Day one we landed in Tegucigalpa, met with our trip leaders and interpreters over lunch and headed toward Danli to serve in that area for the next two days.  It is about a 3-hour drive from Teguc to Danli.  Midway we stopped for a restroom and coffee break at a gas station/truck stop.  A very small place by American standards, but it had restrooms and a coffee bar and just about anything else snack wise that we thought we might need. Upon arrival and exiting the vans we were being transported in – we were approached by a local young man – a Downs individual.  Suddenly and without warning – he approached each of us individually and gave us hugs.  Without any reservation and with no permission – he would come right up and hug you.  He did this with everyone.  Being our first interaction in this strange new land, none of us were prepared for this and we wondered, who is this guy?  What does he want from us?  Is he a beggar looking for a hand out?  Why is he in my personal space?  It was extremely off-putting and awkward and no one really knew what to do or how to respond.

That evening during our devotion we learned about being open to the Holy Spirit and that while we would not/could not understand everything – being willing to open up and be vulnerable is the key to going deeper in our faith.  That if we aren’t open and willing to be vulnerable we might miss the greatest Holy Spirit moments to connect with the local people. I reflected on the day and brought up the interaction with this young man.  Did any of us think to ask him his name?  Did any of us think to hug him back?  In our mixed confusion we didn’t realize the blessing he was offering us – we missed it! I shared the story with Kelly that evening during our FaceTime exchange and in all her wisdom said, “perhaps on your way back through he will be there again and you won’t miss the opportunity to connect a second time”.

Sure enough, two days later on our return trip to Teguc, we stopped at the same gas station and there he was.  This time each of us embraced him and I asked him “What is your name?”  He said Carlos.  Then we each shared our names with him.  Then we watched as Carlos went to everyone who stopped at the gas station, hugged them and smiled at them.  He never asked for anything in return.  Carlos knows that the power of a hug and a smile can change hearts and minds if we allow it to do so.  Carlos taught us all something and set the tone for the rest of the trip for us to be open, vulnerable and in touch with the Holy Spirit.  What a blessing Carlos was for our team – thank you Carlos for teaching us this valuable lesson.