Utla Mahta, which means “Goin’ Home” in Miskito, is the last village of any size before you reach the mouth of the river (tiny Planghkira is a little farther downriver). It is the only village in our sector with a settlement on the Honduran side and a canal that leads—in the flood season—to the Kruta River ecosystem. In the early days of the ministry we traveled this waterway frequently to serve returning refugees from the old Salt & Light camp in Auka, Honduras. It is featured in many photographs you might see at the Rio Coco Café in Vero Beach, Florida.
The village sits on a mound of sedimented higher ground between the river bank and the swamp and is broader than some of the other villages. The school, called Antonio Mora Elementary after one of the founding fathers, is not visible from the water. A stand of coconut palms distinguishes our landing, and we walk between huts till we reach a concrete walkway that runs parallel to the river and then takes a sharp 90 turn toward the school. Presently, we come to an impressive cyclone fence surrounding the campus—the envy of all the other villages. Wooden crossbars nailed to the gate keep cattle from entering the school yard at night. They make adults remove their packs and squeeze between them, but agile school children are able to slip through without breaking stride.
Inside the fence, the old wooden school building to the right now houses preschool classes. The elementary school, a cement block construction across a spacious yard where children enjoy a proper recess, is more than ten years old but still looks new. Each time we visit, we see evidence that the school is not only well-kept but also well-run.