Gracias, Papa

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. 


Praise Him
Simply praise Him
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.



Ariel’s Miracle

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.
We spent the next couple of hours building the house
together.  More and more family members
and neighbors arrived to watch, smiling and sharing Ariel’s blessing. 
When the last board was nailed, the roof on, and the new
floor swept, we all gathered inside to inaugurate his home with prayer and
love.
  “It is so big!” he exclaimed. Angel sang, we all prayed, and
hugged.
  

The extended family celebrating the new home
Ariel and the Christ Church team



Ariel’s response now?  See for yourself.  His smile went from ear to ear and his face
shone all day.
  The team retraced its
steps back to the van for the ride home, all filled with joy and walking lighter
knowing we had been part of Ariel’s miracle. 









Flowing love

Jesus Christ, the Man for Others, 
 We, your children, make our prayer: 
Give us grace to love as brothers 
All whose burdens we can share 
(From hymn Father, Lord of all Creation)

Bill Curry’s medical brigade was here last week. As always it was wonderful. Hundreds of people were seen by the US and Honduran doctors. They left with bags filled with meds we take for granted that are completely inaccessible to them – Tylenol, cough drops, tums, worm pills (well, OK, we don’t take them often in the US!) and more. Babies were held, children hugged, little old men proposed to (by me, much to the delight of the little old ladies present!) thousands of stickers stuck to hands and shirts, countless smiles exchanged. A great time was had by all.

In my blog I often write about events from the Northamerican point of view – what an experience meant to us/me. This time I want to present an event from a Honduran’s point of view, with some artistic license on my part…

 “I got up early this morning. Yesterday was the anniversary of my daughter’s death. She would have been 28. I still look for her to walk in the door. I can hear her laugh. I think I see her out of the corner of my eye. I turn quickly to call out to her but she isn’t there. It breaks my heart all over again. With a heavy heart I put on my orange vest and grabbed my broom to go to work sweeping streets. I guess this government program is good, although it doesn’t pay much and often they don’t pay us for months. I don’t have any other work so every day I sweep and hope in the hot sun and driving rain. I heard about a clinic happening in a church. I stopped by to see a doctor. They gave me a number but it was at the end of a long line. I can’t be away from work that long. Just as I was about to leave, a woman called me to the door of the clinic and said, “Come in. We’ll take you right now.” I was surprised. I am used to being at the end of the line. Soon it was my turn to see the doctor. He smiled at me and said something in English that sounded nice. The Honduran lady translated everything he said. I was telling him about my aches and pains when suddenly my daughter came into my head. I couldn’t help myself and started to cry. I explained to them what had happened. The doctor stopped what he was doing and listened to me. I could see tears in his eyes. This northamerican doctor came from so far away to be in my little village and he stopped to listen to me. Then the lady from the door appeared and they all began to pray for me. They put their hands on me and prayed while I cried for my precious daughter. When we said amen, I felt different. As I stood to leave, the doctor  hugged me. My clothes were so dirty and his were so clean but he hugged me. My heart still hurts for my daughter but I feel lighter somehow. I left with a bag full of medicine but so much more. Is this what Jesus meant when He said He will always be with us?”


While medicine happened last week, it was love that flowed through the clinics each day. From little Jenny who greeted us as the vans pulled into her impoverished village, to the elderly woman who made us the most delicious semitas (sweet buns), to Dr. Jill, the optometrist, who saw almost every one of the 618 patients, to all the local volunteers, to the brigade team who gave of their time, talent and treasure, to the patient who told Dr. Bill that an angel in heaven sent him to shoot cortizone (painfully) in her knee, to every person who gave God's blessing to one another, to the grandpas waiting for hours in the hot sun to bring their grandchildren to see a doctor, to the Honduran translators (including Suzy's daughters) who go so far above and beyond the call of duty, and finally to Dr. Bill who gave his shoes to a member of my airport family.

There is a common denominator in all the LAMB teams. They come laden with crates and suitcases full of meds, clothes, school supplies, games, etc. but Love is what they bring.

"God, through us your love make known"
(From hymn Father, Lord of all Creation)


Rejoice and dance!

Rejoice and dance!

I was gazing lethargically out at the ocean when my attention became riveted to a young boy and his father. They approached a table nearby, and by the end of their interaction, I was left contemplating my trust, and confidence in my Heavenly Father.

The child pointed excitedly to a tiny, folded object in the bag strewn across the chair, and the father dutifully lifted it out. The boy gleefully clapped his hands, twirled, danced and skipped around in increasingly larger circles. I was fascinated, even though I still had no idea what the “reward” would be. The dad settled into the chair, raised the “reward” to his lips and began blowing with large breaths. Realization dawned …it was an inflatable object! I glanced at the young boy and he was not even looking at the dad – he was still rejoicing in anticipation of his “reward”. Meanwhile, daddy was rapidly heaving, huffing, and puffing without visible results. Many thoughts raced through my mind: He is not taking any recovery breaths; I hope he does not become “lightheaded”; I hope he does not have an underlying respiratory condition; I wonder how large that object will be; this is sure taking quite a while; the boy has no idea how much it costs to manually inflate this; look at the love of this father. All the while, the boy danced on in anticipation, not even glancing at the dad to observe the progress.

Finally, the inflatable object took shape and form. When it was fully inflated, the father interrupted the boy’s dance – he took him by the hand, presented the “reward” and led him to the water’s edge for the grand finale.

I smiled and wondered, really wondered – how many times did I trust my Heavenly Father with this childlike faith? How many times have I laid my request at his feet and danced or rejoiced as I waited for the “reward”? How many times did I fret about the “process / wait” as many doubts clouded my mind?

What I can truly say is this – I would love to have my Heavenly Father interrupt my rejoicing, so that he can lead me by the hand to the grand finale! I’m going to make an effort to gleefully dance like this boy danced…

 

A delay is not always bad.

A delay is not always bad.

A delay is not always bad.
It has been approximately two weeks since my return to Honduras. With it has come many emotions: joy with returning to familiar faces and places, peace with my decision to return, mild concern about readjusting to the heat and humidity, and wonderment at the welcome I received from some of my previous students.

The first few days seemed “action packed”. My luggage was delayed until the next day, but thankfully it arrived safely and intact. Friday 18-Aug-2017 was the day of the tornado in Tela. I had returned home from school and sprawled haphazardly across the bed, as I replayed the day’s activities. I planned to stroll across to a nearby location to view the sunset and unwind after a hectic day, but for some unknown reason, I just could not readily spring up and bound out of the door as planned. Instead, I flowed into quiet thanksgiving and praise to God about my perception of blessings and favor that had unfolded for me in the recent days. I made a phone call to share my joy, and at the conclusion stated: “I’m going to head out now and view the sunset”.

I never got up… Instead, I was immediately startled by a sudden, large shadow moving rapidly across the window! I turned and realized that within an instant the sun had retreated and it was dusk outside – no gradual growing dark… instantly dusk. As I tried to process what I was witnessing through the window, my mind registered the sound of zinc sheets (from a roof) whirling outside and the simultaneous sound of what seemed to be a truck nearby or a distant train. A train? That sound was not right for this location – there were no trains! My immediate thought was to get on the floor, but before my muscles could even respond… as quickly as it started, the noise and swirling subsided.

I soon discovered it was a small tornado. However, the pictures made me sit upright and ushered me into more thanksgiving. Even though structural damage seemed minimal, I would have been sauntering down this very road, passing this very junction on my way to view the sunset if my original plan had unfolded. Taking a “praise break” – offering praise and thanksgiving to God had delayed “my plan” and kept me within the safe confines of my home. For that, I offered even more praise and thanksgiving. Indeed, a delay is not always bad!