Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas in Tela

Christmas has officially arrived in Tela! This past Tuesday, I had the privilege of attending the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Ok, so it's not so much a Christmas tree as lights in the shape of a Christmas tree (real Christmas trees don't exist in Honduras), but it was still a lot of fun. The students from my school were invited to open the ceremony with a few Christmas songs. Afterwards, we counted down to light the tree, and then enjoyed a beautiful fireworks display. It was really fun for me to be part of the celebration!

Follow the link below for a video of the choir singing!

Thursday, December 5, 2013


I had seen pictures of the pier in Tela online before I ever got here. So when I arrived, I knew I had to find it. As it turned out, it wasn’t that difficult to do. It’s only about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. The pier was old and I love the old wood, watching people fishing for blue crab off the side, and seeing the little kids running along the wooden beams and jumping into the water. This pier, I thought, must be full of history.

So when, a few weeks back, I heard rumors that they were working on the pier, a part of me was kind of sad. Still, everyone in the community seemed so excited about it that I was curious to see what all the fuss was about. I made my way down to check it out about a week later, and what I saw amazed me. There is now a sign over the newly-built entrance to the pier that reads, “La materia no muere, se transforme” – matter doesn’t die, it transforms. As I walked along the pier, I noticed a lot of things: lights, benches, trash cans, there’s even a covered area at the end now. It was a lot of fun for me to experience the excitement surrounding the revamping of the pier, and it really looks great!

I think the transformation of the pier is a lot like the transformation that takes place in our hearts. This has gotten me thinking about my life, and where I see God at work in it. Advent, the church season before Christmas, is a time to prepare our hearts for the coming of Christ. I encourage you to join me in reflecting on the areas of your life that are in need of a change. Invite Christ to work within you, and see the transformation!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Light in the Storm

The following is a short article I wrote for my home church's newsletter. I wrote it about a month ago, just after a big thunderstorm. It's not thunderstorm season anymore (although it still rains more days than not), but I thought I'd share anyways. Enjoy :)

Thunder rumbles outside. Well, it does more than that – it rattles windows and dishes, it shakes the entire house. The stars are hiding behind dark, menacing clouds. Flashes of lighting fill the ominous sky. The rain hitting the windows, the wind blowing through the palm trees, and the peals of thunder echoing through the nearby mountains are the only sounds to be heard.

This is a pretty typical evening here in Tela, Honduras during thunderstorm season. It’s total and complete darkness interspersed by fleeting flashes of bright light. During a storm last Friday evening, the power went out in my home for five hours. It can be pretty lonely during times like that, without internet or T.V. to distract me or lights to overcome the oppressive darkness of the storm. I have found, though, that it’s really all about your attitude. Power outages are a unique time for me. And in many ways I’ve come to value my time in the dark.

It’s a time where I am forced to leave behind all my technological distractions and sit in silence. I take time to pray, read the Bible, and play the guitar. I sing songs with words like “no storm can shake my inmost calm” and they have a whole new meaning. I have been so blessed by my time in the dark, because in the absence of physical light I can see the True Light in a different and more intimate way. And I’ve come to learn that it really doesn’t matter how dark it gets. We have been given a light that overcomes all.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

FAQ Part 2

Here's part two of my frequently asked questions. There will be a part three coming soon!

What is church like there compared to church here? Are there any major differences?
I’ve enjoyed church here, but it is a little bit different from my church in the states. Most noticeably, the service is in Spanish here. But the hardest part for me was not knowing any of the songs. At St. Michael’s by the Sea in California, we sing hymns with an organ. At Holy Spirit, we sing hymns/songs with a guitar and/or keyboard and a cymbal. I enjoy the songs, and I’m starting to learn the words but it is different than what I am used to. The format of the service is the same, since the Episcopal church uses the Book of Common Prayer to guide the services. So even though the words are in another language, I still know what’s going on. Plus, it helped me learn new words in Spanish since I already know the prayers in English.

Where do you do your shopping? What do you eat?
There’s a supermarket on the way out of town, Maxi Despensa, that has pretty much everything that I need. I take a taxi out there with one of the other teachers about once a week to get staples like rice, beans, milk, cereal, pasta, chicken, fish, household items, snacks, and some fruits and vegetables. There is a market one block over from my house where I shop at least once a week. It has a smaller selection than Maxi Despensa, but it’s perfect when I just need to run over and get one or two things. They have delicious freshly made corn tortillas and ice cream, too. I also get a lot of my fruits and veggies like potatoes, carrots, avocados, plantains, bananas, and lychees (while they’re in season) from street vendors downtown.

How do you prepare your food?
I live in a furnished apartment, which came with a lot of cooking utensils, so the way I prepare food hasn’t changed too much. My oven isn’t working, so I can’t bake anything, but I have a stove and a microwave. I eat a lot of chicken and fish with a lot of beans, rice and tortillas. Pasta is also cheap here, so I eat a lot of spaghetti. Sauce, however, is not very cheap, so I’m working on making a good marinara sauce from scratch. If you have any tips send them my way!

What’s the typical food like?
First off, Honduran food is not Mexican food. An enchilada is what we in California would refer to as a tostada. In Honduras, if you order a tostada you will probably get toast (which is what the word tostada actually means). The school cafeteria serves tostada francesa (French toast) about once a week. From what I’ve experienced, the most popular food in Honduras is the baleada. It’s a flour tortilla with beans and Honduran cheese folded in half. A lot of people eat baleadas with scrambled egg. You can also order it with avocado, chicken, meat – pretty much anything, and you can eat them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or any time in between. Another popular dish is tajadas, or fried plantains. They are often served as a side dish to fried chicken, but they are also served like nachos with a bunch of toppings on top.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


I know I’m due to post FAQ Part 2, but I wanted to share a little bit about what I’ve been up to lately. It’s been a very busy, but very rewarding time. I have become an actress, translator, and aunt (again) in the last two weeks!

As I mentioned in my last post, we had High School Camp at the end of October. We headed out to Colprosumah, a camp just outside of town, and enjoyed some time learning about God, playing games, and getting to know each other a little better. For privacy reasons, I will not be posting pictures of the students online, but we had a great time at camp. For me, it was a chance to learn more about both the students and teachers outside of the classroom. The church and school also worked together to put on a play, which I had the pleasure of acting in (I had a non-speaking role). The play was directed by an outside program based out of a city about 3-4 hours away. There was only one woman in their group, and she stayed in the extra room in my apartment for the week they were here. She is a very nice woman and taught me how to play some Spanish songs on the guitar! We did the play twice, once during camp and once at the church the Saturday just after we got back (Nov. 2).

That Saturday was very exciting, and somewhat nerve wracking, as I found out that my sister Elizabeth was in labor that afternoon. I was thinking about my family all day, and when I checked in that night, I learned there was still no baby! I woke up the next morning hoping for good news, but discovered that the power was out. When it came back on later that afternoon, I got to meet my precious niece for the first time. She and my sister are both doing great!

Norah Rose

During this same weekend, a short term mission group of 3 adults, Scott, Sara, and Daphne, and 3 teenagers, Alyson, Kinsey, and Genevieve, from St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Virginia came down to work in the community for 5 days. I was given the task of translating for them – something I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to do. Ms. Barrera, however, assured me that I would do great, and my temporary roommate encouraged me and gave me lots of opportunities to practice. I spent time with them from Saturday through Tuesday helping with their outreach at the church, school, and in nearby villages, and translating for them whenever needed. I really enjoyed meeting and spending time with them. They all have such a heart for helping people, and their enthusiasm has encouraged me. While it was great to go out to the villages, I think my favorite experience with our North American visitors was the day they spent at the school. I was able to introduce the three teenagers to a few of my English classes. They got to ask each other questions and just get to know each other a little bit. Before the end of the day they were “friending” each other on Facebook. This is my favorite part about mission work. It was a blessing to watch as strangers from different countries became friends in half an hour. They talked about their favorite bands, what they do for fun, and what they like/don’t like about school. It was a unique opportunity for my students as well as our visitors to see the other in a new light.

Scott, Daphne, Me, Alyson, Genevieve, and Kinsey (Sara is taking the picture)

The group from St. Barnabas went back to the States on Tuesday, and I have settled back into my normal routine. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the last couple weeks stretch myself and to build relationships with people from yet another part of the world.

Friday, November 1, 2013

FAQ Part 1

Hi everyone! Sorry I haven't had a chance to post anything over the past couple weeks. I've been keeping busy with first quarter exams and grades. And I just got back from high school camp. More to come on that later, but here's a sneak peak of the view!

I've decided to split this one into two posts, but here is part 1 of my frequently asked questions:

What are the students like?
The girls love One Direction, Justin Bieber, and Miley Cyrus. The boys love to play sports (mostly soccer) and video games. I’ve come to realize that teenagers will be teenagers wherever you are. There will always be students who test boundaries, and students who like to talk. There are students who ask lots of questions and study really hard. Really, though, the students I work with are great. They are respectful, hard working, and funny. I’ve definitely enjoyed my time working with them so far.

How do you communicate with people?

I am lucky in that I work with high school students at a bilingual school that most of them have attended since preschool or kindergarten. So they have very strong English skills already. I am working with them on things that I learned in English classes in high school. We do composition, grammar, and speaking.

Around town and with the teachers at the school I speak Spanish. I’m able to speak pretty well now, especially simple things like ordering food or buying something. And I can understand pretty much everything, as long as I’m paying attention and I’m not too tired.

Do you live alone or with a roommate?

I live alone, but I have neighbors that I talk with frequently.

How do you get around town?

The school owns a bike that they are letting me use for the year, so I generally ride my bike to school and church, and generally around town when I’m out during the day. If I will be out in the evening (always with other people), I either get a ride with a friend, or take a taxi – they are everywhere.

What foods do you miss most from the USA?

Pumpkin pie, In-N-Out burgers, Pepper Tree Frosty Milkshakes, and anything my mom makes.

Do you stand out with your blond hair?

Short answer: Yes.

Do you feel a sense of danger?
I don’t really feel a sense of danger here in Tela. I am always cautious, especially since I stand out as a foreigner, but I feel safe to be out and about during the day. It has a very laid back, beach town kind of feel.

What is the local governing group like? Do they approve of your mission work?

There isn’t really a strong governmental presence in Tela. There is an presidential election coming up in a few weeks, so I see lots of posters up for the candidates, and sometimes there are groups of supporters out with banners and signs and things. From what I understand, the government doesn’t have a problem with mission work within the country.

Have you figured out a daily routine yet? If so, what is it?

I have a pretty regular routine. I wake up around 5:30 and get ready for school. I leave my house by 6:35 and ride my bike to school, which starts at 7:00. I usually leave school by 2:45 or 3. On Wednesdays I head right back at 4:00 for Discipleship (Bible Study). On Thursday afternoons I go with the Rector and another member of the church to a mission in a nearby village for Bible Study. I also go to a gym with a three of the other teachers a few times a week. Saturdays mornings I clean and catch up on any school work. On Saturday afternoons I do absolutely nothing. On Sundays I have church in the morning and we go back out to the mission in the afternoon for evening prayer and Sunday school. Then I’m back at it again Monday morning :)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Love Never Fails

On Saturday mornings I start my day with Morning Prayer. Prayer services including Morning and Evening Prayer have long been a part of the Episcopal Church tradition, and are a wonderful opportunity to refocus your heart and mind on Christ throughout the day. Each prayer service includes Bible readings. Today’s New Testament reading comes from 1st Corinthians 12:27-13:3. In this passage, Paul discusses the various gifts given to the body of Christ: apostles, prophets, teachers, administrations, tongues, etc. He urges the Corinthians to “desire the best gifts.” When I read this I thought, ‘Okay, so I should desire to be an apostle.’ However, I think by stopping here we are missing the point.

Immediately after listing these gifts, Paul goes into his famous passage on love. He says that even if you have attained the highest gifts, it’s all pointless without love; you are nothing more than “a clanging symbol.” Love, then, should be sought above all else. But how do we seek love? What does that word even mean? Most people are familiar with the passage that follows (1st Corinthians 13:4-13), and in some ways that makes it harder to really pay attention to what Paul is trying to say. But if we listen carefully, he tells us exactly what it looks like to put on love. It’s patient and kind, does not envy, thinks no evil, rejoices in the truth, believes all things; the list goes on and on. This is what we should desire. This is the “the more excellent way” that Paul talks about. When I read this passage, I can’t help but think about how little I reflect the image of love that Paul describes. “Love never fails”? I definitely don’t measure up to that.

But there is good news! Love is not something that we have to fabricate on our own. It is a gift, something that is freely given by our Lord. God has given us each the gift of love. Jesus is the only one who truly epitomizes Paul’s description. Jesus is patient and kind. Jesus does not envy. Jesus is not provoked. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Jesus is the gift that we have been given, should we accept him. Through his death on the cross we have been given the greatest gift of all, and we have the chance to follow in his “more excellent way”.

As I sit in my room listening to the sounds of Tela, I think about the gift that I’ve been given and what it means. Even on the days when I am feeling lonely or frustrated, I know that this gift resides deep within my heart. I pray that God will continue to reveal to each of us how to use the gift of love in our lives.