Category Archives: Honduras

H is for Honduras and Home

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In great contrast to observations from my first six hours in Honduras, I humbly submit observations from my first two days back home:

Ten days sounded like a long time to be away. Now it feels like a joke compared to the long life I have been given and opportunities I have to make an impact in the world.

My emotions waver between numb and raw.

Everyone told me my heart would be changed forever. What they neglected to mention is that I would cry for days on end.

Every child I see here is already fulfilled and seems to be lacking nothing. They aren’t longing for a hug, smile, or kind word.

When asked about my trip, “It was amazing” hardly seems a fitting response, but I don’t know how to reply without telling everything.

I feel angry and bitter, but I don’t know why.

Fresh water from the tap never tasted so good!

My children missed me and I missed them, but none of us felt empty or alone. Praise God for filling our hearts and time until we were together again.

The next forty years of my life are going to be lived a lot different than the first forty!

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It’s Been A Busy Week

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As I reflect on the past ten days in Honduras, I thought it wise to chronicle my week before I forget a moment.

What I did in Honduras (hotter, sweatier, dirtier, and happier than I can remember ever being) turns out to be quite a lot…

Held babies that don’t belong to me. Not only orphans, but the children of shopkeepers. Every baby and child I found, I wrapped my arms around or touched their heads, praying over them in my heart.

Organized storage rooms. Dirt-covered floors, jumping spiders, bags of donations, soccer balls, and more all needed to be put in their places. I spent several hours making sense of a space no one wants to enter due to the heat; it had become so disorganized, it was barely functional. Enter my mother’s daughter.
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Played UNO, backgammon, frisbee, jumprope, and basketball among the heat, dirt, and bugs. For a mother of girls, hanging outside with boys aged 5-16 was a rare treat!
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Adonis and Kevin
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Luis, Guillermo, Ezekiel, and Frazen gave me a run for my money at backgammon

Fought off attacks by fireants and pesky no-see-ums.

Filed paperwork for a teacher so busy I don’t know how she keeps her grace. A woman who’s preference is to homeschool her own 4 children, Stephanie lives at an orphanage with 90 kids and manages a classroom of 35+ young teens.

Colored, playdoughed, and stickered with preschoolers. Just like home.
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Estafany loved making a paper selfie.

Made popcorn and poured cold Pepsi for the kids who earned movie time at school. We almost burned out the school’s one small microwave while popping dozens of bags, one at a time.

Sat through Honduran rush hour, was awakened by gun shots, and cuddled in bed with a stranger. Goodbye comfort zone!
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Chopped veggies and chicken, cracked dozens of eggs, and patted cornmeal into pastalitos to feed a small army. Working alongside the tireless house mommies, I learned much about the Honduran culture. 20131004-203138.jpg
Worshipped and sang praise songs in Spanish while attending two very different church services.
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Cried. Every time I have thought about leaving Honduras, I have been overwhelmed with sadness to say goodbye to the people, their culture, and this country, all with which I have fallen in love.

Held children whose parents have abandoned, neglected, abused, and otherwise given up. Some motivations were pure, some were purely selfish. Whatever the cause, their children are left craving love. And for a moment, I was able to give them just that.
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Me with the birthday boy, Carlos.
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Loving on Nicol

Watched a video of my daughter rock climbing in the United States. Technology is awesome!

Shopped at a tiny country grocers, a city tourist shop, and a busy mid-size grocery store. In each, the proprietors were welcoming and kind. I dread going back to my local Safeway.

Rode on a school bus with a hundred sweaty kids and smiled the whole way.
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Ate chicken, rice, and beans until I was chicken, rice, and beaned out.

Started my days with early morning devotions and steaming mugs of Honduran coffee. Through the various perspectives of my team members, I gained a deeper understanding of God’s Word.

Took a half-dozen teen boys to dinner. Our group feasted on grilled beef, pork, chicken, fish, and chorizo, sided by spicy cabbage slaw and chips and beans. Mmmm!

Helped as an assistant teacher for kindergarten through eighth grade classes. We read, sang, learned, and scored together.
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Music time in Beka’s Second Grade class
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Marylin and Dimas trying a fun clapping game I taught Brenda’s “prepa” class (kindergarten).

Brought sick children to a clinic.

Rocked a sleeping baby girl for three hours. With numb arms, back, and bum, I prayed God’s provision and grace for Naomi and her siblings.

Left my son. Guillermo holds a place in my heart that seems carved out for him alone. I was honored and humbled to meet him, hug him, look him in the eyes, but I could not say goodbye. I will be back for that child, in one way or another, God willing.
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Indeed, this has been a 40th birthday celebration unlike any other. Thank you for your prayers of encouragement and support. It has been an honor to journey with you!

Fluency

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Foreign languages. Some people get it; some don’t. My husband needs only spend a day in another culture to pick up the conversational basics (a convenient quality in a travel companion!). Me, not so much. I’ve been “learning” Spanish since high school. Two years of study, plus several classes in college, even a year’s worth during my work in DC.

I always do well enough, but simply don’t progress very far. Being immersed in the language has great benefits. Much has come back to me this week, allowing me to carry on rudimentary conversations with the Honduran nationals. But I’m not fluent and doubt I ever will be.

Several of my friends are native speakers from other countries and learned English as a second language. Across the board, they have said they knew the moment they were fluent in their learned language. It was when they dreamed in English. Their subconscious was now speaking from a different perspective and their thinking, the way their brain processes, will never be the same.

Last night, I awoke in a most comfortable, cozy position. I found myself with my arms wrapped so tightly around my core, it was as if I was hugging someone closer than myself. As I laid in the darkness, my dream flowed to my conscious mind. I had been holding orphans in my embrace.

My perspective has changed. All that is important to me has expanded exponentially to include these children. Now I know my mind is changed forever. My heart is speaking fluently a new language.

Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
Matthew 19:13-14

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
Psalm 82:3

Naomi

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I am sitting in a rocking chair, holding a baby girl who lost all her security this week. She is the same age as my own daughter, about 1 1/2, and doesn’t even have a blanket to offer comfort.

Naomi’s mother brought her to this children’s home three days ago and left. Unlike many children who arrive, Naomi is fortunate to have her siblings, three sisters and a brother, here. But she is no less terrified. She cries for her mother most of the day and most of the night. She hasn’t been sleeping. She has an unnerving, rattling cough. She is weak, listless, and can barely walk.

As we washed the lunch dishes today, I heard her crying in the nursery (a term I use loosely, only to delineate it as the babies’ room). Naomi was sitting alone, holding a broken baby doll. The caretakers had left her crying quietly, not for lack of concern, but because she cries whenever they hold her. Besides, they have too much mopping, washing, cooking, etc. to rock a baby. Who better for the task than a mother who misses her own? That is, after all, why I came!
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So here I’ve been for over three hours, rocking this sleeping child and pouring into her all the love and comfort I have. What love, strength, and wisdom her mother must have to leave her children here together, giving them their best chance at survival. Such a selfless sacrifice. Years ago, a Father also gave up His Son; not for the child’s survival, but for the salvation of our hearts. These orphans, and their parents, are giving me a deeper understanding of the sacrifice God made for us, His wayward children.

For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16

A king’s ransom for my petty soul. How can I not give of myself to His precious ones?

Naomi and her siblings (Esther – 8, Luis – 7, Loran – 5, and Joana – 4) are at Heart 2 Heart temporarily. To stay, they must have financial support, approximately $250 per month to clothe, feed, and educate each child. That’s an added monthly expense of $1,250 for this ministry. If you feel a tug to help the orphanage, please visit H2Hcv.org. Any amount makes a difference – $20, $50, anything. Although these kids aren’t yet on the website, look through the pictures. You will fall in love with all the children, I promise!

Lunch with Luis; the four girls piled on my lap; Esther, the oldest
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Bus Ride from … Heaven

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Much to the chagrin of my fighter pilot dad, motion sickness plagues me. I’ve learned to avoid it by sitting towards the front whenever possible (driving is best), selecting airplane seats strategically, never ever touching carnival rides, and not boarding public buses. Especially hot, crowded buses with multiple stops. But this trip isn’t about me and the transportation isn’t going to cater to my issues.

Our group of 14 has been traveling by van to and from the Children’s Village, school, and our hotel. Each hot, dusty drive takes about 30 minutes. My compatriots have been kind enough to let me sit towards the front, and God has protected me from the first sign of queasiness.

But yesterday, our group was split: 7 at the Village with the van and 7 of us at the school. At the end of the day, our small group hitched a ride on the school bus with the kids… 80 from the Village, 6 adults from the Village, 7 of us, 14 teens that live elsewhere, and a gaggle of local kids who ride the bus to stops along the way. Well over one hundred people on one standard school bus. No air conditioning, no seatbelts. To say we were packed like sardines makes it sound organized. It wasn’t. There were bodies everywhere! Hot, sweaty bodies. Three to four of us piled in each seat, kids climbing across one another in the aisles.

What was also in abundance were smiles, laughter, pure joy. People were singing, battling through thumb wars, sleeping, and enjoying the human crush. Shoved somewhere in the middle of that bus, I sat on the edge of a seat already filled with 10-year old girls. Three boys leaned in from the aisle. We talked and laughed, then watched videos of my “loco” daughters. When time came for our group to disembark 45 minutes later, I was filled with such disappointment. This had been a heavenly bus ride.

Wednesday’s schedule will require us to travel on the same hot, loud, sweaty bus. And I cannot wait!!

A world of difference… First, the bus as I boarded, at about 80% capacity. Second is a shot I grabbed last week on a first grade field trip with my daughter.

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Why Fi

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For all that is a challenge in Honduras, being in touch with my family has been surprisingly simple. Our modest hotel offers free WiFi, providing me contact with home via email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and this blog.

Each morning I awake just after my own family, who is in a time zone two hours before me. I immediately log in to see what messages and pictures my husband and mom have sent (not enough!). Then I see what’s happening on the social networking sites. I get ready for the day, maybe post a blog post, and check in once more before heading out for a long day. The evening ritual is much the same with me trying to keep pulse on my girls, family, and friends while serving in Honduras.

Sitting at the Children’s Village, we were given the WiFi password to use, in case we needed access during the day. In short order, a few of us grabbed our phones and tried logging in. As I was struggling to get a connection, one of the boys climbed on the arm of my chair, leaned over, and asked, “What are you looking for?”

Indeed. What was I looking for? After waiting months, years to be here in Honduras, I sat surrounded by God’s children, trying to get connected to the world beyond. Convicted, I looked Julio in the eye and responded, “Nothing that can’t wait. I’m here to be with you.” I put away the phone, jumped up, and had a blast pouring God’s love into the kids.

Early Morning Alarm

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At about 4:30 this morning I was awakened by what I could only describe as gun shots. Two of them. Several minutes later, as I laid in bed praying, someone (police?) drove through the streets with a loudspeaker. My shaken nerves and poor translation attempts picked up the words Christ and children. My roommate, Sharon, quickly sat up and hopped in bed with me. With shaking hands, we prayed. For the protection of anyone who was injured, for God’s protection over us and this town, for children who may be frightened or in danger, for the work we are still called to complete. While we prayed, we heard two more “pops,” these not quite so close. Then quiet. As we laid down, both curled up with MY blanket, the roosters began to crow. We waited, recited Psalm 23 together, and chatted about our families until about 5:30 when we sneaked from our room for some fresh Honduran coffee.

While I poured my cup, I chatted with the hotel security guard, a kind local man who speaks only Spanish. We did our best to communicate. Julio assured me nothing sinister had happened and I did not need to be afraid. Political propaganda for the upcoming presidential election using middle-of-the-night gun shots and threats of God’s wrath on the children. And we think campaigning in the US is ugly?

Whether the actions this morning were to be feared or not, Sharon and I started our morning, our very early morning, together in prayer. God called us awake to pray over our group, the local children, and those at the orphanage. We claim His protection and His blessing over our work.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Psalm 23

Learning to be Flexible

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Frisbee, athletics. Not my usual thing. Sweat. Not so much either. Watching a mother drop off her children at an orphanage. Definitely not.

Our group of 14 started our morning early with a devotional lead by Sharon, a brave, loving woman who is a long time missionary-friend of Dan and Chris. As she encouraged us to seek God’s strength to carry us through the heat-exhausting day and thank Him for the blessings we would receive, she also reminded us this is not our only mission field. There are as many, or more, opportunities to share God’s love and grace back home as here in areas of physical poverty.

Once at the Village, everyone jumped into their work for the day. Chris and Sharon played with the youngest children, colored with the tween girls, and made S’mores for all the kids (minus the fire since everything was melting in the 100* heat). Dan, Bill, and Chris replaced broken fans throughout the buildings. The tireless aquaponics team from Washington state spent many log hours digging, building, sawing, and pouring their sweat into the repairs at the fishhouse. I worked alongside two of the housemothers, chopping veggies and chicken to serve arroz con pollo for lunch. Later, I played a mean game of frisbee with a couple of boys who might go home in my suitcase!

Everyone who visits Honduras quickly learns to be flexible and ready for anything. As we played with the children today, a pickup truck entered the yard with a mother, her five children, and two workers from IHNFA (a kind of Honduran child welfare). The children, all under the age of 8, were overwhelmed and frightened. The toddler, a girl about the age of my youngest daughter, wailed every time her mother put her down. The group was ushered into a community room where I was watching Narnia with a group of 20 boys, giving me the opportunity to help serve lunch to the mother and her babies. I could not help but notice she completed the required paperwork in a businesslike manner and seemed almost detached from her errand. In short order, she left her son at the boys’ home and set off to deliver her daughters to the girls’ home. No fanfare, no long goodbyes.

My heart grieves for this mother tonight, and the countless others being forced to make wretched choices like this. This mother has watched her children abused by their father and set out to find a better place for them, a children’s home. Our team has been praying for her and for her babies as they transition to their new home tonight. Please join us in lifting these precious children whom God loves as deeply as all of His children, and thank Him for caring that not even one should perish.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”
Matthew 18:12-13

Grocery Shopping

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Ever fill a basket of Thanksgiving food for a needy family, donate non-perishables to a food bank, or deliver a meal to a new mother (or dad whose wife is on a mission trip – ahem)? It feels good, right? You are delivering not only food, but sustenance, life.

There have been times I have felt the pang of frustration, looking at my somewhat barren fridge, wondering what I will feed my family for dinner. At worst case, I serve them cereal or leftovers, order take-out, or zip to the grocery store. No such luxuries in Honduras. The Children’s Village here provides 3 meals a day to 90 children, plus the men, women, and visiting missionaries who care for them. They get by okay, but there is no room for extras.

One of our tasks for the week was to take team funds and fill those refrigerators. For a gal who usually detests grocery shopping, I had a blast!

A small group of us drove 15 minutes to a nearby town of Cuyamel, a little “bedroom community” of sturdy shacks, clothesline-filled yards, and warm people. We didn’t know exactly where we were headed, but our 4 requests for directions were met with kind eyes and smiles. We finally found the “super-mercado,” an un-air-conditioned building the size of 7-11, stocked with essential family needs. No extras. The usual shopping carts were inaccessible to us, as they were in use as the produce aisle. We each picked up a small carrying basket and started filling. Carrots, tomatoes, green beans, chorizo, flour, rice, cereal, ketsup, cream, cheese, toilet paper, shampoo, 24 whole chickens. Piles and piles of food. We were able to splurge where the village house mothers cannot: cake mix, frosting, raisins, lotion. In total, we spent over 12,000 lempira, equivalent to about $600 for the three houses (boys, girls, preschoolers). A king’s ransom.

Our team was blessed to see the wonder in the eyes of the proprietors, a kind family who helped us at every turn of our shopping spree. After we paid, we drove away thinking of the bounty of their day’s profits.

Oh, how I wish I had snapped a few pictures. The refrigerator before and after. Our loot at the grocery store. The smiles of gratitude for provision, both at the village and the market. This was a thanksgiving I will never forget!

Big / Little

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God is big. We hear of His loud, booming voice, likened to thunder. He created the world, spoke it into being. He makes mountains move, separated the waters of the Red Sea, stopped the Jordan from flooding, even raised his son from death. He is big.

But we are also told He is in the details. We can pray to Him about specific needs because He cares. He even knows the number of hairs on our heads. Scripture and our answered prayers are full of examples.

As I pass through the litter-covered streets of Honduras, see children scraping food from filth, and think of other places in the world, much of the world, existing in such abject poverty, I wonder, “Where is God?” I see the mountains, lush forests, and lapping sea He formed, but what about that child, his mother, their future? The details of their lives can be changed by work – hands and feet making it happen. Because we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, WE must get to work on the details.