Thursday, February 27, 2014

Final FAQ - the Deep, Probing Questions

Over the past seven months, I have been asked a lot of questions about my decision to come to Honduras, what I’ve been doing, and how it’s all affected me. Now that I’ve had a chance to reflect a bit I’d like to share with you my answers to the some of the deeper questions.

What have you learned about yourself?
I have learned that I really like to be good at things. I am not comfortable doing things in which I might fail, or even in which I won’t be outstanding. I like to be the best, and I’ve learned that that I cannot always be the best. In fact, I will practically never be the best. For example, I have been working really hard at improving my Spanish, but I will always speak Spanish worse than anyone else at my school. Besides one other teacher, who has lived and worked in Honduras for nine years, everyone is a native Spanish speaker. It is ridiculous for me to try to speak Spanish as well as they do. What I’ve learned, though, is that just because I won’t be the best doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try. Although my Spanish isn’t perfect, I have improved enough to have conversations where I both understand and am understood. That’s a great accomplishment for me. All I can ask of myself, and all God asks of me, is that I try my best to use the gifts I’ve been given. With that in mind, I have learned that while I am not the best at everything, I capable of more than I think I am.

What have you learned about the character of God?
I think the most important thing that I’ve learned about the character of God is that God is there. God has made his presence known to me in a more intimate way over the past seven months. While my time in Honduras has been amazing, it has also been the most challenging experience of my life. Not only has God been with me through the difficult and joyous times in Honduras, God has been with me throughout my entire life. Even more, God is not just with me – God was in Honduras before I ever got here. God dwells within each of us. This is something that I have known intellectually for a long time, but have been amazed again and again as I grow to realize what that really means. And in a time of my life that is full of new experiences, uncertainty, and homesickness, it has been a blessing to have God as a constant in my life.

How has your relationship with God changed?
My relationship with God has changed quite a bit, but I would just like to talk about two main things. First, I see God in unexpected places more often. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I am experiencing so many things for the first time, so I take a lot less for granted. Second, I pray a lot more than I used to. This I think probably stems from the fact that I spend a lot more time alone than I ever have, since I am living alone for the first time in my life. It’s not necessarily that I “say more prayers” so much as I am in conversation with God throughout the day. And while I have a long way to go, I think I’m finally beginning to understand what it means to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
I thought I'd share a cool sunset picture from December

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Fluoride, Stoves, and the Face of Jesus

On Saturday, February 8th a group of 23 people from Dallas, Texas arrived in Honduras for a short term mission project. The 10 students in the Holy Spirit School senior class and I were given the task of helping them throughout their week in Tela. We helped in whatever way we were needed from moving tile, to applying fluoride treatments, to translating. If I’m being 100% honest I was a little nervous about it. Recently, I have been feeling a little negative toward short term missions. I mean, how much can you really get done in a week? I had this idea that people who come to work in a foreign country for a short time do so only to make themselves feel good. Short term missions get a lot of flak for that very reason. And no, not all short term missions trips work. But from the moment I met this group, I could see that they were different.

For one thing, this group has been a part of the community in Tela for close to a decade. They come to Tela annually and work on construction, dental hygiene, vision, and education. They split into three or four small groups every day, each of which focuses on a particular task. Each person has an opportunity to use their skills to help in a unique way. When they go to the nearby villages, they meet both physical and spiritual needs – providing fluoride treatments, eye glasses, and lunch as well as music, crafts, and a lesson. They built ecological stoves in small homes in a nearby village and painted rooms at the bilingual school where I work. They also laid tile and fixed toilets at the school. What they were able to accomplish in one week was amazing, but it wasn’t just about what they did. I was amazed by the humility with which they worked. They were not working for themselves; it wasn’t about the praise they will get when they get back home. It was really about showing the love of God to people in need. And it was about building a relationship. I saw the face of Jesus in these missionaries and in the the children and families we worked with again and again. Although they are only here one week out of the year, they have gotten to know a lot of the children and families over the years. It was fun for me to see them reunite after a year apart. This is what mission is really about – the relationship.
It was a challenging week for me, but not for the reasons I foresaw. It was exhausting, but reenergizing. Seeing so many people who are dedicated to sharing the love of God to the people of Honduras reminded me that I was sent here for the very same reason. It’s not about what I do, but the love with which I do it. It’s not about how many classes I teach or if I’m the best English teacher my students have ever had.  Yes, I am here to teach, but more importantly I am here to share the love of God with my students, my neighbors, the other teachers. I am here to get to know them, and so that they can get to know me. My prayer for the rest of my time here is that I will continue to see the face of Christ in the people I work with, and that I might be the face of Christ in return.

I want to say thank you to the people of St. Michael and All Angels, Dallas, Texas for reminding me of why I am here and for being an example of Christ to me and to the people of this community. It was an honor to meet and work with you.

Here are a few pictures from the week!

Fitting people for eye glasses in the village of San Martin
Craft time!
Teaching the children of San Martin about Saint Francis. Hopefully my Spanish was good enough to be understood!
Our afternoon group in the village of El Sauce (read Sow-say)
The kids having fun on the playground. It had rained that morning, so it was a little flooded.
My new friends from El Sauce. They are all siblings, Karen (4th grade), Walter (3rd grade), and Iris (5th grade). I was very impressed by them. Karen's job at home is to cook dinner. Iris makes the tortillas.

Making music with tambourines.
These children are either too old (public schools only go through 6th grade) or unable to afford school, so they waited outside the classrooms in the village of Campo Elvir for fluoride treatments. A couple of the other team members and I had the opportunity to hang out and play guitar with them while they waited.
This was our first fluoride recipient of the day. He had to get his done early because he had to go to work.
Singing songs with the children at Campo Elvir.
Thanks for reading :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

35 Things

Six months ago today, almost exactly to the hour, my sisters and niece, Jordyn, were coming into my room to wake me up. I was leaving that night for Honduras, and they had planned a special day for us. I got up and got ready to go to the Wild Animal Park. I had fun hanging out with my parents, sisters, and niece. My brother and brothers-in-law couldn’t make it, but we all got together that evening for dinner and a final farewell before we headed down to the airport for my red-eye flight. It was a very surreal feeling knowing that I wouldn’t see them for a year. I had never been away from home for so long.

I remember after 3 weeks here I would think every day, “This is the longest I’ve ever been away from home.” I’m not sure when I stopped thinking that, when making it through another day was no longer an amazing accomplishment. But slowly life here just became life. I stopped noticing that everyone around me was speaking another language. I stopped missing my dishwasher every time I did dishes. I stopped noticing that water sloshed on the underside of the taxi as we drove through yet another flooded road. I stopped noticing that there were 5 people on a motorcycle, none of them wearing helmets. Somehow, things that were quite shocking to me when I first arrived became normal. When my parents visited just after Christmas, it reminded me again of just how different some things are here than they are in the states.

So, in honor of reaching my half-way point, I thought I’d make a list of some of the things that I have experienced for the first time since coming to Honduras.

Before coming to Honduras I had never:

1.  Lived alone.
2.  Milked a cow.
3.  Preached in church.
4.  Ridden a bike to work.
5.  Passed a horse-drawn cart while riding my bike.
6.  Sat on a fold-down seat next to the driver over the stairs on a bus.
7.  Hand-washed clothes in a washtub.
8.  Danced Punta (traditional North Coastal Honduran dance).
9.  Swum in the Caribbean Ocean.
10. Been delayed overnight due to a cancelled flight.
11. Read the Bible lesson in Spanish during church.
12. Taught English class.
13. Celebrated Children’s Day.
14. Eaten a baleada (typical Honduran meal/snack)
15. Cooked plantains.
16. Seen a monkey in the wild.
17. Gone more than 3 weeks without seeing my family.
18. Stayed with a host family (during language school).
19. Been bitten by an ant.
20. Swum in natural hot springs.
21. Held a macaw.
22. Pushed a toad out of my house with a broom.
23. Picked a coconut.
24. Monitored a Spelling Bee.
25. Tried star fruit wine.
26. Been in a mangrove forest.
27. Eaten a freshly picked coffee bean.
28. Spent Christmas away from my family.
29. Been shocked by a shower head.
30. Picked wild cilantro.
31. Made a cake from scratch.
32. Eaten pan de coco (coconut bread).
33. Been a translator.
34. Exchanged U.S. dollars in a pizza place.
35. Made tortillas by myself.

Some of these are silly, but I really have seen, done, and learned so much since coming to Honduras. I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given to grow, experience God in new ways, and hopefully make a difference along the way. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead in the next six months. Thanks for all your support and prayers!