Forget the trip to Walley World. The Manning family vacation involves a long trek but instead of an amusement park as the destination, the family will be in the mountains of Honduras helping other families get a better life. Three generations of the Manning extended family, along with a church family, are involved in the endeavor. Doug Manning is an assistant in the Orange County Attorney’s Office. On Friday, he and his wife, Shelley, and their three children will join his father and step-mother (Jerry and Sherry) in Honduras. They will meet up with his step-brother, Mark Fittz, who is originally from Orange and has been in the country for several years with his wife and children as Christian missionaries. Mary Beth Fittz Rose is the sister and her husband is the Rev. Daniel Rose, minister at Community Christian Church in Orange. Church members also go on the trip.

Doug Manning said he went on the trip last year. He and Shelley decided to take children Robert, 6; Mason, 5; and Maya, 3; on the trip. He said the boys have been concerned about not speaking Spanish and being able to communicate. However, their cousins are bilingual. During last year’s trip, Manning learned a few phrases in Spanish. ‘Give me the hammer.’ ‘Give me the saw.’ They were useful words. His trip last year involved putting a roof on a church and laying the foundation of a new house for a widow. Dentist Dr. Nina Leifeste is a member of Community Church and goes on the annual mission, bringing equipment to set up a dental clinic. ‘She worked from dusk to dawn,’ Manning said. Most of the people coming for help needed tooth extractions.

The area where they work is in the mountains. Manning said it is humid but gets down into the 50s at night. He said he went to bed without covers and sweaty and would have to get under blankets during the night. The houses are usually made of brick, cinder block or adobe. Craftsmen there are ‘brick masons and very good,’ he said. However, they don’t have as much experience working with wood. ‘In Southeast Texas, we’re good at that.’ He had never framed a window or door on adobe before last year and learned about the foot-long nails that go in at angles. Often, the houses never get glass for the windows and only shutters cover the openings.

One of the problems is that electricity goes off sometimes for no particular reason and with no warning. Last year Manning was using an electric saw to cut a framing board. The electricity went off when he had only about an inch left to go. He pulled a Leatherman multi-tool out of his pocket and hand-sawed the last inch.

The women from Orange bring school supplies and soccer balls to give away. They visit schools and hold Vacation Bible School activities every day for the local children.

Manning’s father and step-mother will be spending a month this year in Honduras staying with the Mark Fittz family. Mark has served as a missionary with Camino Global in the country for a number of years and started Hope Coffee in 2009. The company’s website said American people working on missions took home the locally-grown Honduras coffee as souvenirs. They liked the coffee so much they wanted to buy more. Fittz set up the business with Honduran farmers and pickers producing the product at fair wages. The coffee is packaged and sold, mostly to churches in the U.S. Net profits go to the mission work including providing water and housing to Hondurans. Dozens of churches in the U.S. are regular customers. (

-Margaret Toal, KOGT-