Maylee has always had the desire to serve on a mission trip. She wanted to feel like she was making a difference, and experience the poverty, joy and love she always heard about from others who had gone on mission trips. This year, as a sophomore at Franciscan University, she had the opportunity to go to Honduras where she witnessed God’s abundant love and the unity of the Body of Christ.
Maylee and a small group of students were sent to a remote village, Mirador, which is situated on the top of a mountain. The missionary group consisted of 16 students and a priest who served the spiritual needs of the people. To have a priest accompany the group was a real blessing for the villagers. They typically only see a priest a couple of times a year.
Maylee spent most of her time playing with the children. As the oldest of five siblings, she was a natural with the younger kids. She helped teach the children English in the morning and the missionaries provided some faith formation opportunities as well.
“I was swinging little kids from my arms, giving piggy back rides, and running after fast little boys who had assured me they couldn't run," laughed Maylee. "Throughout the week, I was struck by small and simple things. I noticed the eyes of the children particularly. They were very big and pure, and I loved to see them sparkle when they laughed and smiled.”
One of the things that impacted Maylee was how the children, in a way, were just like children from the United States. They loved to play and they thrived having attention and others to play with. Maylee was amazed to see their joy and playfulness despite their poverty and challenging living conditions.
The people of Mirador live in small houses that have dirt floors. They may have one or two beds and the rest of the household sleeps on hammocks. The houses do not have running water but recently they received electricity so they can have a light on during the evening.
They don’t have the abundance and selection of food like in the United States. Food is much more limited and rationed. Maylee said they ate the same thing for all of their meals – tortillas with refried beans and eggs.
Children attend school in a two-room schoolhouse in their village. Many children eventually drop out because there is a lack of opportunities making it difficult to see the relevance of attending school.
Maylee thought the most powerful part of her experience occurred right before they were to leave. At the end of the final Mass, the priest invited the missionaries up to the front of the church. He invited the villagers to thank the missionaries for their service and time with them.
“He also spoke about how just as we missionaries had been a blessing to the villagers of Mirador, the villagers had been a blessing to us. They touched each of us in different ways, but they taught us humility, gratitude, joy, and love. Father then invited the villagers to extend their hands and pray with him for us. It was an extremely powerful moment to see the hands of the entire village stretched out in blessing over us,” said Maylee.
Maylee went back to her seat and a little girl, Jocelyn, quickly jumped back in her lap and they started to sing their closing song, “How He Loves.”
“I don't think there was a dry eye among us missionaries. I wasn't even sure why I was crying, it was just such a powerful moment of the love of God," said Maylee. "The small moments of the week all came together: the shining eyes of the little girl in my arms, the depth of love and the desire to serve that I saw in my fellow missionaries, and the sense that all of us, though we came from such different ways of life, were united through the Eucharist. I saw a tangible expression of the Body of Christ. We were all brothers and sisters in Christ, serving each other and being a blessing to each other. The week culminated with this overwhelming sense of the goodness of God and the abundance of His love, shown through His beloved sons and daughters.”