Welcome to Tela, Honduras!
Well, I say ‘welcome’, but you haven’t left Alabama. You are still sitting on your porch in Montgomery, sipping iced tea; or you are at the Lake and have taken a few minutes away from the boat to check emails; or you are in your car driving to Publix when you heard your phone ping with the news that ‘you’ve got mail’ from Constance. (You know you should really have stopped driving before you opened this email. Don’t crash. We need you.)
What I meant to say is that I am the one in Tela, Honduras and you aren’t. Sorry about that. In case you are wondering, the weather is exactly like Montgomery’s right now. The view as I write this letter, however, is a bit different. My hotel room looks out over 50 yards of pebble-free, palm-tree-speckled sand to the lively Caribbean Sea, which is being stirred by the onshore breeze like a giant teaspoon in a vast mug of coffee.
It’s early Sunday morning, and the sun has awoken this disarming seaside town. As I write, I’m watch traders setting up their stalls on the beach. Some are placing brightly colored bottles on their tables, filled with exotic-looking drinks. Others are hanging shirts and skirts on rails, while others are gently removing trinkets of all colors and shapes from boxes, anticipating the stream of tourists who will have their eyes caught and their heads turned by their sparkling glory.
There’s a calm in the air, befitting a beach town wiping the sleep from its eyes. The traders smile. There is no sense of hurry or urgency about them. Watching their demeanor and their interactions you could be forgiven for thinking they were part of the community of tourists who have swelled the population of Tela, not the workforce that is dedicated to serving them. But they are not on holiday. This is their job, their livelihood. If they fail to sell their goods today, they will suffer, and so will their families.
I am full of admiration. I’m awed. How are these traders able to smile, joke, and look so free of stress when their lives depend on their performance today? I don’t get it. It makes me realize the vast gulf between those of us in the developed world who devote too much time, emotion, and significance to our careers and these wise ones in the developing world. These traders rebuke my workaholism. They ask me searching questions about my priorities and my identity.
As I watch them, I remember an old (and, admittedly, not very funny) joke about a fisherman on a Caribbean island and a businessman from (insert here your favorite advanced, capitalist country). The businessman is on vacation and is strolling along the beach one afternoon when he sees the fisherman lying in a hammock next to his boat. The businessman is slightly offended by the sight of a worker taking his ease in the middle of the day, and he asks him why he’s lying in his hammock instead of fishing.
The local man replies that he has been fishing that morning, caught many fish, sold them in the market and is now enjoying his afternoon. The businessman replies, “But if you put your boat out to sea again you could catch more fish.”
“Why would I do that?” Asks the fisherman.
“Because then you could sell them in the market and make more money.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because then you could buy another boat, hire another fisherman and catch even more fish.”
“Why would I do that?”
“Because then you would make so much money that you could take the afternoon off and lie in your hammock.”
“What do you think I’m doing now?”
It’s Day 1 of St John’s medical mission trip to Tela. Today we worshiped with our partner parish of Espiritu Santo, held a free clinic for parishioners, and enjoyed building our team spirit. There’s so much to tell you. So much that it’ll take weeks of newsletters to do justice to this act of mission. So, over the next few weeks (minus the two I’ll be on vacation in August) I’ll be devoting my articles to different aspects of the trip, some of the experiences we’re having and people we’re meeting.
All true mission leaves EVERYONE changed. The people ‘doing’ the mission are transformed as much as those we usually think of as the ‘receivers’. Pray for the members of St John’s who are here – Kat, Jon, Connie, and Javier. May we all come home renewed and shaped by the experience of our brothers and sisters in this beautiful country.