March 2016 Group
We Walk By Faith  


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Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras

Changing Lives

2016 Journey

On Tuesday, March 8, the sixteenth Gehlen Catholic student mission team participated in the send-off prayer service in the Ronald Fox Memorial Gym. The theme “We Walk By Faith” was apparent during all the activities of the prayer service. Bruce Kellen, a participant with the 2016 team and several others, spoke about what the mission trips have meant to him and his family. Each missioner lit a candle as the Christian Leadership Team members read aloud the reason each missioner was lighting his/her candle and why he/she wanted to participate in the mission trip. They then received their t-shirts, crosses, and “junta” booklets from various family members, as all said their farewells before leaving the gym.

Just because we are born in the U.S., we are privileged in ways that the Hondurans can only dream about. I know that I will go back to Honduras one day, and I cannot wait until that day comes.
                                       ~ Josie Galles
The Hondurans, whom I have felt bad for and have heard about for years, are not just people anymore; they have faces, names and personalities, and most of all, they are people I will never forget.
                                            ~ Krayton Schnepf

Mission team members walked down memory lane from the gym to the bus while Gehlen Catholic School students and staff, along with family members and friends, created a human tunnel for them to traverse. Each person was encouraged to touch the bags the missioners carried to signify that a part of them would travel with the missioners into Honduras.

The 2016 Gehlen Catholic Mission Team had the lofty goals of constructing homes for three poverty stricken families in the Nueva Capital area of Tegucigalpa, building thirteen bunk beds, teaching in the school, and delivering and many gift bags as possible during their stay in Nueva Capital. Nueva Capital is mainly comprised of families who had to move to higher ground when Hurricane Mitch destroyed their homes in 1998. We believe approximately 125,000 people live in the Nueva Capital area. Due to the unavailability of water projects in the area to which we’d previously traveled, this year’s Gehlen Catholic Mission team focused on construction, similar to the 2014 and 2015 teams. The team worked in Honduras from March 9th to March 18th.

The Honduran people taught me that nothing is ever as bad as we make it out to be in the U.S., as our problems are minimal compared to what they live with every day.
                                         ~ Brady Harpenau
I can undoubtedly say that part of my heart is still in Honduras. I have never met a more kind-hearted, gracious, loving people.
                                          ~ Carly Bunkers

Francis Seivert, Julio Rivera, Marta Sosa, and Carlos Chicas met the team at Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa. Francis had been in Honduras since early January 2016, preparing for the team’s arrival, as well as working with various children who have medical problems. Julio Rivera accompanies Francis throughout Honduras and is a long-time friend of Mission Honduras LeMars, Gehlen Mission Honduras, and Then Feed Just One. Marta Sosa, a member of the Cerro de Plata Foundation in Tegucigalpa, handles the distribution of Then Feed Just One food in Honduras. She also helped in the planning for this year’s Gehlen Mission trip, as well as the 2014 and 2015 trips. This group quickly had the team loaded onto buses and on the way to Nueva Capital.

This year’s mission team consisted of Carolyn Bickford (team leader), Francis Seivert, Linda Reichle, Dave Klein, Janet Klein, Fr. Doug Klein, Pat Jones, Bruce Kellen, Joe Kessenich, Cindy Harpenau, Phil Hubert, Tom Kellen, Deb Loutsch, Scott Wilson, Mike McCarty, Pat Zenk, DJ Loutsch, Keaton Bohnenkamp, Evan Budden, Carly Bunkers, Roman Freking, Josie Galles, Brady Harpenau, Meghan Heying, Dylan Hubert, Megan Kellen, Jill Kessenich, Carson Kneip, Andrew Kordick, Megan McCarty, Sydney Peters, Krayton Schnepf, Paris Schroeder, Joe Schuch, Brayton Thoms-Wilson, Chandler Willett, and Jason Zenk. After arriving at Santa Teresa de Jesús School, their compound for the trip, the team settled into their cramped quarters and readied themselves for their 10-day mission.

Each missioner on all Gehlen Catholic mission trips is responsible for all his/her own costs. To date the Gehlen and Mission Honduras program combined have placed 831 missioners (37 different teams) on the ground in the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Five other mission programs have been created from Gehlen Mission Honduras - the Briar Cliff University program in Sioux City, IA; the Sisters of St. Francis, from Dubuque, IA; the high school mission teams from Springfield Catholic High in Springfield, MO, St. Thomas More High School, Rapid City, SD; and Bishop Heelan High School, Sioux City, IA. The Gehlen program, along with the Briar Cliff, the Sister Water Project, Mission Honduras LeMars, and Rotary For Life Water Project, have completed 41 water projects to date and sent ten full scale medical brigades over the years. Clean drinkable water, Then Feed Just One food, home building, and professional medical care, remain the major goals of the Gehlen Catholic / Mission Honduras program. For more information on the medical program please visit this same website for the January medical trips. For more information on Then Feed Just One please visit For more information on Mission Honduras LeMars go to

Because there is much preparation that needs to be completed before the team travels into Honduras, planning for this year’s mission team began during the summer of 2015. With the lack of water projects around the Esquias area, and other mitigating circumstances, it was determined three years ago the team would take a new direction, focusing on relocating to Nueva Capital. Marta Sosa of the Cerro de Plata Foundation, in conjunction with ACOES located three extremely poor families in the Nueva Capital area of Tegucigalpa who desperately needed homes. Planning then began to prepare the team in the task of the home constructions.

My first eye-opener was the drive to our compound. It left me speechless; the surroundings cannot be explained. These people are living in the worst conditions, and I wouldn't even call them houses.
                                           ~ Carson Kneip
To the Honduran people, the Gehlen Mission Honduras Team was a dream come true, and our friendships meant a lot to them, as well as the knowledge that someone cares and continues to care about them.
                                ~ Linda Reichle

The team “lived” at the school, using classrooms as dormitory rooms. Supplies - such as paint, construction tools, painting supplies, generators - that the team used were stored inside their dorm rooms also. Missioners slept on mattresses that were placed on the floors in the classrooms. The team used the library for meals, which were prepared each day by the hired cooks, Marta and Karen. Work days began at 5:30 – 6:00 a.m., allowing the team time to eat breakfast and finish their chores before beginning the day’s project.

The missioners were divided into groups each day to undertake the various jobs in the area. One group taught a few songs in English and Spanish that included gestures to students in various grade levels. The songs would be performed at the all school assembly at the end of the mission trip.  Each day the missioners were divided into different groups to allow each missioner to do the various jobs. The missioners also built twenty (more than their planned 13) bunk beds for families in the area. After the homes were built, the missioners and families painted the outside and inside of each home and installed the wiring, even if the family did not have access to electricity presently.

Longingly, I have waited to take a trip like this. It is hard to believe it is over. Then it hit me...God calls us to live out the life of a missionary every day.
                                ~ Mike McCarty
Surrounded by the children at the school, we overlook the pain and suffering of the Honduran women. What would it be like to have to worry about providing just the basic necessities of life for another human being? What would it be like to hear the screams of a hungry child? What would it be like to have no hope?
                                          ~ Pat Jones

Often the principal of Santa Teresa will ask the missioners to undertake other jobs around the compound that will help the students. This year’s team undertook the daunting task of building a garden above ground where the students could grow some vegetables for their own meals. The missioners first had to clear the large rocks from the chosen area. The garden area was then lined with boards that would hold the soil in place above the rocky ground. Missioners wheeled the purchased soil to the garden area in the back of the school grounds. The soil was then shoveled into place until three raised garden beds had been created. Finally, old pallets were used to build a fence, complete with a swinging gate, around the garden to keep out various animals and playing students. The 2016 mission team hopes that the students will soon enjoy the vegetables that will be grown in their garden.

One special day the missioners traveled into Tegucigalpa to visit Don de Maria's Children’s Center. At this home malnourished young children are fed nutritious meals until they are able to return to their own families or are adopted. The sisters also have a couple young mothers who live there with their babies so Saint Mother Teresa of Kolcata's Sisters of Charity can teach them how to be proper mothers. The missioners were able to feed the children their noon meal of rice and beans and were given time to play and hold the little children. They were also able to visit the area of the home that houses the elderly. These elderly Hondurans are taken care of by the sisters so they can live their last few weeks or months with dignity.

Not a day goes by that I don't think of the relationships that I have formed with the people of Honduras. The mission trip was a powerful learning experience for us all.
                                          ~ Roman Freking
One of the things I learned while on this mission trip is how valuable education is and how spoiled I am in my education at Gehlen.
                                     ~ Sydney Peters

The overall Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras ‘Changing Lives’ program has three main goals for each mission journey into Honduras: to do a work project of some kind, to immerse themselves into normal Honduras life, and to experience the poverty that grips so much of this beautiful country and people.

When the missioners delivered the gift bags to the homes of the Santa Teresa school children, the poverty was quite apparent to all. The families receiving the gift bags smiled as the missioners unpacked soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, toys, clothes, and shoes. Even the bag the items were delivered in was considered a gift to the family. Seeing the dirt floors and walls of worn boards with gaps between them, truly gave the missioners an eye-opening look at the reality in which the Honduran children live each day. The formidable walks the children undertake in the early morning hours to get to school by 7 a.m. showed how important their education is to them.

After we returned home people asked if I felt changed. I don't know how a person can't be changed there. I truly don't, and I'm not sure I want to know the person who isn't changed by what we saw.
                                   ~ Tom Kellen
An emotion I had not prepared myself for was the extreme guilt I felt on our bus ride to the airport. Looking out the windows at the extreme poverty we were leaving and comparing the living conditions to what I knew was waiting for me at home was heart-wrenching.
                                       ~ Cindy Harpenau

A few days before their departure, the missioners had a special farewell program with the afternoon students (700) of Santa Theresa de Jesús School. All of the students and missioners sang and performed the songs that had been taught in the classrooms by the missioners. The older students also entertained everyone by singing a song in English for the missioners. Principal Jessica thanked the 2016 Gehlen Catholic Mission Team and spoke to everyone about the wonderful example they had set for her students through their hard work, their willingness to speak with them in Spanish, and the positive role models they set for her students. Principal Jessica presented the team with a beautiful plaque to show their gratitude. The missioners also thrilled the school students by presenting the school with more than twenty soccer balls. These soccer balls were donated by One World Play Project, whose goal is to donate soccer balls to groups living in poor areas around the world.

Every evening of the mission trip the missioners gather together in what is called the “junta.” The junta provides the missioners to share some of the items in their personal journal, but more importantly, it provides the missioners an opportunity to process all they are witnessing during their mission trip. Often emotional, none was more emotional than the final junta the night before the missioners left. At the end of the meeting, Carolyn Bickford shared a message with the team from Director Richard Seivert titled “The Concrete Faces of People.” (GCMH blog on Friday, March 18.) Seivert encouraged the missioners to “Let the images of this experience of poverty you see inside your head tonight, and in the weeks and months to come, become concrete in your heart. Then you will know you have changed.”

The Honduran people touched my heart in ways that I could never have imagined. If given the opportunity, I would go back to Honduras in a heartbeat.
                                ~ Megan Kellen

One family who received help and a place to live last year showed up one night and, through their tears, personally thanked each and every one of us and told us to thank the people who came last year for their service.
                                           ~ Joe Kessenich

The 2016 mission team more than met the goals of their mission trip. From working diligently on their chosen work projects, to playing with the children, to participating in liturgies, the team received the opportunity to see what Honduran life is like. From hand washing their own clothes in the pila, doing daily chores, and taking one-minute cold showers, our missioners experienced a little of what life is like for a person in Honduras. The missioners worked hard at using their Spanish, and many students were happy to be able to carry on a conversation with someone in Honduras. Many friendships were forged. Not a single team member was ready to return to the States when the final day of their trip arrived.

It has become customary for the missioners to return home with only the clothes on their backs. Team members sorted through all their personal belongings and stacked them in a designated area in the library. These items will be taken by the ladies and men of Nueva Capital, washed, and distributed among those who are the neediest. Team members leave not only their clothing, but their shoes, flashlights, sunglasses, and other items. That alone says a great deal about the quality of young people with whom we deal on our mission teams.

Let the images of this experience of poverty you see inside your head tonight, and in the weeks and months to come, become concrete in your heart. Then you will know you have changed. It's okay to cry. It's okay to pray for those you are leaving. It's okay to express yourself in all your feelings, and it's even okay to be angry with the lottery of birth they find themselves in. It's okay, it really is. And pray, pray like crazy that things will change. And please, don't wait for others to do it - you have now experienced poverty in this world - change could and might BE YOU.

                               ~ excerpt from Richard Seivert's final message to the mission team

The physically exhausted missioners returned home to their families’ welcome at the Omaha airport late on March 18. Though all missioners were happy to be home, every single person shared their wonderful mission experience with all who would listen. This year’s theme “We Walk By Faith” was shown by all missioners as they lived their mission journey in Honduras. Each day they let Jesus shine through them as they worked and played among the Hondurans. They let Jesus shine through as they served food and played with the children of Saint Mother Teresa’s Don de Maria's Children’s Center. They let Jesus shine through as their lives were changed through their mission work. Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras ‘Changing Lives’ – is proven by every missioner!

Click above to browse the March 2016 Trip Photo Album...


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