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.
This year we have eleven (11) students, who are receiving aid for their studies. In Honduras, the public school system is free, but the children must pay for books, uniforms, back-packs, and miscellaneous fees, which means some poor kids can’t go without support. These scholarships help address that problem. The Ministry of Presence chooses the kids based on financial need and desire to study.
At Church of Annunciation, Rincón de Dolores, in the mountains north of Tegucigalpa:
Genesis– 1st grade, age 6.
Alejandra– 6th grade, age 11.
Lucy– 7th grade, age 15. Lucy was out of school for three years,
but she is returning with help of the scholarship.
——————————————————————————————— At Copan Ruinas, with the help of Ana Aguilera, from Bethesda Church,Assemblies of God:
Paty– 7th grade, age 12. Paty lives with her sister, because her mother is often not around. She was almost failed to register for school this year, because her mother disappeared again. Fortunately, Ana Aquilera, who has practically adopted this young girl, did find the
the mother. So Paty is registered and very much looking forward to school this year.
Mario–5th grade, age 11.
At Cerro to Hula, in the mountains south of Tegucigalpa, the children of Santito Cruz, the cleaning lady in my apartment building.
Johana- 7th grade, age 12.
Brian- 9th grade, age 15.
Bairon- 1st grade, age 6.
Brian (left in dark blue shirt) and Bairon (right in light blue shirt), Johana, Santito and Cristofer in between,
At the Church of the Messiah, in Laguna del Pedregal, near Rincón de Dolores.
Happy Epiphany! For me this is a time to reflect on the incarnation of our Lord Jesus. When the wise men arrived to see the baby Jesus, everything changed. Jesus was now manifested beyond the Jews to the whole world. This is a time of year I reflect on His presence, His incarnation and what an amazing thing that is. Imagine, the Creator of the Universe, our Lord and Savior is here, now, in our world, in our lives. Every day. I returned to Honduras right after Christmas in time to attend a huge concert at which our LAMB Worship band from the Children’s Home performed. It was a big deal and hundreds of people attended, and cheered, our kids! I was so proud of them I thought my heart would burst. These teenagers, composing their own songs, practicing hours on end, brave enough to get up in front of a sea of strangers to worship the Lamb through their music. Sublime. Before the concert we visited the “Mega Nacimiento” or huge Nativity village. A nacimiento is more than the traditional nativity scene. I love the various Honduran holiday traditions. Some are delicious like the nacatamales at Christmas. Some are amusing like the “Año Viejos” which are effigies filled with firecrackers lit at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The nacimiento is the most charming tradition with Honduran pueblos (villages) built at the foot of the nativity scene. The “Mega Nacimiento” was more like a bustling city!
Joseph’s carpentry shop
Pinata to celebrate!
If you don’t have a donkey…
They went to church too
Bar with Coke and pool
Local gas station
When ya gotta go…
Some of the scenes were amusing but a wonderful reminder that the Risen Lord is with us…in Bethlehem, in Tegucigalpa, in your town, everywhere, every day! So, look around. See Jesus. He is everywhere. Take Him by the hand and follow the Lamb wherever he goes.
“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”