Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras Seeks New Leader

Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras Seeks New Leader as Bickford Stamps Last Mission Trips to Honduras

Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras Seeks New Leader as Bickford Stamps Last Mission Trips to Honduras

Gehlen Catholic’s Mission Honduras leader, Carolyn Bickford, prepares for her final mission trips in 2021 leaving an opening for a new mission trip organizer.

Bickford has been an integral part of Gehlen Catholic since 1979 when she started teaching at the school as a Junior High Language Arts teacher. With a passion for teaching and a love of guiding students, Bickford was naturally curious about the Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras (GCMH) program that began in 2001 under the direction of a fellow coworker, Richard Sievert. Her son, Drew Bickford, went on the second ever GCMH team trip in 2002 which deepened the interest of Bickford herself.

“When Drew came back home from his trip, he was pumped and talked very highly of the experience,” said Bickford.

Only a couple of years after her son returned from his first mission trip, Bickford decided that in 2004, she wanted to enter Honduras for the first time. Unfortunately, her trip never came to conception. Bickford’s husband of 28 years, Daniel, lost his battle to cancer only a couple of weeks prior to when the team was supposed to leave for Honduras.

The following year, in 2005, Bickford still felt called to chaperone a trip to Honduras and assumed it would be her one and only. Little did she know that after meeting the Honduran people in 2005 and experiencing a mission trip first hand, her future was about to change.

“My change took place early in my mission trips. Of course, I’d expected to chaperone my one mission trip and be done. But being around those in poverty really changed my view of the way I thought of certain people. I am more open to understanding that we are so lucky to have been born in the U.S. with almost limitless opportunities if we choose to take advantage of them,” Bickford explains.

After returning to the school building from her first trip, Bickford requested that she be allowed to take time off during the school year to go on every mission trip from here on out as she felt the need to go back to Honduras. Bickford did not understand the impact of her first trip until she was asked to speak at a retreat and talk about mission work. It was during her actual talk where she realized what her first trip had done to her.

“Honduras healed my heart after a year of grieving,” explained Bickford. “During my time there, I was able to focus on others and not be so invested in myself. It was also impactful because we dedicated the medical clinic annex in Dan’s name. It ensured that our family will always have a special connection with Honduras and its people.”

After many years of chaperoning, Bickford officially took over GCMH in 2014 where she oversaw trip organization prior to takeoff and the entire operation once missioners stepped foot in Honduras. It is on these trips where many young adults learned lessons they wouldn’t forget through water projects, building homes, gardens, bunk beds and so much more.

“Honduran people in poverty are some of the most generous people I’ve ever met. People who have almost nothing will still share with neighbors. I’ve seen a little Honduran girl give one of our missioners a cheap necklace, probably her only piece of jewelry,” recalls Bickford.

It is memories like this that has kept Bickford involved in GCMH since 2005. Now that 2021 has arrived, Bickford has decided it is time to pass the baton to a new leader of GCMH, as she is ready to retire from traveling to Honduras after the two remaining trips she has planned. One trip is with Gehlen Catholic juniors and seniors and the second is with young adults who were unable to go on their trip in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“Although this has been an extremely difficult decision, I feel it is the right time in my life to let someone else have the wonderful mission work opportunity that I’ve had. I hope to guide my replacement as he/she takes over. I also want to be more involved with Then Feed Just One and Mission Honduras Le Mars,” explained Bickford.

GCMH is an experience that has healed, and softened hearts, plus opened the eyes of many students and chaperones. It is mission work Gehlen Catholic desires to continue. The Honduran people have truly turned into family over the last 20 years.

“Jesus told us to LOVE each other. Our purpose is to serve the poor - whether those people are in Le Mars, or in the U.S., or in Honduras. If we can teach them skills to help keep them out of poverty, then we should, if possible, but in the meantime, we can’t ignore those who have very little to nothing right now,” Bickford said.

Gehlen Catholic School is currently looking for someone interested in organizing and leading future mission trips into Honduras. The most important quality is a willingness to serve others. If interested, please contact Gehlen Catholic School.


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