I Can't Explain It [Honduras]

By: Jenni Patnode

January 3, 2017

My husband and I recently went to Honduras with a group from our church to drill a well in a community that didn’t have running water.  Upon returning home from our trip, everyone’s first question was: “How was your trip?”  the second question, “Did you get them clean water?”

While these two questions seem like they should be easy ones to answer, they aren’t.  These two questions can set me in to a whirlwind of emotions, tears streaming down my cheeks in an instant, a lump in my throat, an ache in my heart, and a dazed look on my face.  Usually, the only words I can spit out sound something like, “our trip was good….” and “yes, we were able to give them clean water.”

I don’t know how to explain to someone in a quick conversation the sounds and smells of the bus we road in.  I can’t explain the sound of different conversations all taking place on this bus.  People laughing, people crying, people sharing their life stories with each other.  Conversations about God, faith, not feeling like we are enough sometimes, the laughter of memories from the day, and the singing.  Sounds of worship music loudly sung in the back of the bus, each day, praising God, worshiping him, and in our own little world.  Bonding through music.  Words.  Laughter.  Tears.  I can’t explain that in a simple conversation.  And I can’t explain how much I MISS that bus.  How I long to be sitting on it with my team.  How my heart aches to be back in that time and place.

The sights.  I don’t know how to describe the countryside of Honduras if you have never seen it up close.  Your eyes at first want to fixate on what is directly in front of you.  Families riding on a bike, while the dad pedals them through the countryside.  Women washing their laundry in the river.  Clothes hung out to dry between each house.  Chickens and pigs wandering through the yards.  Old buildings, with cracks and tin roofs that you know are the houses to the large families that live there.  Kids playing outside with no shoes, or playing in the streets.  The colors of the houses, some bright and some dark.  The telephone lines crossed with wires hanging everywhere.  Fruit stands with large bags of oranges for sale.  Poverty.  Beauty.  All mixed together to create the landscape.  Your mind wanders to the families in these houses.  What their lives are like.  What the children are like.  Who they are, and how they provide for themselves, or if they can.  Your eyes are fixated on these things as you drive by.  And then your eyes see the mountains in the background.  The array of banana trees, and fields of pineapples.  You see the beauty of the sunset over the dry desert areas, and the jungle in the background.  Waterfalls coming out of the mountains, and you wonder if people live in those far-off distances.  All these things, coming together to create this place you never imagined in your wildest dreams and yet, here you are, part of it.  Emerged in the culture.  I can’t explain quickly how my heart aches to be emerged back in to that culture.  How it became a part of me.

I don’t know how to explain the people.  I can’t explain in one conversation the people I met.  The beautiful strong women who walked to the river every day to get dirty water to be able to provide for their families.  I can’t explain the beauty in their eyes, that held their stories.  The type of women they were, strong and faithful.  Hardworking without complaint.  Simple and beautiful all at the same time.  I can’t explain their stories to you in one conversation.  What they have been through, what they have seen.  The heartaches they have felt that we can’t even begin to imagine and the ways they don’t feel they are good enough sometimes  – sometimes the same feelings I have.  The same things I question about myself.  I can’t explain the bond we shared with these women in an instant.  Even though we didn’t speak the same language.  I can’t explain the pure sounds of laughter coming from my gut as I tried to make tortillas in Maria’s kitchen that hot day.  The heat pouring off the fire on her stove.  The smells.  I don’t know how to explain in one sentence the lessons I learned from these women.  And how my heart aches to see them again.  It aches to hold them in my arms and tell them that they are enough.  How I ache to sit under a shade tree in their yard and learn more about their stories.  To share the gospel with them.  To learn about God’s love with them.  To pray with them.  Two languages yelling out to God in hope, love, praise, desperation and tears.  I don’t know how to explain that in a quick conversation.

I don’t know how to explain their homes.  I don’t know how to tell someone how I feel when I come home to my own house, overwhelmed with all of my stuff and guilty for these things I don’t really need.  I don’t know how to explain the sadness I feel sometimes living in a society where we think we need more and more things to fill the emptiness in our lives, and yet, the people in that village, who had so little, just prayed for clean water.  I don’t know how to explain the feeling I have every time I turn on my shower, and hot water runs over me, and how I am SO thankful for that, each time.  How the things I worry about seem so small and insignificant compared to third world problems.

I don’t know how to explain their children.  How they were happy with just two colors and a sheet torn out of a book.  How they sat for hours playing with a ball; the sound of their laughter while they chased bubbles we had blown.  I can’t explain in one conversation the joy in their eyes, the dirt on their faces, and the pure love they had.  I can’t explain how I saw Jesus in each one of them.

I don’t know how to explain the Living Water staff to people.  To see others living out their purpose for God.  To see people worship God, trust in him to provide, and host us every day.  They were so worn out each day, giving us everything they had, and still at the end of the day, they gave more.  The way they prayed, the songs in their hearts that sang out loud and clear.  The way they showed love to the people in the communities and to us each day.  I have never met such Godly people in my entire life.  Ever.  And I don’t know how to explain that to someone who has never met them.  I don’t know how to explain that in a quick conversation about how our trip was.  I don’t know how to explain that they became part of my family in one week’s time, and how I miss them.

And, I don’t know how to explain what happens when you return home.  The exhaustion you feel, the joy you feel, the sadness you feel, the love of Jesus you feel, the struggle with darkness you feel—all of it mixed into one body, at the same time.  An overwhelming feeling that you can’t explain.  How you miss your team every day.  It is hard to be away from them.  These people you barely knew before, and then after spending a week with them in Honduras, they may be the only ones who you are able to talk to about it.  They become this part of your life forever woven in to who you are.  And you miss them.  Every day.  You miss Honduras, you miss the people, you consider somedays just leaving behind your home here and moving your family there.  You want to change your life.  You want to change your job.  You want to make significant changes, because you are afraid that those feelings you had while in Honduras are feelings you will never get back again if you don’t change something.  You make plans for your next mission trip before you have even unpacked your bags, knowing that this is part of your life and who you are.  And you can’t explain all of that in a simple conversation.

All those things, just to answer the question, “How was your trip?”

Then, the next question is, “Did you get water?”

“Oh yes, we drilled the well.  They have clean water.  But it wasn’t about the water.”

You manage to sputter that answer out, and it seems a little crazy, since the whole point of the mission trip was to drill a well, right?

I can’t explain to you what it feels like to watch clean water coming out of the Living Water well, as the children all crowd around, laughing at the coldness and clearness of clean water that they have never seen before.  I can’t explain to you the tears of joy that appear on the faces of the women, knowing they won’t have to walk far distances to the river for dirty water.  The water was the tool.  The water was what they needed.  Jesus gave them water, but Jesus gave all of us the Living Water.  His love.  Reminding us that with him, we will not thirst.  I don’t know how to explain that feeling when someone asks if we were able to bring them water.  Because so much more was brought to that community by Jesus.  I can’t explain how, each time I look at the picture of the well we drilled, I see Jesus standing right next to the handle of the pump.  Smiling.  Knowing what happened there in that community in Honduras.

So, how was our trip?  It was good.  Were we successful bringing water to the village?  Yes.

 

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