2009 Honduras Journal

Monday, July 13, 2009

I arrived safely at Toncontin Airport in Tegucigalpa on time, without incident. Jim, Moises, Nicole, her sister Cinthia, and Karen Burgos all met me at the airport. It was the best welcome I could have had! Nicole gave me a very large card that she and Cinthia made for me. When you open it, a house pops up, with a little picture of each member of Nicole’s family, and then there’s one of me! I’m an honorary member of their family. At the bottom of the card, it says “your family in Honduras.” A lot of work went into that card. Everyone who sees it thinks it is very special and creative. I wholeheartedly agree!

Jim told me that Linda Henry wants me to talk to the women in her class at Baxter Institute. He told me she would just interview me, so I didn’t need to prepare anything. I said I would do it. Then, Moises told me that Carlos wanted me to speak to the ladies from the church, if I was willing. That took me by surprise, even more than Linda’s request. I had an idea almost immediately. Moises said the Holy Spirit would give me something to say. I knew He already had.

We went straight to the hotel and got checked in. Jim called a taxi to take us to the mall. I bought a cell phone at the Tigo store for $25, including 50 minutes. I will just bring the phone back with me every year and buy a small amount of minutes to use while I’m here. The only drawback is that everything is in Spanish, including the user’s guide. I’m going to see if there’s an English version on the LG website. If not, I’ll just look up each word and figure it out.

I’ve been thinking about Carlos’ request to talk to the ladies. I wrote a couple of pieces awhile ago that I believe I can meld into a 20-30 minute talk. With translation, that will bring it to 40-60 minutes. Moises told me 45-60 minutes, so that will work.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jim took me out to the Baxter Institute this morning, where Calvin and Linda Henry are each teaching a 2-week class. The ladies were taking a quiz when I went into Linda’s classroom. After that, she asked me to come up front. I sat down, and she started the interview. I think she only got two questions asked. The first one was about what I do for my regular job. I explained briefly what I do. Then, Linda asked me what is my favorite thing that I do in the church. I replied, “Coming down here.” Basically, this is what I told these women who are preparing to serve on the mission field with their husbands:

Each year, this trip is the highlight of my year. My friends and I have been praying about the situation in Honduras and praying that our team would be able to come. Some of my friends weren’t sure I should come. They thought it would be dangerous. The Bible doesn’t tell me that I must stay alive. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Following Jesus is not always the safest way to live, but it is the most exciting and the most “alive” way to live. If I die here, that’s okay, because I know where I’m going. Whenever I die, I hope my death will inspire my friends to follow Jesus, too.

Even though only two of us came on this trip, God will still use us, because He can use just one person. I don’t know how God will use us, just that He will.

I plan to retire from my regular job in seven years and move down here to Honduras, to live and work with God’s people. In seven years, God could change my mind, and that will be OK. Wherever He wants me to be, that’s where I want to be.

Each of the ladies told me in turn that when she graduates, she wants to be on a mission team and go wherever God wants the team to go. I told them we are of the same mind, and that even though we don’t speak the same language, we are united in Jesus Christ.

I ended by telling them about a brief piece of the movie, “Though None Go With Me.” In this movie, Elizabeth comes home from college, and wanted to leave town to go out and see the world. Then she met a young minister and started falling in love. He decided God was calling him into the Army to serve as a chaplain in Korea. When he told Elizabeth, she was very upset, but he told her that he had made a commitment to follow God wherever God lead him. He gave her his Bible. Inside the front cover, the minister wrote, “Though none go with me, I will follow.” There’s much more to the movie, but this illustrated the commitment we must each make to God.

During the ladies’ chapel time, one of the fourth-year students talked about the lessons she learned during her six-month internship. She spent three months in Panama and three right here in Tegucigalpa. She talked about the involvement she and her husband had with the church community. When someone wanted them to come, they went. If they didn’t know how to get to the person’s place, they would get someone to take them who did know the way. She encouraged the ladies to be involved with the community. She also told them it was very important that the husband and wife work together as a team.

After the chapel time, I sat in on Calvin’s class, where the new president of the school, Howard Norton, was teaching. I wish I could have heard his entire lesson. The part I heard was very interesting. He gave the students very practical tips for selecting members of their mission team. Before I came in, he talked about the formation of a mission team he was on when he got out of school. Maybe I can get Jim to tell me that story.

Two of the fourth-year students joined us for lunch at the Cascades Mall. We had pizza at Pizza Hut. It was very good.

Jim and I helped paint the rear and one side wall of the church auditorium in the afternoon. Three hours of painting was very tiring. I obviously am out of shape and getting older.

We ate at the hotel again. Henry makes great grilled ham and cheese sandwiches. While I was eating, a lady came over and introduced herself as Laurie. I told her I was Star and we shook hands. She said she was looking for someone to call my room, but then saw me and thought she would take a chance and introduce herself. She figured the worst that could happen was that I would say I’m not Star. I have exchanged a few emails with Laurie in the last few weeks since I read her profile on a blog for expatriates living in Honduras. Her profile said she was living in Tegucigalpa and the first item in her list of interests was Christianity, so I figured I needed to send her a note. It turned out she’s living right here at the Humuya in the apartments behind the inn. We visited for a little while.

Jim and I then finished eating and retired to our rooms for the night. I fell asleep sitting on the bed, with my netbook on my lap. Fortunately, it didn’t fall on the floor.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Today was my day to visit Nicole, the ten-year-old girl I sponsor through Compassion International. We had a great time, and Oscar did a great job as my host and translator. He picked me up at the Humuya Inn about 8:40 this morning. We went to the project, which is located on the church grounds. Wendy, the project director, wasn’t around, but Oscar had already talked to her. Nicole’s mother was there and gave me a big hug. Oscar introduced me to Nicole’s tutor and to the other children in Nicole’s class. I took a picture of Nicole at her desk in the classroom. Then we headed out.

Our first stop was the National Identity Museum. I had been here last year with some members of the prayer team. I paid 50 lempiras to use an audio player with recorded narrations in English for each display in the permanent room and the virtual Copan ruins. That was definitely worth the money. We moved fairly quickly through the exhibits. Oscar explained to the tour guide that this day was for Nicole and we wanted her to focus on Nicole. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but she seemed to be doing a good job. Oscar confirmed that she was doing a good job.

Mary, Nicole, and Star

After the museum visit, we went to Pollo Campero downtown to eat. This was Nicole’s choice. We walked there from the museum, so we went right through the central square where the demonstrations had been held just a few days ago. We had chicken at Pollo Campero’s and then went to the city zoo.

The zoo was small and only has local animals, but they had a jaguar, monkeys, various snakes, and other small animals. Nicole enjoyed herself. Actually, we all enjoyed ourselves. Oscar told me I was the first sponsor to come since the political unrest started. He said the month of July was originally going to be their busiest month, but everybody canceled out. He said he really missed being out in the field with the kids and their sponsors.

From the zoo, we continued up the road to the statue of Christ and strolled around the park. As it was approaching 2:15, we started back to the pickup, and a few sprinkles of rain started to fall. We were in the truck and heading to the hotel before the heavier rain came.

On the way to the hotel, Nicole said this was one of the best days of her life, and she asked Oscar how to say, “I love you, Star.” She then said it to me several times. She asked me if I would be in church on Sunday. When I said yes, she said, “I’ll be in the fourth row.” A few minutes later, she told me again, “I’ll be in the fourth row.” I think I know how to find her on Sunday!

We all went into the hotel lobby and sat for a few minutes. Jim was there, and he bought everyone a soda. We talked for a few minutes, and then I prayed for Nicole and her family and thanked God for bringing me here. Saying good-bye was hard, but we all knew we would see each other Sunday.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Today was a very relaxing day. Jim and I were ready to go by 8:30, but Moises hadn’t arrived. We waited until 9:00 and then Jim called. Moises said he would be at the Humuya in about 30 minutes. When he arrived, he told us that the labor unions were calling for everyone to stay home from work, so there was very little traffic on the streets. We talked for awhile about what little we had heard and what Moises heard.

I asked Moises if Carlos still wanted me to talk to the ladies, and he said yes. He then called Carlos to find out if he wanted me to do that tonight. Carlos said he wanted me to talk to a select group of ladies who have children in the Compassion International project at the church. He said the best time to do that would be about 6:00 Saturday evening. Moises told me Carlos said these women need some encouragement to look up in the midst of their problems. I almost started laughing when Moises told me this. I showed him the first page of one of the pieces I had decided I should use as the basis of my talk. The title is “Look to Jesus.” He nodded and said that would be good. God does work in mysterious ways.

I had planned on working on the four computers Moises had brought to the church from the old church building, and Jim was going to work with Luisli on whatever he needed help with, but Moises said the road to the church would probably be blocked later in the day because of the demonstration that was scheduled. He didn’t want us to get stuck at the church building. We didn’t exactly want that to happen, either. So, we agreed.I wanted to work on my journal and to start preparing for Saturday night anyway, so I didn’t mind the “day off.”

Linda and Calvin came over for lunch. We had a great visit for almost two and a half hours. It was a wonderful time. We ate on the patio, and the weather was great all day. Linda told us that Jim and I have encouraged a lot of people just by coming down here. I hope she’s right.

After they left, I wrote a couple of emails and then started working on my journal. Dinnertime seemed to come very quickly. Jim and I both wanted Henry’s grilled ham and cheese sandwiches again. Laurie came by, and we chatted for a few minutes. She had several meetings get cancelled today because of the demonstration. Jim offerred to take her out to Baxter tomorrow to see the school and the clinic, since she is trying to explore a variety of opportunities and make new contacts.

After dinner, it was back to the journal. Hopefully, I’ll be working on the computers tomorrow.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

This morning, we were able to go down to the church building. Everything seemed perfectly normal after yesterday’s demonstration.

I checked out the computers. They all work, but they are old. Two of them are running Windows 98 and are very slow. Jim and I discussed the possibility of replacing all four of the computers. Hopefully, that can be arranged soon.

Star checking out the computers

Nicole came by while I was working on the computers. She brought Jim and me some old photographs of Tegucigalpa. They are from the 1920s and 30s. Nicole also gave me a drawing of a princess. On it, she wrote, “Star is my princess.” As she was leaving, she reminded me that she will be in the fourth row on Sunday.

Moises took Jim, Luisli, and me out to Yaguacire to see the new feeding program and the houses the Harpeth Hills congregation built recently. We had to take an alternate route to get out of town because the route Moises started down was apparently blocked. There were too many vehicles to be able to tell what was going on. If the road was blocked by the government, or an accident, or some other group, I don’t know. Moises simply turned off that road and took a different route. We didn’t have any problems after that.

A good portion of the road out to Yaguacire is now paved. It’s very nice. That happened shortly after Mr. Zelaya came to power, apparently because he has a stable of horses in the area.

We stopped by the feeding program first. The kids weren’t there yet.

Feeding program kitchen in Yaguacire

We took some pictures and then went to see the house of Linda, one of the women who was working in the kitchen. Moises said she couldn’t believe her house was built in a week. The family had been living with her mother. The house is very nice. The two girls came home while we were there, so we were able to see inside their bedrooms. The house is small, but there are two bedrooms.

Next, we went to Carlos’ house. Carlos is paralyzed from the waist down. The church helped him get a four-wheeler so he can haul the animals he raises into the city to sell. Two rooms had been added on to the house. Moises pointed out the remnants of the room Carlos used to live in. The wall had been severely damaged by termites.

We went back to the feeding program and took some pictures of the kids eating their lunch. There were 15 children there at the time, but Moises said the program feeds 30 children. They all walk to get there; the longest walk is about 25 minutes. Moises said they recently started serving lunch on Saturdays, so the program now runs Monday through Saturday. Ana Delmira runs this program, in addition to the one in the city.

Feeding program in Yaguacire

We had a late lunch at Pollo Campero and then dropped Luisli off at the church. Moises then took Jim and me back to the hotel.

Tonight, Jim went to dinner at the home of a couple of students at Baxter. I opted to stay at the hotel so I could finally finish working on what I’m going to speak about tomorrow evening. I dozed off for a couple of hours, but did finally finish around midnight. I emailed my files to the receptionist’s mailbox, but Henry wasn’t around, so I’ll have to wait until morning to get the printouts, which is perfectly OK.

Since I finished that, I’ll be able to go painting with Jim in the morning. Moises is teaching a Bible class for the Compassion kids at 8:00, so he’ll be coming over to pick us up between 9:00 and 9:30. Carlos has some more walls to paint, so we will help with that. Then, I’ll have my “class” at 6:00.

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Saturday, July 19, 2009

This was an unusual day. When Moises came in, he said he thought his was the last vehicle to get out before the road was blocked for another demonstration. We tried to get down to the church, but the road was blocked.

So, we went to Reyna’s house. This is the house where Jim helped remove the roof so a new roof could be installed. The local workers finished installing the new roof. We took some pictures and visited for a few minutes. Then, we headed back to the hotel to wait out the demonstration.

Reyna's new roof

We had a very late lunch of spaghetti and salad. I had the spaghetti last night, so I knew it would be good. It was. I had brought some DVDs with me. Scott hooked a DVD player up to the TV on the patio so we could watch “Faith Like Potatoes.” If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s well worth your time.

After the movie was over, I went up to change clothes for tonight. Moises arrived about 5:30, and we left a few minutes later.

When we got to the church, there were just a couple of women inside, and two guys practicing music for tomorrow. I didn’t know we were going to sing songs before I spoke, but we sang for about 25-30 minutes. Then, I talked. With Moises translating, we took about 45 minutes. Mostly, I talked about faith and following Jesus. I talked about the need for having our own personal faith, rather than the faith of our parents or grandparents. I also talked about what we can do to help ourselves to continue looking to Jesus and not be anxious when bad things happen.

Moises translating while Star speaks to the ladies

When I finished, I went back to my seat and sat down. Ana Delmira came up and said God had obviously done a great work in raising me from my valley and in raising her from the valley of the shadow of death. She said He had also done a great work in some of the women in the audience. Then she said, “So God seems to even be in this circumstance to share with so many the wonderful things He has for people. I give thanks to the Lord for your life. I am very happy for you, and I know the Lord has something very special for you in the days ahead. God bless you.” Ana then came over and hugged me while she spoke to me in Spanish. I could understand “Dios te bendiga” (God bless you), but I don’t know what else she said.

While Ana was talking to me, Moises was talking to the group, in Spanish. Then he said, “There is a group of ladies coming forward, Star. They want you to pray for them.” When I looked over at him, four women had just arrived at the front of the room. In the three or four seconds it took for me to get back up to the podium, about nine more women came forward. I prayed for all of them and returned to my seat. After the final prayer, several women came over to hug me. I don’t think I’ve seen some of those women before.

Star praying for group of women

I will probably post a recording of my talk soon. My little pocket recorder did a pretty good job recording my talk, but it quit part way through my prayer for the ladies who came forward. I’m pretty sure I know why, so I can keep that from happening in the future.

I don’t really know what to say about this night. I am not amazed that God did this, just that he used me in this way. Moises said later that he had discovered another one of my gifts. He said he wants me to speak again next year!

It turned out to be a very good thing that we had eaten lunch so late, as it was 8:30 when we stopped at the mall to get dinner. I hadn’t had Wendy’s chili in quite awhile, so I had a large one tonight, but the best part was the cold bottle of Dasani water. It tasted so good!

It wasn’t until after I got back to my room and started thinking about what had happened this evening that my emotions surfaced and the tears came. I was overwhelmed. God is so awesome!

Moises is picking us up tomorrow morning for church at 9:00.

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Sunday, July 20, 2009

Today was another unusual day. It started out like a typical Sunday. Moises picked us up at the hotel, and we arrived at the church about two minutes after 9:00. There were only a handful of people there, but soon the room was full. The service started about 9:15.

We sang for about 30 minutes, accompanied by a single guitar. It was wonderful to see and hear people praising the Lord with all their hearts, ignoring the unexpected electrical outage. There were no lights, no fans, no microphones, no electric guitars. Nobody seemed to mind, even though it was warm in the room.

As more and more people came, Jim and I gave up our chairs and went to the back. People came in as late as 10:00. The ushers promptly found seats for them, and added 32 additional chairs. They also gave Jim and me chairs. Of those 32 added chairs, all but five were occupied.

Nicole and her mother were also running late today. They arrived shortly before 10:00. I was at the entrance when they came in, so I was able to greet them. They didn’t get to sit in the fourth row, but had to sit in the last row.

Occasionally, a wonderful breeze blew through the room. It felt great!

Moises had said his sermon would be short because of the power outage, but “short” in Honduras can easily be 30 minutes or more. I don’t know for sure how long Moises spoke, but it was more than 30 minutes. I would guess around 40. Interestingly, the people were listening attentively the entire time.

After the service, we headed over to Allesandro’s house. Moises had told me before the service that Wendy had told him that Allesandro had been sick so he hadn’t been coming to the project. One of the Compassion tutors knows where Allesandro lives, so she came along to show us the way. When we got there, no one was home. An elderly lady came over and told us his father had come to visit, and they went out of town. I was disappointed I didn’t get to see Allesandro and pass on greetings from his sponsor in Canada, but I was glad that he was well enough to take a trip with his father.

The unusual part of this day was in the afternoon. Jim had arranged for the receptionist at the hotel and one of her friends to get a tour of Baxter Institute. I went along because it’s a very nice, quiet place. After the tour, I spent two hours or so talking with these two young women. They are so eager to do God’s will and to honor Him through their careers. Among other things, we talked about baptism, typical ministries in churches in the United States, and some general information about how colleges work with transfer credits in the United States.

In three days this week (Tuesday, Saturday, and today), I have talked more about my faith, rather than writing about it, than in the past three months at home. Many people here are hungry for the Word of God. New Christians are on fire for the Lord. It’s exciting and inspiring to see, something I seldom see at home anymore. But, in this country, people are looking for hope, and they’re finding it in Jesus. He is the hope of the world, and these people are coming to realize that.

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Monday, July 21, 2009

Moises came by a little after 9:00. He ate breakfast, and then we loaded our bags into his truck. We went down to the church to pick up the suitcase I had brought down filled with stuffed animals. We ended up leaving the suitcase because mine would not fit inside. That meant it would cost $25 to bring it back. We didn’t think that was a wise use of our money. So, we headed out to the airport.

After getting our bags checked and paying the fee to leave the country, we visited for a few minutes with Moises, Luisli, Scott, and his wife Mimi. Then, we headed upstairs to go through security. I had a small bottle of shampoo in the outer pocket of my carry-on bag. I didn’t know it was there, since no one said anything at the San Antonio airport. Here, though, that was enough to make the security guy want to check my bag. There weren’t any other liquids in it.

The flight home was uneventful, although Jim said there was a thunderstorm off to the right, and he could see lightning hitting the ground. He estimated that if we had been five minutes later, we wouldn’t have been able to land. But, we did land.  We were on different flights to San Antonio, both of which were late departing. Jim left before I did. My plane left 20-30 minutes late, but the flight was uneventful.

This was an unusual mission trip. In some ways it was the most personally fulfilling and rewarding trip of the six I’ve taken. I’m ready to go back! Next year, God willing, I plan to spend two weeks in Honduras.

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