Mission Honduras send off to be held March 12

Wednesday, March 7, 2018
(Sentinel File Photo) The Father Kevin Richter gives his well wishes to last year’s Mission Honduras particpants as they loaded a bus to head out on their trip. This year’s send off will be held at 1:30 p.m., Monday, March 12 in Gehlen Catholic’s Marvin Langel Memorial Gym.

LE MARS — The season of Lent is a time of prayer, fasting, and also giving. Even before Ash Wednesday, Gehlen Catholic students have been praying “Lead the Way, God.”

The students are following God’s call when the 17th Gehlen team of missionaries departs from Le Mars for Honduras on Monday, March 12.

The sendoff ceremony will be at 1:30 p.m., March 12 in the Marvin Langel Memorial Gym at the school. The event is a special prayer service which shows all are a part of the mission team. The community will have a glimpse of the work which lies ahead of this year’s team. The sendoff ceremony is open to the public.

This year’s student missionaries include Gehlen Catholic seniors (students are from Le Mars unless otherwise indicated): Ma Kenna Alesch (Alton), Chris Begnoche, Carlyn Bretey, Abbie Dickman, Eli Ellensohn, James Kellen (Alton), Mason Kellen (Granville), Daniel Kessenich, Jordan Larson, Krista Lipp, Brady Livermore, Kayla Mayer, Lucas McCarty, Delanee Nilles (Remsen), Matyas Pavel (International student Czech Republic), Kathryn Ripley, Alexa Scheitler, Jordan Von Arb (Granville), Claire Wingert (Merrill), and Brooke Woerdehoff; Gehlen Catholic juniors: Caden Kneip and Jared Morris; Remsen St. Mary’s senior Rebecca Johnson; and Kingsley-Pierson senior, Addison Hirschman.

The students are being assisted by (all from Le Mars unless indicated): Carolyn Bickford; Dr. Keith Bretey; Bruce Kellen; Joe Kessenich; Steve Larson; Todd Scheitler; The Rev. Matthew Solyntjes; Dr. Juan Uribe; Nancy Zubrod (Merrill); Erin Hoffman (Sioux City); Pat Jones (Orange City); Tom Kellen (Alton); Linda Reichle (Alton); Dennis Schmit (Alton); and Mark Von Arb (Granville).

Bickford, Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras (GCMH) team leader and assistant to GCMH Director, Richard Seivert, said, “This year’s team will build three homes, 20 bunk beds, five picnic tables; distribute over 30-plus large (trash bag size) gift bags to families; teach vertical gardening to some of the older students and their teachers, and spend time with the Honduran students. If time allots, the team may visit St. Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity Malnutrition Center & Senior Citizen Home.”

To accomplish all of these important tasks, Bickford noted each student missionary invested $1,409.55 and the adults paid $1,434.55 a piece. The various fundraisers offset the costs of the construction projects and supplies for the vertical gardens. All donated materials are distributed among several families, as well as to the school itself.

Over the years, many have inquired of Seivert and Bickford why GCMH addresses the needs of people outside the United States. Bickford believes it is important in many ways.

• It allows the missioners the opportunity to help people living in a Third World country. “It gives us a chance to see poverty there,” she said.

• The Hondurans get a glimpse of Americans who do care about them. It is especially important for the Honduran children to witness that. They see Americans as really rich people who care only for themselves. Over and over, the two heard how GCMH changes their opinion of Americans. Americans are now seen as hard-working, caring people.

• Jesus said to “Love one another.” The missionaries build homes for people who live in squalor, which helps to give them some pride; build bunk beds so children don’t have to sleep on dirt floors; build tables so families can sit together to eat a meal instead of standing or sitting on the dirt floors. The GCMH team plays with the children, hugs them, and most importantly, prays with them.

• The GCMH team communicates (in limited Spanish) with both children and adults, showing them they are just as important as everyone else. The impoverished Hondurans view themselves as lesser people because they are poor. The team’s care and compassion helps the Hondurans understand God sees us all as equals.

The GCMH team will post daily on their blog www.gehlenmissionhonduras.org. Click on the link to the blog. Visitors to the blog will be able to read about the day’s activities and see pictures of the missioners in action. Messages of support are also welcome, and will be read nightly during the group’s “junta” time. One may also go to http://gehlenmissionhonduras.blogspot.com/

Gehlen Catholic School was founded 148 years ago this spring. Gehlen Catholic’s founding values of “Faith, Values, Service and Academic Excellence” tie directly into the various reasons why the school has continued to send missionaries for the past 17 years.

GCMH provides students another opportunity to not only learn but exemplify their Catholic faith through a life of service. For Catholics and non-Catholics alike, the Bible tells the stories of Jesus preaching to the apostles to spread His teachings to all people.

Who are the apostles of today?

Bickford pointed directly to the missionaries, as well as to all of us. She shared, “We’ve been told we are all apostles. We are all supposed to go out and share Jesus’ teachings — the Catholic Church’s teachings. What better way to exemplify Christ’s teachings than to serve others? Pope Francis said, ‘The church, by her nature, is missionary. She exists so that every man and woman may encounter Jesus.’ GCMH missioners encounter Jesus every single day — whether building homes or bunks, holding children on their laps, or teaching them how to say a few words in English. We are sharing with them Christ’s love for them, loving them through acts of service. If everyone in the world would treat others the same way, I think all of our major problems would go away.”

Many do not realize the impact the missionaries have on the Honduras residents.

Bickford pointed to the pride gained by the Hondurans, their work to maintain the “gifts” from the missioners, and the improved quality of life. Every year the principal of the school which houses the team reports there are other examples the GCMH team cannot see due to the short amount of time they are in Honduras.

If the team did not go to Honduras, Bickford said she is afraid of the consequences the Hondurans would face. The rural Honduran children and elderly would have a higher rate of death without the clean water. All Hondurans would experience more illnesses because of poor living conditions. Families would live in shacks, where we Americans would not even store our machinery. Sadly, the Hondurans would not be able to witness the care, love, and compassion of the students and adults.

Bickford also elaborated on the trip’s impact by changing the hearts of the missionaries every year.

“When we say ‘Mission Honduras — Changing Lives’ — we are not just talking about Honduran people in poverty. A lot of the ‘changing lives’ addresses the missionaries directly. As I’ve watched this program over the years, I have seen countless students and adults become more giving people, including myself,” Bickford said. “Our missioners are helping more in their communities, churches, schools, and service organizations. Once a person experiences the joy of serving others, they want more of that joy. It’s often difficult to explain. You have to experience it for yourself to gain true understanding.”

Seivert, Bickford, and GCMH have explored expanding or moving their ministries to other countries. The cost generally is the prohibitive factor. The team followed God’s lead, back in 2000, because of the 1998 devastation in Honduras due to Hurricane Mitch. Seivert and his brother Francis (Elk Point, South Dakota), made a connection with two Catholic sisters, Sisters Val and Barb, who were working in Honduras as missionaries. The Sisters established a compound for the GCMH team. Over the years, GCMH has established a strong network they cannot find elsewhere in the world. The network allows the missionaries to return annually, as well as enhances their safety on the ground.

While the list is long for future missionaries, Bickford and Seivert reminded the Gehlen Catholic student body they too are missionaries in Honduras if even if they aren’t able to work on the ground this spring.

Throughout the year, students have been leaving a variety of items the team will take on their trip, including clothing, school supplies, daily essentials, and more.

Then Feed Just One

On May 3 and 4, the students’ lives will be transformed just like the Honduran residents through this year’s Then Feed Just One (TFJO). Seivert and Bickford articulated, “Our missioners personally witness the extreme need for food in the area we serve. There are times the students at St. Teresa de Jesús School are served our TFJO food for a month or two for their lunch, which is often the only meal the students will eat for the day. The missionaries share their experiences with their classmates upon their return to Le Mars. Their stories inspire the school’s student body, faculty, staff and community to feed the hearts, souls, and bodies of the Hondurans during the annual TFJO packaging event. It is difficult for us to understand why there so many parents in Third World countries who cannot afford to purchase nutritional food for their families. If the family does have food to eat, it is often a tortilla or a few red beans,” Bickford said. “While in Honduras, our missioners witness this firsthand, and believe me, that makes a huge impression on them. Our missioners promote our packing events here. We cannot do these things alone. We need other people to help promote our efforts with TFJO. Anyone who has seen hungry or malnourished children firsthand knows just how important TFJO food is.”

Seivert and Bickford invite the community to sign up for a time to assist with this year’s TFJO packaging event at Gehlen Catholic on May 3 and 4. Students, adults, and community members can sign up to work a 1 1/2 hour shift and are asked to donate $30/shift/person to help offset the costs of the food, packaging and shipping of the food to Honduras.

To sign up for a shift, call Seivert, Bickford Lisa Niebuhr, or Mary Klein at Gehlen School.

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