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Pastor, others back from Honduran mission

February 07, 2006|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

When The Rev. Delancy Catlett tries to explain what compels him to pack up tools, books, Spanish Bibles and children's clothing and journey off to Honduras to do manual labor in the heat and poverty of that Central American country, it's actually simple.

"It just gets in your blood," Catlett said, days after returning from his second extended mission trip there.

Pastor of both Mount Vernon Reformed United Church of Christ in Keedysville and Christ Reformed United Church of Christ in Sharpsburg, Catlett was supported in his mission trip by both of his congregations.

"Part of the offering at my ordination ceremony in November at Mount Vernon - $400 - went for my trip," Catlett said.

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In December, when he was installed as pastor at the Sharpsburg church, another $180 was raised.

In addition, all the supplies he took to Central America, worth another $500, were furnished by the churches.

Accompanying Catlett were other members of the Catoctin Association of the UCC, including Carl Gearhart of Clear Spring, a member of Christ's Reformed in Hagerstown.

The owner of Reliable Builders, Gearhart, 66, has made the Honduran trip two times.

"We had 28 suitcases filled with items this last time," Gearhart said of the trip that ended Jan. 20.

A veteran of 10 such trips, Gerald Hanberry of Walkersville, Md., was the team leader. It was his contact with the Evangelical and Reformed Church (UCC) in Honduras years ago that led to the partnership between Catoctin Association and Iglesia Bethel in El Progreso.

The dual purpose of this partnership is to further education and provide housing in that country.

"In Honduras, the state only provides education for grades 1 through 6," Catlett said. "We see children through the 12th grade, which costs $400 a year for those six years."

Convinced that education is key, money is raised all year for this effort. "If you want to change poverty, this is the way to do it," Catlett said.

Begun in 2000, the scholarship program has helped 64 students, seven through graduation. Another 26 students are on full scholarship and seven more are sharing scholarships.

The scholarship provides books and school fees, clothing and transportation. "There are strict rules, such as maintaining a B average and good attendance," Catlett said.

Most Hondurans are poor, working in the fields, fishing or laboring in cottage industries and sewing factories.

Housing is another major concern addressed by the mission groups on each trip.

"We built a house that was 18 feet by 20 feet of concrete block with a metal roof," Gearhart said. "From the footers up, we started and finished it and were there for the dedication."

Still quite basic, the house has no electricity. Residents cook over a fire and have outside water and bathroom facilities. But the house replaced a flimsy wooden shanty with a leaking roof.

Catlett, 51, said the people of Honduras are some of the happiest people he's ever met. "The children wanted me to sing our national anthem," Catlett said, and he did.

A native of Washington County, Catlett was police chief in Williamsport for four years in the 1970s. Then he taught school for nearly 20 years before launching his pastoral career.

The latest mission group also included Martin L. Fisher of Christ's Reformed in Hagerstown; Terry Foor and Kevin Guinn of St. Stephen's in Cascade; Ron Rowe of Holy Trinity UCC in Hagerstown; Merle Guyton and Wayne Brandenburg of Christ Reformed UCC in Middletown, Md.; Lucas Baseley, William D. Powell III, and Hanberry, all of Glade UCC in Walkersville; and Jennifer Campbell and Chris Spriull, both of Grace UCC in Frederick, Md.

Will he go back again? Catlett said of course, and he wants to take as many volunteers as he can.

"The experience is life-changing and I want others to feel it, too," Catlett said.

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