Mula Mula up the Mountain
by Rich Grabowski
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What was that he said? “Mula mula”, he shouted over and over. He barked the words and each time he did so his voice got louder, trailed off then repeated again and again. This was definitely a command. An order to be followed without question. And the mule did so. With each outburst the animal lunged forward if but for a few steps. It seemed the animal was used to the command and was expecting a continuous stream of barked orders from his handler to continue on with the heavy load.
The journey up the mountain slopes was difficult and we needed the pack mules and the mule handlers to assist us with getting our supplies to our destination.
On January 1, 2005 I was thrust back in time. Not ordinary time, not time travel, but time as in a place that hasn’t changed in thousands of years. For a man, this was an adventure right out of a history book of a great explorer. It was the pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock, or the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria landing in the “new world”.
Now my adventure was certainly not a new discovery, nor will it change the course of world history like those mentioned previously. However; there is no doubt that the extreme nature of the adventure was such that I can, for once in my life, say that I lived what every boy dreams of; an adventure.
Quite frankly I was unprepared for this. Not in the sense of having gear, supplies, or clothing; all that I did have. I had planned this trip for months and was physically ready. I quit smoking, began jogging, and prayed intensely. As a matter of fact I was in better shape then I had been in 25 years since I got out of the Marine Corps. What I was unprepared for was the inadequate primal existence of the people living high in the mountains of Honduras.
To get to where we were going we would gradually step back in time. From modern American airlines to a developing country’s 30 year old prop plane; from there to the only paved road for hundreds of miles known as the highway of death, to single lane dirt roads. The roads would end and be replaced by foot trails which eventually disappeared into infrequently traveled paths across rough terrain. Across rivers, up cliffs, through dense vegetation, the ever disappearing signs of modern civilization gave way to a way of life few have actually seen. It was said, when we were at the farthest reaches of our journey that we were the first white men the villagers had ever seen. This is a strange hard realization to grasp for a middle aged American male. I surely thought the entire world had seen us…or knew of us.
What I found was what could be considered a cruel way of life. The villages were occupied by no more then 50 or 60 people. The houses were constructed with earthen sides and thatched roofs. The community members were mostly related in one way or another and the enforcement of the rules of the villages was up to the Man of Peace. Now in a simplistic perspective this is a pretty picturesque seen. Lush tropical rain forests, tiny villages, small communities of close knit people all living in harmony. However, without trying to look deeper you are immediately taken back by several things that are terribly wrong.
For starters the villagers had never heard the word of God. The houses each had fire pits but no chimneys. The livestock cohabited with the people. The villagers drank water that collected in pools and were contaminated with animal and human excrement, parasites, and various other types of waste. Children ran around barefoot and there were very few latrines or human waste accommodations.
As our team traveled up the mountain, the hired mules and their handlers brought our supplies and equipment. It would have been an impossible trip without these local hands helping us out. We entrusted them to provide safe passage for this gear which became increasingly more important the deeper into Honduras we got. The value of the supplies seemed to increase with each step and there distribution had greater and greater impact.
We brought with us many different types of medicinal aids; aspirin, vitamins, antibacterial creams, topical ointment, hydrogen peroxide, and the most valuable of all, parasite medication. One of the saddest moments came when we were entering a village and we came upon 6 new graves. The graves were of young children who had died the previous week from diarrhea induced from parasites. The parasites were contracted from the drinking water. Some things we could not cure, like the emphysema developed after years of inhaling smoke saturated air in the chimneyless houses.
The mules also carried with them several boxes of small toys. These toys were the small “happy meal” type toys that our children get from McDonalds. We had hundreds of these small toys, many of which had been discarded or were unwanted by our children who have outgrown the “happy meal”. Little does McDonalds realize how happy these toys really are to children who have never had a toy in their lives. These children had a thousand Christmases all rolled into one sunny January day. The excitement on their faces was like nothing I have experienced before. In many ways it wasn’t the joy of having a toy as much as it was the wonderment of what a toy was. To teach a 19 year old young man that a doll’s arms move and to see him marvel was incredible. To teach a 5 year old boy that a small toy with wheels is meant to be pushed is speechless. To watch a 3 year old girl hug her first teddy bear and an 11 year old girl put on a colored plastic wristband like it was made of gold is breath taking.
Finally the mules carried with them the most precious box of all. This one was filled with bibles. You see, that was the real purpose of the trip; to go on mission to spread the word of God. In the farthest village we preached the word, several brave souls broke from the norms of the village and listened and accepted Christ. Others rattled their machetes and threw the bibles back at us in the dark of the night. There is no doubt in my mind that we were encroaching on the evil ones territory. The pigs squealed and the dogs howled as the word was being delivered. The cries in the night following our message were fraught with eerie anguish.
Our mission was accomplished. We reached a group of people who had never heard the word of God. We provided the way of salvation to these folks and planted several seeds. We gave medical treatment where and when we could, and we left children with tiny gifts that stretched their imaginations to far reaching extents.
Never are these people to be the same.
Nor am I!
This was an extreme mission. This was not for the faint of heart, mind, body, or soul. Although this was my first mission I am already praying for the Lord to make it possible for me to return to this precious land. There are thousands of villages just like this one that have not been reached and I would like to return, to go further into the heart of the country, to spread the good word.
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This is a compelling story. I am so glad that God gave you the opportunity to have this experience of serving Him! May He continue to shine His light through you! -Grace, Jared.