Later today Lee and I will drive up to the DC environs, where we’ll spend the night before boarding a very early flight to Atlanta – the first leg of our trip to Copan, Honduras for Trinity Church’s 2017 adult mission trip. From Atlanta we fly to San Pedro Sula; and from there it’s a bus ride that gets longer each year, as each year the roads get worse, into the mountains to Copan. It makes for a long day of travel – going a great distance not only in miles, but in culture, in climate, and in spirit as well.
There is much about this mission trip that is familiar: we know the hotel where we’ll be staying; we know the people we’ll be seeing; we know some favorite restaurants we want to visit; we know we’ll be working in the very first church our mission group helped to build on our very first trip. Parts of this trip already feel like a kind of homecoming.
But there is much about this mission trip that will be very different. Over the last couple of years the focus of our trips has been changing a bit: where we originally went for the sole purpose of building church buildings for local communities, lately we’ve been branching out into working with a local school as well. Worship, fellowship, and education are all traditional elements of church mission, and our trips have been embracing more of that diversity as we’ve evolved. This year’s trip will see more shift in that emphasis as well.
Another new thing will be the chance to talk to Padre Hector about the future of the Episcopal Church in the Maya Deanery. Padre Hector is the rector of the “mother” church of the deanery, a position that has been vacant or only part-time for many years. As Hector brings his vision to the deanery, I want to make sure I get some time to talk with him about what that future will look like, and how Trinity can be good partners with the local congregations going forward. Having a good face-to-face between Padre Hector and “Padre Pablo” (with Oakley to translate, no doubt!) is one of my particular goals for this trip.
One thing that will be very different for us will be the absence of Ted Jordan and Dana Flanders. Ted and Dana have been central to the mission since its beginning, and it is very very hard to imagine this trip without them. Ted was one of the two or three missioners who really understood construction; and with his death we find we need to think again about how much construction work we can do. Dana has a gift for organizing people and details and plans; and with her wise decision to step back from the mission trips for a time to grieve, we are feeling her absence even before we get to the airport. We will miss them both in Copan, but we will carry them in our hearts and in our prayers.
Some familiarity, some difference. And, like the wise scribe in Matthew, we will bring out of our spiritual treasury both what is old and what is new as we join God in this mission.
Once we get to Copan, and settle in, and connect to the hotel wifi there, I will add more blog posts to this mission journal. I ask your prayers for all of us as we go — Oakley, Margaret, Pat, Todd, Pete, Brenden, Lorain, Bill, Tom, Lee, and me — and know that we carry you all with us in spirit.