March 2005 Trip

Kara Krienert with a young girl from the orphanage
Carolyn Bickford, junior high teacher at Gehlen and one of the adult chaperones on the team commented, “My life will never be the same. It is impossible to visit Honduras and return as the same person."  


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Mission Honduras Student Trip
March 16th – March 27th

Planning for the annual Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras ‘Changing Lives’ student trip to El Guante, Honduras, F.M., C.A., began in earnest in the fall of 2004. The result was a remarkable trip comprised of 19 high school students from four different high schools and five adult chaperones. (Click here to view the Photo Album.) Accepted for this year’s team were 16 students from Gehlen Catholic; Jill Vonnahme, Megan Ruhland, Kristen Langel, Samantha Floy, Kara Krienert, Devin Sitzmann, Stacie Freking, Hilary Stinton, Katie Kolbeck, Tera Vaske, Joe Wells, Melissa Langel, Jacinta Ruhland, Amanda Oetken, Leah Kluemper, and Brandon Langel, one from Le Mars Community High School: Jonalee Jackes; one from Bishop Heelan Catholic in Sioux City, IA: Elizabeth Anderson; and one from Xavier in Cedar Rapids, IA: Christin Tomy. The five chaperones were Chris Kluemper, Mike Ruhland, and Carolyn Bickford, all of Le Mars, IA, Lise Freking of Inver Grove Heights, MN, and Francis Seivert, Elkton, SD. Making the trip for the last three days was Richard E. Seivert, Mission Honduras Director. This year’s trip was the eleventh trip into Honduras sponsored by Gehlen Catholic and the sixth student trip (four of the others were medical teams and one was a college team from Briar Cliff College in Sioux City, IA). All of Gehlen’s trips go to El Guante, Honduras, a small village community north of the capital city of Tegucigalpa, to the Mission Church of San Rafael, administered by Sister Val Knoche and Sister Barb Zimmer, both Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters out of Monroe, Michigan. Sister Val has been in Honduras 33 years and Sister Barb 23 years.

"I send you out..."

Fr. Kevin Richter blesses the bags & their contents at the send-off prayer service

                 ~ GOD

Students add Spanish books to the bags during the send-off

It is not how much we do,
but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give,
but how much love we put in the giving.

                     ~ Mother Teresa

This year’s trip, the largest student trip to date, packed for their mission trip on Sunday, March 13th, overnighted in Omaha, Nebraska, on Wednesday night March 16th and left for Honduras Thursday morning March 17th, carrying 48 bags full of clothes, shoes, medicines, glasses, and toys. The team landed safely in Tegucigalpa Thursday, March 17th and quickly made their way, by bus, to El Guante, about an hour and a half away from where they would begin the most amazing experience of their young lives. Carolyn Bickford, junior high teacher at Gehlen and one of the adult chaperones on the team, commented, “My life will never be the same. It is impossible to visit Honduras and return as the same person. My heart was touched in so many ways in such a short time. One special moment that really touched me was when we stopped to visit the family of a blind four-year-old child with spina bifida. The family all came out to greet us, bringing out chairs for everyone to sit and visit. Mr. Seivert told the young boy’s mother that a wheelchair (paid for by Mission Honduras LeMars funds) would soon be there to make it easier to transport her child. This small gesture will make life a little easier for the entire family. How lucky I felt just to witness it.”

Richard Seivert & Sr. Val with 4-year-old child

Unless we think of others and do something for them, we miss one of the greatest sources of happiness.
~ Ray Lyman Wilbur


Students mix cement by hand

The entire student team and chaperones went right to work on Friday, March 18th, in the village of Las Crucitas. The village church needed a fence around their entire property. A great many of the local villagers worked right with our student team. The team spent four very hot days, Friday, Saturday, Monday, and Wednesday, working on the fence, completing about half of the entire project. The temperatures in Honduras during this year’s mission trip reached the high 90’s every day.

I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

                                   ~ Philippians 4:13-14

Digging the trench for the fence

Palm Sunday procession in El Guante

On Palm Sunday, their first Sunday in Honduras, the team participated in the Palm Sunday procession right in El Guante – an amazing experience. They also visited the orphanage at ‘Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos.’ The orphanage holds approximately 800 children. At the orphanage the student team was allowed to bring toys and played for hours with the children. The students on this team admit that visiting the orphanage was one of the highlights of this year's mission trip. Richard Seivert, director of Gehlen Mission Honduras, commented that these student trips wouldn’t be the same without a visit to Nuestros Hermanos. He said the student missioners come away with a totally different outlook on the plight and conditions faced by the poor of the world – a valuable lesson learned.

Francis Seivert poses with a group of orphans

Jacinta visits with girls at the orphanage

You give but little when you give of your possessions.
It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.

~ Kahlil Gibran

On Holy Thursday evening the boys and men on this year’s team participated in an ancient ritual of the church called, ‘The Clanging of the Chains.’ All the men and boys of the village meet in the old church on the outskirts of the village late at night. They then proceed through the village, praying and clanging chains, to the church of San Rafael. This ceremony symbolized Jesus’ journey to Calvary. Of course, prior to this event they all attended Holy Thursday services. Church services were held almost every day while they were in Honduras – because the entire diocese has only one priest, a full Mass was not possible.

On Good Friday morning the team participated in the Stations of the Cross throughout the village of El Guante. Mike Ruhland, one of this year’s chaperones, played the part of Jesus as he carried the cross from house to house throughout the village. The entire team also participated in a 3:00 P.M. Good Friday service right in El Guante. On Friday evening the girls on the team, along with all the women of the village, participated in the ceremony called ‘The Weeping Widows,’ or ‘The Sorrowful Mothers.’ No men or boys are allowed during this ritual that culminates with the women walking through the village of El Guante late at night in the dark – flashlights and candlepower only. This ancient ritual symbolizes Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the pain and anguish she felt as she watched her son die on the cross.


Mike Ruhland carries the cross during Stations of the Cross on Good Friday

See God in every person, place, and thing, and all will be well in your world.
                                   ~ Louise Hay

  Students read the Passion

The team also got to participate in the Easter Vigil, Holy Saturday night, right in El Guante. All team members commented it is very special to be in Honduras throughout Holy Week. Although the work was long and hard throughout their mission, team members found time to have some Honduran fun. They got to meet a great many people in the different villages they visited and took the opportunity to play with many of the children in El Guante and the surrounding area. They played a good deal of soccer and lost every game to the younger Honduran children.

The strength of a person consists in finding out the way God is going, and going that way.

        ~ Henry Ward Beecher

The team plays a game with the children during a break

Team members share thoughts and feelings during the nightly 'junta'


Each night during their 10-day mission trip the students and chaperones came together in a moment of prayer and reflection. Led by Carolyn Bickford, the nightly discussions focused on their daily activities. Each team member found time to speak of their feelings and emotions with what they were seeing and doing.

This year’s team was also given two other very special opportunities. One such moment occurred on Holy Thursday morning when the entire student team participated in a presentation of books to the Riecken Foundation Library. The books presented to the library were purchased by the elementary students of Gehlen Catholic Elementary and carried to Honduras by this student team. All the books, written in Spanish, were promptly added to the rather small number of books currently in the library. The Riecken library opened just this past year. Gehlen Catholic Schools hopes to continue to add to this library for years to come.


Lise Freking reads to the children after books were donated to the library


The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.

                                            ~ Gandhi

Team members ask children which books they'd like to hear

“Seeing the children’s eyes light up with excitement when they saw the table full of new books was very powerful,” said Lise Freking, an adult chaperone on the team. “Education is absolutely fundamental and essential to these eager young minds. These new books will help open the doors to their futures.”

Another very special moment occurred on Thursday afternoon when the dedication of the annex took place. The annex has been added to the medical clinic, built in El Guante within the past few years, because of the growing number of Hondurans that use its services. This was very special because the annex was paid for largely by two families close to the Gehlen program; the Bickford family of Le Mars, and the Fjeldheim family of Sioux City. The annex was dedicated to the memory of Dan Bickford who died in March 2004, and to Kyler Fjeldheim, infant son of Geralynn and Lance Fjeldheim, who died in April 2004. Carolyn Bickford, wife of Dan and one of the chaperones, found the ceremony very moving. The Clinic Foundation presented a plaque to both families. Mrs. Bickford spoke concerning her late husband Dan, and Mr. Seivert thanked everyone involved with the wonderful construction and related how important this new building would be for better health care for the people in this poor area of Honduras.

Carolyn Bickford gives her husband's photo to a clinic representative

When love is your greatest weakness, you will be the strongest person in the world.

                                                ~ Garman Wold

Carolyn Bickford displays the plaque after the annex dedication

Jonalee Jackes, senior at Le Mars Community High School, commented, “Going to Honduras was an amazing experience, and it has and will continue to change the way I view things in my life. I loved the time I spent with the others on the trip and the people of Honduras.”

Jonalee poses with Gisella

Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.

          ~ 1 John 3:18


Joe takes a break with some Honduran friends

Joe Wells, senior at Gehlen Catholic High, said, “ I think that the trip to Honduras was a real eye-opening experience for all of us. It really amazed me to see how simply and yet so happily they live. I believe that Honduras has created a permanent change in the way we will look at things from now on.”

2005 Team poses on their last morning in Honduras

You really can change the world if you care enough.
                 ~ Marian Wright Edelman

Plane prepares for landing in Tegucigalpa, Honduras

The team said goodbye to the village of El Guante and Honduras on Easter Sunday morning. While most Americans were enjoying a big Easter dinner, team members were working their way back home. Most commented that no dinner could replace what they had been given. Much thanks to Sister Barb Zimmer, Sister Valerie Knoche, Tacha Alverado, David Castro, but especially all the people of Honduras that opened up their hearts to welcome this young group of North Americans from Iowa. We will never forget you, El Guante, and we will pray for you every day.

Click above to browse the March 2005 Trip Photo Album...


Click here to watch a Flash movie of the trip.

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