The Lord sends Ezekiel into a valley of dry bones, a symbol of the exiled Israelites who have lost hope and faith, and commands him to blow life, or the life giving Spirit, into the bones. He obeys God and the bones come to life.
“I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:1-14)
Angel, one of the construction workers, lives in the village of San Buenaventura, near the Children’s Home. When he isn’t working, he often goes out into the mountains with Pastora Juana and others from his church, Paz y Reconciliación (Church of Peace and Reconciliation) to minister to people in very remote, inaccessible places. Last Wednesday, Jen Clarke, Mia from Denmark and I accompanied them. It started as a grand adventure…and ended as a beautiful Spirit filled experience. We rode horses and mules 2 hours over a mountain to visit a small home. It was a treacherous ride, especially for us who had little to no experience riding horses/mules! My inexperience extended to mule logistics. We were bringing food for 6 families. As I was leaving the grocery store the day before, I called Angel. “Angel,” I said, “there is a lot of food! How are we going to get it to the families?” He replied, “Don’t worry, we are Hondurans. We have ideas!” I laughed out loud but he was right. Hondurans are very creative and resourceful.
Mia with Angel
Me with my mule!
Angel after walking the whole way
We loaded up the mules and horses and took off. We walked through the village of San Buenaventura until we turned off onto a trail to the mountains. Soon, we were navigating a very narrow trail, about mule width. Thanks be to God, the mules and horses had more experience and confidence than we did as we rode down steep, hairpin turns on a trail that was slippery and rocky at the same time. As the animals were watching their steps, we were watching the beautiful scenery.
Two hours later, we arrived at Cordelia’s house. It is a small, adobe home with a kitchen in a smaller building in the back. To the left was a corral with several cows and chickens, all of whom were checking out the unexpected arrival of gringas!
The calf was very guarded
The rooster was too
Walking into the kitchen, I exclaimed, “Me encanta su cocina!” (I love your kitchen!) Really, I thought it was so charming. Cordelia was bemused and responded, “Well, it is the kitchen of the poor.” I imagine in her mind she was shaking her head at the gringa!
The kitchen with mugs hanging on the wall
The cooktop, “fogón”, heated with wood fire
All Hondurans, no matter how poor, are wonderful hosts. They
immediately served us coffee with homemade bread and “rosquillas” (a savory donut.) We sat and chatted for awhile as people began to arrive. Finally, there were 21 of us gathered in the living room and the worship service began. You see, that is why we were there. The food delivery was simply an add-on to the monthly visit from from Pastora Juana and the others. As Angel explained, many of the people have never heard about Jesus. “We are going to “soplan vida.” (We are going to blow life…in other words, bring the Word of God to the people.)
The living room. The curtains provide privacy for the “bedrooms”
Once everyone arrived, we gathered in the living room. We started with song and prayer. Hermano Ramon (Brother Ramon) led us in prayer and Angel led the music. Some of us sang with all our hearts but others didn’t know the songs. They were politely listening and, we hope, soaking in the message.
Pastora Juana began her homily with, “We are not here to bring you religion. We are here to bring the power and the love of Jesus Christ.” She went on to emphasize the power of God’s love and Jesus’ promise of forgiveness of sin, unconditional love, and eternal life. Then Cordelia stood to give her testimony. She had a very serious heart condition. She was taking tons of medications and was always short of breath. Her doctor told her she needed surgery. Cordelia burst into tears, not because she didn’t have money to pay for the surgery (she didn’t) but because she was sure she would die during the operation. The church came alongside of her and prayed. Hondurans pray with an energy, faith and fervor I have never seen elsewhere. At her next doctor’s appointment, no surgery was scheduled. She was cured! Her heart is in perfect shape! As she wiped away tears, her face was aglow with the power and love of Jesus. We were all moved by her story of how Jesus blew life into her heart, both physically and spiritually. Now, she makes the two hour trip by mule every Sunday to attend church. That is why they come, a grueling trip there and back, to answer God’s call to put off their dreams of living in comfort and ease and go into the valley of bones to blow life into these precious children of God.
He was the oldest of 5 brothers. Sometimes they had food, sometimes they didn’t. Most of the time their clothes were in tatters. For some reason, his father didn’t love him. When he was 8 years old, his family gave him to another family to work. He worked for that family for 3 years when that family gave him to another family about 4 hours away. He worked with cows and pigs on their farm for a couple years when he escaped and returned to Tegucigalpa. His family would not take him in so he lived on the streets and did odd jobs – selling tortillas, working on a public bus, whatever he could find to survive. At 13 he started working with a mason, learning the trade. He never went to school, never learned to read or write.
I met Jose Luis about 4 years ago. He is a happy go lucky guy. I remember him laughing about not sending or receiving text messages “porque no puedo leer ni escribir!” (because I can’t read or write!) This did not hold him back in the construction world, however. He is a natural genius at construction. He oversaw the construction of the new medium boys home. He managed up to 8 workers, calculated and ordered all the supplies each week, designed and built several architectural elements such as archways, “wood” pillars, etc., taught younger workers how to do the more sophisticated building techniques, and, despite language barriers, taught many Northamericans how to lay blocks, make concrete by hand and just about every other job on the work site.
A couple years ago, Jose Luis shared his dream with me for the first time. I had been watching him singlehandedly place a guideline for the future roof so they could lay block on the outside wall. That guide has to be precisely correct or the roof will fall. I commented, with much admiration, “Man, you ARE an engineer.” He looked at me with a melancholy expression, “I always wanted to be an engineer but I could never go to school.” Soon thereafter, Julio, whose senior service project was adult literacy, began teaching him how to read.
Last month, Jose Luis confided in me that he was going to school. He found a program that teaches grades 1&2 in one year, then 3&4, then 5&6, then “I will go to high school and then to university to get my engineering degree!” A few days later, he told me he would take a test to see if he could skip grades 1&2 and enter directly into 3rd/4th grade. He had 3 days to study for the test. Kathy Kelly and I took him to the prayer wall, placed a prayer in the wall and prayed over him. He took the test and passed! Now he studies all the time. He wolfs his lunch down and studies, he records himself practicing material to learn for a test or his teacher giving a lesson and then listens to it while he works. He already helps Julio with his architecture projects. “The plans just have numbers on them. I know how to read them.” He is determined. Nothing will stop him. “I will do better than the other engineering students because I know how to build buildings.” I cannot wait to attend his university graduation ceremony! Jose Luis is one of the most inspirational people I have met. Best of all, he thanks God for every step forward he takes.
Happy Epiphany! For me this is a time to reflect on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. When the wise men arrived to see the baby Jesus, everything changed. Jesus was now manifested beyond the Jews to the whole world. This is a time of year I reflect on His presence, His incarnation and what an amazing thing that is. Imagine, the Creator of the Universe, our Lord and Savior is here, now, in our world, in our lives. Every day. I returned to Honduras right after Christmas in time to attend a huge concert at which our LAMB Worship band from the Children’s Home performed. It was a big deal and hundreds of people attended, and cheered, our kids! I was so proud of them I thought my heart would burst. These teenagers, composing their own songs, practicing hours on end, brave enough to get up in front of a sea of strangers to worship the Lamb through their music. Sublime. Before the concert we visited the “Mega Nacimiento” or huge Nativity village. A nacimiento is more than the traditional nativity scene. I love the various Honduran holiday traditions. Some are delicious like the nacatamales at Christmas. Some are amusing like the “Año Viejos” which are effigies filled with firecrackers lit at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The nacimiento is the most charming tradition with Honduran pueblos (villages) built at the foot of the nativity scene. The “Mega Nacimiento” was more like a bustling city!
Joseph’s carpentry shop
Pinata to celebrate!
If you don’t have a donkey…
They went to church too
Bar with Coke and pool
Local gas station
When ya gotta go…
Some of the scenes were amusing but a wonderful reminder that the Risen Lord is with us…in Bethlehem, in Tegucigalpa, in your town, everywhere, every day! So, look around. See Jesus. He is everywhere. Take Him by the hand and follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
My favorite verb in Spanish is Esperar. Esperar means to wait. It also means to hope. To me, esperar means hopeful waiting.
Waiting is hard. Waiting can mean suffering. 13 years ago, a 2 year old boy was found wandering the streets. Social Services sent Jose David to us as an orphan. For years, as he grew up with no one at visiting day, no family to call his own, he fell into a depression, feeling unloved. Waiting can mean hope. When he was 13, a young couple, Ashlee and Ryan Graham came to LAMB on a mission trip. When they mentioned they wanted to adopt, I introduced them to Jose David. It was love at first sight! They immediately began the adoption process!
Where the love story began in 2014…
Recreating the scene 2016
Waiting can mean heartbreak. Soon after Jose David met the Grahams, Social Services gave us a phone number that led to his birth mother! Jose David was overjoyed. “Amanda, will you call my mother and give her directions to visiting day on Saturday?” That Friday, we learned that the mother had been beaten up by her boyfriend and had run off. Jose David was stricken when he realized he would spend yet another visiting day alone.
Waiting can mean doubt. Ashlee and Ryan were working hard on the US side to move the adoption along. On the Honduran side, a year passed with no progress at all. Jose David all but gave up. Twice now, it seemed, he was within reach of having a family, only to lose it.
Waiting can mean frustration. Finally, earlier this year, things started to move in Honduras. The birth mother agreed to sign over her parental rights but had lost her national id card. Our social worker, Oneyda, drove 2 hours to take her to the registrar but… the mother wasn’t home. When Oneyda returned a few days later she was there. At the registrar the forms were filled out…but there was no toner in the printer. A week later, Oneyda picked the mother up, and drove her to the Tegucigalpa registrar. Yes, they had toner! But, they didn’t have the paper to print it. Finally, on the third try, she did get her id. Waiting can mean God’s hand at work. Ryan and Ashlee finally got the first court appointment. But… Ashlee called me from the airport, “Ryan’s passport expires 1 day before our return! They won’t let him on the airplane. What should we do?” I told her to get on the plane (I couldn’t bear telling Jose David that no one was coming.) I also told Ryan that there are express passport companies that will give him a new passport that day. A few minutes after Ashlee took off, Ryan called back, “I called Passport Express. They told me they were booked solid for 2 weeks…(my heart sank) but someone had just called to cancel. I have my new passport!” (My heart soared with joy and thanksgiving to our merciful Lord.) Waiting can mean growing closer. When Ashlee arrived, she and Jose David were both nervous. They hadn’t seen each other since the first meeting. To break the tension, I stuck a name tag on him labeled, “Jose David Graham.” The next day, Ashlee and Ryan took him clothes shopping. I noticed he had folded over the edges of the name tag and had it in his pocket. Every once in awhile I would see him glance at it. Later that day, he asked Ryan and Ashlee, “Is it ok if I call you my parents?” They answered, “We would love that!” Jose David stepped away for a moment to compose himself privately and came back grinning. It was on this trip he took on the new name, JD.
His new family in Pennsylvania was growing closer too. For his birthday, his extended family made a video. “Hi, JD! I am your grandmother.” “Happy birthday, JD, I am your cousin” and so on.
His little brother and sisters were excited to have a big brother too!
Waiting can mean fear. As time dragged on, again stuck in Honduran bureaucracy, I was consumed with fear that the adoption wouldn’t go through. I filled our prayer wall with prayers. I showed Jose David a positive face but inside I was falling apart. His 16th birthday was fast approaching which would have ended his hopes for a family.
So, what is hopeful waiting? It is soldiering through all the challenges of waiting… with faith, believing that God will provide the family JD had prayed for all his life. Sometimes that faith is an act of will. Repeating with conviction that God WILL provide, despite evidence to the contrary. It is knowing, that somehow, someday all will be well. It is remembering all the miracles God has delivered and asking, “Why would He stop now?”
At LAMB, we have seen over and over during hopeful waiting that God is faithful. On December 9th, JD Graham stepped off the airplane and into his new family’s arms!
As Paul wrote to the Romans: For in hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
So, we wait patiently, expectantly, hopefully for His provision, for His redemption, for His love for us. All of us. Each of us. Amen. Signing the final adoption papers and celebrating JD Graham‘s first birthday!
JD Graham and his parents!
Celebrating JD Graham’s first birthday!
Traveling to his new home and taking his first flight
I am well known for my non-existent sense of direction. I can get lost in a closet. It is even harder to find my way in Honduras where there are no street names or addresses. Fortunately, I live close to the airport. I just look for a sign to the airport and soon, I am on my way home.
I am studying the Gospel of John right now. John doesn’t write about Jesus’ miracles, instead he writes about His signs. That got me thinking. Signs point you somewhere. The sign isn’t the destination. No, you follow the sign to get to the destination.
I got to thinking about situations I have called miracles, and, indeed they are. However, I wondered how I would think about them differently if I called them signs instead. A few days ago Suzy posted before/after picture of Alex Eduardo. Alex was 14 mos and weighed 11 pounds when he came to us and, the doctor said, was weeks from death from malnutrician.
He is 4 now and doesn’t walk. He jumps! Everywhere! He is healthy, adorable, energetic, sometimes naughty, and full of life. The fact that we got him, how and when we did, and his recovery is a miracle. But what if we look at the same set of events as a sign? What is this sign pointing to? It points to life. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life,” exactly what a starving baby needed. Jesus, working through many people in Honduras and the US restored Alex’s life. Alleluia!
The other miracle that is harder for me to think about is Yarely. We prayed for the same miracle – the restoration of life that God granted Alex. Instead He gave her and us the miracle of resurrection surrounded by many tangible assurances that He was with us in our grief and that Yarely lives with Him forever.
Can we see Yarely’s death as a sign too? If so, where is it pointing? Again, it is pointing to life. This time, not physical life but, instead, spiritual life, the life Jesus came to give us — His physical life for our spiritual life. Alleluia.
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.”
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, follow His signs…to life. Everlasting life