Category Archives: Missions

Meredith is going to Honduras

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hnOne of the great joys of raising our daughter, Meredith, is watching the social-justice vein within her grow. Ever since she was very young, she has been concerned with and tested many venues for helping the disadvantaged. Her father and I are often caught in the balance between lending a hand to her “charity work” and reining her in when she tries to help a little too much.

“You’re right. All girls should be allowed to attend school! But, no, we cannot spend the summer after Kindergarten traveling to all the countries and speaking to the leaders. Not this year.”

“Yes, feel free to make bags of toiletries and snacks for homeless people, but no you cannot walk through the city alone to distribute them.”

“Thank you for helping collect clothing and school supplies for the orphanage we support in Honduras, but no you can’t travel there…  Or can you?”

This last request, one of dozens, sat differently on our hearts. Could she go to Honduras with one of us, meet the children she has supported for more than five years, work alongside us, build relationships, play games with kids her own age but vastly different backgrounds, be forever changed? Why yes, this time we can say with resounding clarity – YES.

Honduras

Meredith and I are headed to Honduras in less than six weeks with a small team of parents and teens. At age 10, Meredith is by far the youngest member, but we believe ready. She is excited to meet the kids, teach crafts, and play games. Our team will host a week of summer camp activities with sports, music, games, crafts, and devotions. We are raising money to take all 100+ kids to a local water park. We will share dinner with the older teens and worship at church alongside the whole community. But the most important “work” will be to spend time and build relationships with the kids who don’t benefit from regular attention, hugs, and quality time.

For Frank and me, our prayers for Meredith are many. Among them, that her innocence will be protected in a place where the harshness of life isn’t hidden away. She will come face to face with much of what we in America shield from our children’s eyes: poverty, greed, desertion, immoral life choices, animal cruelty, physical and emotional abuse, desperation. When I consider all the awfulness and danger of a third country as poor as Honduras, I question our decision. Why expose her to this at all?

Because she will also get to see God show up in a place that seems so void of His love. She will meet children who have nothing yet are filled with a knowledge they have everything simply because He holds them in His hands. She will learn family is everything, even if it consists of 100 brothers and sisters without a single biological connection. She’ll perhaps realize taking the top bunk above her little sister isn’t quite as bothersome as sharing a bedroom with seven other girls and no air conditioning. Working alongside half a dozen women who cook, clean, do laundry, bathe, and care for more than one hundred kids, she might learn a heavenly perspective on housework – theirs and ours.

Above all, I pray Meredith will experience the uninhibited joy of childhood! No matter on what continent a child has been born, no matter what advantages a child’s family can or cannot provide, no matter what horrors a child has seen or experienced, when all the distractions of life are stripped away, each child on this planet is entitled to joy and unconditional love. Despite all we give our children in our affluence, our children are left unfulfilled, hungry, wanting. Yet, these kids who bring no material possessions as they escape lives of abuse and neglect, find their security in others who care for them, hope from the opportunity to be educated, and wealth in being loved by God. The first time I ever looked into the eyes of pure, overflowing joy was 4 years ago when I met the children of Heart 2 Heart Children’s Village. I cannot wait to introduce my daughter to them!


We are working with the team to raise about $1,000 to take the kids to a waterpark. If you would like to help us make that happen, feel free to make a donation here www.h2hcv.org (please mention Meredith or me in the subject line).

To learn more about the amazing work happening at the Worldwide Heart to Heart Children’s Village, visit the homepage at www.h2hcv.org. H2H is a home and school to over 100 children and youth, ages 2-20. The children come undernourished, abused, and unloved, but H2H changes their lives by raising them in a Christ-centered family atmosphere and educates them at a bilingual school.

Read more about my experiences before, during, and after my first trip to Honduras under the Missions tab. Meredith and I both hope to catalog our trip via this blog.

Above all, please keep us in your prayers!

 

 

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That Time I Said No to God

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My heart resides in an orphanage in Honduras. Lush green forests, smooth rich coffee, insufferable poverty, broken homes, happy children. I went, I fell in love, I returned to my family, forever changed. And now everyday, I seek ways to better the lives of the children in Honduras or others like them.

The opportunity was handed to me like a jewel on a silver platter. A team was ready to go to Honduras this summer, but they needed a leader. The church offered to pay all my costs. Will you go, they asked? Would I ever! It’s perfect. God must want me to go, I believed.

Everything called me to the trip. Everything, except my extended family. The trip was scheduled in the middle of our family vacation, a trip to celebrate my father’s pending retirement. If I missed half of the family time for a mission trip back to Honduras, surely my dad would understand. He knows my heart. My husband and I prayed, believing it was obvious God wanted me there. We worked the schedule this way and that, juggled flight times and childcare, and finally came up with an agenda that made sense. Only, to my parents, it didn’t.

Every so respectfully, they tried to explain why No, they didn’t think I should go. This was a time for our family to be together at the beach. Oh how I argued, in my mind, if not directly to them. How would I be able to sit in the sand, play in the ocean, and relax while my heart and soul were with a hundred rescued orphans? And so I prayed some more. My heart was screaming “Say yes to the trip!” but my family was quietly asking me to stay home.

Eventually, probably out of exhaustion, I relented and listened to that still small voice. Instead of insisting on “Missions or Bust!”, the Holy Spirit reminded me of the other calling to “Respect thy father and mother.” In my selfishness to fill my own heart at the orphanage, I was neglecting the love that raised me, taught me about Jesus, and fostered my heart for others. In my bitterness at their disapproval, I had lost sight of the incredible gift my parents are to me. My supportive, adoring, wise parents.

And so I said No to God. No to the call and opportunity to return to Honduras (this time, at least). My heartache was replaced with an abundance of gratitude, healing, and forgiveness as God responded to my faithfulness.

Three months later, I sit on the porch overlooking the beautiful Carolina beaches. My children laugh with their pack of cousins. My sister sits, quietly reading the Bible in the warmth of the sun. My mother takes a few of her beloved grandchildren for a sparkling sunrise walk along the coast. My family and I sang and danced the night away to the music of our childhood. And my dad? I steal glances at him, soaking it all in. Three grown daughters, three sons who treasure his girls, and nine grandchildren to fill every corner of his bottomless heart. Yes, God, this place of unstoppable love is exactly where You wanted me to be. Thank You for waiting for me to say No.

To the team who traveled to Honduras without me, I am praying for you, for your precious hearts of love, and for your safety. Come home and tell me all about the children who changed your life! 

To learn more about the Worldwide Heart 2 Heart ministry, please reach out to me or visit http://www.h2hcv.org. The children’s village is an unforgettable slice of heaven!

The Unwrapping Continues

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I knew what I wanted for my 40th birthday a year in advance. Several months before my celebration, I was elated to receive the gift I had asked of family and friends, and embraced it with wonder and joy. Together, many of the people closest to me sent me on a mission trip to Honduras. What I gained through that gift was so much more than an experience or a cool trip, but a new perspective on life, a view of the world beyond my own.

So now, on the eve of the “big 4-0,” I’m left remembering where I was a year ago, emotionally and spiritually. I had never traveled to a third world country, never faced immeasurable poverty up close and personal. I had never wrapped my arms around an orphan. I was celebrating my 39th, never thinking I would soon be attacked by fire-ants while playing frisbee, cook rice and beans for dozens of hungry children, and fall in love with an unwanted, abandoned child.

When I received the gift, I slowly, carefully peered inside. Throughout the months following, I’ve checked back inside from time to time, toying with and chatting about the memories, but keeping it all locked where it is safe. It’s only now, that the real value is beginning to show.

My husband is taking his own journey and traveling to Honduras next month! I am thrilled to share the places, smells, sights, and faces with my partner in life. I know what he will experience, and I can’t wait to hear about it from his perspective. (I’m guessing fewer tears and less hugging.) Most of all, I am excited for him, for the impact these children will have on his heart, for the love and compassion I know he will feel for the nationals.

When I landed in Honduras, I immediately realized the second 40 years of my life would be very different than the first 40. The first proof of that is finally coming to fruition. My crazy college boyfriend, my adventurous backpacking-across-Europe pal, my stuffy business-suit-wearing husband … he’s going on a mission trip. And that is the greatest gift of all!

Ten Days, What Next?

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Well, it had to come sometime. The big question: What next?

I’ve just had the most transformative experience if my life, aside from giving birth to two children. I prepared for it, thought about it and prayed about it for months, if not years. I took that step of faith and went on a mission trip to Honduras. I held orphans, I shared the love of God, and allowed my heart to be forever changed. But what next?

The trip itself took months to plan, many weeks to raise the money, and several days to pack. But we were only gone for 10 days. Once I was home, I was unpacked within 24 hours. Laundry done and put away within two days. The trip is over. The best I can hope for now is to place an order at Snapfish and relive through my pictures and stories. But even those will get old. What next?

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!

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!

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

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.

C is for Caliente

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Observations from my first six hours in Honduras:

I was lucky to have a warm shower with decent water pressure. Note to self: C is for calienté, not cold.

Remembering to brush with bottled, rather than tap, water is easy if I don’t turn on the tap at all. Tossing used TP in the trash, rather than commode, is a harder habit to break.

The forests are so lush, they appear black rather than green.

Rivers are brown from silt, trash, and sewage.

In a country so overwhelmed with poverty (the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere), what constitutes as housing is nothing short of a tragedy.

With no where to dispose of trash, litter piles up everywhere the eye can see. Roadsides and riverbanks are peppered with debris.

People themselves don’t have enough to eat, so animals face a miserable existence. Horses, cows, and dogs roam, starved and diseased.

Buildings, homes, and companies of any value are guarded by cement block walls and razor wire.

Shacks are quality homes for the middle class. The wealthy live in large homes behind well-guarded gates. The poor live and raise their children in lean-tos and tarp-covered spaces.

I don’t know how I will return to America and not be sickened by our indulgences.