It takes two hours to get anywhere because the roads into and out of the mountains that surround Tegucigalpa are broken-down dirt roads that are impossible to travel at any kind of speed. The nice thing about spending so much time in trucks, though, is that you can learn a lot about the culture and history of this beautiful country from the sights outside your window and the conversations you can have with those in the truck.
I had the good fortune of spending the better part of a week with Felipe Colby, CIY’s missionary partner in Honduras and the executive officer of His Eyes ministry. We spent a lot of time together in a truck, and the things I learned from him were incredible – not just about Honduras but about faithfulness and sacrifice and prayer and so many other things that it takes to be a missionary for 20-plus years. I could write a book about all the things I learned in Tegucigalpa, but I’ll try to boil it down to three things I learned while riding in trucks.
1. There are far more ways to communicate than mere language. Most English-speaking people who visit a country like Honduras are probably concerned about the language barrier between English and Spanish. I know enough Spanish to get around, but I’m certainly not fluent. What I discovered while riding in trucks with Felipe is that you don’t have to know another language to be able to communicate with other people. And of all things, I learned this from the honking of horns. There’s a whole dialogue that can happen in Tegucigalpa that centers around horn honking. Two honks is a polite, “Hi! Good to see you!” One short honk means, “I’m slightly irritated with you right now.” One long honk means, “Move it!” Three short honks means, “Hey, pay attention because I’m bearing down on you in a big truck.” Three long honks means, “You are driving real dumb and everyone around you – especially me – is extremely annoyed right now.” And if there’s ever an occasion when four honks are necessary … oooh, boy. Watch out. Somebody is NOT happy. But the horn honking was merely an entry point for me into this idea that there are a lot of ways to acknowledge people and let them know you see value in them. We’re all created in God’s image – uniquely and wonderfully made. A short little two-honk burst on the horn can be a little acknowledgement that you see someone and appreciate them. It’s a friendly greeting. The same goes for a smile, a nod of the head, a hand on a shoulder, a little wave of the hand – any of a hundred different things that you can do to say, “Hi. I see you. I appreciate you.” We should do more of this. We should be more intentional with these little ways of communicating with one another. Done well, they can be powerful.
2. We should never judge a book by its cover. While driving through the streets and mountains of Tegucigalpa, it’s hard not to notice the dilapidated houses, trash-strewn streets and dirty children digging through rubbish for something to eat. The mountains are beautiful, and some of the architecture in the city takes your breath away. But most of what you see while driving around is ugly. It would be easy to see those things and form an immediate opinion that lessens the people of that country. That would be a mistake. One of the things we teach on our CIY Engage trips is to observe before interpreting what you see. There are depths that go beyond the obvious. A gray, broken-down shack on the outside might reveal a color-strewn classroom for children on the inside. A boy digging in the trash seemingly for food might actually be looking for shoes for a brother or sister so that they can attend school … because shoes are too expensive to buy for many families. Yes, there were broken things about Tegucigalpa – but there were also beautiful things. If I had allowed myself to become disheartened by the ugliness I saw on the surface and dismissed the people out-of-hand as an uncivilized people group merely worthy of my pity, I would have missed the unique ways they are serving God and living out Kingdom work – ways that I never would have considered had I not stopped to ask and look a little deeper. We all should do that – slow down, ask questions and look deeper than the obvious.
3. God created food and music to bring people together. As you drive through the streets of Tegucigalpa, you can’t help but notice there are Pulperias on every street corner – little shops that families have created by transforming their living rooms into small grocery stories. Between these Pulperias are food stands. It’s impossible to walk down a single block without passing at least one Pulperia and one food stand, and these places typically have small groups of people gathered around – laughing together and enjoying one another’s company. It’s also likely that music will be playing in these places. Food and music … the universal ingredients for bringing people together. We listened to a lot of music in the trucks as we drove around – it was one of the ways Felipe and I bonded, in fact. We also played music together as a group at the end of the day, and sang together with our Honduran friends while working at various places in the mountains. I was struck by how important those moments are and how beautiful they are for painting an image of the church. Too often we refer to the church as a building – “Let’s go to church” – but Jesus says, “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I will be also.” That’s the church. We can’t GO to church because we ARE the church – wherever we are gathered together. And more often than not food and music help create those beautiful moments. What an awesome thing to consider that Christ is with us in those moments. We should cherish them and be more intentional about creating moments with food and music.