Suzy had been longing to get back into urban ministry. Not long ago, she was driving down the main street in Flor del Campo, a route she takes often to go to our school, when she saw a small house for rent right across the street from the “cancha” – the large soccer field. She stopped to write down the phone number on the for rent sign, drove home and called the number. Next thing she knew she had rented the small house. Why? She didn’t really know. All she knew was she had to rent that small house. In April, Suzy wrote:
Arely and Evelyn met me at the Little Green House. We walked through it (which takes about two seconds), talked about possibilities, and then prayed together that it would be a place of peace and joy and growth. We invited the Holy Spirit to make His home there.
Suzy had already told the children at the Children’s Home about the house and invited them to participate in the transformation of the house.
I shared with them how I feel that it is a Kingdom initiative because so many of them came to us from Flor del Campo, and now they can go back as God’s ambassadors. Now they have the best Gift of all to offer others. We are going to paint murals on the front of the house.
Now the house is inviting and draws attention to itself with the message, “Something beautiful happens here.”
Finally we were ready to have the grand opening of the newly named “Casa de Oracion.” (House of Prayer) The open invitation to the grand opening was for 5 – 8 pm. We got there early to get everything ship shape!
Julio and Sallie mopped the floors
Ladies prepared a ton of naca tamales
Debbie and Steve brought a huge cake
We had no idea who or how many people would come. We joked that the party was scheduled to start at 5 but, knowing the Honduran culture, people would start arriving at 6! Imagine our surprise when the room started filling up at 4:45!
Soon both of the rooms in the house were full and the front porch was too. I was moved that most of the women there were from La Cantera, where the poorest of the poor live, where the gangs rule and where prayer is much needed. Ladies from David and Evelyn’s church, Amor Fe Vida (Love, Faith, Life) made a huge tub full of delicious naca tamales. No one knew how many people would come. As people arrived, we delivered plates of naca tamales and a drink. I started to worry that we would run out. Some (mostly men) were too shy to come in the house so we fed them just inside the fence or on the street. The naca tamales kept coming. Then, the big blue bus with the Children’s Home kids arrived. Uh,oh, I thought, we won’t have any food left for them. The naca tamales kept coming! As I went to get more plates I commented to the ladies, “this is just like the loaves and fishes!” They agreed! We ended up having exactly enough to feed everyone who came by for food. Miracle!
The program was wonderful. It wasn’t planned minute by minute and beautiful spontaneous worship, prayer, fellowship and music happened. Suzy’s message that the House of Prayer is for everyone, not one church or another, that we all love Jesus and we are here to listen, to pray, and to be community resonated with all.
Suzy and Evelyn invited the Holy Spirit and He came…and remains
A recent team member asked Suzy if she is ever burdened by the poverty and need she encounters here in Honduras. She responded by telling a humorous story about being a “fool for Christ” when she knowingly was scammed at the airport by a man selling her a very rare and valuable “bonzai” tree. All the Hondurans witnessing this sale were frantically gesticulating that she should not buy what was obviously just a twig stuck in dirt. “I could see that he probably had children at home wondering if there would be food on the table that night.” She also pointed out that, although there was some fabrication in his pitch, he wasn’t stealing or committing a crime. She also recounted another conversation about a man with one arm who looks for help at the very busy intersection by the airport. He is bright, well-spoken, and otherwise healthy. “Wouldn’t you rather work?” she asked. “No one will hire me,” was the response. True enough. In a country with over 50% unemployment, why would you hire someone with one arm when you can two for the price of one? So, he dodges traffic looking for a couple lempira or two (just pennies) from cars stopped at the light.
All of us living here have these experiences day in and day out. Sometimes I will go a couple of days without being approached and some days I can’t walk 10 feet without coming across someone in need. At times, especially when I am exhausted or stressed, it is overwhelming. I just want to cry out, “Go away! Leave me alone!” I am heavily burdened by the sadness, the unrelenting need, and the feeling of being so small, just one person. I am tempted to look away, to change my path to avoid the disabled person, to ignore the dirty face of the hungry child.
As I reflected on the team member’s question, I realized the problem is not being burdened. The real problem is when we are NOT burdened. God calls us to be burdened, from the Old Testament:
For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ – Deuteronomy 15:11
To the New Testament:
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?
– 1 John3:17
These are not gentle suggestions. These are imperatives. When we follow these imperatives, no matter how burdening or inconvenient or expensive, we are richly rewarded, not just in the next life, but in this life. You receive hugs from children clutching a toy from a just eaten Happy Meal, a prayer from a grateful mom and even two little chicks from an older man.
A final story. A confession. I have a large “airport family” of baggage handlers, money changers, disabled adults, and poor families. We love each other, ask about each other’s families, help each other out, and pray for one another. A couple of years ago, I noticed an older unshaven man hanging around the outskirts of my team as they loaded the bags into the van. He had a hopeful look but said nothing as I paid the baggage guys. I made a snap decision that he was a drunk and ignored him. This scene repeated itself over the next few weeks. Although I wasn’t rude, I wasn’t kind to him. One day I was waiting for a team and he approached me. I noticed his hands were shaking. “Are you okay?” I asked pointing to his hands. “I have Parkinson’s. I used to have a job but now I can’t work.” Do you know what the sword of guilt feels like as it pierces your heart? I do. I learned a valuable lesson. Never judge. Roberto and I have become fast friends. One day, recently, he asked when I would be back at the airport because he was going to bring me 2 “pollitos.” (baby chicks) I was inwardly alarmed (what am I going to do with baby chicks???) but smiled and thanked him in advance. Sure enough, the next week he gingerly handed me a bag. “Careful. There are 2 pollitos inside.” Honestly, I was afraid to look inside! I waited until I got to Casa LAMB so I could ask Dulce and Gloria what to do with them. I opened the bag to find this:
I love my pollitos and the accompanying scented roses. So, be burdened and you will be richly blessed.
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. Hebrews 6:10
keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will
come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at
what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not
have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because
the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew
not the only place in the Bible that exhorts us to be ready, that Jesus will
return without warning. I don’t spend much timing worrying about the end
times, however. After all, Jesus said: “But about that day
or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,but only
the Father.” (Matthew
24:36) So, I do the best I can to love and serve the Lord and hope for
Living in Honduras has brought a new, and
immediate, meaning to “be ready.” Two weeks ago I was puttering
around in the evening when I got a text message from Suzy. “David and
Evelyn lost the baby.” No warning, out of the blue. Early the next
morning I arrived at their church for the velorio (wake.) Suzy had been
there since 7 am, others all night. The Hondurans knew just what to
do. They are always ready. More and more people were
arriving. “How did they find out,” I wondered. Most people don’t have
internet at home so a group email was not an option. I didn’t see Dulce
and Gloria (Casa LAMB household staff) and I thought I should call them.
No need, they were already cooking for an indeterminate number of
people. I saw clients from our micro-credit program and Jose Luis and
Ariel, construction workers from the Children’s Home, were there. How in
the world did they know? Somehow the word is spread far and wide when a
tragedy happens. The Hondurans have an instinctive and immediate response
of love and support. They are always ready to drop everything and go.
not only in the sad times that the Hondurans are ready. The children
at the Children’s Home are always ready. I can’t
walk more than about 3 steps with something in my hands before a child, even a
very small child, runs up and takes it from me, always ready to help. The
older children are always watching the younger ones, ready to rescue a child
from danger or pick up a crying child. I can’t count how many
(microscopic) bites of food I have had, offered by a dirty, sticky little hand,
always ready to share. They are always ready to give a hug, a
smile, or other expression of their love.
We were still reeling from the loss of the baby when
another text arrived on Tuesday evening. “Dony’s father was
murdered.” Again, I got a lesson on being ready.
Be ready to provide food and
coffee for the people coming to the velorio. Food arrived from many
people. The women, of course, knew just what to do. Soon coffee and
sweet bread were being passed around while another group of women were
preparing a hot meal for later in the day.
Be ready to arrange flowers for the
velorio. Someone arrived with arms full of cut flowers. A
teenage girl and some women who live across the alley from the church hastily
gathered empty coke liter bottles, cut them in half, and filled them with
flowers. They made an arrangement around the casket, the containers
disappearing in the beauty of the vibrant flowers.
Be ready to find and purchase tall
candles for either side of the casket. Karen B. had arrived to
spend a week playing with the children and bonding with her sponsored teenage
girl. Instead, we were driving across town to find velorio candles which
she contributed to add reverence and dignity to the deceased.
Be ready to leave vacation (all of
Honduras is on vacation during Holy Week) to stand together with your friend
and co-worker. Spending the day and all night keeping
provide financial support. C., a frequent visitor saw the terrible news
and immediately wired money to me for Dony’s family. She couldn’t be here
so she did what she could.
lead a memorial service at a moment’s notice. Suzy, of course having no
lead time to plan, got up and led a memorial service for everyone
present. We sang, she ready scripture, and Jackie, the principal of our
school, led us spontaneously in a beautiful prayer.
The next morning, we were in my car on the main
street in Flor waiting for the funeral procession to start. Dony came
over and leaned into the car to talk. Suddenly an older man, slightly
drunk and reeking of alcohol, joined us. He tearfully told us his
story. He has no family, his mother abandoned him when he was
young. He thinks God loves him but he isn’t sure. Sometimes he
wants to “leave this world…” He is afraid of death, but even more afraid of not being loved. Dony, on his way to his father’s funeral,
began sharing the Good News with this man, assuring him that Jesus loves
him, that He will never leave him. Dony, even at the worst moment in his
life, was ready.
It has taken me several weeks before I could write this blog. My life in Honduras is filled with joy. So many adorable children, loving Hondurans, supportive team members, actual miracles and countless experiences of God’s hand at work in day to day life. I often write about them and my facebook page is full of joyous, funny, inspirational pictures.
What I don’t often share are the hard times. The times when my heart is breaking, when I have difficulty putting one foot in front of the other. Just as we are surrounded by joy, we are confronted with pain and desperation.
Recently, I had encounters with 3 women:
Ernestina I saw a tiny little lady slowly walking up the path to our offices at the children’s home. She didn’t belong there, neither a member of our staff nor a vendor delivering goods. I greeted her and gave her a hug. I could feel the sharp shoulder blades in her back through her thin dress. She was painfully thin. I asked her how I could help her. In a tremulous voice, Ernestina asked if one of our social workers was in the office. We walked in the building together and found Jenny, whose nickname is “Pastora.” As Ernestina’s story unfolded I learned she is 70 years old. Her only daughter died of cancer and her son-in-law took off with her only grandchild. She lives alone. She was looking for help. There are countless people like Ernestina in Honduras, elderly with no family for support, no government programs to help, living a desperate life. Even churches, with their own impoverished congregations, have little they can offer. It hurts your heart to see them and to ponder what their lives are like day in, day out. We see this sadness everywhere, every day. It can be overwhelming.
However… As we were talking, Maria, a staff member, passed by and offered Ernestina the knit hat Maria had just received as a gift. Debbie, a new missionary who is in charge of the “bodega” where we keep all the donated clothes and supplies, gently took Ernestina in the bodega to pick out some clothes. Debbie asked her if she needed a bath towel. Ernestina shyly nodded. “What color would you like?” “Yellow,” she whispered. Pause. As Debbie was closing the wardrobe door, Ernestina said, “Maybe violet.” Debbie opened the door and handed her the violet one. “Which do you think is prettier?” asked Ernestina. Debbie smiled, “I like them both. Why don’t you take both of them?” Ernestina nodded and smiled. I love that moment. Like each of us, Ernestina longed for something beautiful in her home. Through the love and generosity of LAMB and its staff, she left with many beautiful things – a hand knit hat, some pretty clothes, a pair of sandals, a blanket, and two soft, pastel towels. She also received a stove that she desperately needed.
Maribel and the Anonymous Woman
Recently, Maribel, a young woman with a long and sad history, asked Suzy to meet with her for an unstated reason. I went with Suzy to meet Maribel in a small bakery. We chatted, while her 3 young children smeared cookies on every table and display case! Finally, she explained the reason she wanted to see us. They live with her boyfriend, a much older man and drug addict, and his mother. Periodically the mother throws Maribel and the kids out and burns all their things. This happened a few months ago. We outfitted the kids with clothes from the Children’s Home and the ministry bought them new beds. Well, yesterday the mother told Maribel she was going to throw out the beds and burn them. Maribel asked Suzy to pick up the beds. So we drove to the house. Her boyfriend was loading the beds into the back of Suzy’s truck when a woman carrying a plastic crate on her head stopped at Suzy’s window in the truck. She was hot, obviously exhausted, and very sad. She started desperately trying to sell us the produce she had in the crate. We each bought manzanilla (fresh chamomile.) Normally, the street vendors move on when you buy something or say no thanks. Not her. She got more and more desperate. Her face got sadder and more beaten down. She waved bulbs of garlic, offered us limes and avocados. The desperation in her face and voice increased. I gave her 100 lempira ($5) as a donation. Again, vendors typically move on after this. She bagged some avocados and shoved them at us. “No thanks,” we said. I said I wanted to buy all her limes. As she was bagging them up she said, “My mother is in the hospital. She needs medication.” In Honduras, in the public hospitals, they literally have no medications. The families have to go find the meds and then purchase them. She was obviously too poor to buy meds and had no transportation to go from pharmacy to pharmacy looking for them. “Why is your mother in the hospital?” Suzy asked. The woman got tears in her eyes and her voice shook. “They cut off her foot. She has sugar (diabetes.)” Her face dropped even more and tears filled her eyes. I handed 500 lempira to Suzy who handed it to her. When she saw it, she burst into tears. “God bless you! This is from God! God will multiply your blessings! Blessings on you and your families!” Imagine, $25 caused her to burst into tears of relief. As we drove off, she hoisted the heavy crate back on her head and shuffled off looking for her next customer. I couldn’t get the image of the Maribel’s 3 babies sleeping on the hard concrete floor. I thought about the woman who may have received a short respite from her desperation but will still suffer and worry, with no end in sight.
Sometimes the Lord gives us a big dose of sad. It is an opportunity to be His hands and feet for someone. Our ministry in Honduras believes that when the Lord places someone in your path, He expects you to act. To do an “accion de gracias” – the Spanish word for thanksgiving, literally an action of thanks, . As Suzy says, it is a form of prayer. Giving thanks to the Lord by helping others. It is a time to double down on serving Him by serving the least of these. I believe, as my Honduran friends tell me so often, that the next, perfect life awaits Ernestina, the anonymous woman, Maribel, and her children, and that He weeps with them and walks each step with them.
I also know that for a brief moment, all 3 women experienced the love of Jesus. A beautiful towel, a friend to count on in emergencies, gringas who buy fruit they don’t need to provide medications for a sick mother. This is what Jesus looks like in this world. Will you be Jesus for someone?
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.