By Mike Tenbusch | May 18, 2021
This week, I’d like to share with you a little bit of what our mission feels like when we say we are walking hand-in-hand with people in garbage dump communities, along with those with a calling to help, to break the chains of poverty and to improve our lives together.
My first week on the job back in 2019, I started calling a list of names—strangers to me—who had helped International Samaritan grow through the years. The first person to return my call was Dr. Jay Jindal, a doctor from Toledo who had led four medical missions trips for us. We met for dinner the next night, and I left with three pages of notes on how we could do medical missions better. More importantly, I had made a new friend.
Dr. Jay Jindal, kneeling, on mission with friends in Nicaragua 2014 he’s still walking with today.
My second month on the job, I went to Ethiopia to see our mission in action and was mesmerized by the thoughtfulness of our scholarship students in a book club conversation led by Selam Terefe, our team leader, along with Fr. Odomaro, S.J., the spiritual father of our work in Kore. I went back to Ethiopia twice more over the next 14 months before the pandemic, and my time with the book club stood out as a life highlight for me.
When the pandemic hit, Jay Jindal began texting me ideas for books to read. He and his wife, Dr. Tina Jindal, took one of our superstar volunteers and me out for dinner every few months, and our conversations about those books inspired me to start a book club for friends of IntSam to replicate what Selam and Fr. Odomaro were doing in Ethiopia.
One of the members of that book club, Ronia Romero, who leads our work in Tegucigalpa, enjoyed the experience so much that she began her own book club for our scholarship students in Honduras. Short on books, she made copies of classics borrowed from the library, and our scholars there soaked them up. During those conversations, Ronia noticed that two of the students were struggling readers, and she recruited a mom from the community to help her teach them literacy basics every Saturday.
Not long after, two of our scholars’ parents asked if they could join the class. Both had been born into extreme poverty, were raised by grandparents, and had worked instead of going to school their entire lives. They couldn’t read or write and asked for help.
These parents have come a very long way in a very short time. They go after their lessons with the same tenacity that they have used to carve out a living in the perilous world of unregulated dumpsites.
Their efforts are inspiring our scholars in that community to new heights. Their story also reminds me of the unique way that God made each and every one of us in His image to be in relationship and to be fruitful in our life on this earth. We might get tired of how hard relationships and work can be at times, but we don’t have an excuse to quit trying.
And that’s why I love our mission: Strangers across the world have become friends looking out for each other, and chains of poverty are being broken in the process.
A father and scholars learning together this past Saturday in Tegucigalpa.
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International Samaritan is a nonprofit organization with the designation 501(c)(3). Our headquarters is located in Ann Arbor Michigan.