First Steps into Puerto Lempira

 Luke Buchanan

Luke Buchanan

The day is February 1st, 2017.  Our feet hit the ground stepping off of a small fifteen person plane.  The flare of a glaring sun subsides, allowing Dale and myself to gaze on the world we have just been thrown into.  The soft grays and browns of washed out, one room, wooden houses upon stilts serve as backdrop to the dusty haze of a dirt runway.  I pause, giving Dale an unsure look as the military police approach us, directing questions in an unfamiliar tongue to our team.  I soon begin to feel as though I don't belong.  

My expectation was to enter a world that I had been several times before and pick up where I had left off.  Instead, the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty crept in. After just my first few steps into La Moskitia Honduras, I remember asking myself two questions:  "What was this place I had just stepped into?" and, "Had I been so far removed from this land, Honduras, that I should feel distant from a place that I so desperately wanted to come back to?"  

I felt as an outsider should.  I looked different, felt different,  and spoke differently. It had been almost six years since I had been here.  While it looked much the same as I remembered, everything felt different.  It did not take long before I found that this change, this uncomfortable sense of distance from something I felt was a fundamental part of me, may have come from within me.  Maybe it was me who had changed so drastically is these last six years.  I knew, in those first brief moments, that this trip would not effect me as my other ventures here had.  The effect would be more profound; reaching me on a deeper level and perhaps fostering a change to my fundamental person.

Stepping off the plane, for me, is one of the most important moments of the trip.  It is the one moment where wonder, imagination, and anxiety begin to turn to reality and experience.  This fleeting instance represents a point of true beginning.  The start of an ultimately real experience.  One with no limits, no protection, and no rules. There was no guide to documenting this place as it had yet to be done.  We were writing the book on capturing the spirit of this place. The missionary team, Dale, and myself take the first steps to this incredible mission when we take the first steps off of that plane.  If the trip starts at any one moment, it is that one.

This is where our challenge begins.  We allow ourselves only a brief moment to take in the beauty of our surroundings.  The pure colors, the untouched land, the strangers cautiously watching; it all rushes us so quickly.  That brief moment, the second of personal time we take to pause and say, "This could be the most incredible place I have ever seen." is all we are able to take.  If I could, I would spend all day just taking in those first few moments, but our team did not come in search of seeing incredible things.  Rather, we came to La Moskitia Honduras in search of doing incredible things.

Once that moment passes and each one of us have taken our small amount of time we need to acclimate,  we refocus. The team calmly takes count of every bag and piece of equipment they are responsible for.  Dale and I grab our camera gear, pile into the back of an old, rusted out Toyota pickup, and begin our journey of capturing the incredible places and people that are La Moskitia Honduras.