Saturday, May 28, 2011

How I got to Honduras

“Come over to Macedonia and help us.”
Acts 16: 9

Five years ago, after a heart-changing trip to help in the rebuilding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, I made a trip in May to El Salvador and Honduras to look at possibilities. 

I felt called to do and be more.

I had been working in campus ministry and social ministry at St. Thomas Aquinas Church and Catholic Student Center in Ames, Iowa, since 1983. I felt comfortable there and felt I was doing some good. Earlier that year my spiritual director had asked me if I’d think of just leaving St. Thomas. My immediate response was “No.”

Yet several months later I was looking into serving in Central America.

The transformative event was a service trip to New Orleans with members of St. Thomas (mostly students) to help Catholic Charities in its efforts to clean up the city and help poor families return to their homes. A student, Nathan Stein, had been pushing the student center to do something and finally we arranged this.

About the third day we were there we went to a house where we had to clean everything out. Sharon, a black grandmother in her sixties, the owner of the house, was there to greet us and to pray with us. She stood outside with some family members as we carted out her possessions, from a house where she had raised children and grandchildren.

With Sharon outside her house in New Orleans
Her resilience and her calm in the midst of what must have been heart-breaking touched me deeply.
But I also thought about all the possessions I had. What would become of all of them after my death. Could I leave them go?

Soon after returning to Ames I began to wonder whether God might be calling me somewhere else.
A good friend whom I had known since the early 1990s in Suchitoto, El Salvador, Sister Nancy Meyerhofer, was serving in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, Honduras. Her letters were touching and I asked her if she thought I could be of help in the diocese. Her response: come and talk with the bishop. I had planned a trip to El Salvador in May with the hopes of also getting to see Nancy in Honduras.

At the same time an opportunity opened in El Salvador and I applied. While visiting El Salvador I spent two days in the site in Berlin. I was later interviewed for the position and invited for an interview in El Salvador. I decided, however, to withdraw my application. Honduras called.)

I spent a few days with Nancy before talking with the visit. The Saturday I was there, before going out with Nancy to a remote village, I read the first reading from Acts 16. Paul is prevented by the Holy Spirit two times from going to two places, but he has a vision of a Macedonian who tells him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us.” It is hard not to believe that in some way God was calling me. Not to El Salvador where I knew a lot of people and where I could do much, but to Honduras which was poorer and which lacks the solidarity which El Salvador has received. 
Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos & Sister Nancy Meyerhofer
After meeting with Bishop Luis Alfonso Santos,  I returned to Ames fairly convinced that God was calling me to Honduras. It took about a year to work out details, but since June 13, 2007 I have been here, volunteering in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán, with the support of St. Thomas Aquinas Church.


When I told my spiritual director I felt called to go to Central America, she asked me, “Why?” My answer was spontaneous, from the heart, “to serve those most in need.”

I would change it a little bit now – “to be a sign of God’s Reign by being of service to those most in need.”

That’s how and why I got here.

Thanks be to God and to friends and supporters at St. Thomas and other places.

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