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  • Barstow church members build home in Honduras

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  • BARSTOW — Barstow Unified School District teacher Bill Earnest says he was one of those guys “who believed in taking care of your own.”
    But his three missionary trips to Honduras have changed his way of thinking. He has first-hand knowledge of why children from Central America are now flooding over the U.S. border.
    “It’s sheer desperation for them. They want more for their kids,” Earnest said. “We would probably do the same thing. Shove our kids on a train or a plane.”
    Earnest and 11 others who attend First Baptist Church in Barstow just returned July 13 from Honduras. Some of the members of that group met at Carly Gilmore’s house Thursday night to talk about their experience.
    The team spent a week building a small home for a family of eight. The father of the family, Jorge, has crossed the border twice, according to the group. But the group is hoping that putting a roof over his family’s heads will persuade Jorge — and Hondurans like him — to forego the dangerous trek to the U.S.
    “The poorest of the poor down there is just off the scale compared to the poor people here,” Earnest said.
     According to the El Ayudante missionary website, Honduras is a country of 8 million people. Per capita annual income is $3,100 and unemployment hovers around 28 percent. More than 80 percent of the land is mountainous.
    Each person on the First Baptist team paid about $1,200 to make the trip to the Comayagua Valley in Honduras where the El Ayundante Mission is located. The mission was started in 2004 when land was purchased for the compound. A medical clinic is set to open this Tuesday that will provide medical and dental care to residents of three villages in the rainforest region.
    In previous trips, crews from First Baptist have built water filters and latrines, laid foundations for new homes and actually built the houses.
    “Most of us have never built a house before,” James Barry said. “I don’t think any of us have built a house from the ground up before.”
    Earnest explained that First Baptist raised money to buy the materials and the team traveled to Honduras to build the house. The team gets direction from the mission leaders on how to put the house together. The structure is 16-by-20 with a loft and two bedrooms. There is no plumbing but it does have simple electrical — an outlet and light switch in each room.
    Bathroom facilities consist of a latrine, which is basically a 20-foot hole. A 4-inch drain runs to it from a porcelain bowl glued to the end of a pipe. The residents flush with a pail of water. The whole system costs $500.
    The foundation costs $1,500 and a house costs $2,800. Those costs don’t include labor. Despite the meager features, the group said the Jorge’s wife felt like her family is now living in a “multi-million dollar” home.
    Two 15-year-olds were among the First Baptist building crew.
    “Compared to them (Hondurans), I’m filthy rich. I’m now open to other people and other cultures,” Heather Barry said.
    Heather’s father, James, said he had a lot of anxiety at first about taking the trip and especially taking his daughter with him. After returning, James Barry said he is proud of his daughter.
    “She wanted to go down there,” he said. “She supported a boy for a year with school supplies. She told me that when she gets married, she wants to raise her kids in a Third World country so they grow up not being spoiled with material possessions.”
    Earnest agreed. He said it’s now easier to get his son, Matt, to build a house in Honduras than it is to get him to take the trash out. He said his son now has something special to say when he is asked by teachers and friends what he did during his summer break.
    “ ‘I went to Honduras and built a house for a family.’ Not every kid can say that,” Earnest said. “He missed football and banquets. He has to think about it, but he goes. He is one of the kids down there. Like a big brother down there, that’s for sure.”
    Like his father, Matt says he has a different perspective on life now.
    “I just respect the little things that we have,” he said. “The house is smaller than a garage we have here. Sometimes we don’t think of stuff like that.”
    Security was not a concern for the group, which also included Hugo Bruhn, Steve Dupree, Cindy Grow, Lauren Johnson, Betty Nourse, Dwayne Rogers and Terry Rogers. They spent nights inside a secure compound, and they said the people were very friendly.
    “I felt very comfortable there. You focus on how much good you are doing and not worrying about what could go wrong,” Earnest said. “We had armed security and that didn’t bother me. It becomes commonplace quickly. I loved being there. It was really fun.”
    Mike Lamb can be reached at 760-256-4127 or mlamb@desert dispatch.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @mlambdispatch.
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