Organic community…

IMG_5779It was a Friday.  Our group had traveled through 7 days of mission-trip-bonding, and we found ourselves in the community of Las Bresas.  We were told by our group leader that we were bringing supplies in a pick up truck (i.e sand and 8 bags of cement mix).  We would use these supplies to give a family of 5 something they never had before – a floor other than dirt.  But what transpired in our time there was so much more than dirt.  We shared more than a little bit of sweat labor.  We shared life… for a day.

It was late morning as our bus slowly bumped along a path barely wide enough for our vehicle.  It pulled to a stop and one-by-one we filed out and were welcomed by a few of the neighbors, and before we knew it, a large number of children and Mommas were gathered to meet us.  We enjoyed sharing a few trinkets, a few treats, and a few stories and then slowly walked further back to where make-shift homes were gathered under trees.

We met a family.  Dad, Mom, son, and two young daughters.  They did not know we would be arriving today, and at the sight of our truck, Momma began to weep, and then she started tidying her home for her visitors and workers.  Through an interpreter our leader talked about where we were from and why we were here, and then we divided into groups.  Some stayed to help with the labor of the floor, others gathered to visit with neighbors and share about the gospel of Christ, others found themselves playing with the children, and others followed those who had gathered as they invited them to their homes.  Hands and feet.  Those led in the moment of where they felt their hearts compelling them to go.  And it was a beautiful sight.

IMG_5709For those working on the cement floor, water was needed to mix the materials, so with buckets in hand, they walked down an open path to the river nearby.  To get to this River, one passed a field of cows, a horse could be seen walking by, and the smell of pigs were in the air.  When arriving to the river, I looked over and saw people gathered to wash their clothes.  When I looked to the right, I saw men gathering supplies from the river, and a type of pipe system had begun.

It it was a beautiful sight.  Community gathered to use the natural resources provided to their village.  And in a small way, we were there to just be part of it all.

While some worked on mixing the cement, I went with a group of people to visit an older lady at her house.  As we began to talk, we learned of her story.  She’s 74 years old and she’s a Momma to 9 children.  Her husband passed away over 20 years old, so she lives in this home with her son.  She attended a church just down the road, and she had this aura of peace about her.  It made it that much more shocking to learn than three of her sons had been murdered.  Even more so, she leaves the judging to the Lord as one of the murders lives just across the street.  One child died early on in life, and another was “lost”.  Her son came home for lunch and he too carried this sense of peace about him.  In the midst of chaos, ultimate trust in the One who creates all His children was prevalent in such a tangible way.

IMG_5746After lunch we came back to work some more, and we also brought more supplies with us.  We noticed that a family of 6 had a home that consisted of a hammock strung between two trees, and that was it.  Someone had asked if we could create a temporary shelter for them in this their rainy season, and so we purchased a tarp.  With a bit of string we gathered, we were able to secure it to some tree posts to create a roof, and had some leftover to create a wall as well.  I must admit, we stumbled and bumbled and they respectfully watched.  We had no tools, no staple gun, no duct tape.  In fact, at one point, I asked it one gentleman wanted to assist in using some rope to secure one end.  I had a feeling we could watch and learn.  And we did.

While attempting to help, I noticed a Momma watching from nearby.  I felt drawn to her, strangely uninhibited by the language barrier, I attempted in very broken Spanish to ask a few questions.  I noticed she had a fire going and was cooking.  She proudly showed me the meager helping of vegetables she was stewing in her pot.  And she smiled.  And I smiled.  And I gave her a hug.  Well done Momma.  And I asked to see her house.  And she walking me into a small, dark space, dirt floors, well taken care of.  In one corner was a medium bed and a small bed.  In the other corner was a hammock and a few clothes hung along the wall.  And she told me she has 6 children.  And she smiled.  And I smiled.  And I gave her a hug.  She was proud of her family.  Thankful for the home she had been given.

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And then we visited another family.  This morning we learned that twin boys lived in this home.  Their Mom needed to take an antibiotic that had dried up her milk.  It had been awhile since those babies had milk.  So, we brought some formula and some clothes, bought a few toys, and simply wanted to give out of the abundance we’ve been given.  All credit to God because He is the great provider.  And that Momma hugged and wouldn’t let go.  And she said she is grateful to God for bringing us here.  And I wanted to say, “No, sweet Mama.  I am grateful to Him for bringing us here to you, for I am receiving far more than anything I could give.”

IMG_5729And the children gathered.  And I looked into their sweet faces, told them hello, asked them their name and how they were doing, and they reached for my hand and simply wanted to be in our presence.  And they had so much joy!  I couldn’t stop smiling, it was just so contagious.

IMG_5738One precious girl was fascinated with my yellow hair.  She looked into my blue eyes and called me beautiful.  I asked her to see her house.  And she walked me to her humble home where I met her father.  And she was tiny.  Tiny for 11 years old.  And it was as if I could see her future, and see the plans the Lord has in store for her.  Though in human eyes, she didn’t have or own very much, the eyes I looked into held all the hope in the world.  She stole my heart.

IMG_5776And then I looked to my right and I saw her.  She had met us at the bus two days prior, and in the same moment of being greeted and asked their name, she grabbed my hand and walked with me, leading a few others to houses we shared in earlier.  And today she was wearing a school uniform.  And she hugged me fiercely.  And she was a leader.  And I thought to start a game, a game my girls enjoy.  Face-to-face we clapped hands in rhythm.  And her face lit up, and in a cross-cultural moment, we were jiving to a Spanish tune.  And soon others joined.  And then I was invited into the “circle”, literally.  A rousing game of “duck, duck, goose” ensued, and then I learned a game in which each child in a circle counted to 9, with the tenth person attempting a slap to stay in the game, and then someone stood in the middle, and questions were asked, and with the right response, everyone scattered – run, they told me and grabbed my hand.  I laughed so hard, and the Mommas stood around shaking their head at this loco gringa.  And I wondered, when was the last time the Mommas got to play?  And we took lots of pictures.

IMG_5741IMG_5740And my heart was so full as I looked around at the community of God – different colors, different sizes, different ages, different languages – all made possible through the love of Christ.  And as we gathered in closing, praying together and celebrating a day of work and play, this precious family was overcome with emotion as they confessed their sin and welcomed Christ into their lives, receiving His salvation.  Because His love is irresistible.

IMG_5786And my heart was full.  And before parting, the little girls received a small gift of clothes.  These clothes once belonged to a little girl who is a friend of mine.  Her Momma and Father adopted her from China.  Her Momma dropped these clothes off to me just a few days before leaving.  These little girls cherished their gifts and sat down to admire their new items as any other girl would do.  And I gave that Momma a hug, and lingered just a bit longer.  Their lives were changed in more ways than adding a simple floor.  I will she her again in eternity.

And as we boaIMG_5794rded the bus, the sweet leader of a girl ran to me, grabbed my hand, and so proudly wanted me to meet her Momma.  And I gave her a big hug.  And I wanted so much to tell her how proud I was too meet the Momma of this big-hearted girl.  And she humbly looked at me and asked if I had any sandals left for her.  And I JUST gave a suitcase full of flip-flops generously provided through Old Navy to the Great Commission Church, and I personally had 2 pairs of flip flops back at the Mission house, and in an act nothing short of sheer common sense,  I had something she didn’t, and so I gave.  Literally, the shoes off of my feet.  And it was the easiest thing in the world to do.  The Bible talks about a time when people shared all that they had with neighbors.  And it’s beautifully simple.  And it was perfectly natural.  Because that’s the way God’s love works.  No strings attached.  And I couldn’t wait to share with my children, all this Momma had learned from her family in Honduras.  My God is a Great. Big. God.

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Sometimes in confinement, we find freedom!

truck to prison

Love this picture… for so many reasons.  As you can see, the sky was true blue this particular Thursday.  The young girl next to me is 14 years old and attends a bilingual school.  She was riding with us to provide her gift of interpreting.  The other two lovely ladies were my roomies this week, one of which shared close sleeping quarters with me and didn’t freak out when I accidentally held her hand one evening 🙂  We’re smiling.  And we’re heading off to visit women in prison.

This decision was not reached lightly.  The evening before we found out that two ladies from the Toledo church that had visited before had other obligations this morning.  When asked about the conditions, they were very frank.  It’s a third world country, and it’s a prison.  We would be in the courtyard with the ladies and the men were free to mingle here as well.  This would need to be a call from God to go.  And so we prayed.  And each of us felt led to contact a loved one – my husband, a father, a mother.  Each one gave us their feedback, and God confirmed it in our hearts with this strange sense of peace.  Would it have been easy to stay near the Mission house and simply continue to work in the orphanage?  Yep.  But in this adventure called life, when God calls you to go, I’ve found I can yes yes with both confidence and anticipation.  And so, we did.  Our group prayed for us and for the ladies we would encounter, and we jumped in the back of a pick-up truck.

First we were driven to the church where we met up with a lady from the church who has been called to this prison ministry for the past 8 years.  I had been invited to her home for small group my last visit to Honduras, and I remember hearing her passion for this ministry.  She had a friend with her named Daisy, and so the 6 of us piled into a small car to drive to prison.  Luckily our young friend could fit on my lap as we bumped along the dirt roads, stalling in our stick shift a few times, but pressing ahead.  We listened to the conversations in Spanish as best we could, and I couldn’t help but wonder what God had in store for us as we enjoyed the humidity all the way till our arrival.

We would later drop Daisy off at her house not too far from the area we were arriving at, so it wasn’t very remote.  There was a chain gate, guarded by two women in camouflage uniforms.  Yolany waved, and they let us in with a smile.  We backed up under a tree, and piled out one by one.  I remember the sun shining and I remember thinking the building looked like any other building in town except for the large letters painted on the exterior of the building.  No barbed wire anywhere.

We walked to an awning where a gentleman in uniform was sitting at a small fold-up table with nothing put a plain piece of paper in front of him.  The two Honduran ladies greeted the gentlemen, showed them an ID and signed in.  We had zero interaction with this gentlemen at all.  We obviously were foreigners, but it didn’t matter.  We were with them… an unspoken trust.  And with that, we followed like little ducks through an open space where a metal door was pulled to the side for us.  The first face we saw was that of an older, robust woman.  Her skin was weathered, she had on an apron over her clothes.  She had this warm smile that simply invited me in.  We were greeted with a lingering hug, and a quick kiss on the cheek.  She was introduced as the “house mama” and led us directly to a small corridor.  And just as people welcomed us into their homes in the communities of Limon and Las Bresas, women pulled out chairs for us and took their own seats on a concrete bench attached to the wall.  In sitting down, we were almost knee to knee, and drying laundry was hanging just behind our heads.

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And this is where they live, 21 women.  Later we would learn that 500 men inhabit this dwelling as well.  Around the corner was a small kitchen area, and other than a guard who popped his head in once, we sat as members of this small family.  There was no agenda today.  It wasn’t a typical day to attend.  Yolany and Daisy visit every 15 days, but today God had an agenda beyond what any human could concoct on their own.  It began with a nudge.  And I just began to talk.  I don’t remember my exact words, but I do remember looking at a young girl sitting across from me and I asked her about Jesus, and with a shake of her head and mist in her eyes, she could not speak.  And I assured her that it was okay.  And I asked her if I could share my story.  And I did.  And the strangest thing happened.  My emotions slowly creeped up and threatened to spill forth from my eyes.  His presence was just so tangible there, my vulnerability so raw, my gratefulness so deep that in the midst of different languages, His love poured forth as I spoke about motherhood.

And I’m reminded of  Psalm 81:10 – I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt.  Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.

And then one of my roommates shared about her life before Christ and her life now, a past including abuse, and then the other spoke, a past including drugs and alcohol, and as tears were spilled, hands reached out, and toilet paper was passed, and the open building allowed the sun to shine even brighter.  And one by one, the ladies shared their stories.  They shared their name, they stated the reason for their incarceration, and they shared about their God.  Many were mothers.  Some had lost children, some were there for murder as a protection, one mother was even there because she took on the sentence of her pregnant daughter.  One cried as she shared about her six children who were probably wandering the streets.  She has learned to know God as her provider and is desperately clinging to God to provide for her babies as well.

And story after story, these women share about a faith that goes beyond what my mind can fathom.  They share from a soul who was once locked in a prison of selfish sin, but within this human prison, they have found the One who has set them free.  And I weep.  Lord, who am I to  be given such a beautiful, gracious gift of a faith that could move mountains, yet can’t move beyond the cell of confinement?  And I beg my mind to focus, and my tears to stay at bay as I listen intently to the heart of those who know evil and yet carry a peace and a joy.

OlgaAnd we meet a young pregnant girl.  Her name is Olga and she is due with a baby girl in December.  She has a beautiful smile.  The lady next to her nudges her to keep her in line as she speaks.  And she’s able to raise her baby here for 2 years.  And then she must leave.  And her father is in prison as well.  And my heart cries out to you, her provider.  And they will celebrate with a baby shower next week.  And your Love will be enough.

And we learn that there is a young girl sitting amongst us that has been here for two days.  And she is hearing these stories.  And as we close in prayer, we learn that these women pray together every evening and study with the Honduran ladies when they visit, and the intensity with which they pray overwhelms my soul.

And then we stand and hold hands, and in a moment, this song arises.  In perfect unity, with a sound that rises from the deep recesses of their souls, these women sing.  And this heavenly chorus lifts and bounces off the cement block walls, and it’s as if a holy hush surrounds the entire compound and all around people stop to hear.  It’s a song about a bird flying, and it flows from hearts that are free, and the holy privilege of standing there in the midst of God’s tangible love just wrecks me.  In the most beautiful way.  The sadness, the heartbreak of the consequences of sin, the repentance, and God’s complete restoration all swirl above my head in a chorus of angels and now I understand what it’s like for God to sing over me.

And it’s beyond what I could ever ask for or imagine.  In a third world country.  In a prison cell.

prison sleepAnd today I have a question for you.  Will you join me in praying for these women?  For young and old, for new believers and those yet to believe.  They spoke of the loneliness and they spoke of a deep regret.  Will you join me in lifting these women to the heavens, just as they did for me?  The God who created them, loves them with an everlasting love, may they know this today despite the dark place they reside.  May the God of hope continue to strengthen them when they feel weak.  May our God the Healer continue to do a work in their hearts.  May Yolany and Daisy be blessed for their faithfulness to this ministry.  May the arms of those who greeted us so warmly feel the warm arms of their heavenly Father today.  May they sleep well.

Thank you.

prison

Love is Irresistible.

IMG_5835 I had the ultimate joy and privilege to spend 9 days in a country very different than my own.  I had a conversation with my children before I left and asked them, “Why is Mommy traveling to Honduras?” They couldn’t quite answer, so I responded with – God asked me to go, and I said, yes.  I wanted them to know I was clear, I had peace, and when Mom has peace, children seem to have peace.  Funny how that works.

There are so many stories to share from this trip.  As a few of us shared one last meal in the airport during our layover, I asked, “What will you say when people ask you, how was your trip?”  In popcorn fashion I heard, “life-changing” “powerful” “transforming” “new perspective”.  And I would have to agree.  Such a strange notion to feel so at home in a place so far away.  I heard mention the talk of “family” there and in a way only God can bond, I can say I have familia in Honduras.

As the Lord leads, I’d love to take a few moments to share stories as my transitioning brain will allow.  We had the opportunity to each share our story, or testimony, to one another, and over and over again, His redemptive power spoke truth – His story, His love is irresistible.  He gave His life so that we may live, may we feel encouraged and inspired to do the same in sharing His story with those we encounter.

My story today is a personal one.  It took place on an ordinary Saturday, at an ordinary time, in an ordinary way.  Our weekly routine had been to eat breakfast, share devotions, and head out to our project for the day.  This day, however, we were headed to the beach!  So, dressed in swim suits, cover ups, and flip flops, we gathered our belongings to head for the bus.  Before boarding, one of our teammates announced that they were going to deliver 2 beds that were made the day before in the village of Casa Hogar Vida where we were staying.  I was visiting the prison the day the beds were made, but I felt compelled to simply help deliver them – I’m in!

IMG_5718Grabbing the front end of one of the beds, we began the trek.  At first, we walked on soft grass, then we hit a pebbled, uneven dirt road, then we turned a corner and headed down a more narrow, bumpy dirt road, we turned again and headed across a field with a foot-wide worn path, watching for mounds of fire ants, and dodging cow pies.  We slowly turned again and faced a patch of mud left from the evening’s rain.  No way around it, so through we trudged, praying our flips flops would suction to our feet and not the ground.  Soft, earthly mud oozed around our toes and splashed onto the backs of our legs.  Up a small hill we walked, and there before us were two humble dwellings.

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The first group entered the home in front, so my partner and I turned left to head into the other dwelling.  The entrance was not very tall nor very wide.  We turned the bed sideways, and very slowly entered the dwelling.  It was very quiet inside, the environment reminded me of a darkened cave as the only light came through the front entrance way.  In the corner, a small fire was burning, giving off the earthen smell and warmth of a cozy, serene environment.  A small table near the fireplace could be seen where breakfast tortillas were waiting to me made.  The only other element in the small space was a hammock strung from one corner to the other, using up the space.  Just then, something caught my eye.  In the middle of the hammock, was a sleeping child!  He had a dark mop-top-head of hair, he was laying on his back, and his lips were moving in a sucking action.  He mama had warmed him up with a gray, zipped up sweatshirt, and nothing else.  He was sound asleep, so peaceful looking.

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In a instant, I felt led to pray over this boy and for the plans the Lord had in store for him.  It was such an intimate moment, that I didn’t even dare touch his sweet head, but I came close.  His mama had been loving him and his Heavenly Father was tangibly reaching down now as well.  And then we noticed we needed to move the bed so that it would fit into the small space next to the entrance way.  This sweet one was right in the center.  And then I knew, he needed to be moved.

I gently leaned forward, slowly nudged my two hands underneath his arms, and oh-so-carefully picked him up.  Two dark-brown, round eyes popped open wide and he tried to focus on his surroundings.  So as not to frighten him, I moved him close to my shoulder and wrapped my arm around him snuggly.  He quickly gave into his tiredness and nuzzled his head into my shoulder.  And I melted.  Completely.  It was as if I stepped onto Holy ground and was given a moment of sweet irresistible love in the form of small, precious child.  I again felt led to pray, and in a moment of instinctual motherhood, I began to sing over him.  The first song that came to mind… Jesus Loves Me.  And in that moment, no one else was in the room.  It was a moment of sweet intimacy with my Jesus, and in fact, it reminded me of how He so humbly came into the world… just for me.

And the sweet young Momma joined us, and in a language that goes beyond words, we gave what little we had – time, energy, and  effort to extend a moment of love by giving her something she’s never had before in her 15 years of life – a bed to sleep on.  And we said goodbye, and we walked back through the mud, past the cows pies, and through the ants, down the rocky road, and onto the smooth path that led us to our bus.  And off we went to the beach.

And yet, when I pause, I can still feel that sweet child relax in my arms, and press into the warmth and love of His Father, simply because one young woman decided to say yes.  I entered into an adventure of a lifetime.  And that adventure extends to each one of us each and every day.  If we only listen and act.  His arms are wide, His love is great, His love is irresistible.IMG_5800baby2

Yesterday, I cried…

little girlTo be honest, I’m not one that sheds tears often.  Yet, I know that there are a few things that tug at my heart strings than no other.  One such “thing” is evidence of God’s unrelenting, unmistakable, never-ending love for his children.  I “know” that my God is a big God, but it just doesn’t filter into my daily mindset as often as it realistically should… until it does.

A few months ago, I received a clear confirmation from the Lord that He would have a plan for me to join Him on another adventure in Honduras this October.  As with other clear directives I’ve received, they don’t always include a full road map, just the “next step” in the general direction, leaving lots of room for trust along the way.

This year in the life of our family is different than last year, in several ways.  We’ve experienced a roller coaster of unemployment, employment, unemployment, and employment.  As with any roller coaster, some parts are exhilarating, some part scary, but the ride has been tremendous.  I knew that the only way this trip would happen would be for God to provide, in whichever way He chose.  Well, yesterday, I faced a date on the calendar.  One week to go and half the funds for the trip were due.  And I was short.

I felt a nudge.  I knew it was a directive for the “next step”, but it was uncomfortable.  Talking about money ranks lower than my top 100 favorite things to do.  I wan’t sure what would come of it, I even had several doubts, and yet, my desire to obey thankfully took over.  I simply typed a statement on my facebook status.  I attempted to stay on point, I attempted to make it clear, I attempted to let the Spirit lead my words.

And the immediate response blew me away.

After I typed my post on the small screen of my iPhone and clicked send, I checked my mailbox.   A check from my neighbor.  Then, a text message was sent to my husband from my father-in-law, who spent a great summer with us last year.  A dear lady from a Bible Study Fellowship group LAST YEAR responded to my facebook post.  And then I received a message in my facebook inbox.  And I gasped. Loudly.

You see, years ago, we were blessed to know a family we met at our church.  Quite simply, they had a need.  We were in a season of harvest.  The Lord prompted us to give, and it was a tremendous joy to obey.  Years later, we now have a need.  They are in a season of harvest.  And they chose to give.  Generously.  And they didn’t have to, and yet they responded immediately.  And the girl who stood in our foyer that day, shedding some tears, was now mirrored in the image of this girl sitting by her laptop, shedding tears, because that’s JUST GOD.

The God who loves us, who leads us, who protects us and provides for us, is the God who KNOWS the big picture.  And I just sat completely overwhelmed because it really takes nothing on our part but a simple gut desire to decide to trust and obey.

And after having lunch with my parents (who were oblivious to this happening), I now have the ENTIRE trip covered!

Completely and totally unbelievable.  And yet, I’m not completely surprised.  When I wondered, when I doubted, I retraced my steps to the moment He confirmed His plan, and there was peace.  And this just fuels my faith like nothing else!  And now my mind is filled with faces.  Faces of those precious people who live in a country very different than mine, and yet a part of me is still connected there.  I have no idea what lies ahead, all I know is that today I am thankful.  Today I am grateful to the one who invites and includes all of His children to be a part of His divine plan, no matter what the part – a plan that leads them to His heart, His home, His forever place beyond anywhere we can visit here.

And today, my heart can only speak a simple, yet proud word… gracias.

I GET to go again.

handsSo I prayed, earnestly and feverishly, and then I waited.  Last year, I felt the Spirit’s nudging to join Him on an adventure in a country not my own.  This year, I wanted to go, but I wouldn’t unless it was His will to send me.

And then one day I went for a run.

And He said, “Yes. October”.

And I smiled.  Big.

I’ve had a chance to reflect a bit on the the trip last year.  I’m still am a loss for words as to all that He revealed during this special time of serving.  The sheer fact that I GET to travel again is a miracle.  It’s not an entitlement, it’s a gift.  A gift only made possible by a team of prayer warriors and financial contributors.  I’ll say it again, it’s not possible without the “team”.  The Lord did not place us on this Earth to live separate lives.  He gave us each other for a reason.  And though I’m physically there, I’m traveling with an army.  I count it a privilege to simply represent the stories of His world-wide reach.  And while there, His reach extends out so personally that I’m never the same.

I read a book this evening.  In her writing of Mended, Angie Smith describes her experience overseas in such a way that it was as if she penned my own heart:

In Kolkata (Choluteca) I was her. And here, I am me again.  They didn’t know anything about me except that I had hands and that I was there to help.  It was a breath of fresh air to be used by the Lord in this way.  Everything that I have tied myself to in this life became beautifully, naturally, and completely irrelevant.

And I want to be her.

Here.

So how do we manage to combine the beautiful calling the Lord has on our lives while actually living our lives? Do you ever feel like you want to make an impact but your life doesn’t feel big enough?  This isn’t right thinking, but it is natural.  Up to this point, I hadn’t met the faces that taught me about her.  The girl who lived inside of me and wanted to be better, not because of the accolades, but because of the most exquisite peace that came from going where He led me.  Trusting Him relentlessly, with great joy.

And I liked her.

And I believe that’s where I last left off on my return to the States.  I found myself desperate to hold onto the lessons learned in a life of simple gratitude and mountain-top faith.  To feel the presence of the Lord in such a tangible way, making decisions in a spontaneous, audacious, moment-to-moment way was invigorating.  And then I returned home, and desperately grasped at ways to fit my new heart back here.  And I missed her.

And the reality is that the Lord HAS placed me here.  The truth of the matter is that impact comes from obedience – and in that case it doesn’t matter what the scope is.  I don’t have to fly around the world and rescue orphans in order to bring the Lord glory.  If that is my calling, I certainly want to be obedient to it, but it might be something on a smaller scale.  And that is okay.  In fact, it’s more than okay.  We all have “assignments”, and we aren’t being graded on how enormous they are.  We do have a responsibility to be good stewards of the situations and people that He has entrusted to us, and perhaps that needs to be our goal.

And so, I will walk around the neighborhood with the kids on a prayer walk, and we will leave special drinks for the men and women who serve us our mail and remove our trash, and we will respect our authorities, and ask the lady at Kroger how her day has been.  We will follow Christ, control-freak tendencies and all.  And until October 19th when I will GET to visit my brothers and sisters in Choluteca, I will continue to strive…

To be her.

Here.

Vamos a la playa! (Let’s go to the beach!) – Honduras 2012

We had a chance to enjoy a fun day!  The land, sights, and sounds were breath-taking!  While standing, toes in the sand in Honduras, I could look to the right and see El Salvador, and look to the left and see Nicaragua.  Three countries, one view.  Unbelievable beauty.  So surreal.

To top it all off, the ocean water was warm, there was an ever-rolling gentle breeze, and the place we visited housed several hammocks!  Quite a piece of heaven.

Revelation 14:7
Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

First thing we did?  Made our mark.  Oh yeah, Rock City was here!  Good thing we did, because we didn’t see much more beach as soon the tide came in.

 

 

I just loved these kids.  Their big hearts carried so much of Christ with them wherever they went.  They worked hard, they played hard, I never once heard any complaints.  They were a joy to meet and simply hang with.

These ladies… so wise, so mature in leaning into God through crazy life circumstances, such hard workers and givers in ways so unique to their God-given personalities.  It is a pleasure and an honor to call you friends.

This father-son combo are an awesome duo.  They worked so hard on the construction sites.  They have a language all their own, forged through life circumstances and choices.  They love life, love each other, and care for the souls of others in a passionate way.  They are rock stars in my book!

Aren’t they a darling couple!  They will be married in November.  She came to Honduras on a mission trip, and little did she know how her life would change!  I can’t say enough about these two.  They have a faith that trusts God, in all circumstances, for all that He is, and all that He asks of them.  They put in full days, and accepted it joyfully.  His ability to communicate between two language is simply astounding.  Her love and support of him and the vision the Lord has given them to share is rock solid.  They have a beauty together that defies obstacles.  Christ is the center of their relationship, and they are building a life together, working in ministry, with Him.

We sat and broke bread together for lunch… well not quite bread, but fried fish.  Eyeballs and all!  And it was good… or so they tell me.  I have a seafood allergy, and I just wasn’t sure I should chance it.  God did protect me, and I’m so grateful.  He is a true Provider, and the food served was just perfect.  I absolutely loved sharing meal times together.  We ate.  We shared.  We laughed.  One big family.

And then, it was time to go.  To everything there is a season… and this was a life-changing one.  Honduras is a beautiful country.  Hondurans are beautiful people.  The privilege to go was nothing short of humbling.  We serve a Big God.  And He loves us all the same.  I am so thankful to have taken this journey with Him and his people.

Since returning, our life circumstances have changed.  My husband and I find ourselves entering a new season.  We have questions and no answered.  But the same God who “traveled” with me to Honduras is the same God who sits on His throne today.  Glory be to Him, who was, and is, and is to come.  He is my provider, He is faithful, and He is true.  Blessed be the name of the Lord!

Challenge:  If  life pulled the rug out from underneath you, where would you land?

More than just a new roof – Honduras 2012

Our very last work day in Honduras led us up to the mountains, not far from the community of Casa Hogar Vida where we worked on building a home.  A family had a need.  Their “roof” had many leaks and was in desperate need of repair.  They’d had this need for quite some time, and today was the day.

So up the mountain we rode.  After picking up a few ladies from a nearby neighborhood, our amazing bus driver, Luis, expertly maneuvered this massive vehicle as if we were in a VW bug.  It’s barely a one-lane path and we’re carting a bunch of people AND supplies up a mountain, and I’m assuming back down in reverse.  And then, we stop.  Right in the road, we stop.  And one by one, like little ants, we grab something needed and start hiking up this… driveway.  What are we carrying?  Tables, chairs, tools, a cooler, ladder, and even a speaker.

It’s humorous in looking back, but on this last day, none of us even asked a question.  We didn’t know who these lady passengers were, we didn’t know where we were going, we didn’t know what our items we were carrying would be used for, and somehow none of that mattered.  Later we would learn that these precious ladies were from the church, and they’d come to help prepare our lunch.  We brought our own tables and chairs so that we could all sit around together “Thanksgiving-style” at meal time.  We brought our own purified water to use for cooking, and we would use the tools to demolish the old and build the new.  All while sharing some tunes together!  Community.  Family.  In real life.

I loved capturing this photo to the left.  See the “grill”?  It was build just the day before.  Why?  Because people were coming.  See the man with the hat?  That’s Luis.  Yep, the bus driver.  He’s now the grill master, and I’m telling you, that carne y pollo was hmmmm-hmmm good!  It got me thinking… doesn’t matter where in the world you are, men seem to gravitate to the grill don’t they?

While the meat was cooking, we had a variety of groups serving.  Some girls helped the ladies with the meal.  They chopped and chopped, and wow was that fresh salsa delicious!

Other groups helped with the demolition of the old roof (literally sticks woven together basket-weave-style), cleared materials, dug holes for the new posts, cut beams, and nailed a new frame, all while it drizzled.  The tiles they used were made of asbestos.  We cringe.  It’s all they had.  It will insulate well.  No codes here, just needs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While another group walked down the hill to do some evangelizing, I felt drawn to get dirty again!  During our work projects, we’d learned to watch and then simply jump in.  So, if someone is cutting wood, step in and hold it; if chunks of dirt and clay need moved, use your hands to move them; if said chucks needed to be broken up and leveled out, use a heavy log; if a post needed to be leveled, use a string connected to the house and get at eye level.  It was so simple.  And the work was hard. And I loved it. It reminded me of following my Dad around the house as he would undertake projects.  I learned by watching.  I learned by listening.  I learned by participating.  I had forgotten just how much I love that.  Until today.  True apprenticeship does still take place in this world.

Ask Anthony.  He followed his Dad to “work” today.  He has become accustomed to white people as his family.  It was beautiful.

And the skilled workers that helped lay the tile and built the frame?  We worked alongside them too, limited language to limited language.  And at lunch, we talked about Jesus.  And I met Edwin.  Edwin lived in Texas for a few years.  He greeted us in English.  While eating, we found out a bit more about his life.  He’s made several decisions in his life that led him down a path with a wheelbarrow full of regret.  He feels that he needs to clean himself up before he can go to church (one block from his home).  He reads his Bible 15 minutes every day, as penance.  Maybe one day he will have done enough to pay off his guilt, and earn his right to come back to God.  And beneath all the “coolness” he so desperately tried to exude, a deep battle raged.  And we spoke of scripture.  And I prayed.  I’m still praying.  One young man, on a roof in Honduras, trying to pay a debt that has already been paid.  One lost sheep.  And Jesus left the 99 to find the 1.

After lunch, we worked some more.  And then we were done. As we turned to continue our trek down the walkway, I felt compelled.  One way I had learned over the week to show love, despite my language barrier, was to embrace.  I’m telling you, nothing like a Honduran hug.  No words necessary.  I decided to greet the lady of the home with a smile and leave her with a hug.  I truly appreciated the lunch they worked all morning to prepare (picking food, washing food, cutting food, cooking food), and as I turned to go, she reached into her apron and she pulled out a gift.  She smiled and handed it to me.  And I smiled back.  I clutched it to my heart, said, “Muchas gracias”, held eye contact for a moment longer, then turned to go.

SHE had a gift for ME.  And she was so happy to give it.  It wasn’t something store bought.  It was made.  Time, energy, heart, and soul was donated to me – someone she may never see again, this side of heaven.  And it inspired me.  I spent the rest of the day handing out small tokens – nail polish to the ladies on the bus, candy to the workers and villagers, a necklace to our cook at the hotel, small toys for her girls that my girls had given to donate – the joy just kept multiplying.  Could I have an in-depth conversation with these wonderful people? No. But I could give, and they could receive.  No strings attached.  And it was beautiful.

God, however, arrested me one more time before leaving the mountain.  There was a woman, standing near the bus.  We had just learned that she had buried her son just two days prior.  And there was a need.  Again, beyond the physical, right to the soul.  And everyone was already on the bus, and Luis, the driver/grill master turns and says, “This would be a great time to talk about heaven don’t you think?”  Well, yes I do.  And, with the assistance of my fabulous friend Debbie, I was able to hear an English translation of the entire exchange.  Time didn’t matter.  Nothing else was more important at this moment than engaging this precious woman in a conversation about her beliefs in a loving, eternal God and Savior Jesus Christ.  She now owns red nail polish (to compliment her newly-washed feet), a reminder of the blood shed for her and for all.  I’ve prayed for her every day. And for Edwin.

And I can’t imagine ever forgetting my mountain-top experience.  And I pray that as I return to the “valley of Ohio” that these stories convict me and convince me to share the news of Jesus with those He brings my way as if their life depended on it.  Because in all reality, it does.

Challenge:  Who has the Lord placed in your path to ask – Who is God to you?  If you were to die today, where would you go?  Why?

Worship – anywhere, anytime! – Honduras 2012

This past Sunday, our pastor, Chad Fisher shared a quote from Rick Warren that I just love.  Warren says, “Worship is focusing my attention on God, expressing my affection to God, and using my abilities for God.”

Chad went on to say that when worship is all about God, it’s not about anything else.

This sums up the Honduras trip to me.  Since our return, God has created ways in which we have been able to share and process our thoughts, emotions, dreams, and desires.  We’ve each found that as God removed us from our “normals”, and placed us in a new, and foreign land, suddenly everything became all about Him in such a heightened fashion.  The closeness and presence of the Spirit was so tangible, you could feel it to the touch.

After a full day of travel to Honduras, we did not pass go, nor collect $200, we went straight to church.  And I’m telling you, Honduran people can worship!  Somehow, the hours it took in arriving all melted away as we lifted our voices, unknown Spanish words and all.  We were welcomed, and we were received with open arms!

We shared times of labor in love, we shared many moments of adventure and laughter, yet my favorite times were some of the quiet ones.  To simply sit and be still can be a little uncomfortable and awkward when you live life in fast-forward, or “what’s next mode”.  In the quiet, I find I can hear and see so much more clearly, as if a blurry lens suddenly finds its focal point.

Each morning after breakfast, we gathered for a time of devotion.  I found this to be a tremendous way to start the day.  The Lord truly gave each person assigned for the morning a message, or song, or testimony, or reflective question to ask that prepared our hearts and minds for His will in such a unique way.  That never grows old for me.  My personal God meets me, and at the same time, meets every child of His with a message that touches and draws a soul closer to His heart.  What a love.  What is does is refreshes, rejuvenates, refocus, and sets you on a laser-focus setting. Worship.  Amen!

In the afternoons, we spent time evangelizing in the neighborhood of Limon, those that surrounded the Nutrition Center. Let me tell you, these were my favorite moments.  Not because it was easy.  Not because it was comfortable. But because, in stepping out, I actually had the utmost honor of seeing, with my own eyes, hearts and lives changed for eternity.  Nothing like it.

Prayer was a big part.  We began with large group prayer, we entered with small group prayer, we prayed while we shared, we prayed after sharing, and again prayed in small groups after leaving.  Just. So. Powerful.  It was hot.  We had to draw on patience with language barrier and pauses with interpreting needs.  We asked some challenging questions.  We read some scriptural truths, en Espanol.  And my life perspective changed.

Melissa Ransom described the experience as one which drew her to a connection with Old Testament times.  In walking the dirt streets, seeing the children gather, hearing the needs for food, water, and healing, it definitely was indeed a glimpse.  In fact, I often found myself in a group with several of the “youngins”.  Teenagers – 14, 15 years old.  You could have fooled me.  They shared with the same passion and knowledge of a seasoned preacher.  No fear.  In fact, one evening, two of the boys decided to take on the challenge of 2 others tough looking chicos hangin out on the corner.  They began to engage in conversation, and before we knew it, a lady with a cake on her head stopped and began listening in.  The rest of us girls approached her and began to share, then noticed another lady had walked outside her home and sat on a chair, leaning in.  The girls rotated our little group her way, and engaged her and a friend in our conversation.  We listened and prayed with them, and as we turned back to the four boys previously mentioned, my heart dropped.  I counted.  19 total young Hondurans were now gathered around Edgar, one of the interpreters.  As we joined this flock, I had one thought.

This is what is was like to live in the time of Paul.

Truly, it was a sight to behold.  It is permanently etched in my mind’s eye.  The young adults were asking questions, and Edgar was reaching out the Bible for them to read particular truths.  He spoke in a tone that was dripping with love and patience.  He acknowledged their doubts and questions, then redirected to the truth.  Here he stood, as a Honduran teenager, standing in the dirt streets, not giving a hoot about the opinion of his peers, but focusing his attention on God, expressing his affection to God, and using his abilities for God.  Such a tenderness for lost souls.  From a 15 year old.  Worship.  And it was a beautiful sight.  And I gave him a hug.  And I cried.

I cried for all those times I’ve chosen to focus on things that simply waste away.  I cried for those moments I’ve spent worried about what others would think of me.  I cried for those opportunities that I missed because of fear.  I cried for the souls of those around me who appeared empty and hopeless.  I cried for the many voices I heard that believed the only way to get to heaven is by working to earn it.  I cried in gratitude for the free gift of grace Christ offers to every single soul.  I cried over the fact that I was a lost soul in need of a Savior and that while I am sinning, Christ died for me.  What a gift.  What a Savior.

We also worshiped by gathering in the home of one of the founding families of the church in Choluteca.  They invited us to their weekly life group and we laughed during the ice breaker, participated in a discussion about those who suffer for Christ, and shared a snack and some fellowship time together.  Worship.

Yet another opportunity came in listening to our Rock City leader, John Ransom, give a message at Saturday service.  No pun intended, but he rocked it out!  He was so cool calm, and collected, you never would have guessed that somehow, just before boarding the bus, his shoes mysterious walked away on their own!  He spoke about God being more interested in changing me, than in changing my circumstances.  Yowzers!  Did THAT message hit home.  He spoke of hope.  He spoke of peace.  He spoke of running! 🙂  We worshiped.

Hebrews 12:28
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,

Challenge:  How do you respond to this statement?  – I was created to find satisfaction in Christ alone.