2014 Reflections from the June 28-July 5, 2014
Short Term Mission Trip to Amigos de Jesús
Reflection by Bob Szipszky
The children and staff of Amigos de Jesús (Amigos) radiate joy, love and gratitude. They are a family. The children have dealt with events and must still be dealing with the memories of those events which are horrible to contemplate. But to be with them for even a short time is inspiring. Like any spouse and father I have my burdens – as we all do - but I have been greatly refreshed by this experience. Jumping rope with Erika and Susanna, trying to play soccer with kids with far more talent and energy, listening to Tavo hum the Indiana Jones theme music when I approached him because of the hat I typically wore, and getting to know Adoni, the boy my family has supported for a few years with aspirations to be a doctor… these kids really touch your heart. They must be the face of Christ given the challenges they have faced and the sense of family they now share.
I am a 50 year old proud spouse of 22 years and the father of 4, a “cradle Catholic.” And, I have never written anything that quoted the bible but here it goes.
Shortly after my return I was in Mass praying over this reflection. The Responsorialv that day was ‘Come to me, all who labor and are burdened, and I will refresh you, says the Lord. (Mathew 11.28).
And from Luke 8:14 and the parable of the Sower – are you perhaps a bit "choked by the anxieties and riches and pleasures of life" so that is hard for the seed of God’s word to take hold in you?
This experience showed me vividly that by living God’s word and through his grace these young people are thriving, overcoming things that are far more challenging than what I have ever faced. As a member of the Amigos Family they now get to grow up in a faith-centered, loving, educational environment where they can become the best possible version of themselves, and to have seen this for one week is a remarkable blessing.
I am indeed greatly refreshed and believe this experience will help me be a better Catholic and better person. I am grateful to my fellow travelers and the children and staff of Amigos for this experience.
To potential future travelers, whether you join a visit with a friend or with your family, or as an individual as I did (along with a few other individuals), I encourage you to pray about whether you should go. Please also know that I felt safe the entire time.
A year ago the reflection of a man I do not know, also named Bob, got me thinking about going --- Through God’s grace I hope to have at least the same impact. Children and friends of Amigos you will always be in my prayers.
With deep gratitude
Reflection by Aisling Travers
-- “You are not there to fix these children. They do not need ‘fixing’… YOU are the one who needs to be fixed,” echoed the humble and honest words of Fr. O’Donnell’s (co-founder of Amigos de Jesús). The words I came to realize, appreciate, and understand after my first trip (2013) to Amigos de Jesús- Home For Children in Honduras, and the words that found myself carrying with me as I embarked on the second trip to the hogar a few weeks ago. An experience of a lifetime and one that infatuated so much joy, happiness, emotion, and gratitude in unspeakable ways as your heart finds itself filling with humbleness and bliss that the 109 children of Amigos de Jesús simply exude by being who they are. In ways you would never know possible, the innocent childhood games, jokes with the children, laughs, daily reflections, mass with the children, daily prayer circle as an entire community of Amigos de Jesús, and immeasurable memories made in one week simply open your heart in ways unimaginable, allowing you to see the abundance of love and offering that you have the potential of sharing with others!
Fr.O’Donnell’s words now ingrained on my heart forever, “You are not here to fix these children. They do not need ‘fixing’… YOU are the one who needs to be fixed”. The words stung along with the tears that streamed down my flushed cheeks as the pristine faces of the 109 children of Amigos de Jesús as I left for the second time, but knowing it would not be the last visit to the place that has engulfed a large piece of my heart. Driving away from the happiest sad place on earth, knowing I have been fixed-for good.
Reflection from Jean Tosto
As I reflect on my time in Honduras at Amigos de Jesús, I am able to summarize my experience in a very short sentence. Now I know.
When I think of God's voice it is always a "Moses moment". Thundering, commanding voice surrounded by fire. My life experience has taught me that He speaks very quietly. A subtle but persistent whisper. I know it is God speaking because the direction or thoughts go places I would never think to go on my own. And thus it was this voice that has been in my heart for many years. Long before
Amigos offered mission trips. A photograph of the Cross at Amigos seen by me somewhere, so stirred me that I knew one day I would stand on the soil below this Cross.
As my trip approached I felt genuine excitement. Not unlike Christmas morning. God was sending me there to get something and I had not a clue what the something was or where it would lead me. I journeyed to Honduras with my family and many other volunteers that i now consider family. I would not be being completely honest in my story if I omitted the feeling of complete removal from my comfort zone shortly after I arrived. The welcoming hugs and beautiful smiles from the children were calming but inside I kept asking myself "can I do this". I walked away from the group, looked to the mountain and asked God to give me peace on this journey of discovering how Amigos was to be a part of my "I am". I did not pray for the temperature to drop or the water to flow or the the bugs to stop biting. With God anything is possible but I knew all of the above was part of the gift I was being given. The gift was revealed in unlimited smiles from the children, frequent hands that came from behind to hold yours, hugs that just kept coming. No longer was it hot nor did I feel tired. I felt a love so pure. The closest i have experienced to God's love. Unconditional. No one asking anything of me but to be with me. Pure love. This was my gift from God. Thank you Jesus!
Webster defines an orphanage as an institution for orphans. Amigos de Jesús is not an orphanage but a home. My prayers will always be for Amigos de Jesús Home and the family that calls this holy place home.
PS..and yes it wasn't only "God moments". An anonymous jokester placed a rubber rat on my mattress. After the holy scream came holy laughter!
Reflection from Tom Murphy
Our trip to meet the children of Amigos de Jesús was wonderful. Trish and I can truly attest to the happiness that shines through the constant smiles of the children. Since we are a bit tardy in sending in our testimonial, watching the “Happy” video included in the latest monthly newsletter is a fantastic representation of the feeling you get when you are at Amigos.
Our arrival at the front gates was so joyous as the children are all waiting to greet the visitors from up north. They were so welcoming! What struck us most was the pure excitement they had in seeing Father O’Donnell. It was a classic “Dad” is home moment, as the hugs were overflowing, some so powerful that Father was knocked down. Joyous laughter and no better way to be welcomed to this new and marvelous place.
Sunday started with a tour of the grounds by Father, Amy and Wilson. You learn right from the beginning the self-sustaining nature of the facility including the
working farm, livestock, crops, among others. The newly planted mahogany trees were fascinating. Sunday ended with a wonderful mass in the open field highlighted with a ceremony in which the 18 year old men passed into adulthood. Followed by a feast in which we all started to get to know the children better.
All in all, the week consisted of hard work in the morning (those that dug fence posts, not those that went to summer camp…that is a tongue in cheek reference for Bob!), lunch, play time with the kids, mass and then dinner and more play time ending with the very inspiring tradition of Prayer Circle. It is at this moment that the children offer up their prayers to our Lord.
So why wants and needs? Trish and I went on this trip to learn more about a place where the work of Christ is taking place. We went to visit the children and help out in any small way that we could. Of course, like all journeys, you come away with learnings that you never planned for or expected. In the United States, we are so blessed and have so many wants. What you come to learn while spending time with the children is that we have very few needs. Happiness and glory to God comes from taking care of our needs, not fulfilling all our wants. Amigos de Jesús is a wonderful place full of the most special people. Please be sure to visit!