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Beauty in Unity - A 2014 Trip Reflection by Olivia Kirsch

Growing up at St. Monica, I had always heard petitions and announcements about our Sister Parish, Santiago Apostal, in Lepaterique, Honduras. I saw a group of people every third week of the month collecting free will donations for the Sister Parish and once a year I saw a group of strangers at church who traveled to St. Monica to visit with us for a week. Little did I know, these strangers would eventually become family and I would inevitably fall in love with the parish that is Santiago Apostal and the people living in Lepaterique.
Last summer I made my first visit to Lepaterique with a group of seven other youth. After we arrived in Tegucigalpa and dealt with customs, I walked out into the airport, trailing behind some of the other kids on my trip, and immediately people started coming up to me left and right, hugging me and kissing me and greeting me in Spanish. I was in shock as I had never been greeted like this by strangers. Throughout that week, happiness filled my heart and I built friendships with many people such as Daniel, Bayron, Elias, and Karen. As I said my final goodbyes at the airport security line, I knew without a doubt that I would be back the following summer.

Lucky for me I was blessed to be able to return this summer and this time I traveled with fifteen other adults from the parish. In the weeks prior to the trip I was a bit nervous because I was the youngest person traveling (well besides Jason). But this nervousness quickly faded when I once again stepped into the airport in Tegucigalpa, greeted by familiar faces. Daniel and Bayron, who I was able to stay in touch with over the year via Facebook, were there to greet Santa Monica and I was elated to be back with my dear friends. Throughout the week my friendships grew even stronger as we played games in Spanish on bus rides, or sat by the fire one night in Aguacate as the young men of Santiago Apostal played their guitars, sang, and told jokes that definitely do not translate to English humor.

The thing that never ceases to amaze me about Lepaterique is the fact that the people are the most joyous, loving and appreciative group of individuals that I have ever met in my life. Lepaterique is a town filled with poverty, and yet I have rarely heard the people complain about what they do not have, but instead they are incredibly grateful for what they do have. At the medical mission in Aguacate I was humbled by how appreciative the people were for something as simple as Tylenol, a medication I had never given a second thought about because I have never been without the ability to have it when I needed it. The people of Lepaterique have taught me how to be appreciative of the plethora of blessings in my life. They have taught me about selflessness, as countless times I observed Daniel’s acts self-giving. They have taught me about leadership as I witnessed Misael leading el grupo juvenil, and as I witnessed Brothers Randall and Bindel, serving as friends and models of faith to the youth.

In my two trips two Lepaterique I have learned so much about life, love, and faith. I will always hold my memories from the trips near and dear to my heart and I will forever be amazed at the beauty and love that exists because of the unity between our two parishes. I feel incredibly blessed to have been a part of this unique experience, as I saw God in everything and in everyone, from the beautiful mountains; to our trip to the Laguna; to the medical mission at Aguacate; and sitting in the truck bed with Nicki, Daniel, Pablo, Bayron and Jeimy as we spoke in gibberish, laughing as the rain poured down onto us. I love Lepaterique and the family that I have gained through the Sister Parish relationship and I absolutely cannot wait to see where God brings this incredible union in the future.

-Olivia Kirsch