In the Baptism liturgy for my denomination, there is a prayer I just love for the baptismal candidate:
Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
My favorite part is when we pray for “the gift of joy and wonder in all your works.” I imagine the wise men experienced that joy and wonder when they had their epiphany – the tiny baby Jesus, bringer of joy and wonder to the world!
|Leafy Sea Dragon
I am also reminded of construction worker, Angel’s, answer when a team member asked how he knows there is a God. “The sun comes up!” God’s creation is filled with constant joy and wonder, if we pay attention. We open our eyes to see a myriad of beautiful flowers, the ever changing sky, the magnificence of the stars and galaxies, wacky fish in the ocean, the majestic mountain ranges, and on and on.
I have thought a lot about our two newest lambs, Daniel and Isaac, abandoned at birth. They have no idea what their lives could have been. Thanks be to God, instead their lives are filled with joy and wonder. All they know is love. These tiny babies are also are bringers of joy to all who encounter them. Can you see this picture without breaking into a smile?
Every once in a while Suzy will give me some advice: “Don’t let [situation/person] steal your joy. Her message is that joy isn’t the same as happiness. Happiness is fleeting, situational, tied to a moment in time. Joy is bigger, broader than that. It is more a state of being, a gift from God that we choose to accept…or not. Jesus doesn’t promise happiness all the time, instead He promises to remain at our side through good times and bad. More important, He invites us to follow Him into a life of love, joy and wonder…eternally.
Some people choose to live a life filled with joy and wonder in spite of circumstance. I recently met and wrote about Doña Santos. (Gracias Papa) She lives as hard a life as just about anyone. She and her family survive by digging through the dumpster along the side of the road. It is generous to call where they live a “hut.” It is really scraps of wood crudely nailed together against the side of a cliff. No electricity, no water, plenty of gaps for wind and rain to flow through. And yet, Doña Santos and her family choose to live lives of gratitude and joy. For her, like us, the holidays are a time to celebrate, to decorate, and to bring the joy of Christmas into our homes.
Despite the hardships of her life, her home is transformed into a place of beauty and celebration to share with all who pass by. She chooses joy and brings joy who pay attention.
As Brother Jim Woodrum writes:
What you’re searching for, you already know. God has blessed us with this amazing life, with eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to discern, and a heart in which to perceive the living presence of God in our midst.
My prayer for you this Epiphany and this year is that God will give you an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love Him, and the gift of joy and wonder in all His works. Amen.
Since arriving in Honduras, I have been very busy. I have two children going to Operation Smile, I had one heart patient report in, completely healed and no longer a heart patient, I am preparing for the vet team, meeting with Santa Maria Magdalena church on the building of their temple, arranging scholarships, helping to get the shoes and uniforms ready for the children in the elementary, and going forward with the work on the kindergarten. Read more in my newsletter!
Mike and Kim Miller are SAMS Missionaries serving in Honduras. They are the founders of Hope of Jesus Children’s Home, a home committed to providing protection and daily care for orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable children in Honduras. We aspire to raise healthy boys and girls to become Christian leaders by implementing our four ministry pillars of faith, family, mercy, and responsibility. Sixteen children currently live at the children’s home. They come from a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds but share the need for stability and protection. Under the care and guidance of the housemothers, teachers, tutors, psychologists and the many others invested in their lives, the boys and girls have all grown significantly since their first days at the home. In time the capacity of the home will expand, and we will be able to offer more children refuge from their perilous circumstances.
Billy Crain, a southern rock music artist, and friend of the Millers visited Hope of Jesus Children’s Home in January 2017. After his mission there, he was inspired to write his 6th solo album. This album is dedicated to the children’s home. 100% of the proceeds from the purchase of “Broken Things” will go to the home.
Purchase “Broken Things” album here and support this minsitry!
One of my favorite songs is called Alaba a Dios (Praise God.)
To me it is exemplifies the Honduran faith. It is about praising God no matter what.
If you’re crying, praise Him
when you’re tested, praise Him
you’re suffering, praise Him
no matter what, praise Him
He will listen to your praises
It goes on to encourage us:
God goes before you opening the way
breaking chains, removing thorns
He sends His angels to struggle alongside you
He opens doors no one can close.
A few weeks ago, I was reflecting on the words, “He opens doors no one can close” when suddenly they struck me a new way. I had always thought about God giving us opportunities, new hope when, perhaps, a door in our lives had closed. I realized that they have another meaning and fear flooded my heart. He opens doors in our hearts that no one, not even us, can close. I knew exactly where He was leading with this new interpretation and I was not sure I wanted to follow. Really, for the first time since I have lived here, I was afraid. Not for my physical safety but, instead, for my heart.
You see, for almost 7 years I have driven the road to the Children’s Home countless times. Every time I look at a ramshackle hut built into the side of a cliff. A mass of garbage bags line the front filled with recovered trash from the dumpster in hopes of selling it for pennies to support whoever lives in there. I have often tried to imagine what life is like in there. The rain streams in through the gaps and holes in the roof and walls. Cold wind howls through them at night. Each time I wonder, “who lives there?”
Over the last few months, I have felt more than curiosity. I have felt drawn there as the van zooms by. I couldn’t stop thinking about the people and worrying about whether they have enough, or anything, to eat. Each trip past it, the feeling grew more urgent. But what could I do? I didn’t know who lived there. How many people live there? It could be one family or many families. How would I know how much food to bring? What kind of people are they? Violent men? Gang members? I would have to go with a Honduran man, I decided, IF I went at all. Most of all, I feared that if I made contact with the people who live there, they would move into my heart. The Lord would open a door that I would not be able to close. It wasn’t just about money. Food is expensive here but I figured anything I could do would help. It was more than the time it would require to shop for and deliver food. My real fear was capacity. Does my heart have room for more people? Why are you asking this of me, Lord?
On the last Saturday of October, I took the last team of the year to the airport. It had been a great week and they were filled with joy. Joy turned to dismay as we heard the announcement. All flights in and out of Tegucigalpa were cancelled due to bad weather. They were rebooked on flights leaving Tuesday! We returned to Casa LAMB in varying stages of panic. (“What in the world am I doing to do with them until Tuesday,” I thought. I had not prepared 2.5 days of extra activities!)
Suzy called and offered to come to Casa LAMB on Sunday and have a church service since the children were going to a different church. It was intimate and lovely. After the service was over, I felt a spiritual nudge and found myself saying, “Do you remember that awful hut on the side of the road? How would you feel about taking some food to them?” The team’s eyes brightened! It turns out the Lord had placed the same thing on their hearts and provided reinforcements for me, giving me the courage I needed. We went to PriceSmart and loaded up with rice,beans, flour, sugar and more. Luis, our driver, pulled over by the hut and got out of the van with us. There was a teenage boy standing in front of the hut. “Hola!” We brought food for your family!” He called for his mother. A
tiny woman stepped gingerly across the plywood bridging the gutter between the
hut and the road. She has no teeth, was
dressed in filthy clothes, and thin as a rail.
She looked at us puzzled.
“Hola! We brought food for your
family.” She looked at her son, “God
brought these gringitos to help us.” She
explained, “We had no breakfast this morning.” She broke into a broad grin as her sons took
the food inside. We introduced ourselves
and she replied, “My name is Doña Santos.”
Yep, the door in my heart was opened. I promised I would come back with more food. This afternoon, I stopped by again with Suzy and Kristen, a visiting friend of Suzy’s. When Doña Santos saw us, she recognized us, raised her arms to heaven and looked up and said, “Gracias, Papa!”
This door in my heart is not closing and that’s ok because when God opens it, He makes your heart bigger. Gracias, Papa.
I am currently in Honduras, where work is going forward on the kindergarten in San Lorenzo. I have had to let go and let God on my projects. Not surprisingly, they are moving forward better than ever. Read more in Jeannie’s October Newsletter
|A typical house
In Honduras it is very common for extended families to share
the same home. For the poor, this means
many people squeezing into a very small house.
A family of five may share one bedroom in a two bedroom house. Often there are multiple generations sharing
the small home. A sheet hung from the
ceiling provides the only privacy for intimacy for a married couple. There
is no room to move around or space to be alone for a few minutes each day.
Our collaboration with Torch Ministries has given Suzy and I the
opportunity to provide a home for some of the people we know and dearly
love. Suzy and I have a
mental list of people who need a house. Earlier
this summer, the Holy Cross team built a “house in a day” for Virgilio, who helps Suzy with
her yard. “Virgilio is a new man,” Suzy said recently.
Two weeks before Christ Church
Anglican in Overland Park Kansas was to arrive, Karen, the team leader said
they would like to build a house in a day if possible. “Great!”
I answered, “Ariel is next on the list.” (We had built a house in a day for his brother, Jose Luis. Ariel told me then, two years ago, he would like one too.) Christ Church knows
and loves Ariel so it was a done deal. When I told Ariel he smiled and
strode forward ahead of me. It seemed like a muted response but I could
tell his excitement was growing the closer we got to the day as he asked more
questions to verify we were actually going to do this, made sure the team had
arrived and even called in the morning before we left Casa LAMB to check once
again that this was happening.
Early Monday morning, we met the Torch team on the way to
Ariel’s lot. We drove as far as we could
and then walked down a dirt road, over a footbridge and up a hill to the site
of his future home. Of course, we had to
haul all the tools, wood, roofing material, lunch, and water with us. Each house is 16×16, wood with a raised wood
floor, tin roof, a door and one window. The
Torch team builds about 100 houses a year. They got right to it, digging the post holes and measuring out the dimensions off the house. They agreed upon the placement of the door and window with Ariel. The Christ Church team figured out quickly how they could help. Jose Luis and Angel both came to help, sacrificing a day’s work. Of course, Ariel grabbed a hammer right away! Soon the framing was done and the teams were hammering away at the floor and walls.
|The building site
Meanwhile, his brother and co-worker, Jose Luis, took me on
a tour of the area. “Our family lives in
all these houses. That one is my sister’s. That one up there is my uncle’s.” He invited me to visit the house in a day
Torch built for him a couple of years ago, straight up the mountain. He proudly showed me the improvements he had
made and his plans for expansion one day.
I explained to him that in the US people pay big bucks to have a view
like he has! It was there he shared with
me how he became a Christian. (Read his story here.) When he was 19 a friend invited him to
church. The pastor was preaching and
suddenly he got chills and felt “filled.”
He came forward and said to the pastor, “I accept Jesus.” At that moment, Jose Luis, who never had a
relationship with his father, heard a voice, “I love you. I am your father.”
As we were walking back down to the build site, Jose Luis
asked me if I knew about Ariel’s situation.
I didn’t. Ariel has been living with his 2 sisters. The landlord is evicting them. They have until right before Christmas to
move out. The sisters have a place to go
but Ariel didn’t. Unbeknownst to me,
this has been weighing on him heavily.
Making $13 a day, 4 days a week only when we have teams does not allow for any
savings. “Amanda, for Ariel this is a
miracle.” I believe his initial muted
response was the reaction to the unexpected answer to his prayers. Two years after his initial request and just in the nick of time, he was going to get a house.