Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Overload

When people ask about how things are going here, for probably longer than I realize, the conversation usually ends with me saying something like this "busy...but that is better than the alternative!" 

My intent is to say better to be busy with more than you thought you could do, through Christ, than languishing doing less than for which we were intended. 

However...I am coming to realize just how overworked we are.  Last week when I was with the group, I was thinking of the literally weeks of accounting work waiting for me, and some time to get that done, and then was reminded Monday was a holiday.  I thought of Valerie and the kids being home, and doing fun stuff with them, my first reaction was "ugh, I do not have time for a holiday." 

That...is when you know you know you have a problem.  But really, I have known that for a while, that was just a big ol' warning sign. 

Part of the counseling we attended was addressing overwork among other things, and with the board of directors we have been trying to address this and see what changes can be made.  Changes when it comes to spreading a work load mean more staff and thus more money...and while of course it is up to God to provide for that, taking the steps in faith to get out of the boat to that end can be a bit scary...especially when here I am the guy that has to figure out how it all works out. 

I love my job, I love where we get to live...but sure it can be overwhelming. 

I spend almost every day a group is here with them.  This year that will be right at 120 days.  This does not take into account the work associated with hosting them pre-post arrival (shopping, many emails, meetings, planning, accounting, etc.)  Conservatively figure the equivalent there of another 45 days.  (Some say it is more of a 1:1 ratio for them)

Accounting for the mission...all internal reporting, reporting for Churches, reporting to help guide local efforts that might not be required for fancier reports...figure another at bare minimum 2.5 days per month or 30 days. 

Answering general ministry emails, handling ministry social media, helping with online coffee, and anything else that requires the computer for writing and such...if we count the hours, figure another bare minimum 60 work days worth on that per year.

Meetings with Valerie, Oscar, Jana, Justin and minimally with the rest of the staff (mostly with pastors) for planning or approval/disapproval/changes in plans and such?  Again conservatively 15 days a year. 

Overseeing other mission stuff...vehicle repair, banking, errand running, insurance (medical and vehicle) clothing ministry customs work, milk project supply purchasing, all things that involve me in hosting interns, and probably some other stuff I am forgetting?...figure another 50 days per year. 

Oh, and the usually once a year trip to the US for visiting supporters and hopefully meeting new supporters...that takes a month or more (this year almost two months...but we will only count for these purposes as separate works days since some of it is spent still on the computer working and such 15 days.)

If I were to observe a traditional work week of 5 days per week (with no vacations or holidays mind you) that would add up to 260 work days a year. 

However, we find adding all this up (and I think I was a little too conservative on a few of these) equals 335 days a year.  If that was not bad enough...that equals 6.44 work days per week.  How does this work?  Multi-tasking, less sleep, not truly taking a day off, and picking up the computer every at opportunity...as well as having a passion for doing it all.  Loving what you get to do (for the most part...what missionary loves fundraising or going through crumpled receipts?) helps tremendously to doing more than you otherwise might think.   

To be quite honest, rather than sharing this as a pride thing for how much we work...this is embarrassing, shaming in fact. 

I know it to be true...with the thought about the holiday (I did try to take the day off...I just worked four hours that night) and the ways I am even more about "getting to the point" (who has the time?) with conversations with...everyone, and just a general feeling of if I turn around there is another fire needing put out.  This is not healthy for me, for the mission, for my marriage/family...the list continues. 

Already I am trying to simply eliminate myself from certain activities, handing some off, going to try to not spend every day with groups, and leaning more on the other missionaries to carry out more of the leadership and implementation of what the mission is doing...more than I was already doing. 

This year has been especially trying in terms of growing/stretching/learning on this topic among others, and I suspect that while we try to slow down, and not take on more projects as a ministry...God will continue to grow the overall impact of the mission, and financial needs of the mission to make that happen. 

So...if you would, pray that the financial part of the puzzle would be met in such a way we can focus on the ministry aspects here of carrying that out, working better and more complete as a team (making time for more meetings, more reconciliation, more harmony) and for His direction on how to proceed on all fronts, finding the balance He wants for all of us. 

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Pulchritude

The group from Journey CC left today, Valerie is overnight at a women's retreat a few hours North, and I find myself again with a hankering to do some blogging, something that has fallen to the wayside as of late, because something had to, and I sometimes I ask the question here, somewhat like Pink Floyd "Hello, is there anybody in here?"

I was going through pictures to share, found one of a definition of the title of this blog posting.  Pulchritude=beauty apparently.  I fail to remember how I stumbled upon the word...but I found the meaning ironic given the way the word comes across.

So, you could say I have a pulchritudinous life.  It is good, beautiful in fact, but if you just pronounce it out, it might not be seen as such. 

In August Valerie and I flew to the US, a trip required of us, but one we were glad to take as well...just probably would not have made the time had it not been a requirement.

As you can see...we flew out to LAX, did a few tourist things (you might catch a quick glimpse of us October 27th on CBS in the morning) but then made our way driving to Blessing Ranch in Colorado for a week of counseling. 






As you can see...Blessings Ranch is in a very picturesque part of Colorado (near Laramie WY)

We had time to talk some about how we work in the ministry, how we work in our marriage, and how we work/function as individuals. 

It was truly a blessing, one which will continue to bear fruit I think for quite some time. 





After the week there...we drove back just a bit to get to Sacramento CA to be able to visit Valerie's sister...the first time she has ever been able to visit her, and first time to see our new niece Noelle.   

It was a short time, but so good we were able to do that. 














We went down to San Francisco as well to fly out back home (which...ended up being much more of an adventure than we were seeking) to get to see Valerie's brother Darin and spend the day with him. 










Back in Honduras the work continues.  I love that whether we are here or not...God is working in His ministry.

Oscar sent a picture of the work on the Sunday School rooms in Cantaranas and the work they were doing there...this is putting up a new material we tested for the second floor/present roof.  Much cheaper than poured concrete or other methods that might not be as strong, it may be a solution for us in quite a few other areas as well in the future! 










The group here this week helped with the milk project building retaining walls.  It seems the retaining walls are taking a long time...but then, there is quite a bit to build. 

I do not think we will have the funds to get the fill needed and columns poured this year...maybe with groups next year we will be able to at least get eventually a floor down.

In bummer news...someone stole almost 100 of the blocks we had ready to set, as well as the scaffolding we were using. We had them there all summer while we were working, but the fence we have up around the milk project property is not as secure as the clinic fence.  Sigh.  Well, when we get the block walls up, we will not have to worry about that again.  Praying for those that stole from us, may God drive them to repentance in Him.    

  
 Soren had his birthday last week...and shares a birthday with Shaun, which is pretty cool!












We continue to keep Teto the welder busy. Often in the past when we have needed a welder, it has been hard to find someone available who is good. 

So, this summer we have had to bit the bullet and get many things done that we had been putting off...like this new official sign on the gate for the clinic. 

It looks like we will be keeping him busy with other necessities for about another month at least.  

That sign exudes the word pulchritude, right?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Kids update

How about an update on the kids?
 
 

Soren loves being...Soren.

He took a liking to these frames, and was even quite insistant we take this picture (with the tag...this is how we rock in Honduras.) 

His sense of humor is sharp, quick, and just really good. 












He is also becoming a tinkerer and inventor.

He takes apart clocks, nerf guns (including one at Church when we were practicing beforehand...quite a shock to a pastor to see heckling taken to a new level) and anything else he can find.

Goggles are great for wearing in the back of the truck (why has no one thought of that before with the wind?) but also for making a bottle man. 








Cecilia adopted another cat in May.  This very small and malnourished kitty wandered into the mission property...and when she fell for it and Valerie did as well...that was all she wrote.

Spock is now another member of the family and unofficially Cecilia's bunk mate.

Cecilia has been sharing her bedroom with interns for several months this year...maybe six?  She has handled it very well and has been good for her, stretched her, but she definitely has two cats wanting to share the space as well. 








The kids being off school this summer has made for several opportunities for them to be with and work with the groups that have been here, including a few nights getting to stay with the groups, learning some new games and having fun in the evenings.

Cecilia loves Euchre and has taken to it very well since learning over Holy Week...she gets very excited over different hands she wants to remember after the fact to see how she did...I found this picture on her camera.  Alas, no picture to let us know how it worked out. 

She also loves many different fingernail polish colors and textures. 





Cecilia continues to grow tremendously working with the groups translating and helping...and sometimes leading.  She has helped coordinate in the milk project, do house visits, hospital visits, paint (she loves to paint) and anything else she can do.   She really has a gift for language, translating...and telling people what to do.  That has been something we have seen since she was three. 

I asked her recently what she wants to study when she graduates...just gently probing for the future, and she said it does not matter, she just wants to do what I do.  I knew what she meant.


Soren is not always as excited for translating and such (unless football or other sports are involved) but has helped out a bit mixing some concrete and such as well. 

They have been of much help to us this summer, and it has been great to get to spend more time with them.  School quickly approaches...as does a MK camp they are getting to attend a few hours North of here, they are excited for that, it will be cool to see what God does through that for them...they almost never get to hang out with "peers" like that.    

Drug trafficking...one small example

People sometimes ask me about the drug trafficking problem here. 
 
Is it really that bad? 
 
Somebody has to make and transport all those drugs that people in the USA cannot seem to live without. 
 

This partially submersible vehicle was found because it had problems (makes them easier to find when it is aground.)  Pretty spiffy outfit really...six crew, plenty of room for whatever an illegal boat/sub might need to carry, a big ol' Cummins engine, and a nice blue color.  What more could one ask?  Made out of fiberglass in case you were wondering. 
They had a nice platform so you could see inside with the windows how things would be laid out (including fake bundles of "contraband"), and this plaque to explain how they found it, the size, etc. 

This is one sub...that they found.

Kind of like the several planes per year they find that have crashed.

How many are not crashing or having problems that are making their way daily back and forth? 

Quite impressive actually...if it were not destroying lives along the way and at both ends. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So many stars in the sky

...and like them so many things to do.

Among the plethora of things going on this month, I gave blogging a back seat.  I had many an idea, many a rant (including a still unfinished blog about emotionally and spiritually wrestling with visiting Hospital Escuela for myself and those that get to go with groups) but other things were more important.  Some of those being my family (although not as often as I would like), I am ok with that trade off.

We had two more groups through July, and another intern as well, making our sixth for the year.  You can see Beca (aka Ceiba...aka Calabaza Blanca...we have tended to get creative with nicknames this year) in this picture working with one of the groups to finish the columns for the future corn container and its upstairs neighbor.  It looks like she is holding up the column...at least that is what we are going to tell everyone.

We do not actively recruit interns, but wow are we so glad to have them. God blessed us abundantly this year.








We got the new Ford this year...and among routine maintenance on the other ones...seen here is a minor fix needed on the white Ford I drive.

No big deal, just the entire cab broken in different places, falling apart.  Routine right?  At least it is here.  You can see if you carefully look...that on the wall there is a crack that runs the full length as well.

Teto the welder is almost full time with us right now...we have been paying him to weld things all over the property for over a month now...things that have needed done for quite some time.  When we discovered this problem...we were especially grateful we had him already there.

A few hours later...good as new, or better.  And no more squeaky seats.  Now the next time I have a squeaky seat I will be paranoid the entire vehicle is falling apart.


The groups are helping us a ton on the milk project building foundations and retaining walls.  As we engineer the building/walls as we move along, we think that getting one floor at street level will also give us two "basements" along the way.  One of them will have a very high ceiling in fact.  How those will eventually be used/divided will be interesting to see.  Bathrooms?  Play room?  Bat cave?  All in God time.

We needed the blue Ford for the big group of 30 in July, but a few days before Oscar used it for a trip to inspect/help with the ongoing Hill Climber coffee work in Las Botijas.  Along the way was a truck dumping some manure on the side of the road.  Oscar being a good steward, and having a shovel...could not resist free good fertilizer for the coffee plants.

We did wash it out thoroughly before the group needed it.










Here is Jose Luis and Oscar talking in Talanga...we need Sunday School room (or rooms) there for the Church, as right now they have no where to meet, and it is getting to be a problem just trying to meet outside (noise from either bothers the other, not to mention the sun, rain, etc. outside.)

Finding another $10,000 or so for another lot to build rooms on is probably not in the cards right now (unless you know something I don't?  Hey...it could happen) so we are looking at this narrow section of the Church property to build something for the interim until God provides another route.  Cost for something like this lean to where the pastor's truck is parked, with some walls...maybe $400.

I would love to buy the next door lot and get started on something bigger and longer term stable...again, all in God time.


An anonymous donor provided supplies and some meals for some very talented young people from the Church to do some murals.  Here is one of the finished products (four or five total)...







....and the inspiration













Speaking of painting...another coat of Hawaiian Waters went up on most of the Mission House and man cave with the last group.  It looks so much better...and one color, than prior.  To paraphrase Frank Burns "It is always nice to see things look nice."

Thankfully we had our new 30' ladder from the US to reach the tough parts.










Not to be outdone...that same group came with some very talented painters in their own way.  They did not know they were going to do murals, but ended up completing two!

The first one (referencing Isaiah 55:12) went so well and so fast...that seemingly out of nowhere I had an idea to see if they could do a version of Vincent Van Gogh's "The Starry Night."  I printed them out a picture for reference...

...and they nailed it!  I could not be happier...especially with the two nods to the buildings on our campus included.

It will be hard to walk by there every day without stopping to appreciate it, along with all the other murals of course, but I have to admit this is my favorite to date.

I forgot to grab a picture of the other mural work being done on the outside of the wall...using some of the paint we had leftover from other projects or donated, I will try to get that one next time.

I could not forget the SFC!  The groups have also continued with the dry wall efforts there as well.  Without them, we would be stopped, so it has been great to see them make such progress.  Realistically with two groups left this year...we will not get the clinic portion opened by the time the clinic opens from vacation in January 2015...but again...all in God time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Walls

Writing this month's update, I realized again I had fallen behind.  I must admit...I feel falling further behind, playing catch up, and trying to multi task through conversations more and more as of late.  That so much is going on is good...but not so good personally when you can not concentrate on one thing for the pull of attention from another. 
 
Spiritually we try to tear down the walls between us and them, whomever them might be.  Physically though we seem to be doing quite a bit with walls, as I am referencing in this month's email update riffing off Pink Floyd and their "The Wall." 
 
How about some more information?
 
 
The retaining wall for the milk project property is seen here through our makeshift doorway from the clinic campus side (two walls in one picture visible, I just noticed that!) 

It will need to go up almost 80% higher than it is in this picture, just to get to the street level where we want the first floor to go.  That will make for a sizable "basement" we are creating on the second property.  Maybe even a two story basement!
 
Justin has been busy in the green container up by the clinic...cleaning out, reinforcing (with our welder's help) for a future floor above it, and building shelving units to put on the walls for medicines and other clinic supplies.  It has been great to have him here and see already what a jump we are getting on that inventory side of things.  Excited to see what he will continue to do in that role.  Hopefully he needs many more walls for shelves in the future for the clinic supplies he will be helping us coordinate and get as well! 
 
 
 Back to retaining walls...this went from just the empty hole to a finished retaining wall (not quite finished in this picture) in about a month. 

This will be a home to two more containers one on top of another, for food storage, and the other for more general mission supplies...as we are continuing to struggle (in a good way) for good storage space for the supplies we receive. 






Murals are going up.  This one in Cantaranas with some anonymous help for supplies and paint for some volunteers from the Church to do that study art in their schools.  We are excited to see the finished products soon.

Always great as well to see members of the Church eager to use their talents to give back. 












Members of the greater Church in the groups have been helping with two more murals on the clinic campus as well. 

First the CIY team did a bird (seen on a black background on the far left) with the Bible verse Luke 12:24

"Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!









And then this week's group did this beautiful butterfly with Philippians 4:8

"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things"

These murals are not just pretty to look at, they are encouraging to those that come in to the clinic...many sick, many hurting...physically, but also spiritually.  We are so grateful for the artistic talents of so many...we hope to keep this going as future group talents so permit.

And of course we are still working on the walls of the second floor of the clinic.  But hey...we are at least now working on the rooms of the clinic side of things! 

We hope to get four rooms done or nearly done by the end of the groups in July, maybe even some cabinets installed? 






Friday, June 6, 2014

Identifying with Sister Aloysius Beauvier

Doubt.  I doubt many things at many times.  I also doubt that I am alone.


I was thinking of the movie "Doubt" recently.  Good movie, but I was just thinking of it in light of my life.  As Sister Aloysius says at the end of the movie "I have doubts...I have such doubts."  Hers related to an unproven accusation.  I just have them all over the place.


Unless you get to do something physical, it is often hard to gauge your success in life quickly and easily.  If you build a building...you see the results, and you know how you did, generally speaking. 


Quite a bit of what we do does not meet those criteria.


Leadership...development...Church growth...Church planting...how I help raise my kids, this list is probably as long as yours, different, but lengthy either way. 


Brigades for example.  I know and have seen the effect they can have long term in changing lives and communities.  They can be improved, we can do better to witness and testify...but they have proven their worth. 

But still, sometimes I just doubt. 


That is why hearing from Valerie that a traumatic cataract that I referred from a medical brigade last month actually came to the clinic was...encouraging.  Sometimes you do things, you tell people things (either in this case being giving instruction on what this little six year old boy had and what mom should do after he got hit in the eye with a rock, or... sharing the love of Christ that is even more important and exciting yet I seem to stumble through doing time and time again) and you wonder...are they really listening?  Do they really get it?  Am I doing this the right way?


I have heard it said that the person that is never with any doubts is in more danger of the road they are taking than those that question the course they have determined.  That doubts are natural and not to be scared of them, but work  through them.


Another quote from the movie "Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty. When you are lost, you are not alone"

Some see doubt equal to weakness.  I am weak, I know that.  But I also know "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."



Monday, June 2, 2014

A trip through the recent past.

It has been a while with no updates here.

We had another group, we had holy week, we had the Ford arrive, two groups in May...and I have let blogging fall by the wayside.   Sometimes, something has to give.

Let us catch up on the quick then, eh?

Sampedrana....the coffee mission there continues.  More plants being planted...another nursery beginning to plant even more.  With our financial commitments elsewhere, there is only so much we can do each year on this...slowly but surely it is taking root.

Some up on the top of the "hill" will produce this year, and the avocado trees are coming along nicely.  We might plant some more of those in the future.

The road to get there...constantly needs work every year, as a new road that is expected.  We are spending almost $1,000 each year just trying to keep it open with mudslides and such.  One point of it had collapsed so much that it was tricky just for me to walk across.  The rains have begun again...we will see how long our work will last, and seek ways to continue to make that work a little more lasting every year.


Alfonso with just a small portion of the coffee farm....can you tell it is steep?

Walking paths between the coffee will develop once the coffee gets big enough to allow it...for now it just makes for very challenging terrain.

We had a group from SOCC up there in May that helped fertilize much of the plants...they did in one trip what would have taken our workers many, many days to get done.


Las Botijas is going through struggles again.  The coffee side of things continues to grow and mature, but our farm supervisor Gender has left after only a few months.  There were some problems he had personally that became too serious, and they had to leave.

Gustavo is back from Tegucigalpa serving there for a while, probably until the end of the year, overseeing the continuing coffee work.  Getting a pastor and overseeing a new Church work will have to wait for God for the time being.

Speaking of Church....Sampedrana had their 7th anniversary on April 15th, it was a packed house.  They also had eight baptisms in March!  Henry and his family are doing well there, and the Church is growing not just in number but in strength...Henry had a white erase board made (it looks great) to assist with deeper teaching times apart from the sermons on Sunday mornings.

Baptisms here...mean everyone squeezing into a truck and making a real trip out of it for an entire afternoon to go to a river for the services, and then to have fellowship time together.

I am sure the picture taker and a few more people piled into the bed before they were ready to leave though...there is no such thing as a full pickup bed here.










In April we said goodbye to Gretchen, who interned with us for three months and was a huge help all the way around.

She translated and helped with groups, she helped with all the mundane tasks that have to get done between groups, she helped in the clinic...she did it all!






The SFC continues to advance.  Groups are working on the walls, and Carlos is working on the electrical, now to the point where we are putting up the ceiling fans.  To actually get the electrical connection to the clinic we are going to have to buy our own transformer and get it installed...another $2,000 or so we will need to find to proceed soon.  Right now when electricity is needed upstairs it is done via extension cord.





Among the many things groups have been doing, is also helping advance the work on the new milk project property.

Right now that means exterior foundation and wall starts.  Once we get the walls where they are supposed to be, then come the columns for the "basement" and then we would be able to move to the big work for pouring floors and the like.

Suffice it to say...there will be plenty to keep groups busy for the foreseeable future.  As we get donations as well to this project there will be many other things that need done as well...again, all in God's timing.








FAME sent a brigade group again this year, always a huge blessing to us, to the Churches we visit, and of course the many patients we are able to help with medicines, education, some new diagnoses, and lots of prayer.









During the FAME team, Cecilia found a new kitten...and Valerie thought it was cute...and now we have a new kitten in the house.  He was pretty small and weak when they found him, but now is racing around the house like, well, a kitten.  His name...keeping with the Star Trek theme we have going, is Spock.

Soren is here...observing that Spock does indeed have claws, and knows how to use them.









The donation we have to construct in Cantaranas is still paying off...with Sunday school rooms going up.  Recognize the material?  Yes, the same fence and building material the man cave is made from.

Floor will go in, plus a roof/second floor floor (not planning on building anything there for a while, but good to get it done for security and one time expense) and some fencing....the funds will run out eventually before we get everything done, but wow how much we have done already!



Here is the inside of the Church building in Cantaranas, complete with floor.  This was during the FAME brigade.  We had always had in the past to do brigades in a government clinic further away...but with this building, we had plenty of space, and more than plenty patients...we saw 30% more than we thought we could, and still had to turn people away.

Buildings....they can be very useful to God's work.



Here is the 2012 Gray Ford all done and working. It is a very cool truck.

It looks like brand new, and although it took some work and time, we saved $10-15k over what we would have spent otherwise.

The front Ford emblem is now a His Eyes logo.

No plates yet...we have to wait, as the government is a year or so behind in getting plates for cars.  Maybe within three months (we have a permit for that long that we can get renewed) they will come in...but we are not holding our breath.

So, there is yet another construction project going on at the moment.

We do not have enough storage.  We need more space.  We need food storage space for the corn and Kids Against Rice packets we get.

So....we are going to have groups help put up a retaining wall (after we spent a chunk of change on a regular backhoe and hammer backhoe) and set two more containers across from the ones you see on the right of this picture) which, when we have the money to buy those containers, will give us the extra dedicated space we need, and as well in the space in between we can use as a garage for the Fords on the first floor/level, and then in the future build on the second level between the higher containers for whatever we might need then.

So....this is not at all bringing you all up to speed on everything, but close enough I suppose.  The cathartic nature of blogging might bring me back with some greater frequency, we shall see.  Maybe I will even get to the point of sharing a post so serious in nature that pictures will not be included.  Oooooh, try to contain your excitement!