Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tegucigalpa, a few tidbits

I looked this all up, some my investigation, some from legit websites, however, I am not putting this all out there as all totally confirmed.  Mostly just for fun and to wrap our collective minds around a few things of Tegucigalpa.

Item #1 So why is land so expensive in Tegucigalpa, when it is in an economically poor country?

Tegucigalpa is roughly 7 miles from East to West, and five miles North to South.  It is hard to tell exactly, as it is a city crammed into a valley, rapidly working its way up the sides of the valley and spilling out of the bowl if you will, but close enough for blog work.  Total square miles despite my above measurements, taking in the not square nature (and consulting another website)...roughly 50.

Population...1.1-1.3 million or so (expected to double in the next 15 years or so?  Yikes)

Now, since I am from Indiana, and it is easy to compare, let us take a city like Indianapolis.

If we look at just inside the loop of 465, it measures about 13 miles East to West and 16 miles North to South but to make it easier, let us take the whole Marion county, which is roughly 20 miles by 20 miles, or 400 square miles.

Marion county as a whole has a population of about 900,000.

So, population 1/3 more here...but in 1/8 of the space.

This is where I would say "you do the math"...but I just did.

Item #2   Average wage in Tegucigalpa is 75% higher than the rest of the country ($440 per month as of 2010 according to the Honduras National Statistics Institute)  Try finding an accurate representative figure of the unemployment here...it is nearly impossible, with figures varying wildly from under 5% (laughable in my opinion) to high figures over 30 or 40%.  Even the CIA factbook lists that about 1/3 are underemployed.

Item #3   Coming off item #2...seeing that 30% of people living in the capital live in "moderate poverty" and 18% live in "extreme poverty" (the first...good luck deciphering into real numbers, the second is living on $1.25 or less a day) sheds light on the disparity of incomes throughout the city.

Item #4    95 cars/trucks per 1000 habitants (this is country wide...could not find for just Tegucigalpa, which would be much higher, up to possibly 400)  (USA as a total has 809 vehicles per 1000 inhabitants)

Item #5   2nd Indiana reference:  In a straight line Tegucigalpa is closer to Indianapolis than is Los Angeles California.

Item #6   3rd Indiana reference:  We have mentioned we are pretty much due South of Indianapolis.  The Mission House sits at W 87 degrees 14 minutes, which puts us pretty close.  We are West of Indianapolis...but still East of Terre Haute.

Item #7   As of 2013, there were a total of roughly 29,000 foreigners living in Honduras, out of a total population of roughly nine million (or .3%) making them a rare thing.  Consider that the neighboring countries around and rest of Latin America represent half that or so.  So overall, your odds of running into a white person (from North America or Europe) are about 1 in 1000 and an Asian from anywhere in Asia...are even more remote, like one in every 10,000.

Item #8  There are something like 17 La Colonia grocery stores in Tegucigalpa now (I can remember when there were just two) and in Indianapolis, there are at least 25 Kroger stores.

What is the point?  No point, no hidden agenda...just sharing just a few things that come up often talking to people.  Hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

+44, it's not just a way to call the UK anymore

We had two groups in July.  They actually overlapped.  I did not get to spend much time with the first one, the group from CIY here July 5-12 as I was sick for two days, and then they were off to Sampedrana with Oscar for five days before leaving.  I regret not getting to know them, but I had to take care of myself, and it did feel good in a way to know I was not really needed, they did fine with everyone else's help.  Up in Sampedrana they worked hard to put a concrete roof/second floor, as well as floor in the first floor of the new Sunday School rooms, and helped a bunch on the coffee farm.  That is always hard work.

Also hard work was just getting ready for that group.  You cannot just stroll down to the hardware store there and order concrete, sand, gravel, etc.  You have to go quite a ways to get it yourself in the case of sand.  Oscar was there for several days just to get everything ready.  Anytime we have a group that stays in Sampedrana for several days, it is such a big deal for the whole community, very much appreciated.

The second group that was here July 8-17 was from Hazel Dell Christian Church, specifically via their student ministry.  It was our biggest group ever...44 people total.  (+44 is the international calling code to reach the UK)

I do not put that statistic to brag on them...but I will brag on them for other reasons.

There is much debate it seems about what is a good group size for short term mission work.  I suppose it depends on the mission, what it can do, staff size, etc. but generally I hear smaller is better.
I am here to tell you that more than the size of the group...what matters most is the preparation, organization, and intentionality of the group and its leadership.  And in that respect, this group was one of the best I have seen.

They came prepared with months of meetings and team building.  They were ready to do whatever we asked of them, and they did it in spades.  Of course...having 44 people meant doing more was easier!

So...where did we put them all?  Part of the funding they raised went towards the apartment/garage/third floor construction.  That was specifically so we could put beds there for the overflow of what the mission house and man cave could not handle...in this case 12 more beds up there (temporarily...unless we get another big group like this!)

This third floor, in addition to Justin's apartment, has an office for Oscar and a full bathroom.  In the future we hope to get funding to finish the floor, and use some of the space as a conference area for meetings, and possibly an office for me as well.


Now...you might think this is the garage for the Fords, but for this week it was called "The Breezeway."  And the term was quite apt.  We made makeshift tables for eating and meeting space, and brought chairs down from the second floor of the clinic.

It worked remarkably well...and it was in fact quite breezy and cool.





So what did they do?  Hang on minute!  We also needed more translators than normal.  All of us were up to bat, and while I am thinking about it, how about another update on Cecilia?

Cecilia being off school for the summer has been zealous in her desire to translate, help, cook, prepare...do whatever she can for the groups.

Here I found her extolling the virtues of these tiny bananas not always available in the USA (I have definitely seen more of them in the last few years than I did for a decade before that!)

She is only 13, but definitely has a passion for working with groups.  Sometimes she is a bit overzealous (she can definitely tell you what to do if you ask), and sometimes an old crusty missionary (forgetting that this might be normal for her, but for the group their first time doing many of these things)...but is trying very hard and growing all the time.
  

This picture was not planned, I just jumped at the opportunity.  One of the things we have been trying a few times this year is working with the groups, the clinic, and the Church.  This being a big group, we were able to divide up into nine groups...six doing corn distribution with the cell groups in the wide area of Pantanal, and three groups going to do medical care.  Right before we were to leave we gather for prayer...and how many of us that were there together just hit me.

Every group seemed to walk...quite a bit.
And to go up and down...quite a bit.

At least on this portion I visited, there were now stairs, that was a welcome sight.  Unfortunately, the whole area is still prone to mudslides.

So many stories...it is hard to process.  Joy, tears, no food, a pet squirrel, a spider that leaped to attack the youth pastor, and especially of interest (and prayer) for me personally was hearing Valerie bring back a patient to examine at the clinic that "just happened" to be in the group she visited...that had just suffered a severe retinal detachment.  



Sunday afternoon we visited every family in the Milk Project with rice...as well as many prospective families (anticipating we might get all 50 children sponsored soon...still have 11 left) that are waiting.  

More walking...more up and down.  More stories that are more than stories...they are people.

May God take all those efforts to help physically, and also work through them spiritually to His glory.  

All told: we distributed more than 6,000 pounds of corn, and around 1,000 pounds of rice.

Construction...the Church (next to the clinic) they helped with concrete for starting an entrance ramp to the new building, more block on the Milk Project building, a new concrete parking area for the clinic, painted (one mural on the inside, several on the outside wall), started a retaining wall for a garden area, and brought extra funds to take a day in Talanga to help do some rust painting and with more of the wall they need for the property and an entrance gate.  The Church will do the remaining work on their own...this project will soon be finished, and it was decided the time had come that it had to be done just a few months ago we were not sure how we would even get it started!  Very cool.



All told...10,000 pounds of concrete used, not sure how much sand and gravel! And at least 7,500 pounds of concrete blocks moved/put up, and several thousand bricks.

We also visited both local hospitals, split up into seven different groups, with this group having made special bags and flashlights made that say "Cristo me ama" (Christ loves me) on them, lego toys, and more to give to the kids.

With a big group, we were able to go to Talanga and Cantaranas at the same time to do more corn distribution, we did a clothing distribution/VBS and corn distribution in Jalaca with another Church we know, and during the Milk Project time we had with the group they were able to print pictures for all the kids, and host another time for all the kids that have had to leave the project (had roughly 80 kids that day total)

They gifted us a new printer we can use for future VBS/group times to print out pictures for kids to take home which works great and is wireless for connectivity.

They also bought me a very nice new laptop, nicer than I deserve for sure, and many more laptops to be used in the clinic, which was huge, and tons of other supplies we will be able to use in the Milk Project, Sunday school for the Churches, and in the clinic. They bought tires for the White Ford (after a rather sudden and total tire failure the first day), and even helped us house hunt since we will be forced to move soon. Some sent us prayer cards specifically for us, before they even met us, and quite a few knew history of the mission and staff before arriving as well, and had preachers to share on Saturday night with the youth group and as well on Sunday morning.

Not all of this...but quite a bit makes this group pretty unique. What impacted me the most was how smooth it went, how organized they were, how intentional to have this trip not just be a trip, but a life changing experience for all involved. Sharing testimonies, having materials ready before AND after they left, even giving parents/family a heads up on how to reintegrate upon arriving back home. This huge group that many warned me before they arrived would be too big, too much trouble, was one of the easiest groups we have hosted. How? Much preparation on our end, much communication on both, and the vast majority of the credit goes to Jimmy, the leaders, and the entire group. I smell a future seminar teaching this in their future.

Short term missions is instrumental in helping us do what His Eyes does here, it is extremely valuable to us in that regard (which is a very big encompassing regard.) Our desire for those teams helping us though is just what this group did...a relationship, a partnership, working together to make a difference for Honduras, but most certainly as well to impact those that come to be changed, to make a difference not just for a week or so here, but to take that and build upon it to continue growing in God to make a difference wherever they go and whatever they do.

Maybe God will bless us with another group from their Church in 2017 that corresponds in the number of group members to the calling code from Denmark, Sweden, Norway...maybe even Brazil?

For now...thanks be to God for both these groups and the work they did here, and prayers for the work He will continue to do through that, and through them around the world!


Oh, and God? Not a big deal, but if they come back...maybe we can have time to get another Cocozilla (seen here in the incubation stage of development) or Hyperturbosupermegagrande as well?






Missionaries don't cuss

Did you know missionaries do not curse? It is just one of the many fine qualities they have.  They never curse because they do not get angry, and of course are too pious.

Can you imagine me using a "bad word" in this blog?  Unthinkable.

Actually...it is thinkable, just not written down.

Generally, I do try to avoid vulgarities of such sort.  When I was living in my parent's home, I remember my father, not chidingly, telling me that vulgarities generally are used out of weakness, when a better developed vocabulary would otherwise provide one with better ways to express surprise, frustration, etc.  I guess that made sense to me.  I was somewhat practiced at using them, certainly hearing them sitting at the back of the school bus as a very young child with all the older kids.  After hearing this, I was convicted to generally try to eliminate them from my everyday use.

Are they wrong, these words we have deemed "bad"?  No, I think not.  Surely we are warned not to use the Lord's name in vain, so aimless use of "My God!" and the like would fit that.  But some formation of letters being bad...no, it is the use, the aim, the potential ignorance, the intent, and the passion or hate with which they are used that makes any of them bad.  I have seen in Spanish (as well in English) that a word in one place can be most foul, and somewhere else quite tame.

So what's the point of all this?

I guess the point is...at least for me, is that no matter well adjusted, no matter how much we understand, no matter how much we have a grip on day to day life (or how much we just think we are all of those)...there are times where we want to say "bad" words as we cry out to God for what we do not understand, or what we understand but do not like (death is a result of the fall, illness as well, so we can understand how cancer, Alzheimer's and other illnesses exist theoretically...but seeing them face to face?) or for what troubles our hearts so much that the words to put to the feelings are hard to find other than with the shift key and the numbers at the top of the keyboard.

We talk about prayer, talking with God...but sometimes we need to scream to, or at, God.  We need to cry out, to bear our souls and let come forth what would come.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent. Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel. In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed. But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. (Psalm 22:1-6)

The way I read this, and many other passages...David did.  Job did.  Sure seems like Paul did.

God is bigger than our problems, and our anger.  He can take it.  He is there for us.  After all...

Prayer is not about trying to change God, but about God changing us.  Somebody smarter than I said that (or something along those lines.)

If we are happy...praise God.
And if we are angry...well...take it to the Lord in prayer.

I looked up the history of the hymn "What a Friend We Have in Jesus."  I am continually amazed at the lives lived by many hymn writers.  In this instance, instead of a hymn, this was a poem written by Joseph M. Scriven.  He lost his first fiance the day before they were to be wed, a drowning accident. He left his home in Ireland, and went to Canada to teach.  Again he was to be married, and his fiance became ill and died.  Afterwards...imagine this...he became a preacher, and spent the rest of his life giving what he had to help others and tell them about Jesus.  Oh, and about the time his second fiance died...he got word his mother was sick and dying, and he could not return to be with her.  He sent a letter, and included this poem...which later was put to music, and the rest is history, or His story.

I have said it before, I will say it again...some hymns are so rich in history that we fail to take into account when we sing them.  I will not sing this one the same way again.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He'll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear
May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

15 years?

For several years now when asked how long we have lived here, the response has elicited a similar reaction:  "WOW!"  

We moved here full time August 1st, 2000, so we have been here for fifteen years (well, in a few weeks.)  

The surprised faces that we encounter after having been here for so many years is interesting.  I think it is a compliment, but why are others surprised at the idea of "lasting" this long?  Why are we so few in number that are "long term"?   It certainly seems at least here that most of the missionaries we meet are here only for a few years at most.  

Certainly there are hurdles to overcome.  I can talk to newcomers, mission teams, and visitors and get a sense of what it was like for us back then.  It is useful, because as much as I am aware that we will never be Honduran...we are certainly not as we were when we came, and have adapted/accepted/become accustomed to many things here that are either weird or just done differently than in the USA or elsewhere abroad.  Sometimes with the passage of time...which feels like very little time to us most of the time...but in situations like these it can be felt how long it really is, how much we have changed...how much Honduras has changed as well, and for sure how much the mission has changed.

Like what...personally how have I changed?  Prior to living here...I used to be a micro manager, with great attention to detail, a perfectionist, greatly introverted (still am in many situations), afraid of tackling new situations or speaking in public, no real construction experience, thought all dogs were pets, did not know how to drive a stick, had not even passable Spanish skills, uh...was not a parent!...the list could go on for quite some time really, including even more I am so very likely forgetting.  

So if I have changed...is that a good thing?  You would hope so, right?  I know I have changed.  Mostly for the better...at least so I would like to think.

I have also heard stories from group members of me stretching them...mostly in ways of which I was not planning or aware, and often that I have forgotten.  I remember hearing of "crusty missionaries" throwing people in the deep end of the pool upon arriving...strange bizarre stories of what those missionaries must have felt was ok or normal but seemed strange and so odd, to the point I was afraid of them!  And yet...now I am aware...I have probably become one.  Funny...I do not feel all that crusty.  

How has Honduras changed?  Yikes...that is a big topic.  But for sure politically more unstable, more corrupt, much more advanced technologically in terms of being closer day to day to the USA, cleaner streets/neighborhoods, more emphasis on schooling, more violence, more gangs, more drug trade trying to get to the US and all that brings with it, more Hondurans living elsewhere and sending more money back...which creates more nicer housing, malls, and shops, and less stable climate patterns.  I am sure there is more, but this is a blog...and you are getting highlights.

And the mission?  I know for us...when we moved here, we felt a direct calling to optometry mission work.  The plan was to see eye patients from 8-4.  That was it.  No desires or designs on anything else.  Quickly we were to find out...that was not going to be the case.  The mission might have been at that time a small medical/optometry clinic and a small recently established Church plant with a few short term groups a year...but it quickly started growing by leaps and bounds far from that.  I say "it started growing" because it was God that grew it, not us.  Not often you get to use the term "it was literally amazing" and really mean it...literally. 

Where will His Eyes go/do in another 15 years?  If looking back 15 years (ever so briefly) has taught me anything...it is that I have no real clue, and that only God knows...and that His timing is better than anything we might think or plan.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Balancing June

I really do like blogging, it is just finding the time lately for this catharsis has been difficult.  I am not complaining, just indicating how busy life has been of late, trying to find some balance.  I have been sidelined from running, so for a while I am trying to walk instead...that takes more time, but is important.  Sure I got kicked out of the mall for doing it before official operating hours began (mall walking...it is a crime here, go figure) but it is good.  Work, I mean, ministry of course, is busy (as you will see and read below), and trying to invest in people, family, and God with more dedicated purpose also means something fall in importance...such as blogging.  So...let us not waste any more time and get quickly to it!

Life is a constant struggle for balance.  Just when you think you have found balance...you probably need to check one of the plates you have spinning to see if it has crashed on the ground.  I am not aiming for perfection, but a constant and/or consistent improvement would be nice.  Balance...is a theme coming that I was not planning.  

The group from Swiss Cove Christian Church was pivotal in scheduling another outing with the Church and clinic staff.  This time we went in small groups to do medical care in 21 de Febrero...and we saw quite a few people that needed care and otherwise would have been difficult to get to the clinic, all neighbors of people from the Church, and many non-believers.  I snapped this picture while we were praying for a patient with Alzheimer's.   Often in life we do not have the deep answers we seek to the problems we see around us.  Finding balance in knowing God is bigger than that, and in recognizing that some things we may never understand or be able to grasp...easy in theory, harder when staring you in the face sometimes.  

Some are concerned that I might be leaning to being off balance with the Milk Project growing, and needing more of my time.  I agree.  But...when I get to see a donation given, and then get to go buy a bed, and see it go in to Maryury's house, and meet her grandmother...to get hugs every time I walk into the Milk Project, and see the difference God is making in the lives of so many children...and families, it feels good to lose that balance for a while.  Granted, we are working on that...it is a process overall as we seek to grow, mature, and prosper that project as it seeks to rescue children from a life destined for physical and spiritual poverty, but for now I feel quite humbled and privileged to be a small part in it.


 We visited the Church in Danli last week.  The pastor's humble adobe house next to the humble Church "building"...hits me hard on balance.  We have said since the Church began that we are not financially able to take on supporting the Church like we do the others (no salary for the pastor...but we did help keep things going by his inclusion in the clothing ministry), no supplies regularly, and such.  It makes sense that we have to limit that kind of support to be able to do what we are already doing better and more properly, but to know that balance means restricting things in areas like this, and in areas where there is no Church...that balance can be hard.  But...we know that God's timing is better than ours, and know that we cannot do it at all, it has to be God moving.  That makes it easier, more palatable, but still hard from time to time.

Odd balances come sometimes.  We did a first food distribution with the Church we know in Lepaterique.  Estela (whom we have known for years) went with us from there to have us help the people in El Espino, where they have planted a Church and we have helped before with other activities (clothing, medical brigades) and lately have been hit hard with crops not coming in and lack of food.  Normally we take the corn or rice directly to the people's homes...thankfully Estela was on top of things to know that of the 25 families we could bless...some might be close enough to actually visit, but none really close enough for gringos to walk and take the corn.  Seeing little kids and older women go, excitedly!, where the group could not with their corn was humbling...but she was right!

Cecilia had her 13th birthday this month.  We met during that food distribution Danis, who is 16.  Seeing the disparity in size...was hard on me.  Ok, so I am a dad of someone who already gets talked of as if she were 15...or older.  That is one side of it, and the maturity that is there or needs to grow for handling boys, relationships, the challenges and blessings of growing up here, all that.  Finding a balance for her, for my relationship with her, etc...hard stuff.  I still have not gotten any owner's manual from The Owner when it comes to kids.  Well...there is that one, but it can be a bit vague on the details sometimes...at least for me.

But also what hit me is just...why are we so blessed to get to eat every day?  To get to be so tall?  To be so monetarily rich?  Danis is blessed in ways we are not to be sure, and I am not having a pity party for her...no, that is a mistake made all too often.  The love of God was written, literally, on the walls of their home, and there was joy there.  It is just finding a balance in how we are blessed, to be a blessing, and go do it...how to do it unselfishly, and seeking God's glory.  That, at least for me...is a tough one.


 Balance is hard when you are on crutches.  Soren broke his foot late May (kicking his sister, Tae Kwon Do style...hit right on her knee.  The knee won.)  But he has done remarkably well dealing with all the joys that being on crutches brings...especially in a country not exactly known for being hospitable for those with such issues.

Here we are modeling, at random mind you, two different T-shirts honoring "The Three Amigos."  Seeing my kids find humor the way I do (Cecilia and I were both hushed by Valerie at "Inside Out") and enjoy things I enjoy is pretty cool stuff...to get to the age when we can talk about the complexities and deep issues...whether spiritual, how to talk and address other people in a humble way...or how the Dominion War works out on Star Trek Deep Space Nine...all very enjoyable stuff.



And lastly, for this blog posting (not in general...too many plates to spin in one blog post!) finding balance in the His Eyes mission.  We were and are extremely blessed by the leadership of the board of directors, four of whom flew down for a week of meetings, devotionals, encouragement and just getting feet on the ground again.  (Meetings are hard to represent in pictures...all the action is in your head!)

Balance restored, maintained, and to be encouraged in different areas...the impact of their trip and what it will mean for the ministry overall will be coming for some time, but it was all good.  Finding balance is not always fun...not always easy...not always perfectly attainable, but something for which to strive, to wrestle, to love, and to remind us that it brings us back to our proverbial knees in prayer to the only One that can make it all happen.

Say, since this donate button is always here...how about helping our bank balance?  That is another balance that is off kilter as of late, and it would be a real shot in the arm...now more than ever, really!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Metaphorical bugging

I really like TGU, aka Toncontín International Airport, aka our Tegucigalpa airport. 

One thing that has bugged me, on a metaphorical level, for years is when we see groups, friends, relatives, etc. off at the airport. 

We wait for them to go through security to make sure they do not have any problems, and then usually we stand near the spot where this picture was taken, to try to wave to those walking through the glass hallway on the way to their gate. 

What has constantly amazed me is how few people even look to their left when walking down this hallway at all, let alone that look as if someone might be waving, greeting, etc.  I would guess less than 10% easily. 

I am not saying it is expected or a social convention...that is not what bugs me.  I get it.  They are focused on the harrying nature of travel, of getting to the gate, etc. 

I guess what bugs me sometimes, on some metaphorical level, when I really think about it...seeing people floating above the ground, walking through towards a bright light...maybe sometimes people I love walk away and not notice me...it is more a reflection on what a part of me feels happens with God sometimes...in those times I do not "feel" Him around...the times I want to wave and get a wave back...a wave of "What is going on?"  "Are you there?"  "What am I supposed to do?"  "Do you really love me?"

This is of course, garbage thinking (to borrow a phrase from David Wilcox)   Most of those people care...and God so much more so. 

I am not alone it seems in struggling with this.  A quick search of the Bible, left with us to remind us..."Hey doofus delicti, God is with you and loves you...read this!" proves a bit helpful...who would have thunk it:

Joshua 1:9  "...be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous.  Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.  He will not leave you or forsake you."

Isaiah 41:10 "Fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."

Psalm 139:7-10 "Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me."

Psalm 23:4 "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me." 

Jeremiah 23:23-24 “Am I a God at hand, declares the Lord, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.

There are many more...give them a look-see the next time you feel that way.  I think I will try that myself, or maybe come back here for a reminder as well. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Facebook fast

Saying you are fasting from Facebook sounds so pious, so upright somehow.  The reality for me is that I had to take a break (save for birthday greetings) out of self preservation, nothing particularly pious about that. 

I could give you the paragraphs why Facebook is great, staying in touch, etc. but I think most of you know the highlights for social media in general.

For me I decided to take a break because I had nothing happy to post, and Facebook seems, at least to me, not exactly a good fit for sorrow, troubles, or wrestling.  Everyone knows that is why they created Twitter. 

So I quit posting on Facebook, and quit even looking at my feed...nothing more depressing than scrolling through all those happy people.  Plus...it is quite time consuming to keep up with everyone...but that is more rationalization that reason. 

It has been almost a month since my last bummer of a post here at the blog.  Sorry to tell you, things have not improved for me mentally, physically, or spiritually.  Life is like that though, figured it would be a good reminder for me to write it all down.  Bear with me if you will then. 

I have received encouragement beyond what I could have imagined since our last email update, from sources not imagined, some quite well written, impressive, heartfelt, and just humbling and incredible...it all makes sense on a written level, but not quite translating to real life level yet. 

I knew sharing some in the update of our problems and struggles would be odd...how little I knew of how infrequently that is done from the responses we received.  That is sad too it seems to me.  Too many of us try to keep up appearances rather than share in each other's sorrow. 

I am overwhelmed with inadequacies, responsibilities, and just who I am or who people perceive me to be...staring me square in the face to remind me how what a terrible representative for Christ I am here in particular, but anywhere in general.  Trying to dig deep, trying discover the answers, what to do, how to react...it is hard. 

One the one shoulder I feel all the crap in me dragging things down and wonder if it would not be wiser to leave to protect the ministry for the long term.  On the other shoulder...a reminder that I was never good enough, never will be good enough, and that it is not my mission nor my responsibility for its success, that is for the real Boss. 

No matter where I go (no real plans on leaving or exit strategy we are planning in secret...I am just being brutally honest with you) or what I do with my life...when troubles surface, when I want to run away and hide, when the doubts seek me out, when I fail, when it seems everyone hates me or whatever it might be...when I feel Jesus asking me "Do you want to go too?"  as he asked His disciples in John 6, I must remember to cry out, to remind myself of what Peter replied: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life,  and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."

Excuse me now, I have to go post this on Facebook, don't ask me exactly why. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

Mothers

I had some pictures...this all came together without a plan, it just happened. 

Mother's day is a big deal here.  How big? 

This was the line at Price Smart at around 5:30PM...the line waiting for them to make more Mother's Day cakes.  There were cakes coming out quickly...but constantly more people adding to the line. 

I had been there on Friday and seen several skids packed at least four feet high of cakes preparing for the onslaught (all in English "Happy Mother's Day" for some reason)...but it was not enough. 

(The one lone remnant in the case was an expensive cheese cake.  Someone that could not wait for the line in desperation bought it before we left.) 

You can find people all over on the street with wares to sell especially for the day. 




The clinic had a Mother's Day celebration Friday (I got a cake before the rush, and one for the volunteers at the Milk Project as well...how many more did the same buying them early?  Yikes.)

Nearly a 1/3 of Honduran families officially in the polling mix have a woman as the head of household.  I was surprised it was that low...pleasantly surprised. 

Father's day is a holiday in March, and celebrated...but nothing compared to Mother's Day. 

Many procreate.  Most here have a mom...sadly, not everyone has a dad. 



Soon we will have another mother in the ministry...thanks to donations from a couple key people we were able to buy this horse for use in the coffee farm in Las Botijas.  It does not have a name, which is fairly common here (we are thinking...Gray.) 

We need the vehicle in the background (the Montero was so bad off we had to bring it back to Tegucigalpa to weld and fix...also need another vehicle for moving the bigger items/quantities) but there are times a horse would be quicker, easier...and less thirsty. 

This horse is also pregnant...two for one!  Depending on the color when the young one is born, we might have a White, Beige, Black...hard telling. 

The horse will be used for carrying supplies, especially smaller quantities at a time and to the more difficult to access areas...


As well as getting Gustavo to some of the smaller farm properties down the road to supervise.  We also recently just got enough of a dedicated donation to add two more workers to the force up there...meaning there can be one on each property, each responsible for their area and Gustavo can just oversee them everyday. 



 

Friday, May 1, 2015

Beauty in different forms

So, what else is new?  It often seems easier to talk about what is not changing or new, but here are a few tidbits:

Our poor farm in Cantaranas has been a back burner item for a while now.  No money and with some administrative issues, we have been content to just leave it for now and see what God would do. 

(Note...that "contentment" is not happiness, and being content here was scratching our heads, not understanding and finally leaving it alone, while still asking God what we are supposed to do from time to time.)

So it was with quite a bit of joy to hear that Jonathan, Jose Luis, and some other pastors and individuals from the Churches in the area were asking permission to take the initiative and clear the land to use it for at least a season, to help themselves financially, as well as tithe back to the mission.

It will take months to see how it goes, but it was encouraging to see them step up to the plate, always encouraging to see people try to use some down the road vision and planning, and to work together.  Seeing the picture of a clean slate, ready to plant...a beautiful thing. 
 

I forgot to post about a group from the US that sent down shoeboxes of gifts for the Milk Project kids.  They did it around Christmas time in the US, but that meant we got the boxes in March. You can probably imagine how excited the kids were, especially since it was a total surprise for them. 

The boxes were excellent...hand made/decorated, packed with great and useful gifts, as well as fun toys and other items, and all personalized for each child.  Pretty amazing stuff.   To see the kids also eager to take much of what they just received, given what they can call their own is very little, and to be excitedly talking about what they were going to share with their brothers, sisters, and parents is so nice.  

Speaking of the Milk Project, we had the group from Outlook Christian Church here in April, and seeing one of the previous posts about kids that have had to leave the project...they had the idea of inviting all the kids for a special time to come back.

In the future when we get sponsorship for all the kids currently in the project (we are at 30 of 50 right now) Maria really wants to have at least one day a week these kids can come as well.  Love her vision and desire to continue to pour into these young people's lives for Christ.

It was a different dynamic with teenagers than giddy little kids, but it was deemed a hit...especially when we invited 30 and wondered if half would come...and in the end there was something like 35-40 that came.  What that says about what the project does, and what it represents...humbling. 

In my time here I have only seen it hail twice. The second time was Tuesday, our first rain of the coming rainy season.  It was a gully washer, with the hail, tons of lightning (more in that storm than in many years of living here combined), and quite a bit of rain for the hour or so it lasted.  The hail was harmless (unless you were out walking I would imagine) but made for a pretty sight...as close to snow covering the ground here that we are every likely to see.  It never blanketed the ground, but was closer by the end of the storm than in this early picture.  

 


Seeing only feet (look closely...above the container on the right above Jorge) means the plumbing is going in on the third floor, one step (or shimmy in this case) closer to finishing by the end of May at the latest, and that is also a great thing to see. 
 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Sputtering

So many discussions, talks, thoughts, arguments, and silent contemplations recently.  Heavy stuff.  Hard stuff.  Add it all up together with the regular stuff, and responsibility of leading and it has me feeling like on of those ACME rockets Wiley Coyote was fond of using...puffs of black smoke, sputtering jolts forward and then seemingly empty voids and falling. 

Empty voids and falling are no fun. 

This leadership thing is not everything it is cracked up to be either.  And there are people out there fighting to be in power, to make decisions, to be the one to call when something goes wrong (because why else would you call?)...makes me question even more as I get older why anyone would go into politics...or ministry leadership. 

Yikes...is it as bad as all that?  Probably not.  But boy it can feel crushing at times, and rather than avoid that...rather than pretend everything is perfectly placed and joy filled like a Facebook profile picture, it is good to just be honest and put it out there onto a blog where I presume only the truly interested will even read it.  We all need prayer, we all need lifted up and edified.  Anyone that thinks they can do it alone is as nutty as the proverbial fruit cake. 

Good things are being done in Christ's name.  But I have enough of an inner demon always reminding me my faults, mistakes, errors, pride...oh, I could keep going.  Plus there are outside forces that seem to chime right along as well.  How does one balance a right perspective of their sin with the confidence to still push forward rather than just curl in a ball and give up, among other thoughts? 

What to make of all this...what to think...what to do.  Eh?

Well, I am not sure, but I leave you with three things that are all sparked from these thoughts as I sit down to write, but may not necessarily be helpful, depending on where you are with something similar:

1.  I remember a song, one that seems much more identifiable now than it did when I was young. "Shades of Grey" by Billy Joel
"Shades of grey wherever I go
The more I find out the less that I know
Black and white is how it should be
But shades of grey are the colors I see"

I did not even know the Monkees had their own song by the same name.  Seemed a bit dark for the Monkees.
"When the world and I were young,
Just yesterday.
Life was such a simple game,
A child could play.
It was easy then to tell right from wrong.
Easy then to tell weak from strong.
When a man should stand and fight,
Or just go along.

But today there is no day or night
Today there is no dark or light.
Today there is no black or white,
Only shades of gray."

I wonder if Billy Joel would ever do a cover of their version?

2. These two things very far apart leapt together to my mind trying to put my finger on the struggle we have to want to do things right and know what to do, and the draw we have to be reminded that we are no good apart from the vinedresser...we would produce no fruit from being tied to Him.  

The first was the classic Bodeans song (which I have probably not heard in 20 years)  "Closer to Free"
"Everybody wants to live, like they wanna live and
Everybody wants to love, like they wanna love and
Everybody wants to be... Closer to Free"
 
Immediately contrasting and or complementing that with Bob Wiley from that philosophical motion picture "What About Bob?" wrestling with being lost in the world without direction.
"Gimme, gimme, gimee, I need, I need!"



3.  Think things are really bad and that no one understands?  Jesus does.  We think we are alone in despair often... but even Mickey, the happiest mouse around, was so despondent once to try to give it all up.   

(These strips appeared in newspapers in October 1930)


Thursday, April 9, 2015

The blue is back, along with another nail in Trevor's coffin

 So I believe that an explanation here is deserved.  His Eyes posted this picture on Facebook, and it was only then that via some comments that it dawned on me again that this construction "method" that is somewhat normal for us, happens also to look weird and unusual to many. 

The idea was/is to take advantage of the containers we have and originally would have a back burner project, but...





1.  The garage for the Fords will soon be occupied.  Already the Gray Ford rests there, soon the parts truck, and then the blue, plus some extra room.  Doors will eventually be installed, but that of course is not the bulk of the construction or the need for speed.

2.  The second floor we will need for a group of almost 50 that is coming in July, overflow from those staying in the mission house and man cave.  We will be getting some extra funds from that group that should help cover part of all this construction expense, on which we are greatly counting, believe me.  A bathroom will be permanent, but otherwise the room will be very basic and not defined or have any walls so as in the future it can be set up and finished to be used...for whatever we will need when the time is right and it is needed.  It is also a step to floor #3. 

3.  The third floor which is being enclosed first will house, in about a 1/4 total, an apartment.  Justin's lease is up in June, and he really had a desire to live on the property, to watch over things and be more on hand for the work he does there.  So, a part of the third floor will be finished by the time his lease is up to move in there and he will then pay rent to the mission to stay here.  It will take years to make up part of the debt of construction here via those rent payments, but the extra benefit is that in addition to the apartment space, there will still be another 3/4 of the floor available to put in some offices we need (when we have the budget) and a meeting/conference area which we have sorely needed for...a decade or more. 

We have some funds to count on for this...but otherwise it is stretching us as far as we can to get done what absolutely needs to be done (the apartment and enclosing the 2nd floor.)  After that, I fear we will have to wait for some further special gifts to continue, much like the milk project building which has not seen any work now for almost half a year, we simply do not have the funds to continue. 



Most people I know now use my middle name, Felipe.  There are a few still that from time to time use my first name.  I used that name for about half my life full time, but then Felipe gradually became the only name I use. 

Especially for Soren and Cecilia, it is the only name they have heard anyone use for me.  So to hear Trevor...they usually audibly gasp, and if I am there...they look to be in horror or shock.  I admit that the name sounds terrible in Spanish, and that Felipe is much better (and oddly uncommon here even though a Biblical name) but it is not as if I hate the name or anything. 

The whole thing is odd, I admit, but I have met quite a few people in my time that as well shifted at some point to use their middle name (my grandpa...Phil, from whence came Felipe as it translates, springs to mind.) 

I joked giving a sermon near where I grew up a while back that Trevor was dead.  Soren called him my evil twin...or the other way around. 

When checking his homework this past week (not that he thought we would ever see it) Valerie stumbled upon him doing some revision...it seems even a fictional driver named Trevor is better suited being Felipe.  There is nothing quite like the feeling of knowing someone is sticking up for you, taking up your "cause" even when it is not that big of a cause to you, or one you would fight for yourself.  That may also be odd, but I will admit that, as a sense of pride came upon me I thought to myself..."that's my boy." 


Thursday, March 26, 2015

What is it all about?

You can tell I am angry and frustrated when I end a sentence/title with a preposition.  My high school English teacher Mr. Eiler I believe would endulge me since this creative writing.  Oh how I wish it was creative and not real.  Creative works usually end with resolution.  Real life is messy, undefined, and often left with no resolution, at least in the short term (have you listened to the NPR Serial podcast?  Perfect example.) 
 
Here we find two days of people.  Not all the people in those two days, that would be even harder. 
 
Esteven used to come to the Milk Project.  He "aged out" as we say, as the staff had to put some rules on the ages that can come...not too young, nor too old, as we have limited space, teachers, etc. and to get everyone on the same page already with so many kids of different ages is hard.  So, after 12 they have to leave. 

Leave to go where? 

Here we were posing looking off in deep thought to the future.  What future indeed.  He was hanging out in the stairwell because...he wanted to come back inside and participate.  Most of his friends are still there.  But he is out.  I understand the rules.  They make sense on paper, and they help the Milk Project overall, but that does not mean the situation can not still piss me off a bit.  Offended?  Yeah...me too. 

This does encourage me to long for the new building to be completed.  Maybe when we make the move we can also add another class just for teenagers.  Longing for the future though...we must still live in the present.  I sat down and spent some time with Esteven while the group entertained the rest of the kids.  I would say I was glad I had the presence of mind to stop and pour a little bit into him...but it was not me but just a little instance of God stopping me and turning my head to where He wanted me to go. 
 
Walking in the clinic is usually pretty easy.  Despite a place for sick people...it is usually upbeat.  In an odd way...people are happy to be there, or at least I would hope that through our testimony...they are happy such a place is there.

When I saw Darwin and Axel talking with and about this patient to his family members though...I knew it was not good. 

Turns out this is a case of someone being shot, being discharged from the hospital...but not recovered or given further instructions.

There are often no good answers, no sure fixes, no good news physically.  It is easier to discharge and hide.  Our clinic is not like that...we have the hard conversations and give people the truth.  And the truth is...sometimes the truth hurts.   


Many of you have seen our friend here.  He does not talk nor hear, although he does laugh quite a bit.  In fact...I am hard pressed to think of a time when he is not smiling. 

The missionaries we worked with when we interned here introduced us, explaining that he used to work officially here at the airport carrying people's bags, but then someone stole something and since he could not defend himself, he was the easy one to blame.  Since then he hangs out on the sidewalk hoping to get some work where he can.  Someone in the group that was leaving gave 10 Lps to Soren to "find something to spend it on" and Soren's eyes got huge when they said that.  I stopped to take a picture here with the Captain hat (and shirt from the Virginia Air Corps?) and before I knew it...Soren handed him that 10 Lps. 
    
 
Jerry is not shy.  He did not want his picture taken at the Milk Project, but that is about the only time he was not excitedly moving, usually out of his chair, asking questions, asking for more tortillas.  Spending time with Jerry can be a bit exhausting in a good way. 

It is also quite possible it is more time than he gets to spend with his dad.  It is not uncommon for fathers to not be present at all, or out all day trying to find work somewhere.  Scary thought. 

Not as scary as reading today World Vision reporting that at least 400,000 minors in Honduras work.  Some spending all day in the fields, maybe looking for plastic to sell, maybe cleaning homes...maybe much worse.  


Cristobal has been at Hospital Escuela for seven months now after falling playing soccer and damaging his spine.  Supposedly the original injury is fixed, but something else that happened still needs more surgery.  Sound vague?  It is a repeatable story unfortunately, although thankfully most go home before seven months. 

He gets around on a wheelchair (not his...they pass them around in the ward where there were at least 20 other kids) and his legs have atrophied.  At his age he is one of the oldest kids there.  He takes scissors and pop cans to make little art pieces to sell when he can or to send back with his mom once a week when she can come visit. 

He was happy to get a visit from someone other than the six year old in the bunk next to him.  Not that the six year old is a bad kid...but when you are 17, plus stuck there for months, without family or friends, without anything to do for long stretches...well, it is a little hard for me to imagine.   


Cecilia complains she cannot see well with her glasses.  Only for six months or so.  She got an eye exam and will get some new glasses.  How many kids get their mom to give them an exam? 

How many moms wish their kids could get an exam? 

How many times do I pray that we are helping her see the world as God would have her see it...even if sometimes what that means eludes me.  What is it all about?  Big picture is easy...honoring and glorifying God, loving your neighbor as yourself. 

In the little pictures though it is sometimes fuzzy.  Glasses like God's word, prayer, and the Holy Spirit make it a bit clearer sometimes...sometimes just enough clearer to keep going.  Resolution comes...but not when you plan for it, not always when you think you need it, and that is ok.  It better be, because more of life daily lived is in the fuzzy parts of not knowing than the clarity of what you know.  May God guide us all in that clarity to walk through the plethora of fuzzy parts we do not understand. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Auction time

The government had an auction last week for various cars they were trying to purge from their system, to generate some income.  It was a bit of short notice, as I had been thinking/praying/contemplating some vehicles for the mission, but without solid funding to count on for going to auction. 
 
But I scarily took some steps of faith.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, I went to bid on some vehicles...outbid every time, by a comfortable margin to feel and know...these were not the vehicles for us. 
 
Friday came...and I was feeling confident.  I had done my research, had a top figure in mind, and of all the vehicles they had (well...of those I thought somehow I could pay for) these seemed the best balance.  I was bidding on four...two for the mission for sure, one possibly for us personally, and another possibly for parts.
 
If you have ever bid on something big at an auction...it is a mix of feeling excited, anticipation, adrenaline...and if you win sometimes that feeling of "uh...what did I just do?  Was that the right thing?  Ugh!"
 
I ended up winning three of the four I went for on Friday.  The Musso in the front left is the one that might be personal.  I bought it because it has 30,000km less than the Musso we already have, is three years newer (only 15 years old this one)and is a Turbo.  The mission might end up needing it for a medical student receiving a FAME scholarship, so I have a little time to fix a few things and see where God takes it. 
 
The Santana Anibals are the more exciting purchases.  Following I will explain what they are, why we bought them, and some features.  If you care little for details...just glance at a few of the pictures and jump to the end for some prayer/wrap up
 
 
Without going into the entire history of the company and its reason for being created with ol' General Francisco Franco...Santana is a Spanish company and Anibal is the model (Anibal being Spanish for Hannibal...tough guy, crossed mountains with elephants guy?)  The idea is that they took Land Rover Defenders (remember those?) and make modifications to them and then sell them as these Anibals.  You can see the familial resemblance...but the lights are more standard and cheaper to fix, the bumper is now just a steel tube (also utilitarian and cheap) You see modifications like this all over the vehicle. 
 
 
Modification #1...unlike the Defender we used to own, this takes a more reliable 2.8L IVECO turbo diesel engine (also found here in many medium sized delivery trucks...a plus for parts.)  Greater reliability as well as fuel economy, along with the grunt to move 9 people or a few thousand pounds of coffee, cement, etc. 
 
Also removes the fancier coil springs for more old school (and reliable...this is a common thread here) leaf springs.  Many of the changes on these vehicles are older school reliable things...not that the Defender is a bastion of luxury and new fangled technology, but this is also simpler in some ways.  Still has great ground clearance, as well as 4x4 (not full time however like the Defender...another change...this one is selectable, which makes turning radius much smaller and easier)




No radio, no electric windows or locks...but AC is included, not that we are worried about whether or not that works.  Less things to go wrong, to fix, and keeps the cost down.











The interior being rather tight in a Defender, this vehicle has a different seating arrangement.  I am not sure exactly how they did it, but I can actually drive this vehicle stock (unlike the Defender) and the rear seat passenger space is not as cramped either.  Also for the rear windows...they are solid, not sliding units, which makes for a little less air in the back, but much more secure and lets less rain in, which was a signature feature of the Defender. 











What really caught my interest in all this...the odometer reads under 50,000KM for both trucks (just 28,520 in miles on this particular one.)  Practially unused!  It shows all over the vehicles...no chasis damage, the interior is basic but not torn or missing pieces.  These could be vehicles we could use for 10 years or more, even on roads like we have here!

At $8,200 for each one...this was a great deal.  We will have to change fluids and filters and such, but otherwise they should be ready to get to work very soon!


So why buy them?  The Church in Talanga has not had a vehicle for years.  Pastor José Luis had a vehicle for some time, but not ideal, and this will be something the mission can use there for a long time.  Also...we needed a reliable and long lasting (and narrow!) vehicle for working the coffee farm in Las Botijas.  These are definitely work trucks. 

We have a fund for saving a small part of the money we get from groups to help buy the big Fords when we need them, I used some of this fund to buy the two Anibals.  If you are interested in helping us with these purchases to replenish the Ford fund (we were originally hoping to work on replacing the White Ford later this year...either another wrecked vehicle in the US, buying new with some help, or used...still praying and planning on that one) whether small or large...any amount helps!...please click on the donate link below, you can add a note that the donation is to help pay for the Anibals, and we will get it designated to the right place.

Praise God we had some flexible funding to take advantage of these while we could get them...as offers like these do not come very often and it is great to be able to strike while the Anibal is hot.  Now if we can get enough raised, we should still be able to proceed on the Ford front when the time is right there as well. 

Thank you all for your support!