The best way to be a good mentor for the at-risk youth in our programs is to find ways to show interest in their lives outside of our ministry activities. Getting to know the community, families, interests and needs of our youth builds connection and strengthens relationship. It also teaches how and when to pray, encourage, teach and intervene. We are honored and excited when given opportunities to engage with our youth in their daily lives. Plus, it can be quite a cultural experience! That's why we enthusiastically accepted a recent invitation to accompany and cheer on several of our students at a choral competition for their school.
We weren't really sure what to expect when we arrived at the meeting place to find students and chaperones piling into several pick-up trucks. We joined the caravan and set out. It wasn't long before we left the pavement and found ourselves on a windy, perilous mountain road slick with mud from the recent rains. We finally arrived at a flat narrow piece of land and parked alongside the other vehicles. We could go no further by car. Thankfully, our destination was just a short walk down a steep, muddy trail.
The tiny school with less than 30 students sits on a small plot of land with a few houses scattered nearby. There are three little buildings, brightly painted and well-kept. A small kitchen with a wood-burning stove occupied one small building. Another small square holds a kindergarten classroom. And the largest building houses the one-room class for the first through sixth graders. A couple of outhouses and a tiny playground are scattered in between. There was a small temporary stage set up in the yard. The children's tiny chairs lined a space for the audience. The center aisle and the stage were covered with fresh pine needles and flower buds to create a quaint venue for the performers.
We soon learned that the "karaoke" is part of a collaboration between three rural schools, including the local school where we work with our youth. Mothers from all three schools soon arrived carrying baskets full of tamales, corn on the cob and fried potatoes to sell at the growing community event. They rushed to serve fresh fruit juices to the waiting students as we waited for the mike checks and costume changes to conclude so the first performers could take the stage.
As preparations dragged on, Steve and I watch as ominous clouds began to gather. If we didn't leave before the afternoon rains began, our truck might not be able to make it through the growing depths of mud that made up the winding road—even with 4-wheel drive!
Finally the first kindergartner took the stage. As the concert progressed, we learned that a song about a blue backpack was a favorite among the younger crowd. Several different renditions of the tune blasted through the speakers. We also observed that dancing during the performance earned additional praise and presumably additional points on the judges' tally sheets. There was plenty of traditional Honduran folk music, a reggaeton piece by one of the older kids and one particularly awkward love song performed by a brother/sister duo. All were met with polite applause and cheering from the now drenched-by-rain audience.
The downpour subsided several times only to begin anew a few moments later. We squeezed under umbrellas, precious few overhangs and the tarp spread over the stage. It periodically dropped a deluge of water that it accumulated sending the girls below into screeches and the boys into fits of laughter. Finally, we could wait no more. We congratulated our students on their performances and trudged up the sticky path to the truck and a treacherous journey back to pavement.
Our first Honduran karaoke wasn't just a fun cultural adventure. It made us feel like we are becoming part of the community to which God has sent us. And that little muddy, one-room school tucked away on the side of the mountain is exactly the kind of place we belong—participating in life alongside the students we serve.