(WASHINGTON) - In what has become a proud tradition, churches and religious organizations in Daviess and surrounding counties have donated their time and resources to those around the world struggling to survive.
Many have been to Haiti, Mexico and some even sneak into lands like China and Burma. Washington Church of Christ members recently joined that tradition by doing work and building homes in Honduras, the second-poorest country in the world, last month.
A group of seven men and women - Elmer Graber, Steven Walden, Christopher Wiles, Tyler Seibert, Jalayna Page, Libby Myers and Drew Myers --- joined with a group from the Mitchell Church of Christ for a 10-day mission that included building homes for several Honduran families.
"Our primary activity was to build houses," Wiles, Pulpit Minister for the Washington Church of Christ. "We built six structures."
To call these structures homes in the sense that we know about would be stretching. The homes are 18 feet square, with many families occupying the same home, something that would not pass for a shed, Walden said.
"For them, it is a really big deal," Wiles said. "We were able to put three bedrooms."
And, to make matters a little more primitive, the homes are built with rough-hewn lumber and chainsaws. The group used chain saws for everything. The lumber is bought locally and transported by ox cart to the job site, where the builders are waiting with a single tape measure, two levels, two chainsaws, 15 hammers and nails.
"Our record was four hours and five minutes," Wiles said. "There was some that took us a couple days."
To call the trip eye-opening was an understatement.
"It still is," Wiles said. "This is a different type of poor, and to see different masses of people living like that really opens your eyes."
Walden, who is a Washington firefighter, agreed.
"I've heard stories from other people going so I knew what to expect," Walden said. "But it is something different when you see it for yourself."
Seibert, a senior at Washington High School, said the poverty really opened his eyes.
"I haven't asked for much (from my parents) since then," he said.
The homes were built mostly by the missionary workers and everyone helped in except for the men in the villages. During the day, they were busy in the fields, still working with oxen and machetes. One man was able to help a little and built stairs for one home, completely hacked by machete.
Honduras, with a population of 7.7 million, consists of mainly jungle and mountain regions with a developing economy. It has one of the highest per capita homicide rates in the world, according to the State Department's information. It recently came through severe flooding in 2008 and a coup d'etat in 2009.
There are no building codes. There's not even a postal system in Honduras.
Schools for the blind and orphanages were set up by "gringos," missionaries that came to help out. The group was able to visit one of the schools and a couple orphanages.
"Most of the places we went were run by gringos, trying to help out down there," Wiles said.
Walden said he had every intention of returning to Honduras again.
"When we got done with the first house, it was pretty emotional," Walden said. "They were very grateful."
Seibert agreed and has already decided to return in 2013.
"I would love to go back," Seibert said.
"It was very well put together. They are a real loving people."
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