By B. Scott Mohr
Lyn Shonk is a caring soul indeed, whether it’s volunteering at The Lord’s Pantry at Anna’s House, tending to her chickens or on a missions trip to Duran, Ecuador, from where she returned July 16.
Shonk and 16 people from St. Jude and Nativity Catholic churches worked for two weeks around San Bernabe Parish, where they painted the church’s dormitories, made benches for the church and school and built a house for a woman and her three children.
The parish has also benefited from missions trips by members of St. Barnabas Church.
“The house is a fancy one,” said Shonk, who is retired from Alpine Electronics. “We all worked together in building it. It has one room and bamboo walls. Bamboo is used because it lets the heat escape. The house is probably 20-by-15 feet, and it has four windows (no glass) and a door. The family was in seventh heaven.”
The house has shutters and electricity, which is free, but no plumbing. Excluding stoves, appliances of any kind are considered luxuries. Water trucks make deliveries, and the people buy it if they can afford it.
“The people don’t know any better,” she said. “They are happy. If you have never had it, you don’t miss it. I had seen pictures of Third World countries before, but this still shocked me. God sure works in mysterious ways.”
The dormitories are equipped with electricity and plumbing. “We slept on wooden planks with a 3-inch piece of foam rubber for the mattress,” Shonk said. “Anyone who had bad joints knew about it in the morning. For living in such close quarters (there were separate dorms for the men and women) we got along great.”
What surprised her was the lack of outhouses and that some people had cellphones.
Motorcycles and bicycles are the main modes of transportation. Dogs, cats, chickens, hogs and cattle roam free. There are no gardens; there’s just a lot of dirt everywhere, Shonk said.
Even though the residents didn’t speak any English, everyone in the missions group developed relationships with the adults and children in Duran.
“Believe it or not, we managed to communicate very well,” said Shonk. “Leticia ‘Leti’ – our cook – made white rice taste good, and I don’t like white rice. We ate a lot of chicken and pork; rice was a staple for every dinner. Leti and I really clicked.”
The weather in Duran was the same as in Indianapolis: hot and humid. But because the city is so close to the equator, sunrise and sunset is close to 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. The monsoons in the spring require all homes to be built 4 to 6 feet above ground level.
The evenings were spent playing euchre or visiting with residents. “We also watched the teenage girls play ball and flirt with the boys,” Shonk said.
As for school, the younger children attend in the morning; the older ones go in the afternoon.
Shonk, who’s married to Southsider Voice columnist Fred Shonk, noted that Duran is bisected by a swamp, with one part of the city being much better off than the other. She stayed on the less fortunate side.
Excluding a few mom-and-pop shops, there is little business on the underdeveloped side of the city.
Since there aren’t any tourist attractions in Duran, the group took a boat ride to an island off the coast of Ecuador, where they went snorkeling and saw some beautiful birds, including a blue-footed booby.
“I am eager to go back to Duran; I am saving my pennies,” she laughed. “I want to continue our work.”
PHOTOS COURTESY OF LAURENT EUZEN The missions group from St. Jude and Nativity built a house for an epileptic woman and her three children. Taking time out from their construction chores are (front, from left) MJ Stallings, Deanna Smith, Alex Stallings, two of the women’s children; (middle row) Lyn Shonk, Lauren Smith, the homeowner, Shirley Young, Frank Smith, Laurent Euzen; (back) Dennis, Matt Braun, Al Brown, Jeff Silcox and Don Brunson.