This is the day every Christian hopes for, waits for, expects to happen. It is what gets us through Holy Week, especially Good Friday. All through the Bible, a promise is made:
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deut. 31:8
No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Joshua 1:5
But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Matt. 28:5
And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Matt. 28:20
But will the promise come through? Most of our kids have suffered abuse, rejection, abandonment, disappointment, and promises forgotten. Walking through Holy Week, especially the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday is, for me, sobering and heart breaking. How much more so is it for our kids who have experienced some of those stations themselves? Every year, we anxiously and eagerly await Easter morning to proclaim with relief and joy, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!” Will it come this year? Can we trust in the promise when we have been betrayed in this world so many times?
At the Children’s Home, we not only celebrate that but also baptism when we welcome children who have so chosen into the body of Christ. One of the newly baptized gave a testimony on Palm Sunday recounting an experience with their baby brother. The older sibling, at 11 years of age, was responsible for the younger siblings and the household. The 15 day old baby fell out of a hammock and stopped breathing. The sibling ran and picked him up. The family did not go to church nor read the Bible. This 11 year old, who knew nothing about God’s promise, prayed for the life of the baby. The baby is now in our preschool and very bright and as cute as any child could be. The sibling ended the testimony by saying, “I realized God was with us.” The child knew nothing about God except He was there. Is there. Will always be there.
That is the promise. No matter what, God is with us. Jesus suffered death by crucifixion and rose again to be with us to the end of the age. “‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. ‘ Romans 8:38-39. Not even ignorance of Jesus nor disbelief will separate us from the love of God.
It is with great joy I share evidence of the Risen Lord in the pictures from today.
I am filled with joy to report I am back in Honduras! I
have had several reunions, eaten way too much Honduran food, and discovered to
my relief that my Spanish is about what it was when I left. Attending
church at the Children’s Home for the first time was wonderful. It had
been a year since I last attended church in person, a year since I had taken
communion. The little kids have gotten bigger, we have several new
children, and some of the older children have moved to the transition program and
are living in houses around Tegucigalpa. Other than that, it was just the
same. I really felt like I had been to church the week before. It
felt like home. As I felt the breeze and watched the trees sway outside the
window, I thought about the Holy Spirit. A feeling came over me that this
church experience was just like God, who is, was, and ever shall be. We
change, we come and go, we move closer or away but He is always steadfast,
always faithful, always the same. Thanks be to God.
After a couple days at Casa LAMB, I moved to the Children’s Home.
I am living with the medium boys! Being the mother of two boys, this is a
perfect fit for me. I have begun helping at our bilingual school, Joy Christian
Academy (JCA.).All the schools are
closed in Honduras.In the infinite wisdom
of the local officials, we are not allowed to use the beautiful, large,
well-appointed school just down the road from the Children’s Home.We explained it is just our children but to
no avail.Instead, we have changed the
house at the gate, where Angel was living, into JCA.It’s like a sequel to the movie, this one
called, “Honey, I shrunk the school!” Two
teachers are living at the big school and coming in each day.The others are teaching via internet.It isn’t optimal but it is working.We also have had to shorten the school day
due to fewer teachers.Jen is on her
honeymoon with Jacob and Lariza is in charge of all the other kids’ schooling
via computer. She is working a very long day. Every time I walk into her school room, I see tons of kids hard at work
at the computers. Lester Alexander blurted out last night, “Amanda, I like
school!” I nearly fell of the stands at the cancha.Obviously, Lariza is doing a great job!
are all hoping the schools will open soon but there is no word from the
officials. We have a new Director of Joy Academy. She is going to approach the officials again. I work from 8-2:30 with ages 3-12, grades pre-K – 5th. In the morning it is “A” says ah, ah, ah. In the afternoon, it is “The scientific method is the way…” Sheesh!
The kids, as always are adorable, funny, and BIG!We have several new children, Lucas and
Valentina are babies, Enma, Mabel, Melissa, and Monse are in the little girl
Angels cabin, and Suyapa is in the medium girls cabin.All are adorable and seem to have adapted
well.Monse who is 4, doesn’t
speak.Melissa has serious kidney
problems and is being treated for her condition. Mabel and Enma are in JCA and are
holding their own learning English while doing their work.
Living with the medium boys is a hoot.They really are sweet and anxious to be of
help to me.I can’t carry anything, not
even my water bottle. I have been
reading them books at night, which they love. Right now, The Napping House by Don
and Audrey Wood is their favorite.If
you have a young child in your life, I highly recommend it. Last night we were
at the cancha playing volleyball and soccer. It was dark as we walked back and Alex was holding my snazzy little
flashlight.When we got back to the
cabin he said, “Amanda, when you die will you give me your flashlight?”“Sure,” I replied! Another Alex story: One day I was walking up to the cabin. Several boys came running up to tell me another one (who shall remain nameless) had thrown some rocks at my car. (I don’t think he was aiming at my car.) I spoke solemnly to the child and said it made me sad that he had thrown rocks at my car. Alex followed me into my room. “Amanda,” he said seriously, “it is just a car. It is not family. I would rather have a family than a car.” Amen.
My house mates!
Another challenge I have had is getting accustomed to schedule
here.The boys get up at 5!There is no question that they are up and on
the move!We eat dinner at 5 and bed is
at 8.I enjoy a couple of hours of alone
time.By 10 I can’t keep my eyes open!
There are many advantages to living at the Children’s Home. One is you get to experience things you wouldn’t otherwise. For example, one evening I walked into the baby house in time for their devotional! Dulce, our cook who is working there until teams return, was leading it.
The devotional begins
Showing pictures from Bible story
Camilla rocks out to the song
Victor in prayer
Evening activities are another benefit of life at the Children’s Home. One evening all the kids were at the cancha playing futbol (soccer,) volleyball, and just hanging out. I was on the stands surrounded by a bunch of the teen girls and some younger ones. No social distancing was going on, we were cheek to jowl! Suddenly, from behind me a tongue licked my face from my jaw to my cheekbone. I shrieked and turned around. All I could see was Nahomi! I said, “Nahomi!” in an accusing but joking way. She couldn’t speak she was laughing so hard but her little index finger was waggling furiously back and forth proclaiming her innocence. The kids were doubled over laughing. The real culprit, Negro the dog, had fled. The best part of that “traumatic” experience was hearing one of the teens who suffers from depression and rarely smiles or even interacts, absolutely belly laughing. I will offer my face to a dog licking any day to hear that beautiful sound. The Lord definitely works in mysterious ways and has quite a sense of humor!
I spend Friday nights and Saturday at Casa LAMB. After a year of solitude, I find I need some during the week. As much as I love the kids, when I am there it is a constant, “Amanda!” “Amanda!” “Amanda!” Last weekend, I was doing my laundry. My excuse is that I was fuzzy brained from fatigue. Anyway, I was in the kitchen while the washing machine was churning away. I reached for my phone. Not there. I assumed I had left it upstairs. “No problem,” I thought, “I’ll get it later.” When the wash was done, I was moving the clothes to the dryer and guess what I found… My cell phone had fallen into the washing machine when I put the clothes in. I WASHED MY CELL PHONE! Miracles of miracles, it works just fine. I have never been a fan of Apple products but I must say, I am impressed with the iphone. It is truly Amanda-proof. Maybe Apple should use me in a comercial!
Julio is living at Casa LAMB so I get to spend some time with him too. This morning he made me breakfast! Before heading back to the Children’s Home, I am going to search for some supplies to do science experiments with. I have never taught science so this is a bit of a challenge, not to mention finding the supplies. Wish me luck!
The question of the moment is when can teams come back?At this
point, we are comfortable with vaccinated people coming.We will have to discuss further whether teens,
without vaccinations, can come.Everyone
is dying for y’all to return.Hang in
there with us and pray! And get vaccinated as soon as you can!
There are rumors here that the vaccine from Russia may
arrive. Pray for that, or any vaccine. It is an election year so
maybe that will motivate candidates to get the vaccine into the arms of the
people. Everyone is vigilant here about COVID precautions. EVERYONE
wears a mask. To enter a store you have to walk over a mat soaked with
disinfectant, have your temperature taken, and get a squirt of hand
sanitizer. When you enter the Children’s Home, they disinfect the car
tires and your shoes!
Being back is wonderful. I am having a blast. I am surrounded by people I love and who love me back. The weather is great! The most wonderful part, by far, is returning to my call from God. In March of 2007, He called me to “Go to Honduras,” and I made my first mission trip. In spring of 2010, He said, “Move to Honduras,” and I did in January of 2011. Spending a year in limbo, away from my call was so hard. I am so thankful to be back here serving the Risen Lord. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, better than answering God’s call with a resounding YES! I highly recommend it, wherever, whenever, how ever He calls you.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”Isaiah 6:8
I am filled with joy to report I am back in Honduras! I have had several reunions, eaten way too much Honduran food, and discovered to my relief that my Spanish is about what it was when I left. The best thing that has happened so far is attending church at the Children’s Home. It had been a year since I last attended church in person, a year since I had taken communion. The little kids have gotten bigger, we have several new children, and some of the older children have moved to the transition program and are living in houses around Tegucigalpa. Other than that, it was just the same. I really felt like I had been to church the week before. It felt like home. As I felt the breeze and watched the trees sway outside the window, I thought about the Holy Spirit. A feeling came over me that this church experience was just like God, who is, was, and ever shall be. We change, we come and go, we move closer or away but He is always steadfast, always faithful, always the same. Thanks be to God.
Today is Monday, my 4th day back. I am finishing up a few “tareas” (chores) before I move out to the Children’s Home for the foreseeable future. I will be living with the medium boys! Being the mother of two boys, this is a perfect fit for me. I will get more details tomorrow about how I can be of service to LAMB and to God. I am also praying that we can welcome teams again soon. There are rumors here that the vaccine from Russia may arrive. Pray for that, or any vaccine. It is an election year so maybe that will motivate candidates to get the vaccine into the arms of the people. Everyone is vigilant here about COVID precautions. EVERYONE wears a mask. To enter a store you have to walk over a mat soaked with disinfectant, have your temperature taken, and get a squirt of hand sanitizer. When you enter the Children’s Home, they disinfect the car tires and your shoes!
It is so wonderful to be back, although I always miss my family and friends. I look forward to the day I can walk into church and worship with my St. David’s family.
Thank you again so much for all your love, prayers, and support. They go a very, very long way. My prayers remain for each of you.
There are two things I firmly believe are true. #1 – God did not rain down corona virus on us. #2 – God can and will redeem the pain and suffering we all experience during this crisis. I don’t know when or how, but He will.
I also believe the Lord wants us to learn something from this crisis and time of physical separation. I imagine we will be learning things long after it is over. I have been pondering this in the endless hours of solitude. Here is a preliminary list…
1. As Americans, we are socialized to be independent, self-reliant. To charge forward and take the bull by the horns. In the Covid era, we are learning that our survival depends on each other. My solitude protects the stranger in the shopping mall, my church family, the server at the restaurant. Your solitude protects me. We are in this together or we all go down. Isn’t that one of Jesus’ most fervent desires for us? “…that all of them may be one” John 17:21.
2. The last shall be first. Suddenly the lowliest jobs, sanitation workers, for example, are hailed as heroes as they put themselves at risk to do a job we have new appreciation for. In the blink of an eye, parents have a much more profound appreciation for the work, endurance, and commitment of teachers. Same goes for daycare workers, babysitters, and nannies.
3. Our generosity muscles are getting a real workout. The news and social media are filled with heartwarming stories. My neighbor picked up some blueberry scones for me at the grocery store and refused reimbursement. A small thing, for sure, but it meant a lot to me. LAMB has been able to keep our staff in Honduras working with medical benefits thanks to the ongoing generosity of our donors. An anonymous donor sent relief money so we could deliver food to the impoverished who no longer have any way to make a living.
4. We are discovering that we really do love one another. I have heard of more web conferencing programs and apps in the last two weeks than in the last 10 years. There is zoom, house party, and for those in different time zones, marco polo. We set aside petty gripes and log in to be together, laugh, play games, pray, and simply say, “I love you.”
5. We are discovering what it really means to be the church. Church is not the building where your child was baptized, or you were married, or where your loved ones are buried. Church is us, wherever we are.
6. We are learning that as contagious as corona virus is, kindness is a thousand times more contagious. When you get it, you can’t wait to pass it on to as many people as possible.
7. We are learning that political divisiveness is passe. Sticking together, supporting one another is so much more important that whether you are red or blue. We are one nation and we can only beat this together.
8. We are learning that prosperity is fragile. Whether we like it or not, this is a global world. Borders are lines on a map and mean nothing to corona virus. So many people live on the edge. The most vulnerable pay the highest price. So many of them are children. What we do about it is a lesson in process.
I pray that we are all learning that God is in the midst of us. The types and numbers of tragedies boggle the mind. We can only get through this by leaning on Him. If we lean on Jesus, we can be a balm for someone else. If you need a kind word, or some encouragement, or a prayer, let me know. I am your sister in Christ and I love you.
Where was God? This is a question we often hear when something bad happens. It implies that if something horrible happens, there must not be a God because otherwise He would have prevented this terrible thing. The common response from a person of faith is, “God never promised to prevent bad things from happening. He promised to be with us at all times.” True but incomplete. What exactly does that mean that He is with us during that terrible time?
A couple of days ago, I visited the 9/11 memorial in New York City. Close to 3,000 people died that day. Was God there with them? If so, what did He do?
Of course, it is impossible to know exactly how each person experiences God in those times. If we look at the life of the human Jesus we can get an idea of what it means for Jesus to be present in tragedy and heartbreak. In the worst moment of Jesus’ life, in fact the worst moment in the history of the world, past and future, this innocent man hung on the cross, betrayed, abandoned, and forsaken. As He suffered unspeakable torture, slowly dying a horrific death, Jesus looked out on the people who put Him there and…prayed. Prayed to His father to forgive the perpetrators of the most heinous crime that will ever be committed. Next, He promised salvation to the justly convicted criminal hanging next to Him. He certainly could have used His power and authority to smite the perpetrators and come down from the cross. Instead, knowing in that horrible moment how the story will end, Jesus prayed and Jesus loved.
On April 16, 2007, my younger son, Hunter was a freshman at Virginia Tech. Early that morning, a student named Cho murdered 32 students and faculty. When Hunter returned home, he was in shock and despair. I was focused entirely on being his mother, not even praying or thinking about the victims. At some point that week after the tragedy, I received a vision from the Lord. I could see 3 students lying on the classroom floor in pools of blood. I knew they were in great pain and terrified. Suddenly, Jesus walked into the room. He walked up to each student, held out his hand and said, “Come with me.” At that moment, I knew the pain and terror were replaced with the peace that passes all understanding. He loved them. When Hunter returned to school, while praying at the makeshift memorial, he also had a vision. “Mom, I saw Cho in heaven surrounded by the victims. They were telling him they love him and they forgive him. Mom, if they can forgive him, so can I.” Jesus forgave Cho and, through His great love, so did Cho’s victims.
As I toured the 9/11 museum, 4 things made an indelible impact. First, as you
walk down a ramp to get to the museum, deep underground, you see a nondescript, rather ugly, concrete wall on the left. It was odd since every other part of the museum was beautifully designed and finished. I learned that it was the original retaining wall from one of the towers–the wall that holds back the Hudson River. If that wall had been breached, the tragedy would have been so much worse as lower Manhattan would have been instantly flooded. I can see an army of angels holding that wall in place during the explosions that incinerated the building and fire so hot it melted the steel. God protected the people in Lower Manhattan.
I also believe that the Lord continues reveal His presence to us in the aftermath of the tragedies.
Take the Ground Zero Cross. In the midst of all the debris, on September 13, a worker discovered a cross, perfectly proportioned, made of I beams, from the prefabricated materials used to build the towers. Recovery workers prayed there and left messages there. The presence of God must have been powerfully felt by them as they were surrounded by death and destruction.
Many saw the crossed metal as a Christian cross and felt its survival was symbolic. Fr. Jordan spoke over it and declared it to be a “symbol of hope… a symbol of faith… a symbol of healing”.One minister at the site says that when a family of a man who died in the attacks came to the cross shrine and left personal effects there, “It was as if the cross took in the grief and loss. I never felt Jesus more.” Wikipedia
The next item I saw took my breath away. A New Testament was seared into a
molten piece of steel. It was open to Matthew 5 which includes the verses:
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” and “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” Matt. 5:4,38,39.
Surely, the Lord is speaking to us through this one page, made of flimsy paper, out of the entire Bible that survived the hellfire and brimstone of 9/11.
Finally, I listened to a recording by the brother of the pilot, Captain Burlingame, whose plane crashed into the Pentagon. All that was recovered was his passport and the prayer card he carried in his wallet. The plastic laminated prayer card, from his mother’s funeral, survived the explosion as the jet, used as a bomb exploded. It too had the verse from Matthew 5:4 — “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” His sister said, “It also has a poem that says ‘I did not die. Do not go to my grave,'” she said. “We took that as a message from my Mother: ‘It’s okay. I got him.'”
When Yarely, our bouncy, pouncy, flouncy, 10 year old died, God sent us the same message. As I wrote in a post the day after:
After the funeral service, we processed to the burial site. It is a cemetery on the side of a mountain in the village of San Buenaventura. Although the path was long and a bit treacherous, the view over the valley was beautiful. “Just like the view from our mountain home in Tennessee!” exclaimed Brad, Yarely’s father. Off to the left was a beautiful view of a valley with a town at the far end. It was cloudy and dark when we arrived. (Thank you Lord for holding off the torrential rains during the burial.) Led by Angel and the small guitar, we began singing a beautiful, meditative song called, “Aleluya” praising God. I looked up to see the town, just the town, illuminated, shining in the midst of the grey, cloudy mountains. As the song ended, the clouds returned. For a moment the Lord reveals, “Yarely is with me, in my Holy City.”
Where is God when bad things happen? Right there, loving the victims, holding them in His arms, inviting them into a new life. But that’s not all. He is here, with us, speaking to us, the survivors, offering us comfort and hope. The very last thing Jesus said was, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Always. Amen.