail at a time. That moment has not only driven me to return to Honduras for the past nine years, and by His will many more in the future… misty eyed now, gotta go.
Marco Francisco Valle Valle