Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras
On Tuesday, March 14, the seventeenth Gehlen
Catholic Mission Honduras student mission team participated in the send-off
prayer service in the Jason Puetz Memorial Gym. This year’s theme “Stand in the
Light” shone through all the activities of the prayer service. Morgan Whitehead
and Joscelyn Schipper, both participants with the 2015 team, spoke about what
the mission trips meant to them and gave the missioners some tips on how to
survive a mission trip. The missioners then lit candles 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. All
missioners then received their t-shirts, crosses, and “junta” booklets from
various family members, as we said our farewells before leaving the gym.
Mission team members walked out
of the gym through the school hallways to the bus while Gehlen Catholic School
students and staff, along with family members and friends, created a human
tunnel for us 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.
Delivering gift bags
I knew would have an impact on the Honduran families, but it had an
even greater affect on me. I was able to see their houses and dirt
Not a day goes by
that I don't think of all the little Honduran kids and how they are
~ Brooke Harpenau
The 2017 Gehlen Catholic
Mission Team had the lofty goals of constructing homes for three poverty
stricken families in the Nueva Capital area of Tegucigalpa, building several
bunk beds, teaching the rosary to elementary students in the school, and
delivering as many gift bags as possible during our 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, 2015, and 2016 teams. The team worked in Honduras from March 15th
to March 24th.
Francis Seivert, Julio Rivera, and Marta Sosa, met the team at Toncontin Airport
in Tegucigalpa. Francis had been in Honduras for a few months, 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 previous trips into this area. After the transport truck was loaded with the
72 bags of materials, the team climbed onto buses and was on the way to Nueva
It bothers me that I
never really thought about the daily struggles of those living in
poverty. The best thing this trip has taught me is that, one, I am
blessed beyond belief.
~ Catherine Russell
Honduras was truly a life-changing experience for me. Not only did
it open my eye to the poverty-filled lifestyle of so many people in
our world, but it also showed me that Jesus really is present in
~ Cooper Davis
year’s mission team consisted of Carolyn Bickford (team leader), Francis Seivert,
Linda Reichle, Pat Jones, Bruce Kellen, Jeremy Sauer, Dennis Schmit, Ken Schmit,
Juan Uribe, Andi Janezich, Kevin Pratt, Jim Klein, Daniel Goergen, as
chaperones; Steph Heuertz, Deven Paulsen, Colin Wise, Thomas Holzman, Brian
Sauer, Brooke Harpenau, Kaylee Schmit, Catalina Uribe, Breanna Jurenic, Amanda
Jurenic, Madison Schroeder, Atze Atsma, Dustin Schmit, Jade Goergen, Cooper
Davis, Reanna Holton, Lucas McCarty, Brady Livermore - Gehlen Catholic High
School students; and Catherine Russell, Hannah Loutsch, Michael Koenck, and
Haley Delperdang - Remsen St. Mary’s High School students. After arriving at
Santa Teresa de Jesús School, our compound for the trip, the team settled into
our cramped quarters and prepared for our 10-day mission.
thing was seeing families digging through garbage, trying to find
food scraps or junk to use on their houses.
~ Kaylee Schmit
In one of the
poorest countries in the world, I grew very close to people that are
very different from me. I played with kids every day. They touched
my heart deeply.
~ Michael Koenck
missioner on Gehlen Catholic mission trips is responsible for his/her own costs.
To date the Gehlen and Mission Honduras programs combined have placed 872
missioners (38 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 www.thenfeedjustone.org.
For more information on Mission Honduras LeMars go to www.missionhonduraslemars.org.
I've never seen
poverty like this before, and it was hard to process because I've
grown up always having everything I needed right when I needed it.
I've never had to go without a meal like they do so often.
talked about how they saw so much poverty and what not; but for me,
I saw the happiness, love, pride, and beauty of the nation and the
~ Steph Heuertz
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 2016. With the lack of water projects around the Esquias area, and
other mitigating circumstances, it was determined four 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
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 our 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, Cinthia and Marlene. Work days
began at 6:00 – 6:30 a.m., allowing the team time to eat breakfast and finish
chores before beginning the day’s project.
I may be home, but
there will always be a part of me in Honduras, and I will never
forget the trip.
~ Thomas Holzman
Maybe the Hondurans
have a better sense of the theological virtue of hope, which is
ordered towards the next life and not this one. That may be the
greatest lesson that take away from this whole experience
missioners were divided into groups each day to undertake the various jobs in
the area. One group taught the rosary in Spanish in grade levels 3 - 5. Another
group might work on putting together gift bags of the donated products, while
another group might build bunk beds. Each day the missioners were divided into
different groups to allow each missioner to do the various jobs. 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. Once that task was completed, the student missioners took
a day to make each home “special” by brainstorming possible enhancements to each
home. Then, the students created/built those items with the help of the adult
missioners. The student missioners truly enjoyed the chance to install items
like shelves, benches, tables, and toothbrush holders into each home.
This mission team was also
given a challenge by a member of the Project Paul Team, who had just finished
their mission of home building in the same area. Our team was challenged to
perform sixty push-ups each day in order to earn $60 for each day they
accomplished that task. The money could be used in any way the team desired. The
Gehlen Mission Team agreed to take on that challenge and earned $300 that they
used to purchase groceries for the three families. They also purchased some
items that each family could use, like plastic chairs, tortilla makers, plates,
glasses, and silverware.
The love of Christ
is evident in the Hondurans' lives, which evolve around the
important things...family, friends, and the basic life essentials,
which include food, water, and shelter.
~ Linda Reichle
Here we have all
that we need and many luxuries in life, yet when we give up most of
these luxuries and spend 10 days in Honduras, we are filled with
joy. It seems our happiness comes not from what we have, but in what
we are able to do for others.
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.
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.
The most difficult
part of the trip was definitely leaving. Saying good-bye to the
families and kids that we bonded with was super hard.
I still to this day
can't explain everything we experienced to anybody. There is so much
we got to do that nobody can fully understand.
~ Hannah Loutsch
Once the homes were completed,
the missioners had a home blessing ceremony. During the ceremony the priest
blessed each home, both inside and out. The families receiving the homes took
the opportunity to thank each and every missioner for their beautiful homes. The
house keys were handed to the home owner, who signed papers of ownership while
we witnessed the signatures. As a special touch, a wooden cross that was made by
Jim Konz and signed by all missioners, was hung in the home to remind everyone
that God’s light will continue to shine in each family that received a home. Our
prayer is that the families will continue to share Christ’s light with all
The day of our departure, the
missioners were given a farewell at the morning school program. Principal
Jessica thanked the 2017 Gehlen Catholic Mission Team
and spoke to everyone about the wonderful example we had set for her students
through our hard work, our willingness to speak with them in Spanish, and the
positive role models we had set for her students. The missioners also thrilled
the school students by presenting the school with several 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.
The Hondurans showed
me that the saying "money doesn't buy happiness" is really true.
~ Deven Paulsen
When they saw us
washing our clothes, they would just stare because we had so many
clothes compared to them. They would wear the same thing, day in and
~ Haley Delperdang
Every evening of the mission trip the
missioners gather together in what is called the “junta.” The junta provides the
missioners a time to share some of the items in our personal journal, but more
importantly, it provides the missioners an opportunity to process all we are
witnessing during our 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 “Sometimes I Feel So Small / No Danger in Forgetting.” (GCMH blog
on Thursday, March 23) Seivert’s last paragraph stated:
"I can tell you this in printed words - maybe not in
person - but I feel very special when I am in the presence of children in
poverty - almost small. Almost like I am standing in the shadow of greatness -
because they, children in poverty, have caused me to be everything I am today.
Thus, I hope your relationships to the children and people of Honduras continue
to grow and flourish in all the years to come. I know you have made a huge
difference in their lives. How about you? Have they made a difference in YOURS?"
carried the statue of Mary into Honduras and presented it to Fr.
Patricio and the Santa Teresa de
School students during the mission
trip. The statue of Mary was carved & donated by Jerry Traufler.
2017 mission team more than met the goals of our mission trip. From working
diligently on our 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 our 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 our
It has become customary for the
missioners to return home with only the clothes on our backs. Team members
sorted through all 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 our clothing, but our 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.
When people ask me
what it was like, it is hard to put into words. This is something
that needs to be experienced; it cannot be explained.
We stand in Jesus'
light with open eyes and truly understand that when we left on a
mission trip, our ten-day mission was only the beginning of a life
physically exhausted missioners returned home to our families’ welcome at the
Omaha airport late on March 24. Though all missioners were happy to be home,
every single person shared his/her wonderful mission experience with all who
would listen. This year’s theme “Stand in the Light” was shown by all missioners
as we lived our mission journey in Honduras. Each day we stood in God’s light as
we worked and played among the Hondurans. We stood in God’s light as we prayed
the rosary with the elementary students. We stood in God’s light as our lives
were changed through our mission work. Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras
‘Changing Lives’ – was proven by every missioner!
I suspect that some of you have begun to change your viewpoint about
the world and different people within it - and that's good. I hope
you will protect your memories of this mission with care. Let them
teach and make you feel things you normally do not learn and sense.
Cry if you want to but tell your stories, don't just put them off on
the side - rather, let them out and give them a chance to make a
difference in who you become, but also a difference in others' lives
as well. Let them flow throughout your thoughts and deeds each and
every day from this moment on.
~ Richard Seivert, written in his message to the
2017 Gehlen Mission Team and read to the missioners at the final
"junta" on Thursday evening, March 23
Click above to browse the March 2017 Trip Photo Album...
Listen with your
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