Monday, December 22, 2008

The breakers

If you are really quiet here at night you can hear the surf as it comes in and breaks up on the reef near the shore. It is a beautiful sound. During the day, you can see the white caps of waves a fair distance away from the shore. When the white caps contrast against the blue sea, it is one of the most beautiful sights you’ll ever see. That which sounds beautiful at night and looks beautiful during the day is actually a pretty violent process. The reef seems to beat water up pretty hard by the time it gets to the beach. I suspect that if one were trying to get through there in a boat, you might find out the hard way that this seemingly beautiful approach is rather perilous.
I have discovered a similar truth in the last week. The place that we live in is beautiful. The people that we live with are dedicated and wonderful Christian missionaries. We know that we are supposed to be here. But coming here is difficult and learning to live here is costly. If you don’t know the way, there are plenty of breakers. I have been trying so hard to hold it together the last couple of weeks – it is time to let a little bit of out here in these pages. I’ve been rushing around trying to keep language school, work, missionary work, parenting, and Christmas for our family all in some sort of balance and doing a terrible job of it. It is just too much to do and instead of recognizing that, I’ve just kept going and going.
The stress of living in a new country is a constant, tiring stress that says nothing is really familiar, nothing is common. We love the newness of it and the “differentness” of it - but it carries a price in stress and worry. Is it safe? Does it cost too much? Can I eat that? How do I say that in Spanish – how do I get what I mean across to the person across the counter? Are my kids safe? Are they happy? What street was that on? How do I get there? Questions like these are just never ending right now. It brings with it a tiredness of the soul that I wasn’t expecting. Christmas has magnified this a bit. We feel obligated to try and get the right gifts for the kids. We want to send meaningful cards off to our friends and family in the states so that they know how much we miss them. The normally busy La Ceiba has turned in to a mad house of traffic and people. There isn’t a mall in every city here – the mall and the shopping in La Ceiba serve a huge surrounding rural area. All of the people in Northern Honduras seemed to be in La Ceiba last week for Christmas shopping. We are out here in the relative tranquility of the hospital now, but I hear from those that went to town today that it was even worse.
As someone who has been pretty good at worrying before ever coming here, I’ve found many new ways to do so and frankly, I’ve been losing my grip on reality over the last two weeks as I’ve rushed around to try and meet too many deadlines, too many expectations – all placed on myself by me. The thing that I’ve lost is that sense that God is in control and that I just have to follow His leading. A counselor once told me that I was trying to “elbow my way into the Trinity”, I still think that it is the best description of me when I’m struggling that I’ve ever heard.
The sin of trying to control one’s own destiny may not be very high on the list when we think about sin – but I guarantee that for me it is dreadfully evil. I completely deny God’s sovereignty over my life when I try and be sovereign over my own life. Business and burdens become the “breakers” that my efforts crash over as I try to accomplish everything, leaving nothing undone but the most important things. When God says “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”, I believe He means that we are allowed to cease striving when we come to Christ. We don’t have to impress anyone (or everyone, in my case). We don’t have to control everything. We can recognize that God loves us simply for who we are in Christ. We can realize that Christ is in control and that we no longer have to try and maintain that illusion that we are in control. What a wonderful blessing! Cease to strive; rest in the completed work of Christ. What a beautiful concept. This thought rescues me just as I am about to be strewn to bits in the breakers. Suddenly a pathway through the reefs appears before me:
John 15:5 (New International Version)
5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The sound of the waves grows louder as I end tonight. They are a blessed reminder in that they toil without ceasing, yet they never cross the boundary that God has marked out for them. Please help me to abide in you Jesus that I may bear fruit and please help me remember that apart from you, I can do nothing.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why we can't send gifts from Honduras to our beloved family in the southern United States.

I am proud of my southern heritage, and I am very proud of my family from Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee - all of which wear shoes most of the time.

Having family from the south does present some difficult challenges as we consider what to buy them for Christmas.....

video

Monday, December 1, 2008

Mumbai

I confess that I haven't really paid attention to what happened in Mumbai last week. We were in Balfate getting stuck in rivers (and swimming across others). We were walking on the beach and enjoying the company of the other missionaries and finally, celebrating Thanksgiving. I had heard of the siege in Mumbai, but it wasn't until I read about it from an Indian missionary brother of ours that I finally "got it" in terms of how horrible it was.

Bro Ghuna Kumar is a man that we have had dinner with once, so I can't say that I know him well, but I do know him to be a man of God. I've received his newsletter (subscription info below) for about a year now and I've found it to be a good source of information for events in India. His reporting of the persecution in Orissa, for example, has been factual and "level-headed" to the best of my understanding. That said, when he described the recent tragedy in Mumbai as "India's 9/11", that got my attention.

Please read the item from his newsletter below and please join me in praying for the dear souls in Mumbai that were lost as well as those that are left behind to cope with the violence. Please also join me in agreeing with Bro Kumar that the severe escalation between India and Pakistan will subside before war breaks out.

Lastly, let me point out that Bro Kumar states that the killers are from Pakistan as a fact. I have no idea if this is true. It may well be a fact. It seems to me that there is still some question as to where they are from - but I am just not in a place to make any judgments on the validity of that point.

DF -- 1 Dec 2008

Subscribe: gospelfriends-subscribe@MyInJesus.com (Subject: SUBSCRIBE)

SUNDAY SCRIPTURE - 30 NOV 2008
R. C. GHUNA KUMAR
Dec 1, 2008

India’s 9/11 took place on 26/11 in Mumbai. It was like a war in Mumbai. About ten terrorists who belonged to Pakistan and who were well-trained entered Mumbai through sea route and stormed Mumbai with bullets and bombs. They targeted 12 places. The well co-ordinated attacks have been claimed by an organization called Deccan Mujahideen. The terrorists targeted landmarks like Mumbai's Taj Mahal and Oberoi/Trident hotels, a Jewish centre, as well as Mumbai's main train station, a hospital and a popular restaurant. They killed the people indiscriminately with machine guns and grenades, and then took hostages, especially looking for American or British passports holders. Their aim was to destroy all these places and kill over 5000 people and bring the economical capital to a collapse. Their target was also the foreign nationals and Jewish people. It was a monstrous act for them to kill the young Rabbai Gavriel (29) and his wife Rivka (28) along with their four friends leaving the two year old son. The rabbai was in charge of the jewish center at the Nariman house, Mumbai. The two year old Moshe Holtzberg kept crying “Ima Ima” in Hebrew which means “mummy, mummy” during the memorial ceremony. They killed over 195 people and among them were 25 foreigners who included 5 Americans and 5 British. The terrorists were of ages between 18 to 24. One of them namely Ajmol was caught and it is reported that two of them escaped and the rest of them were killed. In the whole operation which lasted three days, 30 police men and 3 commando chiefs were killed. This has brought a real terror to the people of Mumbai and to those who live in cities. People of India are shocked and grieved because of this gruesome incident. Some of you called me and also mailed me to find out if I was in Mumbai at the time of attack. I am so thankful for your concern and enquiries. Please pray that the tension between India and Pakistan will subside. Both the countries are amassing the troops in the borders. I believe the terror attack was done by certain elements of Pakistan. May be Pakistan should take measures to clear of the terroristic groups rather than encouraging them.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Mariah swims her first river!

video

This is a quick video if Mariah swimming the Bejucal river. The current was pretty swift and her parents were both scared to death to let her attempt and incredibly proud of her for making it over so well! She swam straight and strong. She "owned" the river and slammed right across.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Crossing the plancha

The sensation was one of being inside a capsule. I’ve driven my truck into the plancha a few times now and never really gotten a thrill out of it, until today. Times past, the water has never really gotten much deeper than the wheels - maybe a little but higher. Today, as I got further and further into the river I realized the depth (pun intended) of my mistake. As the water swirled around me high up onto the doors of the pickup, I had this strange sensation of being inside a capsule in the river. The water was all around me but I wasn’t getting wet. I didn’t need to look down at my feet to realize that this whole “capsule” experience was about to change. My bare feet inside my sandals could feel the water rising inside the truck and I could feel the wheels start to spin. My capsule only had a few more minutes before it became a sunken boat – completely filled with water. My heart just sank. I was terrified that I had completely ruined my new (used) truck. I put the truck in reverse and felt the wheels spin in reverse. I tried to “rock” the truck back and forth, the way you might if you were stuck in the snow, and slowly felt the reverse motion catch a little bit of traction. I tried to “feather” the clutch – giving it just enough pressure to go backwards without spinning…..

This is where I need to pause the story and do a little bit of explaining of just exactly how I got myself into this mess. When we get back to this part in the story, it will be important to remember that I had miraculously just caught a little bit of traction and I was slowly moving backwards out of the river.

It is now the end of November and it has been raining steadily since October, just the way it is supposed to in “rainy season” here in Honduras. Our little apartment in La Ceiba has kept us warm and dry and although we’ve gone through a bit of street flooding, at times rather deep, we’ve not really experienced anything very difficult. In the times when we’ve driven out to Hospital Loma De Luz (our eventual destination once we finish language school in La Ceiba) we’ve always had it pretty easy. The hour and a half drive features four river crossing, three with bridges. Two of these bridges were washed out by the last storm about a month ago, but have since been repaired. The one river crossing that does not have a bridge is called the plancha and during the rainy season its depth usually defines when trips can be made or when they cannot be made. The question is often asked “how is the plancha” as the missionaries determine when to come in to La Ceiba for groceries and gas and such. We’ve been here at the hospital for a couple of days now (since Saturday) and we were able to cross a couple of days ago with no problem. Today (Monday) my dear friend Howard brought food and supplies for the hospital in his two-wheel drive truck. He managed to make it through the plancha this morning with no problems. To my amazement, he made it through the nearly impassable muddy road all the way here to the hospital. How he made it without getting stuck in the mud in a two-wheel drive truck I’ll never know. I told him when he left to return to La Ceiba to call me if he had any problems. I fully expected him to call and tell me that he was stuck in the mud as the ruts are up to 18” deep in places right now and the mud is truly the worst I’ve ever seen. When he did finally call, it had been so long since he left that I was sure he was calling me to tell me that he was home safely. “David, I have been stuck in the plancha two times now and I need you to come get me right away”. The scenario was so bad that I immediately thought he must be joking. Stuck in the plancha? Twice? “You’re kidding, right?” I asked. Silence. You are joking, right? “David, I am serious – you must come get me right away.” Wow. He wasn’t kidding. I had told him earlier that I didn’t think he should try to come in today and I had offered to meet him on the La Ceiba side of the plancha, and now I was a little bit angry with my very good friend. Did I mention that I was just sitting down to eat a late lunch? I grabbed my sandwich and my raincoat and took off.

Those who know me well know that I am never happier than I am when I have someone to “rescue”. So it was with a mixture of irritation (why didn’t he just listen to me?) and a mixture of exhilaration (I have to get through all of this mud to rescue my friend!) that I made the thirty minute or so journey to the plancha crossing. One of the strangest things about traveling here is that you can go through one or several weather fronts in a very short amount of time. The little town of Lucinda is only about a mile west of here, but I ran into a major rainstorm the other day while driving over there. No rain at all at our house. I mention this because as I got closer and closer to the plancha the rain got heavier and heavier. I arrived at the crossing in a drenching downpour. Cars and buses were lined up on either side of the crossing (my foreboding begins here). Howard is parked about a cars length from the water and waves me down towards the water in my truck (more foreboding). As I get down there to the bank, I notice a white pickup stuck in the middle of the river (major foreboding). When I get out he tells me that he wants me to tow him across in my truck. “Ok” I said, “let’s do it” – hoping that I sounded much braver than I felt. We tied the two trucks together and I asked him to show me the path that I should take across the river. “Stay to the left of the truck in the river” he said, stating what I felt was rather obvious. Ok, ready – here we go! As I drove out into the middle of the river, around the truck that was stuck in the middle (on the left – of course), the water began to get really high really quickly. ** This is when I started to get that completely surreal “capsule feeling” that I started with at the beginning of the story and yep, you guessed it, this is where I started to get stuck. I’m going to push the play button here and resume the story – remember that I had just started to get some traction going backwards, but what I couldn’t tell you without all of the background info was that I had to backup right into a two-wheel drive truck that I had pulled into this mess! I suddenly realized that I couldn’t tow in reverse and that there was no way that I was going to be able to back out of this river, even though I was starting to get a bit of traction.

Several Honduran men jumped into the river and began to push Howard’s truck backwards. I had to back up quickly enough so that I could keep from slowing them down and yet slowly enough not to squish them in between our two trucks. So now I am backing up through the river with four or five guys pushing the truck right behind me. This is not how we define fun! We finally got far enough back that Howard was able to back out on his own and got back up onto the sweet sweet ground that we had started from. Well we no more than got back on the bank, but the guys started urging me to drive back into the river, but this time to hold more to the downstream side to my right. Well at that time, I was convinced that no one was going to get me back in that river without holding a gun to my head. Seeing my obvious terror at driving back into the river, one of the Honduran guys just walked right in and motioned for me to follow. Walking through the river backwards and motioning like he was landing a 747…..what else could I do? I drove right in after him, this time holding to the downstream side. I felt that “capsule feeling” again as the water swirled around me, but this time the water wasn’t quite as deep and the wheels (thank God) never stopped turning. We made it to the other side! The whole crowd of people who had gathered to watch the show started yelling like a bunch of Indians and I’ll tell you that I’ve never felt happier in my life than I did as I pulled up on the other bank of the river.

As we untied the rope, Howard gently chided me for not listening to his instruction and for straying too far to the left. I responded with a shoulder shrug and a smile. I will certainly never make that mistake again. The Honduran guys asked me if they could load a motorcycle in the back of the truck for the return trip across the river. Sure! How could I deny my new friends a ride back across? The airplane landing guy walked right back in the river backwards and guided me back across the river. This time it seemed easy and I kind of held the wheel with one hand and hung my elbow out the window “truck driver” style and we went back across. A few people cheered when I got back across the river, and then moved on to see what the next entertainment would be. I’ll never forget the picture of these two old guys standing up a little farther on the river bank, standing right next to each other, holding a piece of black plastic over themselves to shield themselves from the downpour. They had stood like this for this for the whole show. I don’t know who they were of why they were there, but they seemed really glad they had come. They had the most satisfied look on their faces as I drove by. “Thank you”, their eyes seemed to say as I drove past them. I drove about a half a mile back down the road towards home until I was out of sight of the whole things and then I just pulled over to the side of the road and sat there in the silence. My hands were shaking and I was a stressed out mess! I kept shaking my head as I drove back to the hospital in sheer disbelief of what I had just experienced. Oh, what I would have given for a camera back there and someone to have been able to take a picture! I was now just a little bit less of a rookie than I had been an hour ago and a little bit more of the jungle had rubbed off on me here in Honduras.

Monday, November 17, 2008

How was your Monday?

One of the things that we have prayed for is the opportunity to see how different life is here outside of the United States. Today, we got a glimpse of that as we awoke to a long night of rain and to a very flooded street outside of our apartment building. Let me be clear here; we haven't had any flooding in our apartments. All of these pictures were taken from the comfort of our truck or our apartment (high and dry). We are simply getting a glimpse into what life is like for the Hondurans here - not experiencing it first hand. These local people had to struggle through streets that were inundated with flooding.

I offer these images (and the comments next to them) not to push you towards guilt, but to guide you towards gratitude. Anyone reading this is rich in a way that most of the people in these pictures could never imagine. My first reaction is shame at the inequality of it. My second reaction is simply gratitude. My third reaction is wonder and awe at the grace with which these Honduran people conduct themselves in the hardest of circumstances.


Image 1 - View of the street outside of our apartment this morning. The water is about two feet deep.







Image 2 - View of the street in the other direction outside of our apartments this morning. Just before I shot this picture a horse wandered down the middle of the road and then took refuge in a higher grassy field next to our apartment!



Image 3 - this is in El Centro or near the town square. There is a man in the back of that truck handing freight out to these two guys, who are then carrying it inside.


Image 4 - these poor people are trying to walk along the edge of the street where there is (sometimes) an elevated sidewalk. They alternate between being ankle deep and being knee deep in water as they try and walk to work.


Image 5 - of all the people that I've observed in La Ceiba thus far, the trash men have it the worst. These guys separate out all of the garbage, looking for anyting valuable to augment their pay of about $125-$150 per month. The young man (14 yrs old?) inside the truck was singing....



Image 6 - this fellow rides through the streets all day selling gunieos (like a banana - used in cooking here like a potatoe might be used in the states) for 1 Lempira each (about a nickel).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wanna see what we did today?


Click here to see pictures from our day in the mountains!


Today we went to Pico Bonito National (Honduran) Park - about an hour outside of La Ceiba - with our dear friend and Spanish teacher Dianna. We got to cross over a river on a suspension bridge and take a couple of short hikes thorugh the jungle. We saw some beautiful moutain and jungle scenery. Enjoy the pictures!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Update #6 - Bridges are open! Life returns to normal...for some.

Thanks be to God, the bridges are now repaired and open and all of the missionaries from Loma De Luz can travel here to La Ceiba for refreshment and resupply. From discussions with local missionaries, it appears that the power was restored and the bridges were repaired in record time. We just give thanks to God for His provision for our folks at Loma De Luz.
For the local Honduran people in the surrounding villages, life continues to be very hard indeed as some have lost homes and for some, food supplies are short. The government is delivering food via helicopter to some areas around the hospital, but we are hearing that the supplies are not going to those who need it most. Since the missionaries at the hospital are so familiar with the local villages, they have taken the lead and are moving food and supplies into the area and distributing it to those in the most need. We are thankful to say that our truck was used in several of these early trips to deliver food. We had no other part to play - but we are glad that it could be used for this purpose.
We are helping Nelson and Margo Concepcion shop for beds for families from eleven homes that were lost in the flood and hope to be able to buy them soon and send them up into the mountains above the hospital to the village of Las Flores. Again, it is a very small part to play in a very big effort - but we are grateful for the ability to be involved.
Please continue to pray for those that were already poor and struggling as they cope with either partial or total loss of their homes and possessions. We continue to learn new ways to be thankful for the incredible blessings that we have as North Americans.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Update #5 - Storm Pictures

See the embedded slide show below, or click here to view in a photo album.

Manos Para El Mundo

** Note, I haven't been able to post this for a couple of days. The storm at the hospital kind of overshadowed everything the last week. I wrote this on 10/28. DF

Yesterday (10/27) I met with Luis Vargas, here in La Ceiba. Luis’s ministry is called Manos Para El Mundo (Hands To The World). He works with local churches in a remote mountainous area of Honduras near the town of Lempira
Click here for map The people that he works with are Lenca Indians. They are incredibly poor and often malnourished. Manos Para El Mundo receives food donated through Kids Against Hunger and then distributes the food through a network of local churches in the villages. His goal is to feed 4,000 children, ages 0-5. In the last month, torrential rains have affected much of Honduras. Flooding has been a huge problem and landslides have affected the area of Lempira where Luis ministers. The need is great.

The food that Kids Against Hunger provides is a super-enriched “rice casserole” packaged food that never spoils, is easy to prepare, and contains a wealth of vitamins and minerals. You can read more about it on the feedingchildren.org website (see the "Kids Against Hunger" link above). There is a shipping container in Minneapolis with approx 280,000 meals designated for Honduras to be distributed by Luis’s ministry. Luis has secured most of the funds and donated transportation needed to get the container from Minneapolis to Gulfport, MS and then on to Puerto Castillo, Honduras.

As of yesterday (10/27) Luis needed $3,000.00 more to get the food hereto Honduras and to get it distributed. As we met at the food court in the mall in La Ceiba, my daughter Mariah, my wife Marinajo, myself, and Luis joined hands and prayed that God would open the door for that food to come and be distributed to these children who so urgently need it. Now, less than 24 hours later, it would appear that this prayer has been answered. Luis spoke with one person who committed $1,000.00 and my family (Dad and Julie) in Tennessee have been in contact with someone there who can fund the remaining $2,000.00.

Praise the Lord! I just continue to be in awe of how He answers prayer and how works through His people!

F.Y.I – Luis needs to be able to ship about 10 containers per year here to be able to feed 4,000 children per year. Wouldn’t it be an amazing gift to find 10 or 20 families there in the states that would sponsor one container per year? Please continue to pray with me that God would open doors for such an amazing work and that God would continue to provide for Luis and his family.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Update #4 - Power and water have been restored.

Thanks be to God, the power and water have been restored to the hospital as of late last night. Of course, conditions remain difficult for the missionaries at the hospital and we covet your prayers for them. Conditions are infinitely worse for the local Honduran population in the surrounding villages and we do cry out to God for their protection and for His provision for them.

Here are a couple of excerpts from other who have written about the storm with some good info and some very poignant observations:

From www.themattbrown.com:

The government flew in some helicopters today (10/30)and dropped off lots of rice beans and corn for the locals. So thankfully, they all have some food that should last until the middle of next week or so. Hopefully, the bridges will be repaired by then.

From John and Penny Alden:

In the midst of a broken motorscooter, broken guitar (temporarily glued and screwed!), dark days and darker nites, mud everywhere, always damp, devotions by lantern, broken water systems and faltering electrical systems, we rejoice in God’s protection and goodness. We sleep in dry, elevated beds, our roof doesn’t come off, we have buckets to collect water (many don’t), we have canned goods backed up when the dry beans and rice run out. John still finds a way to serve me HOT coffee with my bible reading in the dark. (Thanks to Shellie and Mitch for the French press!) We have seen the Body of Christ functioning smoothly, with great humor, making fun out of flood cleanup, meeting one another’s needs. We have seen Hondurans soaked to the bone, with huge, genuine grins on their faces, often singing. One young male employee, oblivious to me crossing the chapel courtyard yesterday, burst thru the door of the waiting room and danced with abandon across the chapel, joyously singing a praise chorus. (He had just been in to see a doc for bone pain!). The rain was beating on the metal roof of the chapel, not a dry spot to be found, a water pipe below the cement floor in Xray had burst, necessitating shutting down water to the hospital, and one could hear the sound of the pickax and sledge hammer as they beat out the cement to fix the pipe, we were slinging mops to sop up the leaked water and moving all the wound care supplies out of the water…but he was dancing and singing. We are blessed to be here.
As you wrap up in your polar fleece blankets and snuggle together on dry mattresses after a satisfying, hot meal that fills you up, please think of our friends here, those who have lost the little they have, who never get dry, never get full, never get warm…and say they are fine. We are humbled…..
In Him, Penny

Update #3 - Amazing pictures after the storm

These are some fantactic pictures taken by Matt Brown. Thank you so much for posting them on your blog Matt! (www.themattbrown.com)

 
This is what we mean when we say that the bridge washed out. The bridge is still standing, but the approach to the bridge is completely gone.
 
Another shot from Matt of the approach to the bridge. This bridge and one more are inoperable - making vehicle transportation to and from the hospital impossible.
 
Crop damage and home damage from the storm are very serious indeed.
 
A side view of the bridge showing the damage to the approach.
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Friday, October 31, 2008

Update #2

Friday - 10/31 - Another strong day of rain here in La Ceiba. Localized street flooding, but that is all so far. We are hearing of a forecast of four more days of strong rain.

Let me pass on another email from Loma De Luz with some more (sad) information and an update:

Dear Cornerstone Friends--
I have some additional information to share with you, and I ask for continued prayer. There has been loss of life among the Honduran people of our community, which I did not know about when I wrote before. The Bejucal River flows into the sea at Balfate. When the river became swollen by the rains, it appears that a hydroelectric dam up the river opened its flood gates, but not gradually--all at once. This sent a wall of water down stream which slammed into Balfate, bringing water and mud into every building, and drowning at least 2 people. Four people were drowned in another nearby river, the Lis Lis. Many farms have been washed away in addition to homes, and some communities have been devastated. For this region near the hospital, the catchment area we serve, conditions are worse than those in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch. And, 48 more hours of rain are expected. So the Honduran people are really hurting. Please pray for them. Please also keep praying for the beleaguered and isolated missionaries. But it is the Honduran people who have the hardest burdens. Lift them up. Pray that the Lord will be near to them (as He promised He would be near to the brokenhearted).
--Sally for Cornerstone and Hospital Loma de Luz


Note: Do not take this reference to Hurricane Mitch lightly - that storm decimated this area. It was their Katrina. For them to say that some areas were affected by this recent storm more than Hurricane Mitch is an amazing statement. Our prayers go out to the Honduran people whose lives have been so badly affected by this storm.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Update #1

It is now Thursday evening (10/30) and as nearly as we can tell, our friends at Loma De Luz are fairing pretty well in the midst of the storm that knocked out electricity and water. They have been able to get some type of drinkable water supply going and the generator at the hospital is functioning well (thanks be to God). The electricity is still out to all of the missionary homes (some have generators) but they all seem to be in good spirits. Tomorrow we will be sending some supplies in by canoe across the rivers that have bridges out. The roads seem to be passable, not sure how log it will be before bridge approaches are repaired. The Honduran people in the surrounding villages are still suffering many hardships. The villages seem to be without water. I can't imagine their trials. Please keep all of the Honduran people in your prayers as many are enduring trials associated with flooding. You probably know this - but this isn't like the wildfires in California where everyone goes to a shelter and has food, clothing, and a cot to sleep in. Many here live in "survival mode" at all times and situations like this just compound their suffering greatly.

Please pray for the two missionary families that had some water in their homes. Pray for their endurance as they clean up. Pray for safety and comfort for everyone as they deal with no electricity - cold showers, and such. May each of them walk in the role that God has given them in the "Body of Christ" there at Loma De Luz and may each of them have the spirit of servitude in everything that they do. Please pray for the quick restoration of water supply, electricity, the bridges, and that the generator conitues to run without difficulties.

Thank you for your prayers!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Rain and flooding here, please pray.

Dear Friends,

Let me pass on an urgent prayer request from the Hospital Loma De Luz. The hospital was innundated with rain today (28th) and much damage was done to the infrastructure that brings water and electricity to the hospital. We have heard that as many as five local people may have died yesterday as a result of the flooding in the surrounding villages. Please pray for the local people as they face huge trials in the midst of the flooding. Please pray for our missionaries at the hospital as they also face great challenges over the next few weeks. Transportation will not be possible to La Ceiba (where we are right now - taking language school) for at least several days and maybe up to two weeks - so supplies will be very short. The water delivery system and the electricity were both badly damaged in the storm. Please pray that God would provide for our dear friends as they embrace the challenge of recovering from the storm.

Thank you!
Dave and Marinajo Fields
Mariah and Benny

Here is the email that was sent out by the Cornerstone Foundation yesterday evening:

Dear Cornerstone Friends,

I was just about to write to you with a good news report on the water situation when I got news of a new problem which also involves water.

The good news: In our last email update, I mentioned some alternate / back-up water sources which didn't really produce enough water to serve our needs on a regular basis. Well, the good news is that once the rainy season rains arrived, those water sources (springs) began producing more water--enough to better handle our needs.

The bad news: Now it's raining way too much, and there's too much water. It has been raining horrendously heavily--much more so than what is normal for the rainy season. A foot of rain fell last night, with more coming down. The tremendous amount of water has overwhelmed drains and burst pipes which were unable to bear the strain of draining such a huge volume of water. The power lines are washed out in many places--some sections for hundreds of meters. Every house in Balfate has water in it, including some of the missionaries' homes. The satellite link is down off and on, depending on the thickness of the cloud cover (so not much contact with the outside world is possible). And of course the rivers are all out of their banks with bridge ramps washed out, keeping the entire area isolated. Finally, the flooding, ironically, makes finding drinkable water very difficult.

So please pray--for better weather and conditions, for God's help in making so many repairs, for the missionaries to find the Lord's help when things seem discouraging, and for God to be glorified in the midst of all. Please also pray for the many Hondurans who are cold, wet refugees from hard hit communities, for those whose mountain farms are washing away, and really for all of them. For so many of the people, who live always closer to the bone, finding ways to get warm or dry and to find food in these conditions is not so easy.

Also, there are also several missionaries who are scheduled to be flying out of San Pedro Sula in a few days and currently have no way to get there.

Please lift all of this up to the Lord. Thanks so much.

--Sally Mahoney
for Cornerstone Foundation and Hospital Loma de Luz
Tuesday 28 Oct. 2008

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A weekend in Balfate (visiting Hospital Loma De Luz)

10/25/08 (Saturday Night)
We’ve come “to the hospital” (about an hour and a quarter drive from La Ceiba) here in Balfate for a short overnight weekend stay. This is Loma De Luz – the hospital where we will live and serve once we are done with language school in La Ceiba (about three months from now). We’ve been here before as guests – now we come as missionaries. We are staying tonight in our “home” here which has already been made ready for us – a little three bedroom apartment that is part of a much larger house that has been made into a tri-plex. We have seen it before. Dad and I stayed here in August. This is the first time we’ve stayed here as a family. As the rain falls down onto the metal roof in sheets and the cool night air blows in off of the Caribbean, I am having another one of those “pinch-me-is-this-real?” kind of experiences. It hits me all over again that we now live in Honduras as missionaries. That dream that was conceived in January of this year and birthed in May upon our first visit is now a reality. Wow. Having never lived abroad before, there is this special kind of wow that I go through several times a day that says “wow – I now live in a different country”. I can certainly say that for a large part of my life, I never would have dreamed of living outside the USA. This kind of surreal sensation extends much deeper tonight as I realize that this home (our eventual home) is really quite remote. We live in the jungle, really. Wow – there it goes again.
I killed my first scorpion tonight. We were eating supper over at Margo and Nelson Concepcione’s house and Margo ran out to their freezer on the front porch to grab something and came back in to report that she thought she had seen a scorpion. I went out to investigate and didn’t see him at first. As I was about to head back inside, I saw him hiding under the door. He took off across the front porch, the curl of his back tail left no question as to his identity. He was perhaps three inches long. I stomped on him and flattened him good. Take that! His back tail convulsed around trying to find something to sting for several seconds before he was finally still.
This time of year is absolutely beautiful here. I remember so vividly our first visit here in May: brutally hot. Several times the temperature went over 100 degrees, high humidity – no rain and no air conditioning. We stayed in an upstairs apartment. We were miserable. The last time I was here was in August. It was still hot, but much better. The thing I remember about the August trip was that it was so incredibly dry. Dust everywhere. This time it is wonderfully cool and there is no dust. The rain is wonderful. Perhaps the rivers will swell and perhaps we won’t be able to drive back to La Ceiba tomorrow but we will worry about that tomorrow. For tonight, the coolness and the sound of the rain swirl around us in a delicious motion. It is intoxicating.
I haven’t said much about Andrea before now. She is a little girl in the children’s center that has absolutely stolen my heart. Yes, my heart still belongs to my daughter Mariah and in a different way to my son Ben, but Andrea is special in a way that I can’t describe. She was terribly abused by her step dad – which resulted in her step dad being shot by her mom (he recovered). Her mom has aids and was on death’s doorstep. When I first met Andrea in August, her mom was in a hospital in La Ceiba (described fully here: ) and her dad was in jail. Both parents were most likely dying of aids. Since then her dad has either bribed his way out of jail or escaped – all that we know is that he is free and her mom has made nothing short of a miraculous turn around. She and her mom live here in sanctuary housing and at the children’s center. Her mom seems happy and healthy (an absolute miracle) and Andrea seems happy and content. Why am I telling you all of this? Because this afternoon when we arrived we immediately dropped Ben off to see his new friend Samuel at the children’s center and Andrea came out to greet us. She asked for and received permission to come with us to help unpack and spend a few hours with us this afternoon. She came with Marinajo and I to our new apartment here and helped us unpack and then played with us and “hung out” with us for a couple of hours. I found myself sitting on this big oversized recliner type chair in our apartment reading children’s books to Andrea. The books were written in English, but she only speaks Spanish – so she would teach me as many words as she could from the pictures and then I would fill in as much as I could with what little Spanish I know to try and get the basics of the story across to her. I was sitting here reading stories with this beautiful little nine-year-old girl whose world had exploded just a few months before. Without this place – the hospital, the children’s center, and sanctuary housing – her story would have been just another lost story in a sea of lost children here. Now, she has joy and safety and health, and some dumb gringo to try and explain the three little pigs to her in broken Spanish. It was like a mix between language school (with a nine-year-old teacher) and charades. What a beautiful experience.

Friday, October 24, 2008

In Awe and Wonder of God


Perhaps you remember my great adventure and great privilege of being able to help drive a very sick young girl to the hospital in San Pedro Sula? The blog post for that day can be found here:

http://davefields.blogspot.com/2008/08/day-4-82108.html


Well today I finally have a picture and a report on her condition and it is nothing short of miraculous! Young Chelsi Yanera is doing well. Here is the report from Norma Hunt (Nurse from Loma De Luz):

Chelsi received 12 units of blood and 7 units of platelets. After 42 days in the hospital she is home and doing well. I look forward to taking her back to La Ceiba to thank the doctor who attended her with out charging. Pray that this will impact the doctor.


This beautiful child that you see now was bleeding from the mouth and nose. Her sclera (the white part aroound your eyes) looked like a giant blood blister in both eyes. Her platelets were at zero and her white blood cell count was elevated to around 50,000. The fact that she is alive at all is so amazing. Thank you God for giving this little girl's life back to here. may it be used for your glory!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Thoughts on the rain and humidity here in Honduras












(Pictures are of the flooded street out in front of our apartment after heavy rain)

After living in Honduras for two weeks - we have a new definition of humidity. Humid is:

Wet clothes and towels that never dry (unless you put them in the dryer) - (note on this - most people down here don't have a clothes dryer - so once something gets wet - it really doesn't dry. So, when it rains, they tend to take layers off and put them in bags and walk around with fewer clothes on until it stops. )

Paper cannot be kept in the printer - it wilts like a wet napkin and then shreds in the printer it is so wet. I have to keep paper in the sleeve until ready to print.

Sweat. Benny especially just sweats profusely all of the time. Any type of activity results in drenching sweat.

I checked the weather the other evening and we had 96% humidity at that moment.

Marinajo likes the tight tight curls in her hair!

We have an air-conditioner in our bedroom. At night it feels like we sleep in damp washcloths instead of sheets.

It rains most every evening and often all night. Each day there is usually some sunny time – so we make every effort to get out and do something when it is sunny. In other areas of the county (near San Pedro Sula) for example – there has been some pretty major flooding. It is on the news every evening but we can’t yet understand enough Spanish to know what is going on. We are nice and dry in our apartment though!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hello from Honduras!

Hello dear friends and family. This is my first blog post after moving to Honduras. It is now Tuesday Oct 21st and that means that we’ve been “in country” for two weeks now.
These first two weeks have been a strange mixture of new and very unique experiences mixed in with a lot of “routine” type things. Let me explain: In our first two trips down here, we put our lives largely on hold back in the states and came down here 100% invested in the experience of being down here. We had no kids with us – we lived moment to moment, experiencing God in ways that have been well chronicled in the pages of this blog. We prayed with a sick and dying lady. I helped to race one very sick child to the hospital in San Pedro Sula. We drank through a funnel of God’s goodness and calling on those visits – but they were short term trips – designed to seek out God’s calling and everything was magnified because of their short duration. We had “STS” – short term syndrome. Those first two trips set the expectation that life would be like that every day down here. Now we have been here two weeks and it is very clear that living here will be full of adventure, excitement, and well….ordinary. Ordinary, you say? Yes, ordinary. You see we brought something with us when we moved down here this time that we hadn’t brought before – our lives. We brought our children, we brought eight big suitcases and four small suitcases full of our stuff, we brought Dave’s business down here: in short, we brought our lives down here. Now we live in an apartment here and the toilet leaks and the neighbors are loud and we need milk and bread, and toilet paper!
Don’t misunderstand me – we aren’t sad that we came, we have experienced God in new and unique ways and we are more certain than ever that this is exactly where we are supposed to be. But we are going through a difficult transition of getting our lives set up down here. Hmmmm, somehow – we didn’t fully expect or understand that transition. We are moving from short-term missionaries to long-term missionaries.
More on this transition as my thoughts on it develop over the next few days – and much more to come on every day life here in Honduras. In short it is a beautiful country that is more humid than I ever thought possible. We arrived just at the beginning of the rainy season and they don’t call it that for nothing. The rain is immense, frequent, and warm. Each day seems to have a sunny period – but each evening and most nights seem to be just pure rain. The people are poor, friendly and have warm, beautiful smiles. Life here is different enough that it feels like we live in another country and yet there are many “American-type” places to eat and to shop and yes, even a local version of Starbucks here called “CafĂ©-Americano” (thank you for that one Lord).
One reason that I haven’t posted on the blog (besides the obvious busyness of getting settled in and getting started with language school) is that I’ve been waiting for something really profound to happen. I realize now that profound will come in a different package now that we are here for the long haul. Small profound things have happened – but nothing REALLY big – just the simple, difficult tasks of moving into a new apartment and getting setup with life here. We’ve also gone to a missionary conference and we’ve started language school and home school and I’ve started working 3-4 hours each day. As you can see – we’ve more than enough to do to keep us “off the streets” and “out of trouble”.
Lastly, in the midst of all of this talk about things being ordinary- I want you to know that we are very comfortable – very happy – and most of all very thankful to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for giving us the opportunity to come here and serve. When I think of what many missionaries have had to go through in their “new land”, frankly I’m embarrassed at how easy we have it here. Life is good and we are well! Thank the Lord!

In the next few days, I’ll post a few short quick stories on things that have happened that were definitely not ordinary:
In the last two weeks we’ve waded in water 2’ deep in order to open the gate to get up into our apartment, seen a very young boy hunt and kill a rat without any type of weapon, heard music played louder than I ever thought possible, seen sheets of paper wilt like a wet napkin in the humidity, attended to a Honduran Pentecostal church service and walked through an open air meat market the likes of which you would never see in the USA. We continue to seek the Lord in the midst of all of these new experiences and in the midst of a very big transition. God’s blessings to each of you!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Of rocks and rapids

If Christianity were to be compared to a river, many Christians would be standing ankle deep in it. They enjoy the exhilaration of being in the river, and perhaps the water at times feels good (other times it almost certainly feels too cold or hot) – but they just aren’t going to get in past a certain point. I think that the banks of the river are fairly gradual for most of us, sloping gently down towards a middle that is deep and where the current is much much stronger than any of us is comfortable with. God beckons us to the middle of the river, where He is in control and where we are not. He beckons to a life of surrender, we wade in the eddies* enjoying the feeling of water around our ankles.
By the Grace of God (most certainly not through our own effort) Marinajo and I find ourselves further out into the center of the river than ever before. As we prepare to leave our friends, family, and all that is familiar for Honduras, there is a very real sense that the current has taken us over. This has never been more real to me than it was Saturday evening. We were in the process of moving all day Saturday. Assisted by dear friends, we moved a piano, and then about 24 boxes of items that we had packed away for long term storage while we are to be gone. This is the stuff that we don’t want to get rid of, the keepsakes, the memories. In the process of moving we stopped by our home in Windsor (now rented) several times. I don’t know if it was the act of putting the memories into storage, saying goodbye to a dear friend (my best friend, really), or saying goodbye to the house that did it – but somewhere in all of that I began to feel this overwhelming sense of loss. After all of the moving, I met my family, late, at Christ Community Church for Saturday evening worship. I had barely sat down when the tears welled up side of me. All evening, as the worship service progressed, my emotions just took over and I could barely keep from weeping there in the pew. As the sermon ended and the Praise and Worship band came up to play, I just kept feeling this deep sense of loss at all that we were leaving behind. The friendships, the familiarity, the sense of home here, it was as If each of these things were being peeled away from my heart and it hurt. I started looking for Pastor Steve (missions pastor). I knew that of all of the people in the church service, I could walk up to him and spill my heart out to him and he would understand. I wouldn’t have to explain to someone that I didn’t know that we were about to leave the country to go into missions work, Steve knew all about this. I also knew that Steve’s heart would be open to just listening. I can’t tell you what a blessing he has been to us as we’ve walked this journey of faith in getting ready to go to Honduras. So, I told Marinajo what I was up to and then went and found Steve and asked him if we could talk. I could barely hold back the torrent of tears that was certainly coming. Steve, sensing the seriousness of the moment, took us back into a private prayer room where I simply fell apart. I am just not given to large displays of emotion. I cry a lot – but just little bits at a time where you might have to wipe away one tear, but never the river. Tonight there was a river of tears. I still don’t fully understand why. I just know that God had tapped my emotions and was releasing sorrow and anguish that had been building up about leaving. I should say that these last few weeks have been particularly stressful and that it is very possible that the stress had been building up to a moment like this. Steve just kept his hand on my back while I sobbed out the words to try and describe what I was feeling. He just listed, like I knew he would, and kept his hand on my back to let me know he was there. Four hundred Kleenexes later, I was finally able to compose myself long enough to talk normally with Steve. I explained to him that tremendous sense of loss that I had been feeling.
(Back to the river analogy) I think that by God’s grace, we’ve stumbled in towards the middle of the river such that we are in over our heads. Make no mistake; I think that this is God’s design for each of us. I guess the rocks are what surprised me the most. I think our American mindset makes us think that if we are “in the middle” of God’s will, then we will be floating around like the angels, playing harps and laying on clouds. Nothing could ever be wrong with one who is “so spiritual” to be in that place. In fact, I find myself tumbling along in the river, bouncing off of big rocks as we go by. I don’t know why I am surprised. Jesus defined it so well by His life and His words. “In this world, you will have trouble” or “the world hates me, they will hate you also” or “blessed are you when men hate you”. Where did we get the idea that the Christian life is supposed to be easy and prosperous? As we prepare to leave, we bounce around among the big rocks like money and family and Saturday night I swam headlong into a boulder of loss and sadness. I don’t feel like I’m steering at all. I can remember the instructions from the white water rafting instructor years ago, “if you fall out, no matter what – keep your feet in front of you, whatever you do don’t go down the rapids head first”. And that is what this feels like: rapids.
Here’s the point. We stand in the river, ankle deep, thinking that there is safety there. And in a sense, there is – for we are in control. We get to decide just how much of God we take in at any one moment. We can climb out of the water and go back to our daily lives and then wade back in next Sunday to see how it feels. But this is no God at all. Rather it is a god that we control. God (Jehovah) never accepts this kind of faith. It is familiarity, not faith that we have when we are up to our ankles. God demands more. When we do finally slip into the middle a bit and get bounced around by the rocks some, we get back out shaking and cold and our friends on the shore say “see, I told you so” and others who are standing ankle deep say “you’re doing it wrong” and we just assume that the middle must only be for pastors and such. What we don’t understand is that the rocks and the rapids bring weakness. God is interested in only one thing for us, that the life of His son Jesus be made more and more real in us. His goal is that we might become His righteousness and that we might be made to abide. “Apart from me, you can do nothing”. But “abide in me, and you shall bear much fruit”. Lastly this: Jesus said that it is only in losing one’s life for His sake that we can truly find life. If we try and keep our lives, we will lose them and if we are willing to forfeit them for Him, then we will find life. I think that the only place that the character of Christ can be truly formed in us is in the moments of our discomfort, the moments where we lose our footing and are swept away, if you will. This process simply can not happen as long as we are ankle deep.

So why go in for it at all? Why endure the rocks and the lack of control if all we are to learn is how hard life can be? We go in to the middle of the river because only in its complete abandon can God be truly known. Oh the joy of feeling the presence of God in the midst of your complete brokenness! If you want something that will satisfy you right down to your very fibers, then find yourself with no hope, but Him, and then let Him deliver. Throughout this whole sobbing mess Saturday night, my overriding feeling was one of God’s presence and peace in the midst of pain and loss. He is SO FAITHFUL. He says that He will never leave us or forsake us and that is so true in the rocks and the rapids. We find that God did not design us for a life of comfort, rather He designed us for a life of adventure at His control. And we find that like an engine that is finally rid of the bad gasoline, or the bad spark plug, we are finally free to be what we were designed to be. Life is never so hard as it is in the middle of the river, but it is never so good as it is there either.


*Eddie - Water flowing upstream behind a rock or other obstacle. Eddies often provide a safe place to get out of the current

Saturday, August 30, 2008

In a dry and weary land.

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.

So begins Psalms 63. “In a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

Angry dust clouds billow from a truck speeding down a dirt road like steam pouring out of a steam engine as it labors up a hill. Those on bicycle, horseback, or those walking are consumed in the cloud as someone carelessly speeds by – completely oblivious to the discomfort that they have inflicted on a fellow human being.

Construction across the street causes the Bilbo (dust) to rise up to our house like storm clouds gathering in a massive thunderstorm. Rumor has it that this same construction site has run out of water – their well has run dry.
The small village of Lucinda is out of water. Out of water.

These are the images that I bring back from Honduras. It is said that Honduras has two seasons: wet and dry. This is definitely the dry season. Yes, the place that we are going to is in the jungle, but the jungle is a place of extremes and right now, the extreme is dry. The whole area strains under the dryness and awaits the next extreme, the rainy season. In a month or so, torrents of rain will change the landscape and the plancha (dry river bed) will roar with water once again. People will make their wary river crossings in too much water. But right now, it is dry. It is so dry that several areas are out of water.

When was the last time anyone in the United States contemplated being out of water? When we need water, even in a place like Las Vegas Nevada, right in the middle of the desert, we turn on the faucet and there is water. A water shortage means that we cannot water the grass, or plant new sod. It doesn’t mean that we have no water to drink. Local environmental laws cause all construction sites to be constantly attended by a water spray truck so that dust is not a problem, even as they move dirt and work the land. What I am trying to get across here is this: the Bible is rife with imagery about water, and for the most part, we don’t get it. We have no idea what it means to be thirsty, really thirsty.

When God said, through the prophet Isaiah For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground, or when He said come, all you who are thirsty; come to the waters. The people understood this imagery for what it was. It spoke to perhaps the deepest physical need that they had - the need for water. When God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water, the people understood the imagery of their sin – broken cisterns that cannot hold water. Sin can never satisfy you, you will always be thirsty. And then when Our Lord Jesus said If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him and when he said to the Samaritan woman at the well Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life, the reaction was from someone who knew what it meant to be thirsty. She knew what it meant to drag herself to the well every day, in the heat and the dust, simply to do what we take so easily for granted. Sir, she said, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water. Her reaction was completely understandable, and it was completely physical. But Jesus had something else in mind; he revealed himself to her as the Messiah. Thirst can make us look for answers. The dryness can give us a perspective that we cannot have any other way. The reality of spiritual condition before Christ is worse than those images that I wrote about. We are completely without life, we are in the deepest of deserts. But, the reality of our spiritual condition in Christ is so much more than we understand. We are so drenched with God, in Christ, that we literally stand justified before a righteous and holy God. We have a never ending source of water (The Holy Spirit) welling up from within us. We have more than we will ever need. More than we need to get through cancer, coma, or chaos. More than we need to face tomorrow. More than we need to rise up in blessing and holiness in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and reflect His glory. For that is our purpose. May we be refreshed in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.

All who are thirsty
All who are weak
Come to the fountain
Dip your heart in the stream of life
Let the pain and the sorrow
Be washed away
In the waves of his mercy
As deep cries out to deep (we sing)

Come Lord Jesus come
Holy Spirit come
As deep cries out to deep

~
Blessed Be Your name
When I'm found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed Be Your name

Monday, August 25, 2008

Day 6 – 8/23

During Friday night’s dinner, we received a call on the HAM radio from John and Penny Alden (also missionaries here at Loma De Luz) asking if Dad and I would be available tomorrow for br…… and then the transmission cut out. Such is the life of communications here in the campo. Just to give you a sense of how communications sometimes happen here, later John and Penny were able to contact Dr. Renee on the radio and then she called me on the cell phone (yes, there are cell phones here) to relay the invitation to breakfast for this (Saturday) morning. Needless to say, we accepted. Besides never having met John and Penny and wanting to get to know them, I also wanted to get my hands on their truck. It was for sale and we believed that God was leading us to buy it. So up the hill we went to breakfast with John and Penny. I know I keep saying this and I imaging that you might tired of hearing it, but all the same – John and Penny were just delightful people.
John and Penny are some of our role models in terms of integration with the Honduran culture. John works at some of the local Honduran clinics and with some of the local doctors. Penny and John both work quite a bit with a local Honduran church and have invested their hearts into the Honduran people here. I know it sounds crazy, but it is quite possible to come here (in my capacity as a technical person) and never really integrate with the culture. You have to want to. This of you who kow us know that we do want to – but it takes some real effort to make it happen. John and Penny are two people we can emulate as to how they have accomplished this.
After breakfast, John was good enough to take us on an extended tour around the area. We drove to all of the local villages within ten miles of the hospital and John explained each of them to us and kind of gave us a sense of how each of them fit into the local landscape. Since John works in these towns, we didn’t just drive down the main street and say that we’d had a tour. We drove down many side streets, stopped at a few people’s houses, and generally got to know the area. Thank you John for taking so much time with us! The information and orientation that it provided were invaluable!
After some rest, we had a very nice dinner with the Merrits and the Greens. To illuastrate how things often happen around here, I’ll explain how we decided to do dinner together. We had a cooked whole chicken, and mentioned to one family that this would be far too much for us to eat and invited them to join. Well, they were planning on getting together with family number two, but let’s just throw it all together in pot-luck and all three families can eat together. Pineapples were harvested from outside and cut up (you can’t believe how good they taste!), mango, melon, plantains (small banana like fruit – the Honduran potato) and all of a sudden you have a great meal for six! What a blessing!
We had a really nice time of prayer after supper and coffee. We prayed for adult missionary kids living at home, and struggling. We prayed for our family as we prepare to go and for Marinajo as she endures a long time at home without me. We prayed for the longstanding needs at the hospital, more staff, enough money, etc. And lastly, my dad prayed for Marinajo and the kids and I. I was really touched by the fact that my dad was down here praying for me as we prepared to come. What a neat blessing. I know that he’s been touched by all that he has seen and done and I can tell you that he and I have been able to spend more quality time together here than I could have ever dreamed for. Thank you so much God for this time that he and I have been able to spend together!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Day 5 – 8/22

Thank God for a normal day! Ha! Sitting around working on computers seems like such a wonderful break from all of the emotion of the last two days. Today was a welcome return to something a little less dramatic and a lot more mundane. I did get to see some of my absolutely favorite people today. I got to see Don Felipe, Bob and Zina, Iain and Liz, Bairon, and all of the staff at the hospital. What a blessing. Several times today I was moved to tears just at the sight of some of these dear people. Just at the incredible blessing of getting to see them again. God has given us such a love for the people that we work with here that seeing them is like seeing family that you haven’t seen in years. Can this possibly make sense to anyone reading this? I hope so. Not really that much to report today. Bairon and I worked on the some computers at the hospital today and I rested from all of the exertion and emotion of the last two days. It was 98 degrees here today (with no A/C!) – very hot. This was by far the clearest day I’ve seen here. The Caribbean ocean is incredibly blue and the islands can be seen clearly out to the north – absolutely beautiful! We had a wonderful supper with Iain and Liz, Zina, and Renee. Iain is from Scotland and he kept us entertained all evening with stories and jokes. Sitting around the table taking is what you do here, because there isn’t anything else to do. It gets dark here at 6:30 pm all year round and there are no televisions, so we do what our grandparents did, we eat together and we sit around and play cards or talk. What an amazing concepts. We often get the feeling here that we’ve stepped back in time and tonight was another one of those experiences. I did get to meet Andrea today, the most recent addition to the Children’s Center. What a beautiful child. She comes from horrific circumstances, too terrible to be told here, but she is just such a beautiful child. God did not bless Hondurans with wealth, but He did bless them with their children. They are all beautiful with incredible smiles and laughter and Andrea stands out even among them. She is a shining testimony to why God called Iain and Liz to build a children’s center here. As children come in from terrible family situations, they provide a foster care type of environment for them. It is a safe place in the storm that will care for them and tell them about Jesus. What an amazing and wonderful blessing for these little children. I go to bed tonight so thankful for the opportunity to be here!

Day 4 – 8/21/08

Yesterday my prayer was that God wouldn’t let me forget the lessons of the day. God must’ve heard that prayer because he reinforced them in amazing ways today. Today was supposed to be the day that we packed our bags and moved from La Ceiba out to the hospital (about an hour and a half away). Our intention was to complete some business at the bank and then go back to the hitel and get our stuff. While we were at the bank with Dr. Renee, Norma called. Norma is the head nurse at the hospital and she said that she had a critically ill child that had to be transported to San Pedro Sula (about three hours away) immediately and she needed someone to go with her. She didn’t need medical help she just needed an escort because it was entirely unsafe for a woman to be on the roads after dark. We talked about it and decided that I was the best person to go with her. For those of you who don’t know, I was an EMT/Firefighter for 10 years and I have done medical transport before and I was really excited to get a chance to a) drive in Honduras and b) see the San Pedro Sula hospital. After seeing the hospital that we saw yesterday, I wondered if it could get any worse than what I had seen. I would get a chance to find out. For reference, La Ceiba (the hospital we saw yesterday) is a town of about 70,000 and San Pedro Sula is a town of about 300,000. So Normal pulled up and I hopped in the back seat of her Toyota SUV and off went. Mom (named Marina) was sitting in the front passenger seat holding the little girl. I learned from Norma that the little girl, named Chelsi Yanira Bautista was suspected of having Lymphatic Lukemia. Her white blood cells were at 50,000 (normal is around 10,000) and here platelets (critical for blood clotting) were zero. She was bleeding from the nose and mouth. Norma had taken her to see a Pediatrician in La Ceiba and he indicated that she might not make it to San Pedro Sula alive. Needless to say, we were in a hurry. Norma and I layed hands on the girl and prayed that God would spare her life and that He would heal here. Not long after I got in, Norma asked me to drive and I gladly accepted. I will tell you that I have never experienced anything like that drive in my entire life and I may well never experience anything like it again. I passed on the right, I passed on the left, I went in the middle, and I drove faster than I’ve ever driven. I’ve explained several times how maniacal the driving is here anyway. I got to stand out as the chief maniac today as I swerved through traffic and perhaps even surprised a few Hondurans. All I can say is Steve, you would have been proud of me (inside joke). What a rush. After about two or two and a half hours of driving like this, we found the hospital in downtown San Pedro Sula (remember this is the downtown area that neither of us had ever been to before of a town of 300,000 people) which is nothing short of a miracle of God. Norma’s nursing scrubs and medical badge got us through the locked gate and up to the emergency room. We pulled right up to the front doors of the emergency room and Normal rushed mom and baby into the chaos of San Pedro Sula hospital. I think that this may be one of the busiest hospitals in the world. I saw every manner of emergency walk right in the front door. I saw one man carry what appeared to be his dead father in the front door. I saw three people carry a woman in that appeared to dying right there in front of me. It was incredible. There was a mass of humanity outside the entrance – concerned family members. Only the emergency cases and maybe one family member were allowed in the doors. Red Cross Range Rover ambulances pulled in and dropped patients off and then took off to go get the next one. Honduran Bomberos firefighters broght patients in. It was a sight to behold. And in the midst of it all, here I was sitting in a Toyota SUV with my hazard lights on. It didn’t take long for a security guard with a machine gun to wander over and ask me what the heck I thought I was doing parked in front of the entrance. He seemed to indicated that had better get moving. I managed to get enough Spanish out to tell him that I was just the driver and that I was from the Hospital in Balfate (name of our town) in Colon (state) and that I was waiting for a very important doctor (forgive me Lord for stretching the truth). This made all kinds of sense to him that I was just a poor driver that had been told to wait for a very important person, so he left me alone. Eventually Norma came back out and we went off to find the poor mother some clothing. She had left her tiny village to take her sick child to the hospital and now here she was in the biggest city she had ever seen without a dime or a piece of clothing other that what she was wearing. So off we went in search of a clothing store. We searched downtown San Pedro Sula (think downtown – heavily populated – impossibly thick traffic – Central America) for some inexpensive clothing for mom. Norma and I pooled our money and purchased clothing and a few supplies for mom and headed back to the hospital to give her some cash and the items that we had purchased for her. This time I got to go into the hospital with Norma. Wow. The pediatric ward of this hospital sees 250+ kids every day. Their were people everywhere. Unlike yesterday, there wasn’t that dark, medieval dungeon feel to the place. It appeared as if people were getting good medical care. The doctors and nurses in that hospital deserve a special place in heaven for ever having worked there, because they were hugely overwhelmed with patients, but they did their best and seemed competent. We finally found Marina (Chelsi’s mom) sitting in a chair in a hallway. I’ll never look at hallway in hospitals the same again. They should just build public hospitals in Central America with only hallways, because that’s where all of the patients end up and it seems that’s where all of the treatment is done. There were cots on either side of the hallway with two children per cot, head to toe, and mothers hovering over them with washcloths swatting away the flies or holding up an IV bag, or stroking a child’s forehead. Through one window at the end of the hall, I could see at least a hundred people in one waiting room just sitting and standing there – the waiting must have been endless. It was both a miracle and testimony to the competence of the medical staff that our little Chelsi was seen immediately by the doctor. Her critical condition was accentuated by the fact that the sclera (the white part) of each eye had turned into one big blood blister. One had simply to look into her eyes to know that she was dying. Her mom held a bag of platelets (another miracle). While the most skilled person I have ever seen with stuck an IV in her arm on the first shot (no veins at all – no idea how he found it). We left her with a kiss and cash and some clothes and a Dios Te Bendiga (God Bless You). As we made our way our of the hospital and into the car, it was the with the most overwhelming sense of awe at what I had just seen. I felt so fortunate to a) get to see the inside of this hospital and the incredible volume of patients and care and b) to be involved in helping this little girl. We had no idea whether she would live or die, but we knew that we’d given her every chance that we could give her. God was in charge, we left her in His hands.
**Update 1 – 8/22 she is still alive. She even slept a little bit last night.
**Update 2 - 09/03 (from Norma) I just spoke with Chelsy's mother and the nurses are on strike at the hospital so patients aren't getting all the care or treatments they need. Chelsy is not eating very well due to upset stomach. Please keep them in your prayers.

We were now faced with the prospect of getting out of San Pedro Sula during rush hour and then a 3-4 hour drive home at night. I thought that since I didn’t have to drive like an ambulance drive on Crystal Meth, that I’d actually be able to relax and enjoy the drive home, and at times I did. But most of the time, it was the absolutely terrifying experience of driving in Honduras at night. You come around a curve only to find that there are two cars abreast coming right at you as the one idiot tries to pass the other around a corner. And you don’t DARE move over to the shoulder because there are innumerable bicycles on the shoulder and you can’t see any of them (no reflectors). Once I drove right up on a group of bicycles in my lane with no reflectors. I barely missed hitting them. Once we drove by some teenagers lying down on the shoulder with their heads right on the white line – not sure but that was almost certainly drug related. This is really a scary place to drive at night. Through it all, I was blesses to have the most wonderful visit with Norma. A mature lady in her 50’s, originally from Montana, she is a living breathing example of what a woman of God is all about. She’s planted churches in Guatemala and South America. At 40, she attended nursing school. She has planted a church in a small village close to the hospital and it sounds like a thriving church. She and I visited about the condition of the church both here and in the states. Because of her closeness with the Hondurans, she is a treasure trove of information on how the local Hondurans’ views on faith, society, and gringos. She probably saved me a year’s worth of mistakes just telling me about her church and the believers there and how they view maters of faith. I also had the privilege of being stopped at one of the many check points operated by the policia - Honduran Police. She coached me through my responses. Because of her confidence in me I now feel very confident driving here – again, a tremendous gift. And so we arrived at the hospital around 11pm. Another missionary (thank you Renee) had picked up my dad and helped him buy groceries for us for the week and took him out to the hospital. The way the team works here is so amazing. When someone calls an audible (we need to take this kid to San Pedro Sula), the whole team responds. Ok, I’ll ride with her. Ok, I’ll get your dad and take care of everything here. Wow – thanks. Every hole in the schedule gets filled up with someone who is willing to go out of their way to help. It is like being part of a really good football team. What a blessing! This is how the church is supposed to work! Thank you Lord so much for the privilege of seeing it in action!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Day 3 - 8/20/08

I keep a Microsoft Word document called “today” that I write my blog in each day when I am on these trips. As I begin writing for a new day, yesterday’s words (which have already been uploaded) are all highlighted and deleted. Each day’s blog starts with this incredible white space. It is a dramatic (to me) reminder that each day the slate is wiped clean and we are faced with a bare script upon which to write. Oh Lord I wish that today’s experiences could live on. I wish that I could hold on to the gratefulness that comes as a byproduct of today’s experiences – but I know it will fade. Today, dad and I saw the real face of poverty here in Honduras, and it is nothing short of tragic. Howard, our friend, brother, and guide looked at me when I asked him my question. I think he was trying to tell if I really meant what I was asking. I reminded him that yesterday he said that the center of all of the problems here are drugs. Today I was asking him to show it to me. Show me the place where they go to get drugs (it is less than six blocks from where I sit right now) and to show me the reality of the drugs here in La Ceiba. I know that I have so much yet to learn about this place, but the education started today. Howard drove us north on San Isidro towards the beach. Within a few blocks, he would begin to point out “there on the right.” “Here, on the left.” Young and old, male and female – there was every age and both genders ready to sell you drugs. They take your money (one-hundred Lempiras, about five dollars) and then disappear for twenty minutes. When they come back, they will give you a tiny bag of cocaine. “Drugs don’t cost so much here as they do in Estados Unidos.” Howard explained. We came to the beach, among a small village of shacks. “Everyone who lives here is on drugs.” Eyes started to appear in every window. Our presence here blasted at this little community like a loudspeaker – everyone came out to see what we were up to. Finally one man with no shirt on and arms held open wide in the universal symbol for “what do you want” yelling loudly began to walk towards the truck. Howard explained that he was simply trying to make a sale. He went on to say that we were in no danger, they just wanted to sell us drugs.

I began to see that Howard was doing much more than answer my request to show me the areas that were most affected by drugs. I began to see his deep, deep heart for these people. These were his people in his town. I asked him if we would be in danger if we started witnessing to the drug dealers. No, he said – they love to have people comes witness to them. What if we actually found one person who recognized the depth of the problem that they were in? Would there be any place to take them where they could dry up, clean out, and get some help. And that is when I saw it. “No”, he said “there is no where”. “This is my dream,” he said. “To build a place for them to go to so they can get help”. Wow, I had stumbled upon Howard’s dream. His heart is so big that he wants to serve the most unlovable, most un-servable, most hopeless of his Honduran brothers – those that are hopelessly lost on drugs. As if to make his point, he then diverted course to take us to see Delores. Delores is the mother of StevenOrtega. StevenOrtega was once the young man that I was asking about. He saw the saw the situation that he was in, he saw how desperate it was and he wanted out. Howard’s church worked with him. Howard poured his life into him. Took him in and spent hours each day with him. Howard tried every way possible to pull him out of the abyss and he couldn’t. StevenOrtega disappeared. We went to see Delores to hear from her about her son. We walked into the small old house, faded pictures on the wall, a fan in the corner, and a black and white television with a Spanish soap opera on in the tiny living room. Her daughter and two of her daughter’s friends were there to watch television with her. She began to speak about her son: “He was such a good boy.” “Always, he went to church.” “And then he fell in with the wrong crowd.” “Now I cannot sleep at night” (she shows us the sleeping pills that she got somewhere). “Every time I hear the shots at night I just know that they keel my StevenOrtega.”

She said “I have spent the last 16 years worrying to death about that boy, I think that I need to give up.” “You can’t give up,” I told her. We came here all the way from Colorado to tell you not to give up. As long as StevenOrtega has a breath in his body, Jesus can save him. We prayed that Jesus would spare his life. We prayed that Jesus would save him. And then I got this crazy idea – I started to pray that Jesus would appear to him in dreams and would speak to SteveOrtega in such a real way that he would know that the Lord God Almighty has called him out of darkness and that God would make him a powerful voice for the gospel. I could see him preaching in Howard’s shelter. I could see him proclaiming the truth that there is freedom only in Jesus. Will you join me in that prayer for StevenOrtega? God, please save StevenOrtega and please God, make him an instrument of your will. Make him a beautiful instrument of your saving grace. May he know the song: “I once was lost but now am saved, was blind, but now I see.” And God, please give his mother Delores faith that you can do this, hope that you will do this, and peace that you are in control.

I wish that I could tell you that the day was over, but it wasn’t. In reality the most profound, the most stark images of the day were still yet to come. On our way out of the neighborhood, Howard stopped at the hospital to check on a patient that he knew there. Now, I realize that to most people reading this, stopping at the hospital doesn’t sound like such a big deal. Right now, throw away everything that you think of when I say hospital and replace it with what you think of when I say “medieval dungeon” and you’ll begin to get a sense of what it is like to visitn the hospital here in La Ceiba. Just for clarity – this is not the hospital that I came down here to serve at. That hospital is an hour and a half away and it is truly a reflection of God’s light and God’s hope. This hospital is a reflection of the pit of despair. We went to see an aids patient. I have never seen any place so hopeless and so full of despair. This very old hospital is overflowing into the halls and into every corner. The local government is building a new hospital, but with the pace of construction down here – it will be a very long time before it is up and running. In the mean time, patients lay on cots in the hall and moan with pain. If they are luck, a wife or a lived one sits next to them with a small hand towel and constantly waves it at the flies to keep them off, or out of the wounds. Upstairs in the women’s surgia (ward) there are six women in the size of one of our private hospital rooms in the states. Our lady lies in one of the six beds. There are no sheets, only a small towel to cover over her impossible thin night gown. Howard spoke with her for a moment and then went off to check with the doctor. I spoke what little Spanish I could with her and just let her rattle off minutes worth of Spanish back to me. Although I couldn’t understand what she was telling me, I listened intently. Her husband contracted AIDS from sleeping around and then infected her. He also raped her daughter (his step-daughter). He has been sentenced to sixty years in prison (I can’t even imagine what prison must look like if this is what the hospital looks like). “It would normally take around 10 years to bribe his way out of a 60 year sentence.” Howard explained. “But with AIDS, they won’t want to let him out, and he will die before they let him out.” Tragedy upon tragedy. This, my friends, is the enemy’s ultimate goal for each of us. The next time you think that drugs or illicit sex is “fun” or “doesn’t hurt anything” you remember this image of this woman dying of AIDS in this hospital and this man dying of AIDS in jail and the poor eight year old girl whose life has been ripped in two. Sin is hideous.

I prayed for her that God would heal her. That His Holy Spirit would course through her blood and cleanse her of all of her sickness and that (like Steven Ortega) she would serve as a beacon of HIS enormous light. Her name is Alba Luz please keep her in your prayers also. Each night, we should thank God that we don’t have to be in a place like that hospital and we should pray for each and every soul that is in a place like that.

Tomorrow, we go back to the more mundane tasks that we came here for: opening up a bank account and putting a deposit down on an apartment to rent. I hope that I am changed forever by what I saw today, but down deep I know that experiences never change people forever – rather that God changes people forever. I hope He used today to do a forever work in me. May it be so Lord, Amen!