In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says over and over, “the kingdom of heaven is like…” Do you ever wonder what the kingdom of heaven is like in our world today?
Last week the kingdom of heaven was like the annual Mt. Pleasant Presbyterian Church (MPPC) employee luncheon held to celebrate the hard working staff at our Children’s Home. It is always lovely, something the staff looks forward to.
This year, however, was different. The morning started with a disaster as I learned that there had been a misunderstanding about the date and almost none of the staff was there. I was in a panic, wondering how I would tell the team. In a moment of lucidity, I prayed, “Lord, please redeem this day.” Staff members, Samuel and Oneyda, got on the phone to call the local staff members to return for lunch. I found Mengui and asked him to go with me to invite our neighbors to join us. We went door to door up the dirt road next to our property inviting them (at the last minute) to lunch. We had no idea if they would come or how many people would attend the lunch. Shelley, the team leader, was so gracious when I finally confessed the mix-up. “The right number of people will be here.”
At noon, the church porch was set up and we waited. The on-duty staff appeared. One by one the local staff returned. Just as I was about to give up on the neighbors I looked out and saw the family who live by the gate approaching, all dressed up! Pretty soon, all the neighbors were there and we had to get an extra table! (Thanks Debbie and Steve!) As always, it was a great event with good food (thanks, Judith!,) good service (thanks MPPC servers!,) lots of fun (thanks Mengui, Georgia, and Dawn for dancing!,) fellowship (thanks Solo Por Hoy band!,) and,worship (thanks, Holy Spirit!) My prayer for redemption had been answered!
The right number of people were there!
What made this year special was the inclusion of our neighbors. What started out as a last minute effort to fill the tables has become the beginning of a new tradition. My favorite part of the lunch was seeing how happy the neighbors were to be included in the LAMB family and how happy everyone was to be together:
When you get a group of Hondurans together, for what ever purpose, inevitably, worship breaks out. Mengui and Angel took charge and led the impromptu but beautiful worship.
Mengui invited people to come up and receive prayer. Bienvenido‘s (who died about a month ago) mother came up along with “Abuelita,” the grandmother who lives next to our gate. Abuelita got down on her knees to receive our laying on of hands and prayer.
This luncheon is what the kingdom of God looks like.
And it sounds like this as American voices from Holy Spirit, two weeks ago, mingled with Honduran voices:
As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdomof heaven has come near.’
I have been seeing a lot of news, opinions, memes, etc about people entering the US illegally. I read about a variety of actions the US government could take from programs to legalizing certain types of people (those with jobs, “dreamers,” etc) to building walls and deporting thousands. I have a
different solution to the immigration situation. Instead of “keep them out” I will call it “keep them in.” By that I mean keep the young men and women in Honduras.
Homes with bags of plastic bottles to sell
for 25 cents a pound, their only means of support.
In my 6.5 years as a missionary in Honduras, I have seen that people don’t really want to leave their families and their country (and the Honduran food!) What they do want is to provide for them to “sigue adelante” or move ahead in life. However, the conditions in Honduras are desperate. There are no jobs, only 13% of children finish high school, urban children live in dysfunctional homes in violent neighborhoods. The government offers no help or relief. People will do anything to provide for their families, even risk their lives to go to the US and find work and support for their families.
At LAMB, we want to keep the youth and the hope they represent here. They are Honduras’ greatest resource. Consider these contrasts:
Emanuel is a scholarship student at our school who was being trained to be a drug mule by his gang parents. Here he is leading a prayer at the school devotional. He is also a member of our Alonzo Movement and now living with his grandmother, safe and loved.
This is a gang member sought by the police for robbery. Boys from impoverished barrios and from dysfunctional families are prime recruiting targets for gangs. In a country with over 50% unemployment the offer of a “job” (drug running, extortion, robbery) and a community of “family” (the gang) is irresistible.
Eduardo (an alias for his protection) was abandoned by his mother and bounced around state run children’s homes (nothing like ours) until he finally ran away. Somehow, at 15 he arrived in LA without documentation or any education. 15 year old Eduardo fights for his life in ICU in Los Angeles. He has never experience a stable home, a loving family, or hope for a bright future. If he survives, what will his future be?
Mirza, a beautiful young woman from our Children’s Home, is studying medicine with a scholarship as part of our transition program. One day, Dr. Mirza will be helping her fellow Hondurans.
Michael is 11. He sells nuts along the highway for food. His clothes are dirty and he only wears flip flops. What are his prospects? Graduating from high school, learning a trade, going to university are not realistic options for him and children like him.
These boys pray at their Alonzo Movement Club meeting. We encourage them to dream big, have goals, and work to achieve them. The Alonzo kids are choosing life over gangs and drugs.
Help “keep them in” by providing hope through education. At LAMB, our daycare program gives life to the highest risk toddlers and pre-schoolers. Our school provides outstanding academic and spiritual education to poor children. The Alonzo Movement provides a loving community, spiritual formation and scholarships to high school and university to teenagers. Our Children’s Home protects and loves children whose families can’t. All these children are on a path to stay in Honduras and lead Christ filled, productive lives, start and provide for loving families, and one by one, break the cycle of despair and poverty.
Click here to have your gift doubled in our Dream Big campaign. Donations up to $10,000 will be matched for scholarships for our children.
Keep them in and help make their dreams come true!
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.