Friday, June 28, 2013

Man Down Girl Down Everyone Down

The crowd around the breakfast table this morning was greatly diminished. roughly half of our group had serious stomach issues and would need to stay at the compound today. We would be spread thin. After a short devotional, we loaded up and rode into Santa Ana to drop some off to work with the church and others to build. The road to our building site was mostly sand. The sunlight glittered off it in places like the ground was filled with paparazzi and their camera flashes were out of control. It was beautiful and disorienting at the same time.
Our build site was on the edge of a hill over looking another hillside covered in rows of windmills. Their blades spun lazily in the wind. A family of horses casually chewed grass to our left. Their nays and whinnies carried through the air. Our ground was soft. Our post hole diggers were hungry chewing deeply into the earth. We hit a rock. After slapping at it with a  heavy metal bar we decided we'd have to dig it out. The ground moved and shifted as we dug four bars beneath the stone. It was a stubborn tooth that would not come out. It was huge! We pulled it out and watched it roll down the hill.
We set our posts and had no wood. That was ok. It gave us a minute to rest. The sun was hot and our small number of workers finished the day burnt and tired. We were happy to have provided a home for a twenty year old member of the church. His preacher showed up towards the end of day and prayed with us.
Billy presented his, "the story" series to members of the church while Edna and Romana worked with the ladies. Seven studies were set up for tomorrow and our women were all greatly encouraged. After preaching, Billy, Cisco, and Don returned to casa to build the playground. The evening set and the playground still wasn't finished. 

Welcome to Honduras

We have a saying in Honduras when Murphy's law kicks in and all our well made plans unravel. "Welcome to Honduras." There are always a couple of days like that on every trip. Today was one of them. Many of you may remember the weight of the playground equipment our church purchased to put up at the Casa de Esperanza. After moving it four times I can assure you we do. We moved it so many times that the box ruptured and spilled its contents all over the ground like candy out of a broken pinata. That's probably why we failed to notice that are bag of screws and nuts was missing when we strained mightily one last time to put it all in the back of a truck this morning.
Our plan today was to spend some time at Casa and then travel up a mountain road to a small church near its peak in the afternoon. We arrived at Casa, took out all the boxes of playground parts, and began sorting them. Under Billy's careful instruction we laid out pieces of wood in the order they would be needed and labeled each section. Things were going smoothly and we were ready to begin putting everything together. Unfortunately we had no screws, no bolts, and no special connectors. That tiny important box was picked up along with several other boxes meant to go to a warehouse in tegucigalpa forty five minutes away. It was locked up and the only one with a key was Marc Tindall. He was at the dump and we were out of luck.
We were flexible and decided to go on up the mountain. Some of us were wary after a harrowing experience driving mountain trails at the first of the week. We climbed to a height of seven thousand feet. It was a spot, that on a clear day, would reveal the ocean. After dropping some things off at the church and and receiving the thanks of an extremely enthusiastic preacher we walked a trail to the mountains edge and looked out over the lush valley below.
Life is everywhere in honduras. The landscape is a canvas of many shades green dotted with vibrant reds and yellows. Plants grow on the plants and bright flowers erupt from their stems. A few of us walked a tiny dirt path to a secluded edge and sat on some rocks. We spent time in prayer and were encouraged.
When we returned to Casa the parts were there but time was short. We went to work, some of us playing with the children while others were drilling holes. Evening was coming quickly and Progress was slowly being made. We'd have to leave the rest for tomorrow if we could squeeze it in between a house build and ladies class at the church.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Daniel Morphew's Experience

Daniel Morphew's Thoughts on our tripDay 1:
It's hard to describe the feelings and anxieties that occur before beginning a mission trip and the fact I've never been on a mission trip doesn't help at all. I did a lot of praying before our departure and while i was planning this through. The first day seemed to go well and our travel was good. My mother-in-law, Jodi, was delayed but I believe she was the only person who was slowed down. Since this was the only issue that arose I would definitely say that God was looking out for us. At the airport in Honduras we met up with the other TORCH members and secured our luggage on the bus. Now most people would assume that the bus would be right out front but not in honduras. It was parked in a lot with a bunch of other buses and cars. It was more like a sardine car lot as close as they were parked together. This lot was located away from the entrance kind of like the rental lot would be at most airports. either way, once our belongings were safe, we set out for nourishment. There were a handful of fast food places nearby. Most of us went to Church's Chicken while the rest went to Burger King. If you thought deciding what to order was hard in the states then you should try ordering when you can't read or speak the language. I ordered a simple chicken, or pollo, sandwich combo. I was told to make sure and get my drink with no ice. This would make sure I could function normally the next day. There are so many things we take for granted each day and they become evident when we leave our comfort zone.
Dinner went well and then we were off to Julio's, this would be the place we would lay our head until the twenty ninth arrives. Now I know a lot of people think Columbus, MS is crowded with traffic but it doesn't even compare to the traffic here in Honduras. The amount of people honking their horns is outrageous and almost amusing at the same time. It is definitely a game of, "He who has the biggest vehicle wins." Thank goodness we were in a bus. Some lane changing and a lot of honking later we arrived at Julio's.
From the outside everything looks very modern and convenient. Julio has a nice house and it is way more than I ever expected or deserve.
Oh, I forgot about our "great box relocation". Before arriving at Julio's we went to Mi Esperanza to gather our boxes that came over in our container. We were lucky that someone had unloaded them into a room for us but we now had to sort and move them. It didn't take too long but I know there were times when I moved the same box at least three times. We managed to get all the boxes we could loaded onto three trucks and the bus we were in. The rest of the boxes would stay behind until another day.
Now back to Julio's. I was saying that everything was very nice. We have a great room for dining, nice bedrooms with bathrooms, and a staff that even cooks for us. God is truly taking care of us on this trip. Everyone is so friendly and glad to meet you. It just goes to show you that a smile goes a long way. I say that because I don't speak spanish. Well, after all the traveling, I was definitely ready for bed. The next day would involve a house build and a trip up the mountain

Peaks and Valleys

After a meal of eggs and bacon or maybe just peanut butter we loaded the bus and made our way to hospital escuela. (hospital school where people training to be doctors learned their trade by giving medical care at a reduced price). We'd already loaded hundreds of diaper bags on our bus in boxes and quickly pulled them from the rear of the bus while a parking attendant fussed and prodded our driver to get out of the parking lot.
Loaded down with our boxes we marched into the hospital and climbed the four flights of stairs leading to the maternity ward. Two guards sat behind a desk at the top of each flight of stairs. They directed us to the ward and we began unloading bags so that our ladies could deliver bags full of diapers, children's clothing, bottles, and formula. 
Whenever a box is opened in honduras people take interest. They show up out of nowhere as if there is a secret network of  informants making sure everyone knows there are good things to be had. Our ladies ventured off into the maternity ward to encourage the fifty seven new mothers resting six to a room. The youngest, a mother of twins, was fourteen years old. One woman lay in her bed alone, blankets pulled up to her face. She was emaciated and stared at the wall with a vacant look in her eyes. She had lost her baby.  
Our boxes of bags were piled side by side in a hallway outside the ward with two silver plated elevators side by side. I did my best to keep bags ready for our girls as they entered and exited the ward. The rule, to avoid chaos, is that we don't give items out of the boxes to people who walk up and ask. I was dreading having to turn them away. An older woman with a milky cataract eye came up to me first asking for a bag. I told her i couldn't but that she could get one in the maternity ward. As soon as she left I felt hardhearted and terrible. I prayed that God would bring her back so i could sneak a bag to her and then couldn't say no to anyone else after that. shortly, while Edna was reloading, the older woman returned and Edna immediately gave her one.
After all the bags were gone, a few of us went down to the children's cancer ward. They sat in a medium sized room with iv's in their arms receiving chemotherapy. Some were babies and others were in their teens. Matthew had a deck of cards and after a little talking we explained the game of, "go fish". Two girls watched us from the other side of the window and slowly inched towards the entrance. When they got close enough we invited them to play with us. They laughed and laughed as we told them, "pescar". (to fish)
Matambritas (hunger killer) is an incredible hamburger joint in down town Tegucigalpa. Some of the more interesting concoctions are theRed hot Chiri Papas (chili fries), Chuck Norris (an extremely spicy burger) the Pious Maximous (a double chicken breast sandwich) and the pio rio (a hamburger and chicken breast burger).  We all stuffed ourselves and headed off to the school for blind kids.
The blind school is always a real joy. The children are well taken care of, well behaved, and full of happiness. Frankie, a seven year old with some sight, was quick to grab my hand and ask to play soccer. A plastic ball full of rice makes enough noise for these children to locate it and allow them to play. They don't let off either. They run full on towards the ball and kick it towards their friends with uncanny accuracy. The most uplifting part of being at the blind school is hearing them sing. All the children sing like angels. We were all  uplifted.
Aside from candy, the children love to receive stuffed animals with lots of different appendages. As I sat soaking up the notes of one of their songs one of the men who runs the school came up to a boy sitting at my table. Being blind as well, he ran his hand down the boys arm until he found the hand that held a stuffed pokemon doll. The doll was plush with long pointy ears, short horns, fat legs, and a tail with a bulb of fuzzy fur at its apex. I watched as this man slowly slid his fingers along every bend and stitch of the toy. It was fascinating. I felt a little like I was trespassing, peaking into their world, as i watched him seeing this object. I tried to imagine what he was picturing as he felt along the edges of the strange animal. I wondered if his mind created pictures or if he had a mental catalogue of different textures to compare the animal to. God has given him an ability to see in a way I can never fully understand. It made me realize how much I still have left to learn.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sweet Reunion

Our return to Los Pinos was a sweet reunion. Many of our ladies gathered at the church ready to celebrate the women who work as their teachers. They carried foot baths, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trays full of fresh pineapple and watermelon. Also, in boxes hauled up the mountain, were stacks of vbs materials that Janae, Mary, Chris, Anna, Ellen, Matthew, Jeanette, and Daniel worked late into the night preparing coloring books and tiny plates on popsicles that had the face of a blind man on one side and a seeing man's face on the other.
By the time we reached our build site, a house for one of the teachers at the church, we found that someone had already dug the holes for our posts. AND THEY WERE PERFECT! The fact that our wood had not arrived was not perfect. After thirty minutes of slapping fire ants and and joking around the truck arrived and we went to work alongside many Hondurans. Their stamina put us to shame. 
Enthusiasm was contagious inside the church building at Los Pinos. Women laughed and hooted as they shared stories with one another. Billy and Cisco had a Bible study with a family during the revelry and, to hear him tell the story, the women were all going so crazy with laughter that he thought there must have been a Bunko game going on. Actually the Honduran women came prepared to share a lesson of their own and blessed our ladies so much that they never had time to do all they had planned. When God writes the script the story always winds up better.
Chris stood on the roof of our almost finished home, hammer in hand, ready to pound roofing nails into layers of tin. Clouds were beginning to darken in the sky threatening the downpour to come. It was 1:30 and we were three hours faster than Saturday. By 3:30 we were praying with a family of four inside a fully completed home. Don Cole brought in a picture of the family that donated the money for the house along with a brass template that the family proudly chose to display on their door front. 
Back at the church VBS was in full swing. Over a hundred children sat side by side in the auditorium listening to Ramona translate Edna's stories. Our ladies had their hands full trying to keep everyone and everything in order. The children were fidgety and eager to get on to the crafts but came away knowing the story of Jesus healing a blind man by rubbing dirt on his eyes. 
A family across from the church building held a special place in Cisco's heart. The mother had a skin condition and was covered in large bumps kind of like the skin of an ostrich. Her three daughters are now sixteen years old and younger. Two of them spent the day at the church while one stayed in the home. When Cisco asked about her the mom told him she was in the house and hadn't come out of it for weeks. Cisco asked permission to visit her and went inside to talk. After a few minutes conversation Cisco asked if the family had food for the night. She said, "no." Cisco told her if she would come out with him that he would get food for her and the family.
As Cisco and the young woman's daughter walked the dirt road to the pulperia (store) she pointed to the pink hat Cisco's niece had begged him to wear and asked if she could have it. Cisco told her he'd been asked by many people and how special the hat was and that he couldn't just give it away to anyone because it had to be someone really special. They continued to walk and she asked again. He said that he couldn't. They bought a huge pepsi and some snacks and headed back to the home. After speaking with her a little more it was time to go. As he got up to leave he removed the cap and placed it on her head. She looked up at him puzzled and said, I thought you were waiting to give the hat to someone special. He smiled as he left and said, "I just did."

Down in the valley

People in Honduras sing to God the way most of us only dare to do in our showers. They sing off key and off rhythm at the top of their lungs with unbridled undeniable passion. Somehow, what should sound like chaos, instead grips our hearts in a way that both exposes our own pride and leaves us longing to cry out to our Savior in the same way.
Our Sunday morning service was completely in Spanish and facilitated by a student from the Baxter Institute (a university dedicated to helping students become preachers). Even though the spoken language wasn't understood by many of us we all came away knowing what was said. The lesson centered on being the light of the world. Cisco followed it up with a passionate plea calling us all to reach out to our friends who are falling away.
We hugged or shook hands with our brothers and sisters and loaded up on the bus to head out to the valley of the angels. 
Beaded bracelets, clay pots, coconuts carved out and painted to look like monkeys, jewelry,  and woven hammocks line the walls of every tiny shop in the the valley of angels. Each doorway hosts a woman inviting passers by to enter in and browse the goods inside. People are everywhere, many of them from the US. Anna Evan's eyes opened wide when she walked into a shop as a group from her church in Tampa were walking out. She was happily reunited with friends she hadn't seen in seven years. The Christian world truly isn't so big.
Rested and ready we returned to the mission house eager to get back to work the next day. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Go tell it on the mountain

The whimsical high pitched calls of birds in animated discussion roused us from our bunks Saturday morning.  We lined up along the stainless steel counter to receive scrambled eggs, beans, and sausage, or in my case peanut butter, eager to begin the day. That meant carrying massive quantities of boxes prepared for the community of Los Pinos (the pines) to our bus. The ladies were excited to spend the day with women from the congregation discussing teaching techniques. Billy and Cisco were fresh out of coffee, (they have a saying. "We came here for two reasons: To drink coffee and to share Christ. And we're fresh out of coffee") and prepared to work hand in hand with the minister while sharing "The Story" and setting up Bible studies in the community. Everyone else? We were going to build a house.
Our 45 minute bus ride was permeated with repetitive mantra of Daniel Morphew's, "I'm not ok with this" as we swerved around vehicles and pedestrians alike. Each time he spoke our grins grew wider. Serpentine rail free mountain passes rank number two on his top ten list of fears so his nerves were completely shot by the time we reached the steep dirt road leading to Los Pinos. He looked out the bus window and over the edge of the chasm on his side of the bus just as we hit a huge gap in the road. He let out a sharp squeal and was on the other side of the bus and practically sitting in Mary Wilcox's (Ellen Mock's sister) lap before the vibrations from the impact had subsided.
After reaching the church our group went straight to work. Billy and Cisco set up a Bible study with a family Cisco has known for years and Edna's team began rounding up the ladies and sharing teaching ideas. The rest of us made a quarter mile trek to our build site. Both out of shape and unused to the altitude, we were all breathing hard by the time we reached the top. 
The view from our build site was a canvas of lush green mountain peaks. Some were topped with rows of windmills whose blades stretched 30 feet in length. From our vantage point they seemed small enough to hold in our hands like a child's pinwheel. That mountain rage so far away was the very one holding our mission house. As I stared at it a heartwarming thought entered my mind. Every day when the family who would live in this home opened their window they would be looking at the mountain we'd come to them from.
If you've ever tried to dig through rock with a plastic spoon then you can probably imagine how we felt after a couple hours pounding away with a heavy pointed bar in our attempts to pound two foot deep holes for the posts of our homes. Each of us took turns lifting the heavy bar above our heads and then driving it down onto the surface of the stone surrounding our build site. Inch by inch we chipped away while neighborhood kids and the family we were building for cheered us on. They really stared at us more than they cheered. 
Finally our posts were in and the clacking of hammers on nails filled the air. Before long (7hrs later) we were done. I can't really explain to you how overwhelmed the family was when we all gathered inside their 16x15 foot home to pray. We took photos with the family and then Maximo, the father, asked to lead us in another prayer. He was overcome with emotion and joy thanking God for providing the home as tears flowed freely down his cheeks. After saying our goodbyes we returned to the church just as the preacher finished baptizing one of the family members Billy and Cisco had studied with that day.
We got back on the bus eager to celebrate and share all that God allowed us to participate in and also ready for our first trip to a grocery store. After loading up on Dr Peppers, bread, chips, and other necessities we returned to the mission house eager for supper, warm showers and soft pillows. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Boxes and boxes

Our Delta pilot promised us the ride of our lives. He delivered. We stared out of our cabin portal across the wing of the plane trying to measure a distance between mountainside and wingtip that could be calculated in inches. Our stomachs lurched as he dropped altitude and swerved like he was racing through rush hour traffic.  applause rang out in the cabin as the jet's wheels hit the tarmac. All the while I was thinking, "Why are you fools clapping? We haven't stopped yet."
Many of us felt like stars as we exited the plane and walked down a set of roll out stairs onto the runway the way owners of private jets do. With everyone's bags were accounted for except Billy's, actually we found his bag right away but he kept denying it was his,  we were on our way. Florida's favorite son, aside from Tebow, Cisco had joined us after several years away and we were ready to go to work. We stepped out of the airport and saw what I never thought we'd see in my lifetime.  A shaved headed Mark Connell directed several Honduran's who's  hands reached for our bags and marched off towards our bus  like ants taking food from a picnic. 
Growling stomachs dictated our next move. We played frogger darting through traffic in an effort to cross the street and get to either Little Caesar's, Burger King, or Church's Chicken. 
Sated, we piled into our bus and headed to our first worksite, the Mi Esperanza warehouse. Emily Chaffin's bright smile and infectious laugh carried through the air straight into our hearts as soon as we walked in. We were all so excited to hear her news. She told us how she'd fallen in love with another missionary and that they were engaged. Just kidding Phyllis. She was very happy though. 
In the warehouse boxes of various sizes were stacked from floor to ceiling in a haphazard fashion. Everyone of them had been passed to us through the hands of our own church members. Thank you for all the many hours of collecting and organizing spent making sure we'd have what we needed.
After filling the back of our bus with boxes as well as two large cargo trucks and made our way to Julio's Mission house eager for our first cup of Honduran coffee. Dinner was served and we went off to our rooms and a glacier cold shower. The sound of rain lulled us to sleep as we closed our eyes dreaming of our first full day in Honduras.