Liberty High School Students Make a Difference in Honduras

by Vaun Thygerson
Staff writer and mother of three

Three Liberty High School students learned this principle firsthand when they served the people of Honduras on a recent mission trip.  Sisters Julia Morris, 17, and Jayne Morris, 16, along with their cousin, Kira Morris, 18, spent a week internationally volunteering at a hospital, setting up a medical clinic, delivering food and clothes to the less fortunate, and playing with children in an after-school program.

“This trip changed the way I view the world.  After going there, I realized I could do so much more to help people,” says Kira.  “To know that you can make a difference gives you a feeling that’s indescribable.”

Julia, Jayne, and Kira were part of larger group made up of about 20 individuals brought together by their uncle, Dr. Brian Bluth, a general practitioner from Oklahoma.  With some of the group members, the Morris girls had a family connection including their uncle and his wife, Amy, and their two cousins, Austin and Connor Menden from Los Altos, California.  

While in Honduras, this group was under the direction of Operation New Life, a Christian medical, surgical, and teaching ministry that strives to leave a legacy of multi-cultural cooperation.  Julia, Jayne, and Kira want careers in the medical field, so this mission trip was the perfect mix of service and education for them.  

Once at the hospital in the capital city of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, the Morris girls couldn’t believe the condition of the building.  They described it as very dirty with missing floor tiles, holes in the ceiling, and trash accumulating in some rooms.  “This was supposed to be a sterile place,” says Kira.  “It was sad to see how bad it was.”     

No matter what the physical condition of the hospital, the unconditional love and gratitude for their service could be felt by all three girls.  With donations brought from America, they organized and created more than 100 newborn kits that they delivered to new moms.  The bundles included onesies, diapers, and socks all rolled up in a blanket and secured with a medical instruction sheet for new parents.        

One thing that surprised these volunteers was that the majority of new parents don’t find the joy in having a new baby the way we do in America.  “They thought of the baby as just one more mouth to feed.  Some of them did not see their baby as a gift,” says Julia.      

Also at the hospital, they visited the orthopedic and oncology units where they played with some of the kids and handed out toys to those with broken limbs or who were recovering from surgery.  They also distributed food and prayed with patients to give them hope and comfort.  “The fact that we cared, and they knew that we cared, made them feel good,” says Julia.

After their time at the hospital, Julia, Jayne, and Kira left Tegucigalpa and traveled three hours to Guaimaca to set up a medical brigade.  At a little elementary school that had two rooms, they set up tables and distributed vitamins, pain relievers, and medication to rid parasites to more than 200 people.

Taking a break from the medical aspect of their trip, Julia, Jayne, and Kira traveled one hour into the mountains to deliver food and clothing to people in need.  The families they met left a lasting impression on the volunteers.  The first family they visited lived in a dilapidated shack with 14 family members.  In fact, they had to move their beds off of the floor in order to make room for the girls to enter.

One of the women they helped was 90-year-old Lastenia Marina Martinez Amador, who lived in a mountain hut where she did all the household chores herself.  She was petite and fragile wearing tattered and dirty clothing.  She did so much cooking over an open fire that the girls said you could literally see accumulated black soot in her wrinkles.  She was so grateful and humble that the girls say meeting her was one of the best experiences of their trip.

“God has created this beautiful world; and every time you visit somewhere else and meet someone new, you learn their culture; you learn about what He has created,” says Julia.  “When you serve, something inside gives you that warm feeling.”

While in the mountains, the girls headed to a local school to help with an after-school program for about 70 students.  Julia, Jayne, and Kira have taken high school Spanish, and they found it came in useful especially when communicating and playing games with the children.  They even sang with them in Spanish.  “On this trip, I felt like my Spanish improved a lot,” says Kira.    

Jayne said she was in awe when they first arrived at the school and a beautiful little girl ran up to them and hugged them as if they’d always been friends.  “Her name was Estefania,” she says. “We’d never met her before, but she just wanted to be with us.”

The Morris girls played games, handed out gum and stickers, and enjoyed the unconditional love of the local children.  The kids were excited to show off their soccer skills, because the school had just started a soccer team.  “We really learned how much soccer is a part of their culture,” Julia says.  “All it takes is a ball!”

In addition to learning about new cultures, Julia has learned a lot about herself and her desire to serve.  “I always want to Travel and help people,” she says.  The Honduran mission trip was her second international service experience, and she plans on participating in many more.  Last summer, Julia went to Ecuador with her dad, Matt, and her older sister, Jessica, 19.  They built a brick home for the workers of a special needs orphanage.  The work was physical – carrying bricks and bags of cement up stairs and chiseling lines out for electricity.

Their father, Matt, said he was so impressed with not only his daughters’ work ethic but all of those involved.  He said throughout their service mission there were a lot of “tender times.”

“I’ve never seen anything like it, these skinny little girls could work for 10-plus hours, carrying 90 pounds of concrete.  They would carry it over their shoulder and bring it down to the work site,” he says.  “The girls got in and got their hands dirty, and no one complained.  It was amazing.”

Matt encourages his daughters to Travel internationally to participate in service missions, because he wants them to have a broader view of the world.  “As American people, our culture, we are so spoiled.  We have every gadget, cell phone, convenience known to man.  Our kids don’t understand what it’s like to go without,” he says.  “In a foreign country, it’s nice to be able to leave all the cell phones and gadgets and just go away to see the big picture.  They truly feel the way those people feel; they get to feel truly happy.”        

Julia, Jayne, and Kira all agree that their mission trip to Honduras changed them for the better, and all three of them plan on serving more mission trips in their futures.  “It humbles you, and it makes you grateful when you help others,” Jayne says.  “It’s kind of addicting to know that you can help someone in need.”

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Tags: Enrichment, Featured Story, Travel

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