Mateo - My Family Travels

As I walked into the house, the first things I noticed were the sound of the radio blaring and the sight of baby chicks wandering around the cement floor. A frail woman, seated in a plastic lawn chair, greeted us kindly, welcoming us to her modest home. I looked around the room we were standing in, and noticed with surprise the newborn baby laying on the bed, next to the radio. My friends and I admired the precious infant, and our translator told us that the boy was only twenty days old.

“What is his name?” we asked with curiosity.

“He doesn’t have one yet,” we were told. We tossed out several suggestions, including Miguel, Carlos, and Mateo. However, most of our suggestions were met with an amused smirk which seemed to say, “Thank you for the ideas, but I don’t need help naming my child from a bunch of gringos.”

â–º  Quarter Finalist 2011 Teen Travel Writing Scholarship

Our group of ten came from six different states, all joined together by our desire to spread the love of Christ as best we could. We had each signed up for this two-week mission trip to Honduras through an organization called Christ In Youth, and even though most of us hadn’t known each other before this trip, we quickly formed a team with one common goal.

As our translators talked more with the mother, we learned that she had five children in total. I was amazed as I tried to imagine supporting a family that size in a country with such a poor economy. According to Lonely Planet’s Honduras & the Bay Islands travel guide, nearly two-thirds of Hondurans live in poverty, and the unemployment rate is about 28%. Clearly the mother was not in a state to be able to work. At best, the family was receiving a meager income from a father who had to be away often while their feeble-looking mother was left to the raising of the five young children. After inviting the woman to church, we gave her a gift—seven small bags of a nutritious rice dish—and prayed for the family before heading to another home. I realized after leaving that the woman hadn’t left her chair the whole time we were visiting.

The next Sunday, when our group went to church, we were excited to see that the woman and her five kids had taken us up on our invitation and were attending the church for the first time, even showing up early to mingle with others in the town. The other four kids, one boy and three girls, were dressed in their nicest clothes, yet I could still see stains and holes in their Sunday best. They quickly bonded with our group, not minding that we had only known each other for five minutes. Despite the language barrier, we were able to give the children a fraction of the attention they were probably starved for.

One of our translators asked the woman what she had decided to name her baby. “Mateo,” she answered with a joyful grin. We were surprised, yet delighted, that she had taken one of our suggestions.

Later that afternoon, we had to say goodbye to the family, knowing that we would probably never see them again. I left hoping that we had made almost as much of an impact on the family as they had made on me.

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