As someone who will often describe myself as cynical, skeptical, sarcastic, and harsh....today was one of those days where that kind of attitude and personality proved to be impossible. Today was a day in which the joy and genuine love of others was felt deep within my soul. And although this may seem cliche or farfetched...maybe a brief recap of the day will be of benefit.
As we woke up, wiped the sleep out of our eyes, loaded the necessary supplies, packed for a day of work and play, and slowly made our way to the bus...we departed the house and headed to the village, Nueva Oriental, which we had previously worked at on Monday, which proved to be another incredible experience.
Like Monday, half of the group played with the local kids and the other half built a house for a local family. And all of the while we got to join in work and play alongside many of the same individuals from Monday.
Mike's group built a house for a family of four (mom, dad, two daughters + one on the way due in January). And all went smoothly... Building the house was a great opportunity to bless a family in a way we can't even imagine. It is giving them one of the best Christmas presents possible. The family was so happy to have a house that was twice the size of their other house. It is hard to imagine that giving something that takes five hours to build is the best things for a family. It was great to see the site go from a house approximately 6 feet by 6 feet being torn down. Then the frame of the house to the roof and the floor being put on. To finish, the door to the house was cut and the family was able to walk into a new 16 feet by 16 feet house. There was so much joy in the family's face. It was a great to be able to give this family a hew home for Christmas.
Ashley's group had another fantastic day of playing soccer, duck-duck-goose (Honduras style of course!), serving hot meals to the kids, and occasionally checking up on the other groups progress and offering the occasional helping hand. Noteworthy events include, slightly embarrassing spills on the futbol field, ridiculous amounts of beans and rice served to the kids, too much duck-duck-goose for one college kid to handle, and enough piggyback rides to throw 20-year old back out of place...
All of this to say, the love that we experienced today is hard to describe. The community here in the villages is astonishing...and we can not help but be reminded of what the Church ought to look like. As we look into the eyes of these people, we are bombarded with genuine love because they are willing to share whatever material blessing they have.
If you ask us about this trip, it is likely that we will point to one particular moment or story that seemed to stick to our brains and cause our heart to scream something...whether it be joy or sorrow. And today I had one of those moments...
As I played with the local kids the past few day, I made a special connection with one little boy in particular, and his name is Daniel. Daniel was that kid that everyone kinda got annoyed with at some point because he had a tendency to pick on the other kids and hit too hard. Nonetheless, Daniel found me to be particularly interesting and so we spent some quality time. Daniel and I hung out a lot and communicated with the little Spanish that I do know. But more than words, Daniel spent most of today up on my shoulders giggling and bossing me around. Needless to say, I did not have to worry about my neck burning because he was constantly clinging to me and playing with my blond curly hair (which isn't the most common sight in Honduras).
And as we all gathered around the bus at the end of the day to say our goodbyes, the air was bitter sweet because we were kinda celebrating the great friendships we had found, but also missing the people already, before we had already left. This moment was memorable to say the least.
As for my friend Daniel, I was introducing him to one of the other friends I had made this week, and so I pointed to him and said, "Daniel es mi amigo" (Daniel is my friend)....but he quickly corrected me by saying, "no, mi es tu hermano" (I am your brother)...
Today a lot of us found brothers and sisters in places where we might not have expected to find them. We experienced love and generosity from a group of people whom embody what Christ calls us to....to be the Church. A loving community of people who share and live together.
Today started with pancakes. We all rushed around the house getting ready to leave for another day of service in Honduras. Once we had everything together, we headed off to the first stop of the day: a local nursing home. When we walked into the nursing home, we quickly noticed that there were more of us than there were residents up and about in the lobby. It was a little uncomfortable, but we started passing out juice boxes and cookies and starting up conversations with the individuals who live in the nursing home. As we ate, drank, and talked, the atmosphere became more lively. It was evident that these people who don't get visitors --at all-- were so excited to have a big group of people coming just for them.
Jason was able to give a few fades to the men, and the boys also entertained us all with a few songs. They're working on their next album which will include some beat boxing, rapping, and their own version of "My Girl." The elderly people absolutely loved it. By the time we left, you could tell that a sense of community rooted in the love of Christ had taken hold of that tiny nursing home.
On the way out to the bus, we saw a line of men standing by the building waiting for daily lunch that is served by the man who runs the nursing home. They were the drunks and druggies, the homeless of Tegus. We had the opportunity to pray with these men as well, and meet some of their physical needs. One man on our team gave up his tennis shoes for a man who was barefoot. Serving selflessly... thank you God for giving us eyes to see the need and the courage to meet it.
After the nursing home we went to the local dump to hand out food. This experience was gut wrenching for us. About 1200 people live there because it is illegal to live on the streets. As we were handing out food, one man asked Ashley if he could trade her his shirt for one of our spiffy red team Hondo shirts. Kyle made the swap. That quickly started a trend, and before long we had all given away our team t-shirts. The verse on the back of our shirts was Isaiah 52:7- "How beautiful on the mountain are the feet of those that bring good news." Seeing that verse on the backs of the people living at the dump as we drove off was powerful. There we were at the top of this mountain, and when we got there we would have used any adjective but beautiful to describe what we saw. Yet, after giving and receiving love there, we saw things with a different set of eyes.
A large chunk of our day consisted of driving around in our little party bus. Today we got an excellent surprise too. Instead of listening to 80's/90's love ballads, our driver Fransisco let us listen to some hip Honduran music and a lil coldplay too. We found our official Honduras theme song, Te Amo. We listened to it at least 5 times as we drove around.
After dinner we headed to el Jesus de Picacho, an enormous Jesus statue on the top of a mountain. We had our daily group devotional beneath the statue. As we sat there, literally at the feet of Jesus, it was powerful to have a visual reminder of the presence of Jesus in our lives and over the city we are serving in.
Today our group was given amazing opportunities to act out the love of Christ in tangible ways. A. W. Tozer talks about service saying, "We hear a Christian assure someone that he will 'pray over' his problem, knowing full well that he intends to use prayer as a substitute for service. It is much easier to pray that a poor friend's needs may be supplied than to supply them." Many of us on the team go to/ have gone to a Christian college, or grown up in a safe, American setting where we haven't been stretched beyond saying "oh, I'll pray for you." This trip is teaching us to put hands and feet on the gospel message and really allow God's love to ooze out of us.
Please continue to pray that we will take advantage of these opportunities, and that we will learn to seek them out. Pray that embodying Christ in the world and serving others will become habits after this trip-- that it will happen at home just as it has here. And pray that we will have courage and strength to serve the rest of the time we are here. And, over all, pray that the Lord will have his way in us and in this city.
After our third day in Honduras, one thing our team has come to know and love is the "Honduras beat." It's present in the Honduran songs that our bus driver lets us listen to as we go gallivanting around the city (unless, of course, he is in the mood to listen to 80's/90's love ballads. Whitney Houston, we will always love you.)
This morning we all packed into our little bus for another day of service. Day three... and the beat goes on. Today, our task was to bring Christ's love to the village of Nueva Oriental, a small community outside Tegus. Our team of 26 split into two groups for the day.
Mike's team played with the village kiddos. The day was filled with soccer, serving lunch to about 300 kids at a local feeding center, more soccer, creatively reenacting Bible stories (including the Christmas story, where Mike and Kyle starred as the left and right sides of the manger), and even more soccer...did I mention that we played soccer?
Mike's team also prayed for the children of the village in small groups and gave out toys. It seemed like no matter how many toys we had, there were never enough for the amount of kids that continually flocked into the feeding center. We're learning that the need here is tremendous, and to appreciate small successes-- bringing a smile to one child's face.
Ashley's team built a house for a village family. Before today, the family of 10. Mom, Dad, and 8 kids had been living on a queen size mattress with a tarp around it. The building site was in a tricky location. We had to build around a cliff on one side, a rock wall on another, and a barbed wire fence on the other. Oh, and we had to carry all the building supplies from the road to the building site down a 400 meter rocky, hilly path. But, what else would we expect? This is Honduras.
At the end of the day, seeing the eight children dance around in their new home with smiles on their faces was totally worth it. The mother told us "this will be the first Christmas we spend in our new house." What an amazing Christmas present our team and all of you supporting us were able to give.
Our team really felt like we'd served and been served by the people of Nuevea Oriental today. Mother Teresa once said, "it is in giving that we receive." Our team's focus for the day was giving to kids who were hungry for food, love and attention. We were determined to give a home to a family that desperately needed it. But in giving of ourselves, we received so much at the same time. The opportunity to be here this week has already been an amazing experience for all of us.
Please continue to pray for our team... that God will give us the strength to serve selflessly, and the humility to receive at the same time.
"But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand."
-1 Chronicles 29:14
playing duck, duck, goose
Riding in the truck bed on the way home
We like hanging out and having fun at home after a long day of work!