Monday, August 29, 2016

Too deep for words


I have had rough hospital visits before, but none quite like this.  I had been able to meet Felix on June 10th, turned out we were birthday buddies.  We chatted, we prayed, we hit the road.  Like most trips, we joke about not seeing each other in the hospital again, hoping instead they will be at home in a short time.

But this time I went back over a month later to find Felix not better, but much worse.  He was not really conscious, his mother was struggling to get his diaper on, and they were behind a kind of isolation wall separating them from the other kids in the ward.  Infection it seemed he had picked up, but that did not explain what was wrong.  It was a rough scene.  Mom was working hard...but immediately when I said something about us coming back when things were more settled she immediately and urgently just asked us to pray.  We did.  I managed to hold it together...seeing him there, eyes darting back and forth, not sure if he could understand or hear anything.  

I meant to finish this blog post a month ago.  I could not seem to find how to put the period on the sentence if you will.  We were to go back to the hospital in August, but I got stuck with the sick Ford while Valerie and the group walked on foot (we were only a few blocks away.)  She made sure to check on Felix though...a grade four type of some tumor is now the diagnosis.  It was just a matter of waiting for him to die, and his mother was just concerned whether or not he was feeling any pain during this whole process.  

So I post this to ask you to pray for Felix and his mom.  

And I guess I post this to just share a life struggle.  The moments where they leave you wanting to cry and then yell at God...then giving pause to the brevity of life, and how brief this one is being taken away...just a mix of emotions, thoughts and logic...and then remember Romans 8:26 "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ford ho!

Several months ago, just the right Ford for us came available via T&T Repairables, the same place we bought the wrecked gray Ford back in 2013.  This one is set up almost exactly as we would have ordered it.  We would have opted for vinyl floors instead of useless carpet...but greatly favor the double cab versus cab and a half platform.  It is a bit longer than what we have, but nothing terribly new.  It was hit in the side, but after repairs, looks almost new.  And this week, after repairs, lots of waiting, taxes, shipping...we got to drive it back to Tegucigalpa.  

There is still much to do...have to put the bars in the bed, government inspection to get registration and plates, insurance inspection to get...insurance, but the hardest part is at least over of getting it here.  This vehicle was paid for entirely by short term groups...we budget as part of hosting groups a small part from every group to go into a fund for times like this...when we have enough money and have the need, we can then be able to purchase immediately (this vehicle would have been snapped up immediately had we not had the cash.)  This is a huge help to the overall mission to be sure, but also something that we mostly need for hosting groups, another way to groups really pay for their own hosting.  This took a lot of planning and patience, but paid off.  Eventually we will do the same thing to replace the white Ford (selling it to help the fund) but probably not very soon...it is still fairly reliable, and the right truck would have to be available...and with everything we need, but without what we do not...they are not in great abundance.   

So that is great!  But what would a trip to the port be without a few more pictures?  We decided to take two days to make this trip instead of the very long one day that would have been required, to make it a family trip.  

One of things I was really looking forward to was our kids and Valerie getting to meet Madonna Spratt.  She has been a missionary since age 26 (now 82) and is not planning on retiring.  She is actually from a town very close to where I grew up, and we have a few people we know in common. She even knows where Geetingsville, imagine that.  She has had some health concerns lately, and her husband passed a few months ago, but she possesses a memory that is better than most I know and hopes to be recovering soon.  She lives in a small community about a half an hour from the port, almost at the end of the road (when it meets the river) and just a few blocks from the Caribbean.   Hearing her stories from Africa, India, Honduras (where she has been for 32 years) and in between was inspiring, challenging, and encouraging.  

Along the way, we spotted an Espresso Americano, which is not exactly uncommon in Honduras, but this one was a drive up location with outdoor seating like no other I had seen.  The main office was made out of a 20' container, and they used another 20' shipping container for storage above and a covering for the drive up window (which has another side where you can walk up for service.)  Inside the container...it looked cramped but like any other Espresso Americano.  Very cool.  
Other than seeing the port, getting to frolic in the ocean and swim, the other "exciting" activity was having lunch in San Pedro Sula on the way back, which although being a smaller population city than Tegucigalpa, has more in some senses of foreign businesses.  Wanting to try something we cannot get in Tegucigalpa, we were on the lookout driving through and found a Carl's Jr. which is something we cannot get either in the midwest.  As you can see...it was quite the swanky place.  Offering a few seats on the second floor with outdoor seating I thought was interesting in a city with temperatures for most of the year around 100F or more.  We opted for some inexpensive fare, but were quite impressed.  
There was some excitement along the way as well...we were stopped at exactly one police checkpoint, and asked for the Land Cruiser registration, which was not where it was supposed to be...or in the vehicle at all.  This was a time to remain calm and trust God.  We were ready for losing several hours and facing fines.  The policeman was very polite and understanding...but we were clearly in the wrong.  After several minutes with no cell service for him to verify that we were in fact current with our payment for the year...he came back to tell us to get that rectified in the next city at the bank, that it was not really the right thing to do, but he was going to do it.  I was dumbfounded.  I had noticed he was talking to another policeman before coming back over to us, but had not given it much thought.  That policeman came around to Valerie's side of the vehicle as this was wrapping up, and came over to shake our hands, saying "buenas tardes doctora!"  He knew Valerie from his time working in Tegucigalpa and being seen at the clinic.  Little Red Riding Hood strikes again.  He was enjoying the hot weather up there (between San Pedro Sula and Puerto Cortes) and the cool nature of his job versus when working in Tegucigalpa.  You never know when you are going to run into someone you know here!




It is a bit bigger than some vehicles it appears.  



Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Location Disassociation

I was talking to Jana about being in a mall in the US and that feeling you get when you think you are somewhere else...in her case, from their being so many Latinos in the mall, she felt at that time she was back in Tegucigalpa.

I was surprised to see after searching the internet, that there was no term coined for when this happens.  At least...not that I could find in a Google search a few times with different phrases and ideas.

So we came up with this term, "location disassociation", to try to encapsulate that feeling...when you are somewhere, but you feel like you are somewhere else.

It seems natural to me, no matter where you are from.  It is a way of coping with what you are seeing to make it make sense, or create familiarity.  When groups are driving through parts of Honduras and they say "This reminds me of Texas...Tennessee...Florida...Germany...even Hawaii"...or, well, you get the idea.

Normally I think of this as being a good thing, with a good context.  Sometimes of course, we also make comparisons of places and the feelings they give us in not a good way as well...but mostly I am making this connection in the "positive" sense...the kind that makes you smile but also feel a bit weird.

Sometimes it is a sense of nostalgia or just the great feat of two different places all of the sudden seeming to be the same place, sharing values, people, terrain, smells, etc. that you had previously not thought possible.

We have all been there, right?   Standing in a city center and instantly feeling like you are a hundred, or thousand miles away?  You stop, take a look around...eyes darting, then smile, and keep moving?

Let me know a time or two this has happened to you...not sure how, but maybe we can all grow from the experience.  

Saturday, June 25, 2016

mega bits

I met a little boy at the hospital this month having a birthday while he was there...and we happened to be there on my birthday.  We got a picture together as birthday buddies...Felipe and Felix.  What are the odds of that?

Interesting story at the clinic...a mother of many many children from somewhere near Lepaterique actually came for the first time to give birth at the public hospital (the reason for finally coming in to town to give birth was to have her tubes tied.)  While there recovering, some of her family came in to town to see her...there was a truck accident and her son (late teens) was killed.  The mother's friend was unable to find the words or strength to tell her, and upon her release from the hospital with her newborn baby, brought her of all places...to the clinic to find someone to break the news to her.  Valerie ended up being selected for this task.

I saw an original Mini Cooper here, first time.

The construction on the Milk Project building is going faster than we expected, which is a very good thing.  Now I am just hoping we can get enough donations in to keep the team working through the end of the year, which was the original plan.

We are looking at quotes from a solar company here that would add panels to hopefully reduce our monthly bill.  It will be interesting to see if it is something finally that would make financial sense for us...and then to see if we will be able to raise the funds to make it possible.

Sermon tidbit from UCC this month..."Prayer bridges the gap between the fragility of our passing days and God's unchanging eternity...prayer is an inherently submissive activity.  We pray because we are in need and we must submit our needs to the Everlasting One."

The new lab for the clinic is gearing up.  We have a new lab tech hired, and the equipment is purchased...just hoping it all gets delivered and installed in time (although there is a backup plan if need be until that happens.)

The wrecked Ford coming from the US is still stuck in customs here.  They are evaluating the value of the vehicle versus what we paid to determine what taxes we will pay.  Hopefully we can pick it up in the next week or so.

We found a local place that has a textile factory of sorts based in a large home.  They have been working to print some more T-shirts for us to sell to groups and friends, as well as new uniform polos for the staff.  It took much longer than originally quoted to get them done...due to very regular power outages in the area...they lost three full days of work, plus many hours during the days they did have power.  Even when I went to pick up the order...the power was out.  Thankfully on our side of town at the clinic we have not seen outages that frequently.

We paid for Soren and Cecilia to go to volleyball camp at their school for two weeks, they are enjoying it, especially since after about a day and a half of vacation they were extremely bored.  No broken bones yet, and hopefully that will not change anytime soon.

After years of a rag tag operation to get internet around the campus, we should finally be wired to have internet in all the buildings, which should be much more reliable and easy to maintain.  The Milk Project now and in the future will benefit the most (they use it mostly for searching for new lessons and greatly in helping the kids with their investigative homework), but for every building it will be much easier for work as well.

We had one group this month, a CIY group, small in number but mighty in the work they did and helped with all around.  Third group this year...slow so far, but as of late July...we will be more regularly busy with groups through the end of the group year the first week of October.  Groups are lots of work it is true, but such incredible, encouraging, and beneficial work...it is hard to believe sometimes how much some other ministries/missionaries are overwhelmed or not looking forward to hosting groups.



Monday, June 6, 2016

Wide open

So the rains have started this year.  Hopefully they will not all be as strong or produce as much damage for us as the big one last week.  Part of the furious nature of the river entering the property has to do with the ditch way up the hill that was filled in with rocks so people could drive over it.  That is never good.  The main damage for us was water, mud, rocks, etc. making their way through the Milk Project open window in the library.  Ugh.  So...we decided to cover it completely with cement, no more window.  It is not likely rain would come in that strong again for quite some time...but it was a huge mess in almost every room inside, so we did not want to take any chance having to do this again, even if they will be moving in to their new building "soon" (2017, maybe 2018)


You can see the lack of window in this picture the next day...as well as a bigger change for the property. During the FAME group's stay, the chain for the existing garage door opener system broke again...way overhead.  I had requested a quote from the place that did our garage doors for a new system, but I was waiting to start as the cost was requiring some time to set in, but with the chain breaking...putting it off until later when the cost might not look so high, was no longer a good option.  Now we have a system that will open two of the three doors, allowing a much easier entrance and exit, as well as a safer one, being able to see better.  And...part of the cost was for this system that includes battery backups...so when we have power outages, it will still work!  Expensive...but safer many times over in many ways, and hopefully gives us much less maintenance issues.  

We get quite a few of these little (or big) maintenance or other construction projects every year...they usually do not make the news of sorts, but I thought I would include them here, as examples of many other things going on weekly either on the main campus, or with the Churches, etc.  

Believe it or not...these two projects are ones that excite us quite a bit around here!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

FAME Group 2016

We had our first and only FAME medical group for 2016.  Building on the experience with the BGN team in February, we expanded that idea, providing a balance of education (medical and spiritual) with the time to see the doctors and get needed medicines.  We made a few small changes from February.  We will be making inquiries to the Churches about what went well, what we might need to do in the future to fine tune, etc.  We have some ideas already about some further "improvements" to make things go smoother, and provide better results for the Churches and those attending.    

I took some pictures along the way...some related specifically to the group, some to just pass on some information/prayer requests.


San Juancito was not on our initial list of Churches to visit, but it went well, and is always good to get to visit.  

Speaking of visits, we will be making changes to how we host groups, in that we will be taking groups on Sundays to visit our Churches rather than staying in Tegucigalpa.  This way we get to see how they are doing in many aspects, spend some time with them, and hopefully be of some encouragement.  Even taking every group to do this, with the number of groups we normally have we will not be stopping by more than two or maybe three times a year to each Church.


This picture was taken on the road from San Juancito, but it symbolizes similar scenes around the country.

The "gorgojo" or some kind of weevil is quite prolific in destroying huge swatches of the famous pine forests here.  The wood can be used...but to prevent spreading, they are cutting down as many of the affected areas as quickly as possibly, and of course then burning the area as well.  Prayers for further and greater efforts at reforestation all over the country for sure.



Sunday with this group was the last group to still go to Church in Tegucigalpa.  Which also means they are the last regularly scheduled group to do food distribution on a Sunday afternoon.  Maria coordinated visits to ten Milk Project families, and a good time was had by all.

Not sure if or how we would continue doing food distribution here in Tegucigalpa.  There is only so much time in the schedule.  Most of the corn we currently have will be going out with the Churches to do the work we used to do with groups...with the Church doing all the visiting though in this case.

That could change in the future...but that is the plan for now.







Our second stop was Sampedrana.  I include this picture of the woman holding her baby with a 105.4 temperature as a reminder to the past when we would see with great regularity very severe or long standing cases visiting Sampedrana.


With this process now that we do via invitation (February it was 50 patients per location, this time we were able to raise it to 75) that cuts down a bit on those cases, seeing more systemic sorts of things, but we also see in general less emergencies there when we are there.

We also left pastor Henry with a well equipped first aid kit to help when those cases do appear.








Talanga was the third brigade day, and the group got to experience some normal Talanga heat.

We have a donation to buy property for Sunday School rooms here.  Of course, right after we got the donation, the offer to sell us the property was rescinded.  No other property that attaches to what we have is for sale for the size we need (a big piece is available for much more money than we have is for sale however)

And with the continued heat, and lack of ability to expand into another piece of property...we are now looking forward to taking a small part of the existing Church building, and raising the roof so to speak to add a second floor for Sunday School rooms.  That will not be a big part of the building, but it will get the Church what it needs, and in the future if more meeting space, etc. is needed this would be a way to do that...and also address the aforementioned heat in the first floor to some extent.


Our last "health day" was in Cantaranas.  Here I finally got a chance to take a picture during the education portion of the program, with a rather clever demonstration about diarrhea using a punctured water bottle and a ziploc bag standing in for a toilet.

There was a full day spent in the Milk Project, as well as a visit to the children's ward at the hospital as well.  Every time we visit the hospital...it flumuxes me and makes me want to write a book at the same time.

A great team all the way around, and looking forward already to 2017 to see how we can take what was done this year and expand upon it even further.  

Monday, May 16, 2016

Fat Meat's Greasy

I just learned the phrase above this week.  The usage is generally given when one is quite skeptical, or just refuses to believe what is obvious.  You react to seeing them firmly entrenched in not acknowledging the truth, and say "They just refuse to believe that fat meat's greasy."

You ever feel like sometimes you are like that when it comes to recognizing how good God is?  All you can see is the negative, bogged down in the mire and only looking down, stinging from the pain of life, consequences of sin, consequences of other's sin, consequences of living in a fallen world?

Oh I of little faith.  That is kind of depressing...wait, I sense a cycle here.

At any rate, sometimes I get those loving dope slaps from God, very gentle and loving, to remind me who is in control, and what is His nature.

I had given ICCC in Tegucigalpa some Bibles to distribute to those that start Bible studies via the Church's devotion outreach in the clinic.  Bibles out of inventory, out of mind.  I asked pastor Miguel if he could get some pictures of handing those out, for some accountability, but mostly to encourage those that donate...see, they really do go to good homes (homes that I might add, more often than not...own not a book, let alone the Good book)

This Sunday I happened to walk up to Miguel, and this nice lady did at the same time.  And then he looked at me and said...how about a picture right now, you are witnessing the hand off of one of the Bibles the mission gave us!  The timing could have been off by a few seconds and I would have missed it.  Lots of little steps along the way by lots of people, and I get to be the lucky guy to see this as one of the steps as well.  As Joey from Blossom would say..."whoa"

This picture is hard to make out, as I did not want to intrude too much.  We have tried to have groups paint murals around the clinic property when their talents are up for the challenge.  They are pretty, they are encouraging, but...so what?  At least, that thought creeps into my mind from time to time.  I happened to be outside and saw this family unit walking down through the murals after finishing at the clinic to take family pictures of each other, they spent quite a while in this little area enjoying it.

People do notice.
We have built buildings, we have painted them...some nicer than others.

Waiting for Cecilia to finish in Sunday school, I had forgotten a group from JAX helped build these Sunday school rooms...and get up early for days to paint them as well.  That was about a decade ago.

The paint fades, the building will not last...but the teaching, the instruction, the examples and testimonies given will last.

Father help me to not just see with my eyes the truth of who You are, and what You do.  Mercifully, lead me to know, feel, and sense that.




Saturday, May 14, 2016

Milk Project building...we have a long row to hoe

I feel like adding the sub-title to this post..."And all I think I have is a spork"

Which do you want first, the good news or the bad news?  Every time someone asks me that, I ask for the bad news first.  Much like eating dinner before dessert...I want to end with a sweet taste in my mouth and not something potentially bitter.

Bitter like tears.

Dr. Darwin had a group of nutrition students working/volunteering at the clinic recently.  Maria got the results of their labor this week, and it was shocking.  Sure, I know the Milk Project is there to help those that are really struggling, kids that really need the help...so I guess I was just naive.

I have removed this 10 year old girl's name from the report. (This was the first report I picked up...there are more like it.)  It shows that her height puts her in the .3 percentile, and weight at 11.6 percentile.

And she is listed as being in "chronic dis-nutrition grade II"

Not all the kids are in this extreme (hard to get under .3) but the majority...I was not able to actually read them all.  I was floored.


Some of this could be from their past, it is not all necessarily a reflection on today, but it is the first time I have been able to see such a report here on anyone.  We know, we see, that especially those in rural areas are shorter...lack of good access to protein, varied foods, vitamins, etc. but, well...I mean I was not expecting to read that about kids we know, we love, and we try to help.  Yeah, I know...naive.
On the positive side I guess...it means that in the selection process, Maria is doing a good job identifying families that really need help.

She was sharing about a neighbor that morning, whose son Esnel is in the project.  She knows them well.  They have been unable to find work, to provide...and finally they are selling everything they own and moving back to a very rural community where they have extended family.  Imagine the kids...from being in the capital city, plenty to see, friends/people everywhere, school (although...this year with no money, all the kids could not go)...to rural life:  no one living near them (very rural), no electricity, school even harder to attend/afford.  More bitter tears...this time from Maria.

It reminds me of something groups ask on occasion...when dealing with hard stories, hard life staring you in the face and the lack of a seemingly great weapon, answer, or something to say...how do you handle that?  I wish I knew.  Seems to be a combination of a heart that is hardened...then broken and softened, and repeat, sometimes more than once in a day.  Holy Spirit intervention required.

On the good news side of things, Maria, Oscar, and I sat down to talk about different design options for the new building, as that has to be decided for plumbing and such well before we actually get to building those walls.  We are also waiting for an architect brother in the USA to give us his professional opinion as well.

The different ideas we had were for the most part pretty similar.  My favorite part of Maria's plan was the two meter hallway after coming in the door of the building.  It will serve to accommodate kids that arrive early (oh how I wish financially we could be open all day)...but the main purpose is actually a safety one.  The building will be close to the bottom of a hill, a well traveled road.  The hallway is there to provide a buffer...a speed bump if you will, for any speeding bus or vehicle that is coming down the hill and loses its brakes, to hit that and not come right into a classroom instead.

I have to admit...that was not an initial consideration I had in my planning process, but was good to know.

Also good news:  We were also blessed to start doing construction every day again!  We have saved enough donations from camps and individuals last year and with a big donation this year...to have enough to guarantee labor for four guys!  This includes one foreman (Rolando, who has worked for us in the past.)  I wanted a foreman so Oscar does not have to oversee and make sure everything is proceeding apace every day, someone to keep ) and have the materials they will need to keep working.

Hopefully by the end of the year we will then have the actual first floor poured, and the two basement levels somewhat finished.

Then for 2017 perhaps...done?  Finishing in 2017 with exterior walls, interior walls, AC (for security...cannot have too many windows), and all the little details that add up... seems very optimistic, but then again I would not have thought we would be able to go this fast in 2016 just a few months ago.

So, I guess this post is a bit bittersweet.  I had not thought about that previously.  Not sure I will think of that word quite in the same way again.


Friday, April 29, 2016

How does that make you feel?

I do not have a picture yet, but the clinic now has a psychologist coming two days a week, to see how that will go for her...maybe expand days/hours from there.  It is an exciting time, because we know how great the need is...but also the fear sometimes in seeking that kind of help.  Stigmas, self doubt, or just cultural stuff, but praying God will use that to bring even more healing to more lives.

This has sparked some conversations, especially to understand why I am not a psychologist since I have a degree in psychology (a few people in the clinic know that.)  I guess I should have long ago put my degree to work here professionally, since I am told that would be possible.  Little do they know how little I know.  Would it really be legal?  Hard telling, and I am not planning on finding out.
Every time I hear someone is studying psychology, I break out the very corny old joke..."How does that make you feel?"  It only gets a laugh probably one out of four times...but it tickles me nonetheless, so I count it as a 100% successful.  I like it better than the much more laugh producing line: "Only crazy people study psychology."

Of course in one way or another we are all psychologists...at least in the broad perspective of trying to help other people mentally and spiritually...being there for someone, and trying to improve ourselves as well.

I personally think I probably do an overall sucky job at this.  Maybe a C- D+?  It reminds me though of Oscar's devotion this morning, having faith like a mustard seed.  We follow God, we tithe, we help others, we pray...but what if I asked you..."How big is your faith?  Is it bigger than a mustard seed?"  Ouch.  You go from maybe saying...hey, I do ok, to...well, I guess I get an F.  Good thing our pass fail meter gets trumped by the Jesus card.  Did I just horrifically mix metaphors?  Give me another F I suppose.
 
When I reflect on my week this week...not sure the grade I would get, but it surprises me how much "psychology" is wrapped up in it.

Talking with Maria about the need for the psychologist and how we could afford care for some of the kids, I ask how many she thinks really need that kind of care.  She is not sure.  But she is sure about two stories from this week she shared...a boy in the Milk Project showing signs of abuse.  She confronts...finds out the boy has been beaten with electrical cable.  His father discovered 20Lps ($.90) missing from the house, thought he did it and beat him.  Then only offered to stop if he would admit he did it.  So he did...except he did not do it, just for the beating to stop.  And of course by admitting it was him, the beating did not stop.  And...next time dad will be even more sure it was him.  What do you tell him, how to counsel, how to help?  And another family that their was some kind of mutual or some sort of spousal abuse, and the wife and two kids from the Project had to leave and are now staying with her mother, obviously all shaken up and lost for direction, and now even worse off financially than they were before...and that was not exactly peachy keen.  Dad is likely to never be in the picture anymore...I say that because I have seen it all too often.

I went to the US embassy auction today, well, the pre-auction where you can inspect the items up for sale.  This auction is very well attended, and is quite interesting.  For those that are from the USA...your embassy buys things for staff that live here, and after they leave for another assignment it goes up for sale...beds, dressers, entertainment centers, etc.

Well...also a couple coffins.  There are several witty comments I could now make, but it does get you thinking as well.  And I thought I liked to be prepared.  That is impressive actually...just too expensive for my taste for a used container.





I have to fight psychologically here a battle of trying to get some good stuff on the cheap for the mission, versus settling for something that would not be quite what we need, and/or a gamble that cheap in the end becomes expensive.  I admit that this used to be a huge problem/issue for us years ago when the mission struggled much more than it does now financially, but...it is always a bit of a challenge, and I find culturally I am a bit mixed and confused between two cultures.

Case in point, they have backup generators that are big enough to power entire homes, the kind that are diesel, 24KW, and start up automatically when the power goes out, but are nice and quiet.

They probably have six of these...some totally done with spent motors, and this one still had tags, looked brand new, and some in between or hardly used.  Only problem is they are Chinese and almost no information is out there on parts, history, etc. (trust me, I looked.)  The clinic really needs a true backup generator (just this week they were without power up there for not quite 20 hours)...and if I could get this here for 1/2 or 1/4 what one would cost in the US before I could ship it and pay taxes...good deal?  Or taking too big a risk?  What is the right play?   People are looking to me to say whether or not that is a good idea...and yet I am looking over my shoulder for someone else to tell me the exact same thing!  When I went to look at the US cars they bring in for use there and now had for sale...there was a small crowd of other perspective buyers gathering to hear a gringo's thoughts on parts availability, reliability, and mileage of the vehicles.  That was a bit surreal.  Vehicle auctions...oh, don't get me started on the highs and lows we have seen here with those.  This time I am feeling a peace in the Spirit not of my own to stay away, we won't be taking the plunge, good or bad, on any items this time around.  Ok, I can breath now deciding that officially just now.

Sometimes psychological stuff really sneaks up on you.  I was being perfectly antisocial in the parking lot of a movie theater, enjoying the shade, looking up Chinese generators on the internet, with my headphones in, not looking up, and not leaving my vehicle, probably looking menacing and otherwise ogre-like...when this taxi driver pulled up, and seeing me hit me with three questions I am now quite accostomed to hear but still not quite sure how to answer:  "Are you from the States?  Do you speak English?  Do you speak Spanish?" Seem straightforward don't they?  Trust me, I bungle answers to those questions...although simple, they are quite thought provoking for me.  I wonder what that means.  Anyway, despite my lame answers, he proceeded to strike up a ten minute conversation about...everything.  Learning English from the "classic station" here...Bon Jovi, The Bee Gees, and The Beatles. (Yes, those were the three bands he mentioned...I figured he has the B station instead)  His five years living in Louisiana, paying a coyote to get across the border not for fear of the border patrol and just getting deported nicely, but for the Zetas (gang/drug cartel in Mexico) and them hunting/killing people trying to go across, coming back not for being deported but to be with the mother of his children.  Talking about how Indonesian people are bad...but Chinese people are hard workers and good, but fragile, and how you have to drive very carefully in the USA, but it is such a beautiful country, and even if you do not have a driver's license, if you are good, even when you get stopped by the cops it is ok.  He did sheet rock, roofing, framing, and whatever else he could find.  Oh, and he doubted that the Thai language was a real language.  

The next time a taxi driver slows me down, pulls a u-turn out of nowhere, or just is sitting on the side of the road...I will think of this complex character, his love of learning English ("Hey, you hungry?"  "It's good man, it's good!") and talking about life, threats of death and the Beatles. His fare came back, and it was time to go.

All with someone I never met before...I could practically say I avoid these conversations and yet they happen with some frequency.  Not because I look inviting to talk to, but I must be because I am white?  I guess that is a compliment.  (I did hear someone at the auction complaining about something about gringos, I was not sure what, but I went ahead and chimed in my agreement, stinking gringos!...big laugh.  Gringos are funny too I have heard.)  Anyway he seemed to be quite eager for someone to talk to, to talk about life with, how hard it is to be away from home...and every city he had ever visited in Louisiana.  I wonder if I in any way proved to be interesting conversation at least, or at all of any...help?


I had just been stopped by the police to check my paperwork, and was taking off when I saw this gentleman running on the road leaving town.

Now this...this is a conversation I couldn't not begin, because well...it is certainly not the first swastika I have seen here, as somewhat inexplicable as that might be...but certainly the first one someone was wearing.  I had to see what was on the front of the shirt..."perpetual slavery" it said in Spanish in a harsh, militaristic font as we slowly passed to get a good look.

I could not let it go...so braving slowing down in my lane (by this time he had crossed the road probably thinking I was going to kidnap him for tailing him or something, but still running for exercise)...I rolled down my window and asked..."What's up with your shirt?"  He replied "It does not mean what you think it means."  I amicably replied, "Ah, ok, fine." and I took off.  I took off because I was already risking someone rear ending me, this was so weird and I was just slowly driving in the right lane leaning out the window.  And then of course...to go into a deep conversation seemed...not the right time or place.

I know the swastika did not originate with the Nazis...it is Indian in origin.  Whatever it meant for him on this shirt, and whatever the perpetual slavery was (the caste system?) I told Darwin who was in the car with me...after a brief pause to think this over, that if he were in the US, he would be lucky not to get beaten up wearing a shirt like that.  And then I thought...why did I just jump to presuming he meant he was using it in some Indian way or whatever way, and that it was not what it clearly seemed to be?  That was rather generous of me.  Good grief shouldn't I have told him that was a potentially catastrophically bad idea?  "Take that off you idiot!  You just look like a exercising Nazi!"

What was this guy's point?  Sometimes we have the right things to say perhaps, but there is also a right time and place to say them.  Maybe this was representing something good and true to say somehow...but even so, a T-shirt in this fashion seems not the most appropriate way to broadcast it.  And somehow...that is what bugs me the most about his shirt.  

And lastly of what I can remember, what really struck me the most...I found myself somehow giving someone marital advice.  Deep, problematic, tear jerking marital advice.  No one confides in me, how did I get here?  And what am I saying?  Wait...this is serious stuff.  This is the sort of stuff that changes lives, today and for multiple lifetimes.  I found I had plenty to say/offer, that God has more and more challenging stuff to say, and that someone more specialized should also be consulted and more deeper probing should be done.  Giving advice/guidance is fine, and good, but we have to know our limits, our own shortcomings, and know more than one source of human guidance is usually needed.

I found myself saying something that is true and yet can hurt greatly during that talk...Sometimes you have to put yourself out there, expose your feelings, your heart, and your ability to be crushed.  You have to believe that things will get better, and that God has a plan...and be open to the fact that in that moment, the other person can either come along side you, and you can grow and move forward together...or that you will be crushed, your heart stomped on in front of you and your feelings either dismissed, laughed at, or ignored...and grow and move forward anyway.  How comforting, and yet how challenging...much like what faith like a mustard seed presents.  Many examples of amazing healing and growth that we like and want to paint pictures of...and then as well Stephen, in Acts growing in faith, power and words as he was being stoned to death, with the mental painting/picture I see of that is an ugly crushing background...overcome with bright white overfilling joy.   Ultimately, I added to them, we are commanded "as long as it depends on you"...not the reaction, judgement, scorn abject dismissing or approval of others.  And then being a guy, I awkwardly said something about how that was enough of that, and started talking about cars.

How does all that make me feel?  Well...I'll have to think about it and get back to you.



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fail, struggle, stumble, trip

I am not sure that I believe that the advent of modern social media has created more of a issue of people only presenting the good, hiding the bad, and giving everyone a false impression of what their reality really is.  I tend to think that has been around for quite some time, but of course it is more in your face if you have social media than perhaps fifty years ago, and you can then get those same images from people you know but rarely get to see by not living close enough to each other to see each other on a regular basis.  I think Christmas cards used to fill that role pre-internet.

Anyway, I am so not wanting to present any image that claims we are doing everything here with absolute success.  Sure, we strive for excellence, and we try to do things continually better (although realizing that "success" in some 100% sort of ethereal way is impossible) but in just living life I think we can all agree that there are some trip ups, struggles, failures, and just stumbling along the way.

So with a sort of demented pleasure I present a recent...one of those things.

When trying to help people, it is of course difficult some times to ensure what you are doing is actually a help.  Of course you do not want to help and end up hurting and planning and thinking about that can often produce other struggles.

You can talk, educate, and even almost scare people to get them to understand their own needs that they might be neglecting (physically...weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, etc...and spiritually their need for a savior and law completer) but often in trying to help you see...you have not made the connection you thought you did.

Darwin sent me this picture on Thursday of a 93 year old woman from our neighborhood that was using the cane and umbrella to steady herself as she walks the rough roads.  The clinic gave her this walker, and she was on her way.

Great picture, makes you feel good to see, literally, a difference being made.

The only problem is that what you see is not always what you get.





This picture I took the next day, of the same woman (wearing the same clothes from the day before?), back to just using her cane to get around.

Of course, that is her right, and I am not blaming her for not taking care of herself...she decides what is best to use to get around.

It is more an example of thinking you are helping when...obviously there was a disconnect there.

A walker is relatively minor compared to seeing people lose sight to glaucoma, limbs and/or life to diabetes, and eternity to not knowing Christ.

So yes, we try to help others, we try to help ourselves...and we screw it up, or just things happen that make you wonder where it all went wrong.

Except it did not all go wrong.  I told Darwin, sending him the picture I took, that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.  Part of that is to not try to hold on to that which you cannot control.  Part of it as well though is more serious in not getting bogged down in a perceived or real failure...and instead recognize where you tripped, try not to trip there again, and strive to find a better way to walk.





Friday, April 15, 2016

Here's a tip

I learned recently that the Latin word from which we get the idea of tip in Spanish, propina, comes along the lines of "for a drink."   Hearing that made me stop what I was doing.

Tips are handled differently in different countries of course.  Some do not tip at all, some encourage generous tipping for great service.  Honduras sometimes seems to do a bit of both depending where you go and with whom you talk.

A very common phrase though by those working in impromptu work...washing the windows of your car, filling holes in the road with dirt, cleaning things up, is "para fresco!" which is essentially..."for something to drink!"

Hearing the origin of tip and then the common everyday phrase also used informally struck me.  It also strikes me that many times I have been asked to provide a bribe, it has been also in that vein, para fresco.  Once, many years ago when two policemen stopped me and threatened me with jail for an infraction that I brazenly committed (I turned left where it was not allowed) I had to give them a ride to take me to jail as they were on foot, and after driving around for some time, with them presuming I was going to crack and just offer them something I suppose, they mentioned how hot it was and how thirsty they were.  I continued to play stupid and offered to get a drink with them.  They eventually got mad that no cash was no forthcoming and told me to go away after we had gotten out of the car.  I even yelled after them "What about our drink together?" But they could not be bothered.  Several times I have offered to buy a policeman a water or other drink...but that is not the kind of thirst we are ever talking about in those situations.  The amount of money though in those bribes being sought is just about that much money...a dollar, maybe a few at most.

The irony for most people working in the streets asking for money for something to drink for their labor is that they are usually lucky to get the equivalent of a nickel or a quarter, when someone happens to come by...and then when some of them happen to want to help.  Sometimes I see people doing this in rural areas on roads, leveling poor roads with shoveled dirt.  These are roads where I can drive an hour and not see another car sometimes.

I guess what caused me to stop what I was doing hearing all this was the reminder that, for what some might be a tip, or an afterthought...is a livelihood for many Hondurans.  The CIA world factbook says 60% of Hondurans fall below the poverty line, and depending on the website you check determines how many millions you find live here making $2 or less per day...working for tips, or just something to drink.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Seeing double

We have been trying this year to take some time to look forward.  Instead of putting out as many fires of daily life, to put some things off, and think/plan/pray.  Where are we going?  What are we doing that we no longer need to do?  (sewing ministry is the first big step...we will not be continuing to do that as a mission, although some of our Churches might take some of those supplies and continue on their own.)  
Honduran labor for the mission is the future.  While there are a few of us somewhat long term missionaries hanging around, finding more of those is not likely.  And while there are no immediate plans for Valerie or myself to be leaving the country...we will be leaving one way or another at some point.  How the clinic will continue to do optometry when that time comes has been problematic.

Finding another US optometrist to come and work has been something we have been seeking for years.  That does not seem to be coming, and come to find out, those kind of folks are fairly rare.  And since optometry is not a thing here...only ophthalmology, and opthamologists usually do surgery and are also fairly rare, and thus would also be very expensive, that is not a decent option for us either.  

So trying to deal with the legal aspects, technical aspects, and everything else, we think we have found an option how to move forward.  Valerie will become a teacher in our own optometry school of sorts, training our general medical doctor Alejandra who is interested in learning and taking on the challenge.  Here in Honduras MDs can legally do everything Valerie can do...they just do not have the training.  So the idea is that Valerie will train Alejandra, starting with a few hours every day, and soon enough, poof, we will have another optometric professional.  The next few months will prove to see how that will work, it will require patience, time, and flexibility by both of them, but we are looking forward to hopefully putting to use the two optometry lanes we have equipped now, giving Valerie back up when patient loads are great, and as well giving her more flexibility for working with teams, making trips to the US, etc. without feeling like she is letting her patients down.  



Monday, April 11, 2016

Just a normal Wednesday

I have some normal days.  Those are the days I am in the office doing accounting, reporting, thinking/planning for the future, and answering emails.  Sometimes it seems I do not get enough of those, but when has anyone really ever felt like they were all caught up and everything was done?  

But I digress.  I thought I would recap Wednesday of last week, or at least a bit of it, captured in three pictures I just happened to take unrelated to each other.  
I went up to the clinic for an interview we were to have for hiring a new translator for handling Milk Project sponsor and children letters, as well as someone to help with groups.  We had a special donation last year and this year to do that. You will probably hear more on that later, but the interview went well.

I decided to go up early though to help someone out. I know Linda (right) because she used to work at the airport, and she happens to be our lawyer's daughter.  She is taking classes as the university and needed to interview someone "native to English from the United States."  (Sorry for all those Canadians, Australians and others that were probably just waiting at the airport for someone to walk up to them!)  Little did I know that there would be in fact a group interview with five other students with her!

I think my English was ok.  It was certainly a unique opportunity to speak to Hondurans where I was kind of not allowed to speak Spanish (at least while the officially recorded video interview was being done)  Some were from Tegucigalpa, some not.  We got to pray before we started (I wish I could say that was my idea...they were quite nervous) and share a bit of how God brought us here with these guys none of whom would have ever found there way to our neighborhood otherwise.
Mostly they wanted to talk about tourist things I had done here, first impressons, etc.  I was amused at some of the questions that had the same two words after them:."What struck you most about Honduras when you first came here?....Be honest!  It sure seems when someone says "Be Honest!" they are thinking or hoping you are going to say something negative.  The guy on the left there actually lived in Miami for seven years (but of course did not advance his English there!) and left his son there to move back to Honduras, after working only a day or two a week doing framing/construction work, so he decided to come back to finish studying...his law degree.  Not sure he can go back to the US to pratice law so not sure what that will mean for his son there.  

I peeked out the window just in time to see Valerie, uncharacteristically outside of the clinic.  Unusual she had no patients and was out talking to the volunteers from the Church that had done the devotional for the patients that morning, thanking them for a particularly good job.  Of course she is...because that is just the type of person she is.  Had I been there just a few minutes before or after I would have missed seeing it.

I would not know it then...but that week was probably the last week the White Musso will ever get to the clinic.  Valerie got home on Friday with a maxed out heat gauge...we already replaced the head gasket, and this time it looks to be the head itself.  With parts becoming rarer on those trucks (which is why we sold the green and were trying to sell the white), this could be a time consuming and/or difficult proposition.

What started as thinking was a blessing winning it at the auction has become a nightmare.  At this point I think we are going to stop throwing good money after bad and sell it as is for parts.  What we will do for a second vehicle long term we are stopping, praying, and waiting right now, and I will be borrowing the mission's White Ford when I need to do errands.  Fundraising to get another vehicle right now seems like a long shot...thus the need to stop and just pray for a bit.

From one white vehicle to another, I saw a Lada Niva 1600 at the grocery store.  These illustrate that while Honduras is famous as Toyota country (as well as Nissan and...ok, generally Japanese automaker territory) there is a history here for other odd brands, whether imported officially or not.  Our Musso used to be sold here and had a distributor for parts.  Now that dealer closed, and so did the parts network.  If you need parts now, there are some aftermarket filters and the like available, otherwise parts are scavaged from wrecked units or sourced via the internet.  One of the parts for the White Musso, the 4x4 module that electronically makes everything work...we were originally going to have to see if available from Latvia or Estonia.  

Ironic I thought, since the Lada brand comes from the old USSR...were generally panned, and yet are still being made, and while I am not sure about Honduras, are still being exported, and parts are...somewhat...available.  .

Expensive lesson learned I learned through this very long experience?  In the future when it comes to buying vehicles in Honduras (anything but huge Ford sized pickups) if you want parts availability and to be able to drive something reliable for 20 years...buy a Toyota.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Getting stuff into the field

Part of the inventory control process we have been going through for two years with Justin Clark's invaluable help, has been saving what needs to be saved for long term use, and getting everything organized to then get everything out that does not need to be saved.

He and Jorge filled the garage full of things that were either in disrepair, brand new and not needed for long term storage, or used but no longer needed.  We opened up the garage to the pastors to see what they could use in the Churches or personally, or distribute.  This is just one truck load's worth of many truck loads that they were able to take.  

FAME sent us some PET devices, made especially for people that cannot walk, but where wheelchairs would not be a practical solution.  (PET stands for Personal Energy Transportation I believe...the device works like a bike, but you pedal with your hands.  Unfortunately, in many places in Honduras even these are not very practical since we have so many hills. 

That makes distributing them somewhat problematic...not often do we get requests for them.  We had three, and during this cleaning and sorting process, we decided to put them out there in the garage to see if there would be any interest.  Jose Luis took them back with him in his mission Land Cruiser to Talanga, and in an extremely short period of time announcing he had them via our channel 15 TV station there, they all found new homes!  Talanga is relatively flat (well, for Honduras especially), but roads are still dirt and rock, and most of the city has no sidewalks, so these PETs should be a huge help to these families...






I did not get this gentleman's name, but he got the adult version we had.  He was in an accident and is now paralyzed from the waist down.



PETs are sometimes used by adults in cases like these not only to be able to just leave their homes, but as messengers or transporting things if in a ciy...a way for them to still work.






This is Carmen, she has polio, a disease I thought had been eradicated, but apparently I was wrong, (she did not get vaccinated.)

I love that her brother is relaxing on the box, and that she is posing for the picture (I have multiple pictures of her...she is smiling/posing in each).   She seems happy and has not even got to see the PET yet!


This is Carlitos, he had to have his leg amputated because of a burn.

Just three examples of things the mission gets to do, ways it gets to help, that were not planned, anticipated, or sought out, as we did not even ask for these PETs...God orchestrated all that to come together through quite a few different people in the US (the people that make them, FAME for warehousing them and then getting them to us, Master Provisions for handling the shipping) and then the His Eyes staff here in Honduras as well.

Thanks be to Him for these efforts, and join us in praying for these families that the PETs might be of use to them, and for ongoing health issues, recovery and perseverance for the future in Him.  



Friday, April 1, 2016

Pray together

We are still doing weekly devotionals together as a leadership.  Once a month when the pastors come, we do a devotion for all of us before they start their teaching, edification, etc. time.  The conference table was full today!


I am happy to see in that area the kitchen cabinets from my grandparent's home.  We had temporarily put them in the man cave for a while, but with that area being cleaned out and organized by Justin and Jorge, it was time to decide if they were going to be mine and go home (where we rent and I do not have space), or donate them once and for all to the mission.  I like their new home...letting go felt sad, but good.  Plus even after all these years when I open them...the smell puts me right back in grandma Esther's kitchen.

Last week I decided that when asking for prayer requests everyone was still a little too timid, so I started to just go around the room and ask everyone for their prayer requests...they have to give at least one.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.  Here is the list to join us in prayer with the pastors also with us:
1.  Jonathan's wife Ana asked for prayers for her brother Saul, his health.
2.  Valerie asked for prayers for her memory
3.  Jose Luis' wife Gladis asked for health prayers for Jose Luis
4.  Jose Luis asked for Esly, a woman that came to Christ yesterday in the Church in Talanga, and for her daughter.  Her daughter is six years old and has had hydrocephalia since then, never got an operation.  For years Esly has been angry with God over her daughter's condition.
5.  Pastor Edwin is asking for prayers for getting an additional job to help financially support his family.
6.  Oscar asked for prayers for the leadership of the Tegucigalpa Church and for the Church itself.
7.  Maria asked for prayer for herself (she almost fainted the other day) and for her daughter Melisa that has recurring health issues from last year that they thought the treatment given had cured, but just found out it did not.
8.  Jonathan asked for prayers for his grandmother for her health and for a visa appointment she has with the US embassy coming up on April 11th
9.  Darwin asked for prayers for health for his grandmother Maria Felicita Ramona
10.Felipe asked for prayers that God would guide the changes in the mission
11.  And since pastor Henry was late in arriving...we asked on his behalf he would be punctual in the future.