Thursday, January 14, 2016

Coffee harvest extravaganza

More than two hundred people braved rain to come out for an event that they would not be paid for – several hours of hard work.

No, it wasn’t a group from the US coming to help the "poor" Hondurans. The workers were Hondurans - accustomed to hard work in coffee fields.

Saúl carrying a sack filled with coffee berries
It was a Dulce Nombre parish event – picking coffee in the two manzana (about 3.36 acres) parish coffee field in Plan Grande.

The upper part of the field
The field is a gift – one manzana was given by a former mayor (who also helps the parish remove the pulp from the coffee berries with his de-pulping facility); another manzana was bought by the parish with a donation from its sister-parish, St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Ames, Iowa. This year was the first harvest.

They came from several villages in the parish and even two sisters from Dulce Nombre. There were young people and even a few older guys (like me). The idea is to help the parish earn money for its ministries.

The day began in cold and rain. My shirt and pants were soaked within an hour. But the sun came out and it was a gorgeous warm day – perfect for harvesting coffee.

Coffee harvesting is hard work – especially when the coffee bushes are young and most people have to stoop to gather the berries. But this harvest was made a little easier because most of the bushes were very well laden with berries.

I spent a few hours picking, but only ended up with the equivalent of one five-gallon bucket. Others gathered several during the same time period. The young man I sponsored for confirmation picked five five-gallon buckets in the morning.

Yery hard at work
The parish, with the help of a number of women, did provide for a lunch.

Getting ready to distribute lunch
Enjoying lunch
these young workers earned their lunch - beans, rice, and tortillas

As people continued picking, several of us measured the berries and put them in sacks that contained about twenty-five gallons of berries. Our pastor, Padre German, helped.

Padre German and Carlos measuring the berries
Then two cars took the berries to the place where the pulp would be removed from the berries.

The de-pulping facility
Pouring the bags into the tank.
Coffee beans after the pulp was removed
About one hundred and fifty-three sacks of coffee beans were taken to the de-pulper over the course of the day and early evening. Each sack contains 5 galones (actually a galon is a five gallon bucket). So we picked about 3,825 gallons of coffee berries; if each gallon weighs 25 pounds that means about 95,625 pounds of coffee berries.

I transported about half of them in my pick-up to the de-pulper in seven trips. Luckily the trip takes less than ten minutes.

I'll need to get the suspension checked soon.
Most of the people were transported back to their villages in the late afternoon. But seven young men who had helped in loading and unloading the cars stayed around until the de-pulping was finished - at midnight!

I was glad to be part of this parish event. Even though I didn’t pick much coffee and let the young guys load and unload the 125-plus pound bags on and off the truck, it was important to be there, working with the people, encouraging them, fooling around with the kids and joking with the young guys – being present.

This is an important part of my ministry here – being present in joys and sorrows, in celebrations and work, seeing and showing the present of a loving God in our midst.

I am tired today and my face is sun-burnt, but this is what real ministry is for me.

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