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Bob Savage - On a Different Kind of Mission
Bob Savage, an electrical engineer and Assistant Director of Safety and Mission Assurance at Wallops Flight Facility, is a man on a different kind of mission. In 2006, Savage led a team from his church, including his family, on their first mission trip to Honduras.

“In 2006, I was at the Oakridge Community Church in Clarksville, Md., and noticed a table for mission trips to Honduras,” says Savage. “I saw a need for help. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch came through Honduras and dropped about 75 inches of rain in certain parts of the country. The results were devastating. About 11,000 were killed and another 11,000 left homeless.” His church has a sister church in Honduras which sponsors annual, one-week mission trips.

“Since I was leading the team, I had to ensure that everyone going was prepared for the unfamiliar journey. I made sure that everyone was up to date on their shots and had malaria pills. I also took our medical kit in case of an emergency,” says Savage. The group also brought 13 duffle bags full of donated clothes to give away.

The team flew into San Pedro Sula, Honduras, was met by translators provided by their sister church, and then bussed 2 ½ hours to the remote town of Camalote. The group stayed in a three-bedroom house with one inside bathroom for the women and an outhouse for the men. There was no hot water for showers. They slept on thin foam mattresses on the concrete floor. One of their sister church members cooked for them. The group traveled by pickup truck in town and to neighboring villages to distribute clothes. “Rush hour in Camalote consists of a herd of Brahman cattle being lead through town,” notes Savage.

Bob Savage handing out supplies
Bob Savage and other team members distribute school supplies to children in a remote village. In the background is new wall of the school building that the team built for the village. Credit: B. Savage

From Camalote, they hiked 2 ½ hours up a mountain to another remote village called La Virtud. They carried their mattresses, water, and clothes, but used donkeys to haul the donated clothes. “There was little to no trail and it was uphill all the way,” says Savage. “We hiked above the clouds.” They stayed in a two-room school house during their overnight visit. The next day, they distributed the clothes to the children.

Distributing clothes to the village
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In 2007 team members work to replace a school roof damaged during 1989's Hurricane Mitch so that the school could be used again. Credit: B. Savage
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Members of the mission team distributing clothes to children in a small village near Camalote. Credit: B. Savage

“We distributed clothes to one village each day over the week. As the kids lined up, we tried to find one outfit for each. The word got out that we were coming with clothes so the kids met us at the local schools every morning,” says Savage.

Every week-long mission trip has at least one major project. The men’s project the first year was replacing the school’s roof in Camalote. “We raised building funds at our home church and purchased the materials in Honduras. We could have just sent the money, but it means much more to the locals for us to personally go there and work side by side with them to help,” says Savage. They knocked their shoes before putting them on and looked around very carefully while moving debris during construction to avoid scorpions. The women’s project was painting a church exterior wall with a religious scene designed by Savage’s oldest daughter.

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The mission team that traveled to Camalote, Honduras stands in front of a mural they painted on a local elementary school. Credit: B. Savage
The team also put on pantomime skits and puppet shows with religious themes for the children. They prepared craft projects and worked with the kids on the crafts during their village visits. “The friendship bracelets we made were probably the only jewelry these kids ever had,” notes Savage. They also played games although they separated the boys from the girls when knocking the piñatas. At night, they got together and discussed the day’s activities, planned for the next day and sang songs using instruments they had brought.

In 2007, 2008, and 2009, Savage led more church missions back to Honduras. Each trip had a different project the most ambitious of which was building an entire two-room school for a remote village. He plans to lead another mission trip in 2012.

“You develop a bond with the people after a week and become friends. So you want to return to help them. It really opens your eyes. You see how lucky we are in the US and how poor other people are in third world countries. Until you go on one of these types of trips, you never realize how blessed we are here in the US,” he concludes.

Related Links:

› Read more about Bob's work at Goddard in his Conversations With Goddard piece
› More Outside Goddard profiles
Elizabeth M. Jarrell
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.