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!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day 2 – 8/19/08

“As I walked into the CafĂ© Americana (Honduran version of Starbucks), a little boy walked up to me and showed me a picture of his mom.” “She had a horribly disfigured eye.” The tears started. “Everyone else in the room told him no.” I couldn’t turn him away. My dad continued, tears flowing now, to tell the story of how the little boy had been begging for money today in the coffee shop right next to the hotel. This scene - and a thousand more like it - play out every day here in the midst of incredible poverty. The Hondurans know that we have more money than they could ever dream of. Maybe they even know that we are particularly venerable when we go and get coffee – an obvious luxury. What if my son or daughter had to take a picture to Starbucks every day to show off their parent’s shame in order to beg some money for food?* There is a black hole** of need here and we have to be careful not to be sucked up in it.

I awoke early today and worked (computer stuff) in the hotel lobby for a few hours. Later, when dad came down to the lobby and went next door to get us some coffee, he came back with this heart breaking story. The story, and the emotion of it, set the stage for another day of great communication with dad and another day of just seeing God work in our trip here. Dad and I sat in the lobby and talked for quite some time. It was the kind of talk that I have longed to have with him, really sharing our hearts. I am so grateful for this trip already just because of the good time that we have had together. After lunch, we walked about 6 blocks to the Central American Language school to visit with Raphael, the director, he was not there so we waited at the same table that I wrote this blog entry from four months ago. We watched the same dissonant symphony of cars, trucks, bicycles, and horse and buggy all come together in one amazing intersection. Dad made the comment that it looked like synchronized swimming where all of the swimmers were listening to different music. Once again, we were dazzled and amazed by the traffic flowing in and out of different lanes and swerving and just barely missing one another. Not one accident was seen, but a hundred near misses took our breath away and made us want to cover our eyes. It is like watching a Nascar race where all of the drivers are blindfolded. In reality, it was just another day of traffic in La Ceiba.

In the afternoon we met Howard, the Honduran man that is employed by the hospital to take care of the hospital’s affairs in La Ceiba. For those of you who don’t know, La Ceiba is a town of about 70,000 people and is about 45 miles from La Ceiba. It is the gateway through which all of the missionaries and the supplies flow in and out of the hospital. It is the weekly grocery run for everyone. It is the one time per week when you “go to town” and get coffee or an ice cream cone, or just go to the mall and feel like you live in the city again for those that live at the hospital. It is the place that most of the goods are purchased that are used at the hospital. And in all of this, Howard flows gracefully through the maniacal traffic that I described earlier and the chaos of needs and schedules of those at the hospital, helping to purchase and deliver badly needed items. He has a wonderful servant’s heart and he has the great advantage of being from La Ceiba. This is his town. He understands this place and knows where to find what you need and how to get it in the most cost effective manner possible. And last but not least, he loves Jesus. He has been such a blessing these last few days. Today, God used him to find a house for us to rent and it was nothing short of miraculous.

We had come down here sure that we were going to rent a house that belonged to a missionary who no longer lives here, but hadn’t yet been able to sell the house. They had generously offered to rent the house to us at a very reasonable rate. Just a few days ago, however, we found out that it didn’t have any appliances and that we would have to buy or rent them for the three months that we were going to rent the house for language school. Well, that didn’t really make sense, so we asked Howard if he could find us a furnished house or apartment that was a) in a safe location here in the city and b) would fit in our budget. This may not sound like a tall order, but believe me – we were asking him for the moon. Howard thought about it for awhile and then drove us over to an apartment building and made a few phone calls and within a half an hour we were being shown around a very cute fully furnished apartment in a very safe location with everything that we need that was in our budget! Now Howard would be the first to tell you that God is the one that made that apartment available to us today, but it was so wonderful to see how He used Howard and how He used Howard’s gifts and abilities to bless us. The result is that we (hopefully) will be putting a deposit down on an apartment tomorrow that will work perfectly for us and that we can move right into – fully furnished with dishes on the table. Thank you Lord!

While we waited in Howard’s truck for the apartment owner to drop over and show us the apartment, Howard got to tell us a little bit of his testimony. What a beautiful display of someone whose life is turned over completely to Christ. Howard was a track and field star in Honduras. Actually, Howard was the track and field star in Honduras in 1989. He had qualified for the ’92 Olympics in Barcelona and nothing could stop him. On September 13th 1989, he and 46 others were on their way to Tegucigalpa (the Honduran capital) in a bus to a track and field event when a tragic accident happened, killing 19 of his teammates. “There was a 14 year old girl in the seat next to me.” “She was my friend and she was killed.” Howard was in a coma for nine days. “The doctors gave up on me.” “But my parents, they keep on praying.” “When I wake up, I can only thank God for my life and give my life totally to Jesus Christ.” Wow. Everything that Howard had known up to that point was gone. The doctors said that even if he lived that he would never walk again. Every day, Howard is a walking miracle. He has the most beautiful smile; it is the smile of someone who knows that he shouldn’t be here. I think that this is why he glides through all of this chaos down here with so much grace; he knows that he is living a life that should have been taken away and that was given back to him by God. All I can say is that I am so blessed to have met Howard and his testimony enveloped me like a warm blanket on a cold day – you can’t help but be wrapped up in his love for the Lord Jesus and his gratitude at getting his life back.

After taking a ton of pictures of the apartment, we rushed back to the hotel and I emailed them to Marinajo so that she could give her approval. She loved the pictures and felt like this was God’s provision for us and I my dad agreed so we committed to renting the apartment. We will put a deposit down on it tomorrow and then head for the bank to get our bank account setup. What a great day.

Dad and I ate at Pizza Hut (1/2 block from the hotel) and then went and walked around the town square. We sat at several the many benches that sit around the town square, like bleachers at a sporting event, and watched the traffic – a venue that never gets tiring. We guessed that if there are 70,000 people in this town – there must be at least 50,000 taxi cab drivers here. If Nascar had a minor league driver development program, this is where it would be – here among the taxi cab drivers. We sat around the hotel room and watched some Olympics tonight. Off to bed now with expectations of another great day tomorrow. Thank you for praying and for listening. God Bless!

*In another story that happened a long time ago, a woman from a place called Canaan sought out Jesus to ask him to help her daughter. Her daughter suffered from demon possession and His response will surprise you. It does not remind us of the Jesus that we know. I believe that he is showing us the kind of faith that God is pleased with – it is faith that will not be turned away. You can read the story in Matthew chapter 15 verses 21-28. There is a marvelous sermon on this topic from the Lutheran Hour entitled "A Great Faith" here. I encourage you to take a few minutes and listen to it.

** In the middle of every black hole there is something that is so dense that it sucks everything into it. In this case, it is drugs. The bars on every home and business with razor wire coiled on top. The innumerable vigilantes (men with guns) guarding every store. Our Honduran friend Howard explained it this way. “My country has good people.” “Every bad thing that happens is because of drugs.” In the US, drugs can be an accessory to a rich, or popular lifestyle.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 1 - 8/18/08

We are here, safe and sound, thanks be to the Lord. Dad and I have spent a long two days traveling to get here. We arrived yesterday (Sunday) at 11:45 pm in San Pedro Sula after meeting in Fort Lauderdale and made a very uneventful (thankfully) trip through customs. The hotel shuttle picked us up and brought us to our hotel for the night. There is an 8’ concrete block wall around the entire complex with 4 strands of electrified fence on top of that. Armed guards patrolled sidewalks in the shadows of the many street lights. We’ve heard that San Pedro Sula can be a little dangerous, but this hotel is like being in a fortified compound. Have you ever remembered something that woke you up in the middle of the night? I suddenly awoke realizing that I had LEFT one of my bags at the San Pedro Sula airport. One of our bags was over the 50lb weight limit (flying is so complicated now) so I bought a small bag at the gift shop real quick and threw some heavy stuff in it and checked it on the plane….and then promptly forgot about it. When we got to San Pedro Sula, I was tired enough and stressed enough that well, I forgot it. No problem right? Just wander down to baggage claim and go to the airline office and pick it up the next day, right? Not so in Central America…..
I have an idea for a new reality show. Survive a week on an island? Eat worms and bugs? Nah, that’s nothing. In my show, you have to walk into a Central American airport and try and convince someone that you need to pick up a lost piece of luggage that you FORGOT the night before without speaking the language. Yes, the various airline representatives speak some English – but the airport staff does not! For extra credit, we’re going to make your bus schedule such that you have to get this done in about thirty minutes. I now know that it is impossible to get anything done in Honduras in thirty minutes, anything. Well, I take that back. It is possible to make an entire airport staff mad at you in thirty minutes when you try and explain to all of them that your bag is lost and that it really wants to be back with you and would they please help???
I did eventually get reunited with my lost piece of luggage thanks to the only man on the airport staff that knows any English – named Ernie. He took me back into the bowels of the airport that I did not know existed and through immensely complicated metal chain link fence gates. Supervisors threatened Ernie with untold horrors if he screwed this up. “He wants what?” “Why did he forget his luggage?” “Did he forget anything else?” All the while, my dad waited patiently with the rest of the luggage – yes, I said patiently. By the time we had worked all of this out – our bus to La Ceiba was long gone. We were able to reschedule for the next bus six hours later.
Now, in our new reality television show, once you’ve retrieved your luggage, you have to find someone in the airport that will loan you their cell phone so that you can “phone a friend” and let them know that you’re going to be six hours late. I found and enterprising young man (Honduran) that was selling phone calls on his cell phone for 10 Lempiras (about .50 USD) for a minute. Sold. I was able to coordinate with a missionary from the hospital who had come to San Pedro Sula for a weekend holiday and swung by and picked us up. What a neat blessing. There were several really neat blessing today – the most important of which was that I got to spend a lot of quality time with my dad in the airport. Besides the times when I was off doing the preliminary work for the reality tv show (trying to find my luggage), I was also able to “hang out” with Dad in the airport – what a blessing. If you need quality time with someone, may I suggest being shipwrecked in a foreign airport? It works! I think the best thing was that I was able to really tell dad about why we are going to serve at Loma De Luz and he really understood. What a huge blessing. How many missionaries would give their right leg to have the chance to communicate on this level with their parents about the “why” factor? What a blessing! Thank you Lord for broken schedules and for being late for the bus!
Our ride to La Ceiba with Doctor Renee was eventful enough to warrant its own post and I will write on that soon. Suffice to say that it was a study in how amazing it is that any human being survives a car trip in this country. The madness that goes for driving here really can’t be overstated. I’ve written on it before and I look forward to telling today’s story but this post is already way too long (sorry!).

We are now in our hotel in La Ceiba and will get to work tomorrow. Thanks for praying for us on this trip. I’m looking forward to see what God has in store for us tomorrow.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Prayer Request ~ Traveling to Honduras


I will traveling to Honduras starting tomorrow for 10 days. Marinajo and I would ask for your prayers for protection, peace, and discipline here at home for she and the kids as well as safety for me as I travel.

I will be in La Ceiba Honduras (a town of about 100,000) from Monday (8/18) through Thursday (8/21). Here's a quick prayer list for the time that I am in La Ceiba:
The ability to get a Post Office Box setup
The ability to get a Bank Account setup
Language school arrangements made for October
Find and move some furniture and appliances into our rental house

Then I will be at the hospital from Thursday (8/21) through Wednesday (8/27) and then returning home on the 28th. Here's a quick prayer list for the time that I am at the hospital:
Good communications between me and the staff as we lay the groundwork for two big IT projects.
The ability to help with all of the various IT problems that I'll encounter while I am there
A servant's heart and the ability to listen and discern
**That I could be an encouragement to a tired and short-handed staff - that God would use me in this way
**The opportunity to pray with the staff and with patients at the hospital

Lastly - my dad, Dennis, will be travelling with me. Please pray for good health for both of us, patience with each other, for a good time of communication, and a renewing of our friendship.

Keep an eye on the blog as I will try and post at the end of each day.

In our Western Christian culture, it is often common for someone to say "I'll be praying for you brother" and then in the business of the day we completely forget to really pray. I know that I've been very guilty of this in the past. I have such a different attitude about prayer now - so I am asking you to please sincerely pray for these items and for my family while I am gone.

Thank you so much!

Dave and Marinajo Fields

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


As Marinajo and I prepare to go to Honduras, we believe that we will have expenses that we will need help with associated with the ministry that we are trying to perform. We will continue to look to God as the provider of our needs and we recognize (like everyone) that there will be times that certain needs will remain unmet. Dave will continue to work (although less) at the computer business that I’ve had (along with my Partner Dave) since August of 2005. There will be times when this income isn’t enough. Since we will occasionally be publishing our needs in our newsletter, I wanted to look into the scriptures and try and devise a biblical approach on how we are to ask for, and receive, giving. Please read over it before you give anything to us. Please let me know if you have any questions or additions to what I’ve written below.

We don’t have to look far in the New Testament to find an example of missionaries being sent out. In Matthew 10, we see our Lord Jesus sending out his first missionaries. When Jesus Himself sends out missionaries and tells them how they should act, then we who call ourselves missionaries had better sit up and pay attention. When Jesus sent out the twelve, he told them “freely you have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Jesus seems to be setting up a strict prohibition against charging for the things that they were sent to do – preaching, healing, and deliverance. At the same time, he also told them not to take provisions for their journey “for the worker is worthy of his keep” (Matthew 10:10). So it seems clear to me that we are specifically told not to charge for the gifts that God would have us impart to others through our ministry, but that we are also to “eat what is set before us” and to gratefully accept gifts and provisions that are given to us during the time of our ministry.

Paul also provides several examples of how he handled money. It is clear that during his time, especially in Corinth, many preached for monetary gain. This is a clear violation of the rules that Jesus set forth as described in the paragraph above and a practice that still goes on today. In trying to combat these false teachers, Paul and Barnabas adopted an even more radical stance towards money, as described in 1 Corinthians chapter 9. First Paul establishes his right to receive support from the church that he has planted, and then proceeds to describe why he will not take what he has a right to take. The only giving that Paul encourages is for the Corinthians to “set aside an amount in keeping with their income” for the needs of the church in Jerusalem (1 Corinthians 16: 1-4).

Lastly, Paul had a special relationship with the church in Philippi related to matters of giving. He describes their envoy, Epaphroditus, as their “messenger of his needs” (Philippians 2:25). They alone were burdened for Paul’s needs and they sent him aid time and time again in his time of need (Pillippians 4: 15-16). It appears that Epaphroditus traveled back and forth between the Philippian church and Paul’s various locations, both making the need known and then returning with aid for Paul. What an amazing model for the church today. What if every missionary that was supported by a church had a “messenger of needs” that kept up with them and served as a conduit for both the reporting of needs, and then the delivery of aid back to the ministry? What if one page newsletter with pictures and Christian sound bites” weren’t the primary means for communicating our needs as missionaries out to the world, but rather a relationship with devoted people, like Epaphroditus who almost died in service of attending to Paul’s needs? We certainly wouldn’t be able to support as many ministries as we do today in the church, but we could certainly support them better. May God continue to grow His church up I Him so that we find the right balance in these things!

What does this mean for us as we begin our missionary journey? A couple of things:

1) Like Paul, I too have a tent making business (only this time it is a computer business) that will provide many of our needs while in Honduras. I can (and should, we believe) work about ½ time (3-4 hours a day) while in Honduras and God will meet many of our needs this way.

2) There will be needs that will not be met by the tent making business. We will put these needs before people, via newsletter and blog, and pray that the Lord will meet them by placing a burden on the hearts of people to give. We will rejoice when the needs are met and we will be content when the needs are not met. We will make our needs known, but we will look to God as the provider, not our supporters. If you choose to support us, we will eat what is set before us with glad and grateful hearts, fully knowing that God will at times stretch us with needs that remain unmet.

Principles of giving:
• All of our resources belong to God and are “on loan” to us, and we will be held accountable with what we do with them. (Matthew 25:14-28)

• Profiting from any type of ministry activity is wrong. Provisions and gifts that are offered freely and not under compulsion are to be gratefully received. Eat what is set before you.

• Never give out of compulsion or emotional manipulation.
o 6Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times; having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9: 6-8)

• Do not “drop nickels into other people’s dreams” (This term comes from John Piper). First determine if God is calling you to the mission field or you to use your money directly for some purpose. (Mark 6:37). If the answer seems no, then determine who or how God is directing you to help. Never let your support of another become a substitution for you following God’s direction yourself.
o Give yourselves first to God, and then to us in keeping with God’s will (2 Corinthians 8:5)

• Give in accordance with your income. While the “Widow’s mite” has a specific and compelling meaning in the Kingdom of God, Paul’s direction as to the amount to give is very clear that it is to be in keeping with your income. (2 Corinthians 8: 11-12)

• Be careful before committing to giving over a specific time period, and then be careful to finish what you started. Paul exhorts us in 2 Corithians 8:10-11
o 10And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. 11Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.

• God blesses the giver. This simple truth has been perverted so many times and so many ways to compel people to give. Yet, it remains the simple truth of God. Paul spoke of giving being “credited to your account” (Philippians 4:17). He also spoke of the giver being blessed with abundance. While we should never give in order to get (more in return) – we cannot ignore the promises of scripture towards those who give sacrificially.
o 18I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4)