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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