Honduras mission trip inspires RF, Hudson residents
Raven Hernandez had always wanted to go on a mission trip.
"I've known a lot of friends who have gone to Honduras and had incredible experiences," she said. "I was just ready to go, and it was an opportunity."
Hernandez was part of a group from Journey Church of River Falls and Christ Center Assembly of God of Hudson that recently took a mission trip to Honduras to build a church there.
"It was a mix of being the hands and feet of Jesus," said Hernandez, "and also just getting to experience a new culture."
The trip was organized by Veronica and Dan Sparling, who have led mission trips with the organization Builders International for 25 years.
"When we are part of a church, and they are willing to go on mission trips, then he will line up something," said Veronica Sparling. "We'll contact Builders International and they'll let us know where they need a church built."
Builders International works with congregations that want a church built, have a pastor, but need a building.
The River Falls and Hudson group was in Honduras Jan. 11-20. The group first helped a local congregation build a new church in one area. That took about three-and-a-half days. Then, they moved to another city to do some work on a church that had already been built years ago.
The group worked under the direction of Brad Foltz, of Builders International.
Hannah Brager, one of those who went on the trip, said the trip was "a real attitude check."
"As Americans, we tend to just complain and grumble about little things," Brager said. "The people there are so grateful for everything, and they're so willing to share."
Brager said a 5-year-old she met in Honduras would bring a package of four cookies every day, and share half with her.
"For him, I'm sure that's a very special thing," Brager said. "He was willing to share them with me. I don't know that a lot of people here would give up half of what they have."
She said the trip taught her to appreciate what she has, and worry less about the little things.
"They don't matter as much as we think they do," she said. "We're living pretty good."
Hernandez said she learned the truth behind some misconceptions she'd had about mission trips.
She had thought mission trips were about converting people to Christianity.
"I learned so much more about loving God, loving others from the people we met in Honduras than I thought," Hernandez said. "It wasn't a 'they don't know Jesus, we need to teach them,' it was a 'we both love Jesus, we get to come together and work under that umbrella.'"
Sparling enjoyed seeing both the new church being built and how the second church had developed and made a difference in that community. She said at one point, the group stopped at a convenience store, and told a man there where they were working.
The second church took in kids who needed a place to go, had a program to feed children in need, and assisted kids with school work and education.
"It was encouraging to see someone from that community who knew how much that particular area of their city needed help," Sparling said.
Journey Church Pastor Mike Bechtold also went on the trip. He also gleaned much from the second part of the trip. He said he learned a lot from the pastor of the second church.
"He had a great vision, not only for that church but for that city," Bechtold said. "I thought that became contagious for me to see the power of vision ... not only to want to touch a small group of people, he wants to touch a whole city."
Bechtold wants Journey Church to continue reaching out to make a difference in this way, by taking a mission trip every year. He said the church will alternate each year between volunteering in U.S. and outside the country.
"That's kind of the vision right now," Bechtold siad. "We definitely plan on being a church that's involved in going on mission trips."
Brager said she'd encourage others thinking about a mission trip to Honduras not to be afraid to go.
Honduras, she said, can be considered a dangerous place to travel. However, she said she felt safe.
Bechtold said that because the group traveled with a missionary, Foltz, who had spent years in the area, and knew how to keep them safe, he felt safe. He and Sparling recommended using an organization such as Builders International, that has worked in the area a group might want to visit for awhile, in order to make sure safety is a priority.