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RECORD OF THE UNITED METHODIST VOLUNTEERS IN MISSION TEAM TRAVELS
TO HONDURAS TO ASSIST WITH CONSTRUCTION
CHHF MEDICAL CLINIC
LIMÓN, COLON, HONDURAS
The objective of the team was twofold. The first was to drive a vehicle and trailer with tools and building materials to Limón, Honduras. It was to travel through the south-central US and through Mexico, Guatemala and much of Honduras. This was done by Harley Feltman from Anderson, SC; Ed Goodson from Greenville, SC; George Seabom from Williamston, SC; and Bill Wilt, team leader from Honea Path, SC. The vehicle was left at the clinic to transport patients and for other uses. The second objective was to complete the upstairs living quarters and wire the entire medical clinic.
2016 Google Map of the approximate route taken
When the group arrived in La Ceiba, Honduras, they joined Curtiss Bost and Garnet Craddock from Clemson, SC; Earl Jeffcoat from North, SC; Larry O’Malley from Batesburg, SC; and Paul Rung from Florence, SC who had flown in that day.
The Chronicle of their activities is as follows:
Day 1, Thursday, October 10, 1996 - We left Seabom’s house at 5:00 AM today to begin our mission trip. The four of us were to be confined in this Chevrolet Blazer for many days. Little did we realize how hectic it would be. We traveled through Atlanta rush hour traffic without difficulty and stopped later for breakfast. We went on to Jackson, Mississippi where we had to get some airline ticket matters straightened out. This needed to be done because some prospective team members dropped out after the tickets had been purchased and had to be paid for. We then cut down to Lake Charles, Louisiana where we spent the night. Just prior to our arrival there we briefly heard some strange vehicle noises, but they soon stopped. Today we drove 850 miles in nineteen hours. We stayed in a Days Inn and none of us had to be rocked to sleep.
L-R: George Seabom, Ed Goodson, Bill Wilt & Harvey Feltman
Day 2, Friday, October 11, 1996 - We were up and on the road early. In a very short time we heard a grinding, vibrating noise like we had heard briefly last night. This time it persisted. We had gone only thirteen miles before we stopped in Sulphur, Louisiana and located a Chevrolet dealer to determine what the problem was. They said we had a bad bearing and a problem with the front wheel drive and the parts had to come from Houston which would require that we stay overnight and hopefully, get on our way again tomorrow. We were taken in the dealer’s courtesy car to the Holiday Inn where we checked in. Little did we realize that this was going to be home for several days.
Day 3, Saturday, October 12, 1996 - The dealer had told us the vehicle would be ready around noon and he would call us and send for us when it was ready. When he called, he said that they needed additional parts which would not arrive until Monday. Two more days waiting. We walked up the street to Wendy’s for lunch. As we were leaving Harley asked a lady who was getting in her car, if there was a Methodist Church nearby. She said that there was and that she was a member of it. We inquired if it was near enough for us to walk to it tomorrow. She said no but she would see that someone picked us up. We gave her our phone number and she said she would contact us about the arrangements. We were called that afternoon and told the arrangements to pick us up and we were asked to talk to the combined youth Sunday School classes about mission work. We agreed to do this and then worked out a scheme for how we would do it.
Day 4, Sunday, October 13, 1996 - After another night at the Holiday Inn we were picked up for Sunday School and Church by Mrs. Cindy Qualls. When we arrived at the Henning UMC we were greeted by the members of the youth classes and their teachers. They were extremely interested in our presentation and had a number of questions. Some had been on some local youth mission projects. We enjoyed being with them at least as much as they seemed to enjoy us. After this we went over to the Sanctuary for Church. The service was well done and all of the people were as nice as they could be. The minister, Rev. C. Richard Hoffpalur and his assistant, Tracy McKenzie are excellent and seem to be much appreciated by the congregation. We were very surprised when they took up a love offering for us. After Church, David and Cindy Qualls took us to lunch and invited us to a Church picnic at a local park that evening. We went back to the motel until they picked us up for the picnic. We had a better opportunity to mingle with the church members in this informal setting. They, again, asked us to tell the group about our mission work. This congregation is as warm and committed as they could be. We enjoyed being with them very much.
Day 5, Monday, October 14, 1996 - We were up early and went to Shoneys to have breakfast with some of the Henning UMC folks. We are hopeful that we can get our vehicle back today and get on our way. We finally got it and were on our way again at about 11:00 AM. We got 15 or 20 miles and the noise of the vehicle turned us back. When we considered the options available to us it was decided to just disconnect the front wheel drive and go on our way. This work took until about 10:00 PM. We were very grateful that the manager and the mechanic would keep at it until this late hour. When the mechanic was turning back into the shop after his test drive, the right front wheel fell off. We were taken back to the motel (La Quinta this time for a change of scenery) to spend another night.
Day 6, Tuesday, October 15, 1996 - We were up early, had breakfast and waited to hear from the shop. We were informed that the hub had separated and that the new parts had been secured and would be installed soon. They soon sent for us and told us that the wheel was fixed. When we asked for the bill, we were told that David Qualls had told them he would take care of it. We were, to say the least, flabbergasted. We knew that it would be around $1700. We were, once again, very favorably impressed by these people.
We all came to the conclusion that all of this was the handiwork of the Lord and for two reasons. First, we were to experience true Christian love and support. Second, it was an opportunity for the people of this Church to exercise their Christianity in a very tangible way. We just hope that if such an opportunity came to our Churches, we could act in such a wonderful way. While we were anxious to get back on the road, we cannot say that this was an unpleasant experience.
We got away from Sulphur at 11:00 AM went on to Houston, San Antonio, and Laredo without incident, (except one blowout on the trailer) We got to the border around midnight but we were turned around and told to go to a border crossing about 30 miles away which dealt with vehicles with trailers. We went to the Holiday Inn and went to bed. We had driven 518 miles today.
Day 7, Wednesday October 16, 1996 - After about five hours in Holiday Inn we were up at six for breakfast. We got a new spare tire for the trailer at Walmart. We had now replaced all of the tires on the trailer, including the spare. (Later on as we passed over some rough roads, we were relieved that we had). We set out for the other border crossing which was about 30 miles away. When we got there we again encountered the Mañana syndrome. There were two cars there, us and one other. The other one got through in about an hour. We didn't make it. The reason they gave us was that Bill could not prove that he was an employee of the Carolina Honduras Health Clinic. We had to return to Laredo (60 miles round trip) and contact Dr. Gibson by phone and have him fax what we needed. The Sanborn insurance company (the company we always insure our vehicles out of the country with) graciously let us use their facilities and personnel to do this. We thought this would make it possible for us to get through. Wrong again! When we got back, Bill took them the paper and they turned us down again. They said they needed either an employee’s name tag with his picture on it or a cancelled paycheck. Apparently he did not know that when you cashed a check, it was returned to whoever wrote it. Back to Laredo. Bill called our Senators and diplomats and anyone else we could think of. This took most of the rest of the day. Finally, we were informed that the leader of the local headquarters had called and told them to let us through. Back we went to the border crossing again at 4:30. Finally at 6:00 PM they told us we could go through if we paid them $550. We agreed to do it. It has been a long and tiring day. FLASH! They turned us back again. They said that we did not have a tag on the trailer. We told them that South Carolina did not require one. They said that did not make any difference, we couldn't go. They turned us back again. We have been in and out six times so far with no luck. We were all of the opinion that if this was all they thought of us, we should contact our political leaders and tell them to stop guaranteeing their loans. We feel that this is pure harassment. We set sail for Brownsville (5 hours) where we planned to start over. We got to McAllen at about midnight and stopped for the night.
Day 8, Thursday, October 17, 1996 - We were up at six AM and had breakfast and then off to Brownsville. When we got there we crossed the bridge to the Mexican side. They told us that we were at the wrong crossing. We had to go to a different one about 20 miles away. When we go there we once again, crossed to the Mexican side. This was the fourth crossing we had come to. Each time, we had to pay to cross and pay to cross back. This time we hired a Broker to run interference for us. We felt this was just another way to get money but, by now, a necessary evil. It costs us $150.00 but if he is able to grease the skids, it will be worth it. At about 2:00 in the afternoon we were told we could go through. We had expected to do this on the third day, not the eighth. We were overjoyed to be on our way again. Due to the fact that we had lost so much time getting here, we changed our route from the longer one but with better roads to the most direct one. We calculate that if we push hard, we can still make our projected arrival time at La Ceiba. We pushed hard and got to Tampico about 10:00 PM and had supper and spent the night at a Best Western hotel on the square in the center of town. We had driven 752 miles since Laredo even though we got a late start today. Some of the roads were pretty rough and there were no shoulders at all. We were determined to make our destination on time if it was at all possible.
Day 9, Friday October. 18, 1996 - We were up at 6:00 AM and on the road again. The going was slow and we took a few wrong turns. This was just an occupational hazard as road signs were few and not well designed. The maps were not always accurate and this contributed to our navigation problems. There was much anxiety about reaching La Ceiba on time. We were possessed about this. We did not stop to eat but snacked on things we had brought with us. We got into some rain and this slowed us. We got to a place called Motras Romero about 11:00 PM and found a motel. The place was a dump but we were exhausted and needed to stop. We had driven 606 miles today.
Day 10, Saturday October 19, 1996 - We were on the road at 6:00 AM, no breakfast. We pushed on with only two wrong turns (and wandering around a couple of towns trying to get out.) We got to the Guatemalan border and got a broker who got us through in only about two hours. We were really getting into the boondocks now. The broker rode from the Mexican section to the Guatemalan section (a couple of miles) riding astride the spare tire on the trailer without our knowledge. Harley looked back as asked "Who is that riding on the spare tire?" When we stopped, he was ready to get us into Guatemala. They would only allow us to drive during the daylight hours because it could be dangerous. They told us not to go past a certain point. When it got dark, we stopped for the night in Nazatenanzo at the San Pablo motel. It was OK for this country. We had supper in the motel restaurant. This was the first meal we had eaten in a restaurant in a couple of days. There were no phones to call home so we went to bed. Some of us heard what seemed like guns shooting during the night. All of the motels we have stayed in had armed watchmen.
Crossing the border into Guatemala
Day 11, Sunday October 20, 1996 - We were up early, had breakfast in the motel restaurant and were on our way by 7:00. We pushed hard all day on the not-so-good roads and made it to the Honduran border. As usual, we had to pay the price to get out and get in as we did at all other borders. We had gone through Guatemala in 24 hours. Some of the roads in the mountains of Honduras had experienced mud slides and portions of them had slipped downhill. We had to be especially careful because of these places which could have wrecked us. We pushed on to San Pedro Sula by 9:00 PM. This was the first chance we have had to call home in several days. We stopped at a shopping mall but found that the phones required a coin to activate them but we had no coins. A policeman standing nearby gave us one. We were overjoyed to report in so close to our objective. We decided to shove on to La Ceiba so that the others could have their tools and construction materials when they got to Limon. We also wanted them to lead us to Limon as it was a long way with no map to follow. The road from San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba had a good many washed out places as a result of recent floods. We got to La Ceiba sometime after midnight. We had been on the road about nineteen hours and had traveled 532 miles. The whole trip was over 3,800 miles. It took a lot of pushing and shoving but we did it. Mission accomplished.
Day 12, Monday October 21, 1996 - We were up early and met the rest of our team for breakfast. We were let down some after all of the tension we had experienced during the trip and the problems we had encountered. We met Terry Billings who is a Canadian missionary and who has lead the work on the clinic so far and will be with us during our stay. Some of our group went with him to buy groceries and some building materials. The rest of us just stayed around the motel and unwound. After lunch at the Pizza Inn we were on our way to Limon. The trip took a little over three hours but Terry led us at a fast pace. The roads were fairly good except for the last hour which was on a washboard dirt road. We traveled through extensive plantings of banana and coconut trees and also some kind of palm tree the fruit of which is pressed to make cooking oil such a canola. All of this in this part of Honduras is owned by Dole. They also have pineapple plantings but we did not see them. We finally arrived at Limon which is a small and primitive village. No electricity, little water (which we could not drink) and which is intermittent at best, and the streets are just places between houses (I use that term loosely). We got to our motel which was OK by the local standards. The heat and humidity are oppressive. Our motel gets very little breeze through the rooms. We pretty well swelter at night. The mosquitoes are bad at times so we use much repellent. We had supper in a little restaurant (again I use the term loosely) next to our motel.
Day 13, Tuesday October 22, 1996 - The roosters start crowing about three in the morning so we were up and off to breakfast at the work site. We had a local lady do our cooking at the Church which is beside the clinic. Her kitchen was not at all like what we have at home but the food was OK. Our group undertook two tasks this first workday. Earl, Larry and Bill began work on the electrical and the rest of us set about putting down flooring on the second floor. The native workmen are still putting on the roof. The building is larger and more extensive than we had thought it would be. It includes places for all kinds of medical specialties. It will surely be an asset to this part of the world. The government finances the medical training for some who will agree to give back some time to serve in places like this. Everyone feels sure that one of these doctors can be secured to furnish continuous service in addition to the U.S. doctors who volunteer to be here from time to time. Those Doctors in South Carolina who are providing this facility are to be commended. We got the floor down and considerable electrical work done today.
CHHF Limón clinic as team arrived
Day 14, Wednesday October 23, 1996 - Day two on the job after bacon and scrambled eggs (with tomato and onions) for breakfast. We also had excellent grapefruit which cost two cents each. The electrical continued and the others started framing up the dividing walls. All of the studs and other components had to be cut from 2x4 lumber. The heat and humidity are beginning to tell on us. Both are in the very high nineties. It only takes a few minutes to be wet with perspiration and we stay that way throughout the day. We feel free to take breaks when we need them and we drink great quantities of bottled water. We also drank a good many bottled drinks. We hope to finish the framing tomorrow. We got a rain shower today for the first time but the roof was just about completed. Bill took the vehicle back to La Ceiba this afternoon as it was charged against his visa and he would not be able to leave the country unless he got permission to leave it.
Day 15, Thursday October 24, 1996 - We were up early and after breakfast, back at work. We have moved our breakfast time up as the roosters wake us up in the night. I never did have much use for gamecocks. Today the framing is basically completed and the amount and quality of the electrical work is impressive. They began doing some wiring on the second floor today, as up to now they had only worked on the first floor. Today we also finished the ceiling joists and began putting in the ceiling grid on which the 2'x4' ceiling panels will be nailed. This requires many short pieces to be installed and is slow since the overhead nailing is very taxing. All are beginning to know what their limits are and are learning to pace themselves. The temperature and humidity surely take their toll. It is black dark at 6:00 so most are in bed by seven.
Framing of walls
Day 16, Friday October 25, 1996 - We are continuing what we were doing yesterday. Some of us are leaving to go home this week-end so we wanted to get as much done as possible today. We managed to get most of the ceiling grid finished in the four upstairs bedrooms. After supper, Harley Feltman, Larry O’Malley, and George Seaborn went back to La Ceiba with Terry Billings. The others plan to come in the morning on the bus (again, loosely). Ramon, the foreman of the native group which has been working on this clinic all along, said that we had done more in four days than his crew would do in a month. Natives are always by what these teams can accomplish in such a short time. I must admit that I am also impressed
Day 17, Saturday October 26, 1996 - Curtiss, Garnet, Ed, Earl, Larry, and Paul were up early to catch the bus to La Ceiba. This was a trip to remember. It took about six hours. The bus had a capacity of 52 but at times they counted 100 people on it. They would have chickens, crates of empty bottles, produce, etc. with them. The bus left Limon at 8:10 and the cost was 28 lemps (approx. $2.30) They stopped at several small towns to pick up travelers and their goods. While they were stopped in one of the small towns, Curtiss and Earl purchased hats which made them look like native guerillas. They arrived at La Ceiba at 2:00 PM and took a taxi to the La Quinta motel where we joined those who came last night. We then went downtown to do some shopping. There was little that we found that we wanted.
Day 18, Sunday October 27, 1996 - Those staying and those leaving had a rushed breakfast together. Those leaving today wanted to be at the airport about 6:30 (this proved to be much too early for a 10:00 flight.) Those who stayed just relaxed and rested up until they had lunch at the Burger King, (yes, Burger King and Pizza Inn are here).
Day 19, Monday October 28, 1996 - We were up at 5:30 and had breakfast in the motel dining room at six. Terry joined the group. Ed had devotional. After checking out, the group headed for Limon after a stop at a hardware store to get some more building supplies. We arrived back at the building site at 11:20 and work until lunchtime and then went back to work until time to stop for supper. We had beans, eggs, juice, and bread. Nothing fancy but OK. All of the framing work has been done and we will begin putting up ceiling panels tomorrow. We were all in bed by 8:00 PM.
Day 20, Tuesday October 29, 1996 - It was decided to complete the walls on the west end and then start the walls on the east end. All walls on the west end were completed after a long day but a good day. The new generator came today and was installed in the bodega (store room). Rene’s crew (native workers who have been working on the clinic all along and who finished putting the roof on last week) started putting in the window frames.
Day 21, Wednesday October 30, 1996 - Ed and Curtiss finish the walls on the west side. Garnet, Paul, and Royce (Terry’s son who joined us to work this week) do the walls on the east side. Earl has been busy installing the electrical system. Ed and Garnet took a swim at lunchtime (the clinic is only about 150 feet back from the shore. It would really be a tropical paradise without the heat, humidity and mosquitoes.) It has been a good day. Most of the windows are in. We hope that tomorrow all doors will be installed to secure the upstairs area. It is beginning to look like we can accomplish all of our objectives.
Day 22, Thursday October 31, 1996 - All walls are complete! Even the vaulted ones in the great room. The kitchen island and most of the cabinets have been made. The ceiling fan was put up in one room. We ran all day on the new generator today. It was great to be able to use the power outlets in the building. Most of the windows and the window guards are up. The building looks great.
Day 23, Friday November 1, 1996 - We worked until 2:00 PM. We have completed the ceilings in three bedrooms and the fourth one is two thirds finished, all walls are up, electrical is in and the ceiling lights and fans are all up except in the great room The high walls in the great room are finished. We travel to La Ceiba again back to the La Quinta motel.
Day 24, Saturday November 2, 1996 - Most of the day today we just took it easy and rested up at the motel. We did go downtown to do some shopping and sightseeing.
Day 25, Sunday November 3, 1996 - Today is the day we have been looking for. We fly home on TACA airlines. We have much satisfaction from a job well done but home is great.
Chronicled by: Ed Goodson and
HISTORICAL NOTES OF INTEREST
The following was not part of original text, but included in other material furnished by Harvey Feltman.
Photo and text from The People-Sentinel Newspaper (Barnwell, SC) - October 2, 1996
Letter to Honduran Embassy seeking assistance with importing the material in the trailer.