Around the world, 780 million people are without water today, and approximately 1 million of those people reside in Honduras. From March 10-19, 21 Wheaton College students and I chose to do something about it by helping install a gravity-fed clean water system in a small village outside Tegucigalpa called Los Cedros.
However, according to the U.S. State Department, Honduras is also the #1 most dangerous country in the world. With a thriving drug trade, gang violence, and hundreds of homicides every year (most of them unresolved cases), that statement is no surprise. But, as a journalist, this statistic makes a pretty good story, and I’m happy to say our group didn’t just survive – we thrived (with only one trip to the hospital during our 10-day stay). Even though the Peace Corps pulled out their troops in January 2012, we braved the elements.
It was worth the risk.
Honduras Project, or, “HP,” as it’s called by its members and alumni, has been traveling from Wheaton to Honduras for 27 years to install gravity-fed clean water systems in different rural villages every year. This year, even though the U.S. government issued several “high-risk” travel warnings at the beginning of 2013, our Christian team of 22 traveled to experience life with 80 families in rural Honduras who would be receiving clean water in their homes for the first time.
The theme verse of the trip was John 7:37: “On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’” This verse made sense, naturally, as our trip was designed around a construction project that would help provide clean water in the villagers’ homes, but the metaphor went deeper than that for me personally. Even though I only spoke a few words of Spanish when I got there, and had never traveled to Latin America, I found during our trip to Honduras that I share a lot more similarities with the villagers than differences. No matter what material goods we’ve been blessed with or lack, we all have the same desires, the same problems, and the same need for Jesus. We all long for connection and to feel loved, and yet, how often do we search for connection in all of the wrong places?
As I looked out over the beautiful and rolling green hills of Honduras, away from my makeup, cell phone, family, friends, and material distractions that come with life in the United States, I realized the vastness of God’s creation and the length, height, depth, and breadth of his love. I realized in the mountains of Honduras, completely out of my comfort zone, sharing life with villagers I’d only known for five days, that true freedom comes with prioritizing relationships, hospitality, and selfless love.
During that week, I realized that even though we were helping a community install clean water in their homes for the first time, they were teaching me an invaluable lesson: what it means to let living water flow from my heart.