Thursday, December 8, 2016

Moving day

Looking for the newest, most up to date blog post?  This is the last one scheduled for this particular site!

The mission has its own website now, which is all fully modernized and fancy.

So fancy it has its own place for blogging.  So while this site has been good to me, it is time to centralize and have everything ready for one stop shopping.  I do thank all of you that have been reading the blog here, and invite you if you want to keep going on this wacky written trail with me, to visit and sign up at...


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Clinic happenings

Ok, so this first picture is not at the clinic, but we have had a bit of a snake issue lately.  Tiny little rattlesnakes.  Which as you can imagine is alarming.  Alarming in general for everyone, but for the most part they are of course in the grass or quiet areas, so it is most concerning for the construction guys moving things, etc.  But we have a snake hunter among us of the first order.  Oscar knows how to catch them and get them...alive...into a plastic water bottle or ziploc bag (they are tiny, a little longer than your hand..and aggressive) and also apparently hunts near his house, where he found this big one.  They are not alive for long, as you can see.    

The first line in defense trying to get the snakes to leave surprised me...spreading garlic around the property.  Fangs they have, but I did not know they sucked blood.  Interesting.  

Maria actually took this picture.  Seems an inebriated man was on his motorcycle up the road and was ambushed, stealing his motorcycle and giving him more than a bump on the noggin in the process.  They helped him out (you can see Luz, or part of Luz, one of our nurses on the left) as they waited for the police to pick him up.  

Violence in the country is reportedly down of late, especially murders, but for many this is more of a statistical drop than one that is felt or seen.  Driving drunk on a motorcycle in the middle of the day is not smart, to say the very least, for a variety of reasons.  One also makes an easy target.

This is far from the first person seeking temporary shelter at the mission campus after a mugging, robbery, etc.  We are thankful to God we have relative safety and protection though for our staff, patients, and facilities.

That is not to say we still do not have issues from time to time.  The fence, serpentine wire, electric fence, and cameras have so far eliminated break-ins from being a problem, and have been for several years now.

But occasionally we have minor issues still.  Our beautiful flowers and plants are hard to keep beautiful from crickets, ants and others that want to eat them, but also from patients who cut/yank them as well to take them home.

We have had some petty theft.  But almost no graffiti in the past ten years by gangs or anyone, although a few parts stolen from vehicles while parked outside.  Valerie though had a new unpleasant arrival at her "white board" of a vehicle yesterday afternoon.  Kids I suspect without supervision...especially since I would presume those are not aliases. They had good equipment, as no home remedy found so far can remove it.  Time to call a professional...or get a driver named Kenilin.

Speaking of transportation, we applied for grants to help us buy an ambulance this year, and IDES and FAME both approved grants to help us get one!  We are waiting on 1/2 of the funding to be raised yet, but eagerly looking forward to this new service, not only for our patients in the clinic, but anyone in the community.  Case in point...last week there was a patient with severe lung issues, and required oxygen and to get to the hospital immediately.

An ambulance was called...and after waiting, deliberating, and asking family members if they wanted to risk going in a pickup truck (with no oxygen), and waiting more and then finally someone going and getting them...

...Over an hour later an ambulance did come to take her to the hospital.

This is somewhat uncharted territory for us in trying to provide such a service, but we are quite hopeful that we can financially make a go of it, while at the same time providing obviously much quicker service to those that need it.  We have all in the clinic that have cars served as ambulance drivers in the past, with no equipment.  Stay tuned for more information about this in the soon as the money is raised in the US, we will move forward purchasing and outfitting the unit as soon as possible!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

You didn't ask...

I walk around through social media recently and find less and less reason to post anything.  Well, except for Instagram...who doesn't like a cool picture of a sunset?

I guess I find little in life so important to take a stand, especially one big enough that with forethought  know I am going to honk off, alienate, or just dismiss quite a few folks with whom my current personal leanings might be in conflict.  They didn't ask for my views on this stuff...they just wanted to  keep up with each other.  (You dear reader, didn't ask either...last chance to walk away now, this is just something I wanted to get down in this diary of sorts I occasionally write.)

Sure, today I am most struck in this by the US election.  To be honest it has baffled me since youth the do or die mentality with one's selected party or candidate.  Voting is a right, responsibility even perhaps, but the lengths to which people will stump for or yell for their candidate escapes me.  Have we such a short view of history to think that each individual presidency is really life or death for a country, a region or a family?  And are we so short sighted as to really think any of these candidates is worthy of such devotion...or the opposite candidate worthy of your time devoted to hate?  And even worse...directing that verbal diarrhea to those that support for whatever their reasons that candidate or party?

I could also liken this to die hard support of sports teams.  I don't hate your team or the players on it.  I don't hate your candidate or their candidate, even if I would not vote for them, find their political views "in error" or if I find them immoral or worse.   I don't hate the leaders of North Korea, or any country...or any individual.  

When it comes to hate or hateful feelings like that...what has that done for you lately...or ever?

Sure, you need to be informed, make informed decisions (where do you get information that is good and true?) and faith should permeate all aspects of life.  But where did that then cross over into your identity being in a candidate or party?

Oddly this is all helpful to me (and the reason for posting here), because I am so struck and then reminded that Christ is the rock, the only rock, on which I stand.  He is in control, and our struggling and yelling at other people about all this is ultimately not helpful.

Think about it...if you were to engage with others about religion this way, how successful do you think you would be in seeing souls transformed for Christ?  Do we go around telling everyone how their religion or God is wrong, stupid or hateful?  Some do I know, but I have not seen that as a Biblical example.  Love people...not people like you, that think like you, just people.  Help people, and let them know the reason you are helping is Jesus.

Galatians 5 ESV
13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. 

Luke 9:23 and more, The Message
Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?

So I will do my best to will myself to choose love.  Not just about my or anyone's politics or religion...but preferred vehicle brand, music taste, grammar, TV show...everything.  I am going to try to lift others the way I have been lifted by Christ.  I do not do that well, I have not historically done that as well as I could, and I probably still suck at it and will for a while, but I need to strive to do better.  And not on some grandiose macro level...I need to do better myself, in my family, and in my job...but not of myself, but Christ in me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Laverne and Shirley

I have been traveling around the USA for a while now this month and some in September.  It has been fun, encouraging, frustrating, depressing, educational, challenging, and stressful.  That is to say, it has its highs and lows.

It is quite the interesting part of the job I temporarily hold, going to the US to share what God is doing in Honduras, getting to see friends, family, brothers in sisters in Christ, and hoping that the time away from home is "productive", but without a really well defined definition of what is productive.  

It is tempting to take more time off to enjoy the ambiance, it is also tempting to do even more work to lessen the load when you return.  It is hard to stay connected to home and work there when you are so far away.  Even more so when you are alone.  The beds are different, the weather is certainly different, the sun does funny things, the food tastes better, it is so much fun to see people dressed that you otherwise only get to see in scrubs or ill fitting cement covered is an emotional roller coaster.  

I was running errands and went to the bank.  A Latina woman was at the counter and had a Latina name.  I proceed to sing a song to her, a worship song that had her name in it.  No thought, no pause, just did it.  In the middle of the bank.  I then went to the post office and someone recognized me from going to the same school I did (albeit a few years before me) and I did not recognize them, and then had a hard time putting together a decent conversation and felt weird the whole time.  She was incredibly polite, pleasant and helpful.  I was a mess.  How weird is that?  I had to have a mini chat with God in the parking lot before I was ready to leave.  

It probably seems like this is complaining.  It is still a pretty cool gig, don't get me wrong.  It is just a microcosm of the work in general.  You go, you do stuff, you pray about what you did before and after, and then you wait to see what kind of harvest it produces...physical, spiritual, emotional...just all over.  Sometimes what you think went great...not so much.  And sometimes what you leave hanging your head like Charlie Brown on a bad day...ends up being something really great.  

That can be hard to process and survive sometimes in the heat of the moment.  You have to process...but not too much that it drives you crazy.   

I was thinking about that when preparing a sermon earlier in the month.  I think it went well...again, hard to know.  But one of the items I cut from the sermon (for time!  Imagine that!) was the feeling of being a spiritual klutz sometimes.  I had recently been curious as to what the theme song from Laverne and Shirely was getting at with the line "shlemiel, shlemazl, Hasenpfeffer incorporated!"  

Come to find out (via some internet searching of course), it is kind of a play on words, and a playful description of the characters and their interaction and working together.  You see a shlemiel is kind of a klutz, and a shlemazl is someone with bad luck.  Summed up in one joint explanation..."A shlemiel is somebody who often spills his soup; a shlemazl is the guy the soup lands on" and in Hasenpfeffer incorporated, they are going into the soup business together.    

I guess I am saying on these trips sometimes I feel like a shlemiel and a shlemazl.  But ultimately it is Hasenpfeffer incorporated, and the president of the company always has a better business plan than I do.  

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to spend some time imagining what sewing a big F on all my shirts would look like.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Milk Project building progress

I am sure I would not have anticipated us being where we are with the Milk Project building at the beginning of this year.  We had some big donations that enabled us to keep going, and keeping Rolando in full time employ through the end of the year, and the other guys for at least six months...maybe more?!

It is hard to believe it is taking so long...and yet hard to believe how fast it is going.  Groups have been a huge help as well.  With the donations, we were hoping we would be able to have a poured floor by the end of the year.  That floor should be poured in the next few weeks.  Just getting the floor prepped (metal base, rebar mesh, wood base supports, and the forms for the sides) takes a while.  

There are actual stairs now from the lowest "basement" to the middle basement, which makes going up and down easier, who would have thunk it.  Quite a few of those little things done recently, like filling in, removing rocks, getting things to a proper level.  

We should still have enough funds to dig the septic tank and get the stairs from the basements to the "real" first floor before the end of the year, and then we will regroup to see what we can do in 2017 without groups, and what will have to wait for groups or more funding.   

Exterior walls will be the biggest priority of course, and then pouring the roof/second floor.  That would be our big goal for 2017...but more if we can of course!

Maria and Oscar have been working together (I am around as well on occasion) to plan the flow of the first floor of the building...bouncing ideas of each other, and then once we had the columns for the floors poured, we could actually go back and see what will fit where...and how (seen here we are figuring out how the stairs will have to fit given the space available.)  It is exciting to see that come together and take form, literally.  

We were concerned that there would not be much opportunity for windows in the building due to safety and what that would mean for temperature control...but thankfully now we are at floor level we can see that into the clinic/mission campus on that side that would get the most breeze anyway...we can put as many windows on that side of the building that we want.  

Continued thanks to everyone out there that is making this possible, and we ask your prayers as this and the project itself for how it will grow in different ways, and how it will be able to use this building to do even more for the children in our area. 

Thursday, September 15, 2016

MacGyver Mechanic

Vehicles...we have been working for years, saving, trying to figure out what is best for use here, etc.  It has been a hard road,  pardon the pun.

Along the way, for quite a few years, we have had the help of Roberto Arnoudts.  He is a mechanic, works out of his home, on the street, or on our property, depending on availability.

The huge advantage to using Roberto is that he can fix something temporarily, on the cheap, to last, or top quality, depending on what kind of budget and time is available.

Recently we discovered that the turbo attached to the Land Cruiser for Talanga was not from the factory, but something the original owner (the owners of the Toyota dealership interestingly enough) adapted for more power.  Quite the expense...but after some investigating, explained the problems we were having with oil consumption.  So a rebuild of part of the engine was required...and removing the turbo.  The quick fix (later properly fixed, was "adapting" a PVC plumbing pipe to connect the motor to the air filter.  Pretty ingenious I thought, and cheap.  Worked for a pinch, no problem.

Sometimes we get busy, talk about trucks, cars, personal problems, God, societal ills...but until this week I had never known exactly how to spell his last name.  I stopped this week and just realized how could I know someone so well, and see him so often and not know that?   So, upon going over it with him...I remarked it seemed French, not Spanish.  Turns out, it is...his grandfather was French, came to Honduras to work in the mines of San Juancito establishing/keeping it going, the needed electricity at the turn of the century, where he met his wife, Roberto's grandmother.  Life eventually took them to Danli, where Roberto's dad was born, and where Roberto was born.  His grandfather was also a mechanic among other things.  Roberto, after serving several years with the military (during which time he drove supply trucks during that were fired upon during the whole Sandinista issues down by the border with Nicaragua...getting a borrowed non-military truck eliminated the shots when it looked just like any other truck) he moved to Tegucigalpa and started working as a mechanic.

It was during his military time, and then as a neighbor he met Teto (seen here crouching looking at the glow plugs of the Land a position I would never have thought to attempt and he achieved with no thought/effort/problem.)  Teto worked for us much of last year on several welding projects.  They work together on occasion as well, as today.  

We talked about his extended family that day standing by the Land Cruiser.  Talked about so many cousins that choose not to spend time with him or his family, that are extremely wealthy (importing most of the fake Chinese clothing sold on the streets here.)  I asked him why, he responded quite matter of factly that rich people do not want to hang out with poor people, even if they are family.

We are getting a much better handle about our trucks, reliability, and longevity for the long term of the mission, but it is always good to know Roberto is there when we need him.  If only his grandfather had taught him French for us to practice!  

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Few Bills

The clinic now has a computerized receipt system.  This has been a project Darwin has been working on for some time.  Government regulations now require this, have for about a year.  He found some guys that design such interfaces/systems that came up with the design (this seen here is just a test...the final version will have all correct information) and I was able to buy the fancy/specific printers to do that in the USA and have a group bring them down.

This means we have a full computerized cashier operation, quite the fancy set up, which should help for financial reports, tracking trends, patient counts, etc. much easier in the future.

This along with our computerized inventory for the clinic and for the mission containers means everything is so much easier to find, count, and re-stock than ever before in our history.  What a time to be alive and working in statistics/inventory!

Speaking of bills, we had chance last month to visit some Milk Project families in their homes.  we came across families trying to pay the bills, and one of the most common things for economically challenged females to do to try to bring in some cash daily is making and then selling tortillas.

This is hard work, quite time consuming, even though they most certainly had it down to a science (each tortilla exactly alike...all without any measuring other than by feel.)  If you are lucky, working all day making and then selling, you could maybe clear $5 or so. Maybe.

Groups help pay the bills on the Fords, and this one is now ready for group service, serving officially in hosting duties twice now, since the bars on the back have been completed (side note...done by one of the preachers/singers/leaders of the Cuerpo de Cristo Church next door.)

Now we just need to figure out a good seat system for groups (which can also be removed when not needed) and we should be all set.

The plan several years ago to set aside some cash from each group to be able to buy these when needed, now we can see was a great way to go to make this possible.  

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, 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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, 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 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 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) 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 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 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.