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?
If you are an American in Honduras, everyone assumes you are a missionary. This assumption is based on the thousands of people who come down here to serve every year. Building, teaching, giving in attempt to gratify our Lord. This implication means that when people see the tall blond girl walking around they know that I came to their country as a missionary too. Once I was visiting my friends church and obviously stuck out a bit. The Pastor spotted me in the crowd and asked me to come up in front of the church and preach. On the spot and probably being the least qualified person to preach in the room I simply thanked the church for their hospitality and for serving the lord.
I sometimes think that the view of missionaries the Hondurans have is incomplete. They often may not recognize that they are in fact missionaries (and potentially better ones) than we are. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus commands us to go to all peoples everywhere and make disciples. He does not command this to some but to all. If you are truly a Christian, then you must also be a missionary.
Two weeks ago, a couple of us went on an excursion with a local church. We rode horses deep into the mountains to visit some families in a small community 2 hours away from the nearest town. One of the woman who lives there makes the journey every Sunday on a mule to worship with the church. Our group brought some food for the families and held a worship service in the woman’s adobe house. The Pastor delivered a message and we all sang as the breeze blew through the open doorway. As I sat there singing in a foreign language so far away from place of birth I was struck by the thought of how we do not do this in my home country. In the US where we almost all have cars and supplies to share, we barely even go visit our neighbors. But the Hondurans do, they will walk incredibly far to share with both loved ones and strangers. They are missionaries.
Last week some of the teenagers from our children’s home held a concert. They have a band that practices for hours every week and writes their own songs. Each song that they write is a praise song written to glorify God. These youths, who have faced so much adversity in their past, held the concert to share the love of God they have found with others. They are missionaries.
While you can go halfway around the world to be a missionary you don’t have to. If you are loving and serving people in the name of Christ then it doesn’t matter where you are. You are a missionary.
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.
School started this month, and we started with forty-six scholarships, thanks to you. We have 31 grade schoolers in San Lorenzo who have received uniforms, school supplies, breakfast, and lunch. There are 12 middle and high schoolers who are on scholarship, and two students who are on university scholarships. In addition we have one student on scholarship to bilingual school at St. Mary’s Episcopal School in Tegucigalpa. You are making a difference, one family at a time.