Sunday, March 23, 2014

Spinning plates

Welcome to my journaling for today.  Journaling seems to be a very secret thing, very private.  This won't be, with the hope that somehow it would be helpful to someone else other than myself, but ultimately I am writing this for myself, so if you are actually reading this...bear with me. 

I would hate to think how many times the word "busy" has appeared in this blog.  Every time I sit down to write, that word jumps to mind.  Keeping up with everything can be like spinning plates. 

Our communication as leaders of the mission is faltering.  Satan uses that and all his other tools of the trade to get us off track, off mission, off serving God and instead get bogged in the mires of human nature.  We seek prayer that God would overcome that...and that through the His Eyes board of directors and other resources that some of those plates could be glued back together.  Broken plates hurt. 


One day during the group last week I had to sit for almost eight hours at customs while the clothing container was mostly unloaded.  My presence was deemed necessary by our customs agent to speed the officials along in their pursuit of contraband...especially in light of the whole place being militarized because of corruption and an intervention begun to try to get it ship shape...so to speak. 

Keeping the clothing ministry in its ability to keep serving in Churches, for pastors, and ultimately to clothe quite a few thousand Hondurans is another plate. 








We got to see part of the Sherwood Oaks donation in action...the foundations going in for the Sunday School rooms in Cantaranas.  Lots of work going on there now, and for many weeks to come.  Another plate....construction in the Churches.





I got to go with Jonathan to a new area of outreach in Cantaranas...almost seems like it is out of town, but they have a cell group growing there, new people involved, and several of them learning but not in Christ...yet. 

Prayed for this family for health, and for a new home. 

Plates of Church expansion, prayer for those we meet for physical needs, and spiritual rebirth. 




Both my kids got their yellow belt this past week in Tae Kwon Do. 

I was not there, was with the group.  I think they understand...but they should not have to do so.

Should be a priority plate...sometimes I am not as attentive as I should be.  No excuse for that.












We helped another rural Church with a clothing brigade.  We save up our otherwise worthless-in-Honduras cold weather clothing for them...one of the very few areas that really need/appreciate it.  This is not a Church we administer, just us trying to partner and help another Church body minister in their community.

Partnering with other bodies of believers, another plate.   






This is Jorge...he had both his legs hit when he was hit by a car.

Being a light for Christ to the children from all around Honduras in the public hospital here...another plate. 
















The clinic has been inviting patients to submit prayer requests for some time, but this other spinning plate is one mostly the clinic staff handles.  I found this one (I omitted his name...but you can pray for him as well, God knows his name) near where Valerie gets ready every morning as she apparently prayed for this request:  "for vices, alcohol, and drugs...I want to change who I am and be a good father."  If that does not bring tears to your eyes...well, let me just say it shook me pretty hard just happening to run across it.

The clinic...and the huge ministry that goes on there that we sometimes forget day to day...another big plate. 

This is just a few of the things/plates spinning in the last few weeks.  Not to mention paperwork for getting the mission legal here, paperwork for farm properties, personal tragedy in the life of one staff member, many decisions on the clinic construction progress, so many petitions for different kinds of physical help, talks on the milk project, planning for groups, and a bunch of other "plates" that I am even forgetting, probably to maintain my ability to keep moving forward.

Sometimes plates fall. 
Sometimes they break.
Sometimes they spin by themselves.
Sometimes I do not spin them they way they need spun.
Sometimes I only notice those that are teetering.
Sometimes it is hard to see the plates through the tears.

That they continue to spin at all is a testament to God's grace (giving us what we do not deserve), mercy (not giving us what we deserve) and love....love when I fail those plates over and over again.  To begin to contemplate the depths of my failure, sin, and unqualified nature...is overwhelming, especially in light of the fruit coming forth from His ministry here and beyond. 

Hang my head kind of overwhelming...but in light of that grace, mercy and love...I can identify so much with Paul who said in Romans 7  "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? 25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!"
 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Window...dry...wall

We have a group here this week from Florida, our only men's group of the year!

They are doing some big construction projects this week...spreading out in three different groups to tackle some things we have not had the funding to continue until their arrival.

First step...we had to complete the stairs to the second floor.

The hand rail (our first thought is always top notch safety, right?) has not yet been installed, and the plan is to eventually seal off the area underneath for storage, but for now it at least made unloading dry wall much easier, and all the trips being made up and down today.




Some of those trips were our interns Gretchen and Morgan helping Jana re-organize some of our container space.  This is a constant battle of course, but right now especially so with us being short on space....right now helping organize means moving things up into the second floor, even if we are not exactly ready for moving in yet.  

Moving things in the containers...as you can see...it hot work.

Warm temperatures + no circulating air= a hot mess.









Valerie and I picked out the window placement not too long ago, the group has been making sure they will all line up as well as possible, and got several installed today.

Seeing the first hole cut, that first window installed...it all just jumped so much...more real, more...closer to done.









Here is the view from the new property looking at the end windows.

Other than doing as much window prep (and hopefully some dry wall as well) there is a group of guys working with some of the guys we hired locally to get a retaining/no-water-rushing-in-from-the-road wall built.

The property next to the clinic we bought to save us on our water bill (a long story...should pay off in a few years) and hopefully to serve as a location from which to expand the milk project ministry to children in our area.







Two Churches in the US helped us buy these two properties we have joined together as one,  you can see a little better in this picture looking from that very window we saw in the last picture(we put the fence up to protect everything while we wait to see how we will construct in earnest.)

We plan to put a door between the properties soon to move materials and such, but for the time being we are taking down and putting up sections of the fence every day we are working there.




They probably won't be able to finish in three days...but they are making big progress to get a good foundation for a future building wall...which will at the same time when done keep the rain water that runs down the street in the rainy season like a river...from flooding our property.

I will post more Wednesday or Thursday with some more pictures of how much they have accomplished!












Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Guasucaran and the 16th century mine

We did our brigade work in a small rural village called El Plomo, which is near the community (also small, also rural) we have done work in the past called Guasucaran.

We finished early...seeing quite a bit more disease, less adults that can read, and a few obvious cases of parents doing the best they can to just survive day to day.

Of course...we saw plenty cute kids as well.  

Since we finished early, the professor at the school finally got us to visit a local "attraction" that he had been wanting us to see for years....the abandoned mine.  It is hard via pictures to capture the magnitude of the place....the sheer rock cliff that rose above us more than 100 feet, the hole for the entrance to the first of the three mines we visited (which rose above us at least fifty feet) and just the debris field from all the work there.  It was overwhelming...and this picture is neat, but definitely does not capture what it was really like.    
This mine, according to local sources (that being...older men in the community) started back in the 16th or 17th century, and ended perhaps 60 years ago?  Pinning down specifics was....difficult.

This marker, date established unknown...says that the testing done to see how far the cave/mine reaches was left at 16,000 meters.

There were also tales that the mine was somehow connected to the El Rosario mine which is in San Juancito...past Tegucigalpa, which is hard to fathom.









The other two mines which were also nearby (the total walk time was under 10 minutes from the road) were much smaller in their openings...but both had not been fully explored.  No one has reached "the end" and the cool nature (you could feel the temperature drop at least 10, maybe 20 degrees) of the second mine was felt 30 feet before even entering.  It was very impressive.

So much so I could really see a park being established there, even something for tourists, even with it being so far from Ojojona.

I have a feeling this is not our last visit, it was that impressive in magnitude and just the visual nature of everything we were able to see.  Maybe we will start our own tour company!

May God have blessed the impact of the brigade in a similar fashion in His name to those we were able to see today as well!


 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Eye brigades


We have a group here this week from ICO FCO (Illinois College of Optometry, Fellowship of Christian Optometrists) going out to do eye work in Christ's name.

I thought I would post some pictures from the first two days of work...including some typical things we see with regularity on brigade days.

Many patients seen, much education given on conditions, glasses prescribed, prayers prayed (for many things...including a patient with breast cancer today among many others)

and quite a few smiles...including this little girl that got her first pair of glasses.  She has a very high prescription, this first pair will allow her to get used to having glasses, which were made on site with a stock frame and some already cut lenses that our good friend Sarah Cho brought with her.










Nothing like getting on someone's level to help them!



















Watching Valerie help students, and help patients...this does not get old.  For her or for anyone watching her...the love she has for optometry, for helping and teaching people...the origin for that is most surely God.







What brigade would be complete without great brain food for lunch?

PB&J all the way!













Riding in the back of the truck provides great views, interesting conversation....and Cat looking like a big red lolly pop.












And all this great work (our intern Gretchen helped translate all day) makes some of us ready for a nap in the truck as well.











Thursday, February 13, 2014

Gracious Experience of a Christian

Burn out.  I could define it for you, but I don't care, I don't have the time, and I cannot think clearly enough to process it all.

I vacillate as of late suffering what people in this sort of job blanket label "burn out."  I saw some posts online that offered tests for stress and such...according to such test I will be dead or suffering from a major ailment within two years, and am severely depressed.

That was news to me. 

Sure, I have bad days.  Sure, sometimes life seems overwhelming and that no one can relate.  And to be sure, the enemy is working on me to give up or just be apathetic.  Sure I feel overworked, and need a vacation.  Sure sometimes I work until 11:00 or later, and sure sometimes it feels like I never get a day off.

I share all this not for sympathy or seeking you to send me Bible verses (although go right ahead...I do not read my Bible enough if we are being perfectly honest and forthright, more encouragement to do so is always welcome.)

Sure our stress level, and work hours might be more and more difficult than what we might have were we to live in the USA or elsewhere...but I could not be happier.

What?

I mean...I think about where we live, what we get to do, what God is opening doors to do, what a blessing He has given us in shepherding this ministry for now, our kids, our family, the groups we get to encourage and be encouraged by...how unworthy, dirty and just plain wrong we are to be here.  It is amazing...in the true sense of the word.  God working with worldly considered substandard materials so that He may be more clearly glorified. 

Not convinved?  Read I Corinthians....I am thinking specifically 1 Corinthians 1:

27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”[d] 

I won't falsely claim I have it all together...that I do not struggle.  By all means I do!  Paul already claimed he was the worst of sinners...but I am right there with him, and I would be ready to admit to any and all that ask that I am probably the worst of missionaries.  I see not the value in my life, in my ministry...but rather the flaws, the hurtful things I say and do, the opportunities I miss.

So even though I am in love with the work (who else can say they like working until 11:00?), with what we get to do...sure at times it is more than I can bear, more than I can stomach without crying, being the answer man without any seemingly good answers, the man to make things happen that has not the means to do so.

He who says God does not give you more than you can handle has not read a Bible...nor lived in the real world.  The whole point is...you and I....can not handle it at all!  We need God, powerfully, needfully, every hour, every second of every day. 

So how can we carry on?  Sure...be wise, take care of yourself, step back and rest when needed/possible...but ultimately I am reminded of the powerful words of a hymn:
    1. My hope is built on nothing less
        Than Jesus' blood and righteousness;
        I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
        But wholly lean on Jesus' name.
        On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
        All other ground is sinking sand.

        2. When darkness veils His lovely face,
        I rest on His unchanging grace;
        In every high and stormy gale
        My anchor holds within the veil.
        On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
        All other ground is sinking sand.

        3. His oath, His covenant, and blood
        Support me in the whelming flood;
        When every earthly prop gives way,
        He then is all my Hope and Stay.
        On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
        All other ground is sinking sand.

        4. When He shall come with trumpet sound,
        Oh, may I then in Him be found,
        Clothed in His righteousness alone,
        Faultless to stand before the throne!
        On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;
        All other ground is sinking sand.

Edward Mote wrote that hymn (which he added a bit of a subtitle...see the title for this post.)  I read that those in the Church where he was preaching wanted to give him the deed to the Church building.  Mote replied "I do not want the chapel, I only want the pulpit; and when I cease to preach Christ, then turn me out of that."

One line from one of the additional two stanzas now eliminated really struck me as a good way to sum up all these feelings....


"Midst all the hell I feel within, on His completed work I lean."



 

Wrecked but whole

Let's talk vehicles for a second, shall we?  Perhaps I communicate better than I think I do how essentially important the trucks we have are to the work we do, but I doubt it.

The 2012 Ford we raised money to purchase last year is soon on its way here after some of the repairs it needed were completed in the US finally.  However...with snowpocolypse storms abounding in the South, not many are eager to tow the truck from Indiana to Miami where it will ship. 

In the mean time, the 2000 parts truck we bought did arrive in a Master Provisions container....a smoother transaction we could not have asked, as we had no problems at all with customs with it being wrecked (legally no vehicle that will be registered can be imported over ten years old...we were warned this would be a problem....maybe they got a good look at it.)  Already we are using some of the parts off this truck, which we bought mostly for the engine and transmission which is just like the two Fords we have and worth by themselves more than we paid for the truck, but the pieces we are scavenging first are all the little but crucial other pieces.  By the way, we got the engine started once it got here...no codes, issues...it even runs better than the Blue Ford!

Valerie has been very hard at work in her administrative role in the clinic, trying to improve things with a policy and procedures manual, an employee handbook, new contracts...and so much more. 

Most of this she has to do in the evenings.  Occasionally I get to go to the "office" for meetings as well to talk things over, give some direction, etc.  If you cannot tell...our office is her exam room, and my seat is the patient exam chair.  It never has seemed odd to me since we have done this for so long.

She really needs, desires, prays for, and dreams about getting another optometrist to come down to help take more of the daily patient load.  All in God's timing, which we trust...but boy, any day now would be good!




Construction progress on the SFC will need to halt other than essential work (Carlos doing some electrical work) before groups come to move things forward...we just do not have the funds, running in the red on this project in the last month. 

The concrete is ready to house the green container...not sure when that will get moved, probably in March when the next team (a men's construction group) will help with more of the work up there.  We are hoping that we can get a backhoe to move this container cheaper than using a crane, saving some money there...and that the group will be able to get quite a bit done in the three days they will be working up there. 








Hop hop hop


I am behind, I know.  We have been hopping around quite a bit as of late.

We had a medical group from Bring Good News Intl. here January 31st through February 8th.  That kept us hopping...those are so great to host (we keep talking about how to do them better, to more effect for the Kingdom and to really help people...a constantly shifting work in progress), but also require even more of our time than normal groups...if you can believe that. 

I stepped back a bit with this group...trying to do that more in a wise way than I have in the past.  Translating for the patients (as Jana so wonderfully is doing here, in prayer) is a powerful experience, but certainly can be draining as well.  My role was to translate in the pharmacy, which is definitely more low key. 



Low key worked well this time, as Darwin and his wife Sandra helped see patients all week.  German "helping" his dad or mom at eight months old does not work so well. 

I was more flexible, and apparently amiable, and so German got to sit with me a good bit of time in those four days of brigades. 

So much time we spent together...that the first time I saw a dog without being with German I found myself saying "look...bow wow!" 

It was a great week.  Credit can only go to God...that is not false humility, it is reality. 





So that's it, right?  Groups give us such flexibility, whether they know it or not...or whether they always appreciate it or not (not perhaps appreciating it so much when it means less space in the bed of the trucks for them to stretch out.)

What do I mean?  Well, one day we were able to move pews from Talanga that were extra and they were not going to need, and another day take them with us to Sampedrana where they were with much love received.  Doing that without the group here would have been difficult at best. 

On the way back from Sampedrana we were able to get some much needed fertilizers, and a coffee pulper to take back to Gender for Las Botijas. 

It also means I get some time to see how things are going with the different Churches, the pastors, etc.  Here is a screen shot that shows the green screen working well for Channel 15 in Talanga...very well in fact, looking very professional. 

There was some computer work needing done when we got there, but having a spare computer there now makes that not as much of an emergency as before.  With the group here...I was able to get that into the shop and back to pastor Jose Luis in just a few days. 

Here is Jose Luis trying to use his truck (which Oscar helped him get fixed on the cheap...or cheaper at any rate) to get his clothes to Talanga..as well as get Jonathan, his crew and his clothes, to Cantaranas.  This is...not exactly safe, but there was no good choice, as Jonathan's truck broke down trying to get home and...since we were on our way back from a brigade, Oscar was able to run to tow Jonathan back to the clinic campus, where Jose Luis picked him up.

Not exactly a planned vehicle expense, to fix Jonathan's Land Cruiser was almost $1,000...new injection pump plus labor.  Yikes.

All that going on (and much more really...some of that coming in another post) plus the group at the same time. 

Hopping along indeed.


 

 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Cantaranas construction progress

We stopped by Cantaranas on Thursday to do a bit of food distribution with the Church there...continually encouraging to see so many people want to help with that when we get there (I had three volunteers from the Church that went with me)...they even had a list much longer of people they want to visit than we could do as a group...when we leave they keep going with the extra rice we were able to leave them.
 
We also got to see the new construction progress. 

 
 
The floor is done (rustic/rough shape a bit for the future when they will undoubtedly want to add ceramic tile to the floor) and all the lights are installed...including some odd lights we had received as a donation but did not know where we would place them....they look like they were made for the stage here...more for a great look than for great illumination. 
 
With the floor done...more chairs will be needed soon enough!
 
Bathrooms are done outside as well....next will be doing some more ditch work to keep rain from coming inside the building, and then hoping we can get some Sunday school rooms out of the deal as well, perhaps even some of the wall that the property will need.  The Church has done really well getting volunteer labor organized, and quickly, to get things done as soon as they can.    





Can you tell it was "cold" this week?


 





Friday, January 17, 2014

Group trip to Sampedrana

We took the group up to Sampedrana this week to stay the night and get some work done on the second floor of the mission house, it is time to re-seal the wood and get back soon to then put a fresh coat of stain. Of course...that meant some creative use of ladders and scaffolding to get it all done, and the group did very well...we even got two full coats on before we had to head back to Tegucigalpa. 

 
Being in the height of the coffee harvest meant we did not see that many people during the day...but there still was a men's meeting that night, and it was good to see Henry adapting well there in his pastoral role. 


Seen here is Henry with his family (minus baby Caleb who was sleeping...it was Caleb we were praying for in November that was very ill, he is doing great now!)

His wife cooked for the group...she did fantastic!  They are so gifted with hospitality.  Henry also shared his life story with the group...how God has taken such a more than turbulent early life and turned that into a life honoring Him...let's just say you had to be here.







We have a new stairwell to the second floor that Oscar and our welder friend Teto put in right before the new year...much easier and safer to access than before...and apparently it makes for good scaffolding support as well.

We could not get up to the main Hill Climber coffee property, but we did get to visit the 1.5 acre farm just down from the Church, it was great to see the progress there, especially since this Church's youth group planted 1000 more plants here last July.

Pictures just really do not do it justice.







However this picture does do justice to the short walk required to get to the property, which is just across this river. 

Access is easier when it is not raining for the river to rise!
 
And what trip would be complete without some strange dangerous duty?  It was a good thing we went when we did...we found this tree was rotted at its base, we were able to take it down...creatively...quite easily in the end it was so rotted.  Otherwise it very likely could have come down on the house in the very near future. 

We continue to pray that the Church would mature, that Henry would be able to train more men there for preaching and teaching, including finding a new long term pastor to replace him in a few years.  So far, just a few months into his tenure there, things are looking up, with attendance over 60 ever week.  To God be the glory!