She first traveled to the country on a mission trip with World Compassion Network, a Warsaw organization aimed at mobilizing and assisting the church in responding to the needs of victims of disasters and poverty.
Every summer, WCN sends groups of volunteers to serve Hondurans living in El Progreso and Tegucigalpa, the capital. The final group of volunteers will be returning on Aug. 4.
An estimated 65 percent of Hondurans live below the poverty line, so there is no shortage of volunteer work to be done. Metzger said the initial trip opened her eyes to a whole new world, to things she had never seen before.
“You always hear about people living in the little tiny huts without electricity, but I actually got to serve these people,” Metzger said. “It’s such a poor country, but the people are incredibly full of joy.”
After the trip, Metzger returned to Warsaw to finish high school and had no idea where to go after gradation — until she remembered her experience in Honduras.
“I talked to my parents about moving to Honduras to learn Spanish for a couple months,” she said. “That couple months turned into a couple years.”
She quickly found work as a kindergarten teacher at a bilingual school. Because she taught classes in English, it wasn’t a problem that she wasn’t fluent in Spanish. Still, she received lessons everyday after school.
Metzger realized she wasn’t ready to leave yet. She had fallen in love with the country — from the language to the lifestyle to the geography.
“It is such a friendly culture,” she explained. “The people are so warm and make you feel at home.”
She said the slow-paced lifestyle, very different from that of the U.S., made her appreciate the little things in life, including the environment. Metzger, who lived in El Progreso, was 30 minutes from the mountains and an hour from the ocean.
She loved the country and people so much she searched for new ways to contribute. She joined up with a Christian group to organize trips and events, sometimes working with World Compassion Network again.
“It partners with different organizations in the States setting up short-term mission trips and festivals all throughout Latin America,” Metzger said. “I had the opportunity to travel throughout Central and South America event planning and translating.”
The traveling helped her stay in Honduras longer. Because of visa requirements, she had to leave the country every three months to remain a legal visitor. At one point, she even moved to Costa Rica for half a year.
“I went to a Spanish language school to become fluent and also learn to read and write in Spanish,” she said.
But it was Honduras she considered her home during those years — that was where the nutrition center was.
There, she worked with malnourished children and babies a few days a week to feed, clean and play with them. The children often stayed at the center for up to a year because their parents could not properly care for them.
“The parents come in weekly and visit their kids and they would take lessons on how to care for their children,” Metzger said. “Once the child is restored back to health, they almost always return home. It was a great program. I miss playing with all the kids and having babies crawling all over me.”
Since she returned to the States, she has tried to find a new life. She lives in an old office building that her dad converted into an apartment for his children to live in. Seven out of her nine siblings work for her dad’s trucking company, but she chose a different route.
“I recently graduated from an esthetics program and plan to work for a massage therapist, Teresa Croussore,” she said. “I will be doing facials and skin care, waxing, massage and airbrush makeup.”
Still, Metzger looks for every opportunity to return to Honduras. She and her father return every year to visit good friends in El Progreso — in fact, the Metzger’s are traveling this very week.
“A big piece of my heart will always be there,” she said.