A trip to Honduras reminded 16-year-old Andrew Jacob Atwell to be more appreciative of his "stuff."
In January, Andrew — or AJ, as his family calls him — went on an 11-day missionary trip to El Progresso, Honduras, to help build a home for a mother and her nine children.
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It was a country he and his family knew nothing about.
"I barely knew any Spanish," said AJ, who attends Zion Reformed United Church of Christ in Hagerstown.
There's more than meets the eye here. Before the trip, AJ had faced a few obstacles, his mother, Margaret "Maggie" Richardson, said. He has dyslexia and has been learning to regain trust in others after suffering abuses during his childhood, she said.
Typically, he avoids being put in the spotlight, his mother said.
In fall 2010, a pastor at Zion mentioned there was an opportunity for a mission trip to Honduras. When AJ expressed interest in going, Richardson said she thought it would be a great opportunity.
"We took the whole thing on faith," Richardson said.
Honduras is a Central American country slightly larger than Virginia. More than half of the population lives in poverty, making it one of the poorest countries in the world. Human rights issues are a constant concern for political watchdogs and human rights advocates.
AJ stayed in Honduras from Jan. 3 through Jan. 14.
In El Progresso — progresso is the word for progress in Spanish — AJ said he found roads of dirt and homes made from cinder blocks. In the poorer neighborhoods, homes were made of whatever materials could be found.
But despite the situation, AJ said the people were happy. Even though they didn't have much to give, the families treated him as though he were one of their kids.
"When he came back, he was glowing," Richardson said.
Now, he and his mom are thinking of doing more missionary trips — perhaps a trip to New Orleans in the spring.
"It changed me a lot," AJ said. "People have more stuff to appreciate here."