Stateside

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A quick note just to say, our 22 hour travel day on Friday went well, without incident, and we are now back at the Harrisburg Discipleship Center where we will have two weeks of debriefing our time in Honduras.  We’ll write more later about our final thoughts, but for now we want to say, thank you for your prayers and support over the last 3 months in Honduras.  It was a short time away, but God used us in big ways, and your prayers helped facilitate how things were able to work for good.  We look forward to connecting and sharing with many of you.

Thanks be to God!

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Yikes, maybe we ought to write something here again.  It has been awhile, but here we are to change that.  Oh where, oh where to begin.  I suppose we’ll continue on where we left off last time, which was right after our trip to Olancho, for those of you keeping track.  For the week following this trip, Nick, Jetmir and I lived in the Los Laureles community; eating, sleeping, bathing, working, etc.  What an eye-opening experience.  It is one thing to arrive in the morning and spend the day with the kids and people of the community, but it is quite another to live there for all hours of the day.

In addition to doing various activities with the kids and finishing up a couple of work projects, Jetmir went out selling “guineos” (green bananas), I put on some mini-magic shows in the evenings, and we all bathed in the river and enjoyed Honduran hospitality.  In a lot of ways, the 4 days spent in Laureles challenged me a lot more than expected.  Not only do the people in this community live without what we would call “basic necessities,” such as running water, a clean, dry floor, and a plentiful store of food, but they live contentedly in this way.  For me, it was nothing new to see people with much less living much fuller lives, but the combination of living in the community, building close relationships with people, and seeing so many contrasts to the life I am used to made this a powerful, powerful week in many ways.

The following week was back to a normal routine; working in the community by day, back in the city at night.  However, by the end of the week, it became clear that extenuating circumstances would require our outreach coordinator to return to the United States.  In the midst of the stress and anxiety of that situation, a youth group of 29 people from the US joined us Saturday evening.  With most of the responsibility for this group and their activities for the week falling on us as a YES team, in the middle of everything else going on, this was a very rough time at first, there’s no other way to say it.  However, sitting here today after the group left early yesterday morning, I am realizing that last week, even with all the added, unexpected responsibility, was one of the major highlights for me of our time here so far.

Why was it such a great week?  There are several reasons I think of.  First, I enjoyed the challenge of leading a large group of youth and young adults on a mission in a foreign country.  Yes, it was a challenge.  There is a lot that goes into something like that, but the fact that we as a YES team were able to rise to that challenge, and along with the support of Andrew and LaRee Eby (GO! missionaries here with their family), work together as a team to provide what the group needed, was awesome to see.  Second, I was able to see and hear from the youth about how their experience this past week challenged them, made them think, and ultimately will shape their lives in the years to come.  They did, saw, and heard a lot of new things, and God was working in each of their lives through that.  It was neat to be part of that.  Third, as we coordinated the group’s work in the community, it became very apparent that Nick, Jetmir, and I have become a part of the Los Laureles community, even in the short two-and-a-half months we have been here.  So many families and kids stepped up to help out and make the week enjoyable for all.  And lastly, after coming through a very rough time as a team in the week before, we were able to see how God can still use us, even when things look very dark from our perspective.  It was clear that we are right where we need to be, and that God is doing a tremendous work in each of our lives.

Last week was also very difficult, as the decision was made to end our time in Los Laureles early.  Last Thursday was the last day in the community for both the youth group, and us as a YES team.  The goodbye’s were not easy, and it is something each of us still struggles with, as some very close relationships were formed.  However, God’s hand is still at work in Los Laureles, and my thoughts and prayers will carry on.

A few words about the future of our time here.  Tomorrow, we will leave, with the Eby family, for a vacation on the Bay Island of Utila.  When we return next week, we will begin saying goodbye to some of our other friends throughout La Ceiba, as well as volunteering at an orphanage.  After about a week and a half of that, we will return to the Harrisburg Discipleship Center on July 13 for about two weeks of re-entry debriefing.  Thoughts and prayers as we finish our time would be very appreciated.  A big thank you for all of your support in our time here so far.  Your prayers make a difference!

A Little Look at Life…

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Before I came to Honduras, my mother informed me that this is the most dangerous country in the world, based on various United Nations statistics.  Now when I imagine the most dangerous country in the world, I see men with guns lurking down every alley and on every corner, but that’s certainly not the case here.  Err, actually it is.  But the men with the guns are supposed to be there, standing guard in front of the little ice cream shop, or pacing back and forth in front of the gas station, or riding around in the Coke, Pepsi, and chicken trucks, or the little armies keeping watch over the banks.  Frankly, as long as you stay out of the places a Gringo should stay out of, La Ceiba has a very nice feel to it.

But there is plenty of danger to get involved in here if that’s what you’re looking for, and if three white males, ages 18 to 21 aren’t looking for something a little dangerous every once in a while, I don’t know who is.

We’ve decided that we don’t feel comfortable enough with electricity, or losing our lives, to lean a ladder against the wires and fix the ever present problem of “losing the lights,” while in the middle of a busy street,

so we’ve turned to more…..creative methods of entertainment.

Yes, Jetmir has gotten quite a tan since he’s been here.

When we’re not out wrangling with the cowboys, we’re still spending our days in the Los Laureles community.  But first we have to get there.  Now, I’m sure those of you who have spent some time in a foreign country have some pretty great bus stories, but as this is my first time experiencing the old “school buses here to die” in a foreign country, I find riding the buses one of the highlights of my day.  In fact, I find myself looking for reasons to swing by “El Centro,” (downtown) on our way home, or enduring the “death march” of a dusty gravel road in direct sunshine just to catch a ride on a bus instead of taking a taxi.  But hey let’s be honest, the three of us can ride for less than the price of one in a taxi, and you never know what you’ll get on the ride, whether it be samples of cakes, magic shows, song and dance routines, even heartfelt sermons.  Then there’s the buses themselves, or more appropriately the drivers.  While some buses are quite “tranquilo,” others offer bone shaking music and almost as much thrill as a rollercoaster ride.  There is one bus in particular, the driver of which I am convinced was either a tank or racecar driver in his former life.

Then there’s the long distance buses, which we’ve experienced a couple times now.  The most recent was just this past weekend, when we got the opportunity to go with Abner, whose house Jetmir is living in, to the Olancho state of Honduras, about an 8 hour bus ride from Ceiba, to visit Abner’s family and help the church and school put on a program with the local kids.  Olancho is known as the “wild east,” and has the same kind of “independent, take the law in your own hands” mentality as Texas.  But before we could witness the cowboy and Indian shootouts, we had to ride the bus.

When we got to the station, it was clear that our bus had a problem, as about 8 guys were crouched around the front of the bus watching liquid leak from a broken radiator.  They loaded everyone and their luggage up anyway, and we were off.  We made it all the way to the exit of the bus station when common sense took over and they decided a bus without a radiator wouldn’t survive an eight hour trip through the mountains in the Honduran heat.  So we boarded another bus going in the same direction, and proceeded to run two bus routes from one bus.  That would explain what is going on here, as we speed down the highway.

Inside, things were as calm as could be, just catching up on the news.

But let’s get down to business.  What have we been doing in Laureles?  When we get the chance, it’s very encouraging to be able to do Bible studies with some of the older boys we spend time with.  What started as a nice game of “find the verse” soon turned into taking turns looking up our favorite verses and talking about them.  I’m sure it’s hard to believe, but it can be hard to get the guys to concentrate and take things seriously, but they have enough respect for us and a desire to learn, which really helps things move along, even in a different language.

Since we are a part of a much longer-term project here in La Ceiba, a lot of our time is spent simply building relationships and offering joy and hope to the kids of the garbage dump community.  As a result we find ourselves occupying our time in a variety of ways.

After he was done having me help him build roads out of newspaper and then (literally) set them on fire so the toy fire truck (and my glass of water) could put them out, he came up with his own version of bowling, using a spatula and a piece of fruit.

I’m not sure what Dino is doing, but it involves a breadfruit, and apparently his head.

Now Nick’s doing a dance with it…

We enjoy organizing play times on Matt’s porch in Laureles.  Matt doesn’t like it though; it’s hard to keep a floor spotless with a couple dozen kids running around.

The boys love the legos.

We also do puzzles and coloring.

I like the legos.

Maybe more than the little guys do…

Fishing in the nearby river is apparaently gaining in popularity with the boys, so Pinchu made this “spearfishing” apparatus, and on our first trip to the river together, he took one shot and caught a shrimp scurrying for cover under a rock.

We’ve also (finally) been able to find some physical labor.  After helping to clear a field in a nearby farming village a week and a half ago, we broke ground for a new wall in Los Laureles.  When I say broke ground, I mean broke it.  Since this used to be the garbage dump, the ground was hard clay with rocks and garbage mixed in.  With the Honduran sun beating down, it didn’t take long to feel like we were swimming in our sweat.

Yes we did do work too.

I promise.

Lastly, for all you mothers out there worried about how we’re eating, here’s a brief look at one of our recent suppers.

It’s rice and beans with some tomato paste, oregano, and egg mixed in.  Mmm mmm mmm.  Yes, we made that all by ourselves.

And our apartment?

We’re ready for guests anytime!

5 Weeks in Los Laureles with the kids

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Martha

Marta is the first person that we always meet at los Laureles. We go to her house right when we get there to rest a little bit after a hot ride or walk out there. Sitting on a chair under a tree we start asking her about her day, and she also asks us questions. She has 8 kids. Her kids are always jumping on us and playing with us they: love being with us, and we love being with them too.

Martha’s kids

Marta’s kids always like to jump on the backs of Nick and John when we go out to the comunity dump. One day John gave a paper to the little “Mateito” to write his name, but he couldn’t but John held his hand and helped him to write his name. And when John did help him to write his name he was soo happy! He started to laugh, you should have see his face he was so happy that John helped him to write his name he loved it.

Checho

We see Checho every day; he is with Matt a lot and he loves being with us too.  Walking one day from the mountains with Checho I got the chance to ask him about his life, like what would you like to do in the coming  years. He says to me that he will start working more. He said he likes doing what I am doing but he said that he doesn’t have money to do missions at this point. Then I said to him that when I started to apply for YES  I did not have enough money, but I just started praying to God and saying to him “God if you need me to go on this mission please help me.” And look here I am. I hopefully gave him some hope and it was a nice conversation .

Poni and Dino

These young  boys are so funny. They love playing with us and making fun with us I love them so much. On day John, Nick, and I played soccer at Matt’s house at the comunity. Americans and one European against Dino and Pani and his brother Cesar: and we won. I don’t know what else to say for them but I can say that they always like to play with us and they seem to always be in a good mood.

Helping the youth group

Thursdays there is a youth group from the Mennonite Church that comes to Los Laureles to tell storys to the kids and sing.  They love worshiping  Jesus and they sing so nice. After songs they draw and they like to paint and they paint very good. Doing that every Thursday has been helpful for us to speak more Spanish and to build a relationship with the kids there.

Duk

Duk is a good soccer player and when I play soccer I try to be with him because I know that he plays good and that we will win if we are together. I love playing soccer in Honduras because the kids are so good at playing  soccer, and they play soccer every afternoon. Duk is always there playing soccer with his friends.

At the University

We went at 8:00 in the morning to Los Laureles to get the kids to take them to the University where there was a party for them. It was fun to go house to house to tell them to come with us to the University because there is a party. We got 17 kids to go, so we went to the University, played soccer, sang songs,  drank soda, ate sandwiches and candies, and we had cake in the end. It was a nice time and the kids really liked being there, and they gave a big thanks to the College students.

By: Jetmir

What have the first 5 weeks looked like?

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To check out a video we recently made of some of the sights and experiences of the first 5 weeks in La Ceiba, Honduras and surrounding areas, check out this link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vkIvgUFJ0iY&feature=g-hist

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Anyone who’s ever written a blog at some point or another probably knows that choosing a topic that is both interesting and relevant can be a bit of a challenge, but for me today that’s not a problem.  I’m going to write today about traffic laws in Honduras.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hmm, I’ve still got some time so maybe I can write about something else.  I suppose I could tell the story about the worst Ferris Wheel experience ever (apparently Ferris Wheels in Honduras are supposed to be the ultimate “thrill” experience, but they’re nothing short of terrifying in several ways.  I suppose it’s a story for another time).  I could talk about some of our recent excursions to the rivers, beaches, and mountains of the area, or about how hot it is here.

Ok, I suppose I need to vent just a little since I mentioned heat.  The last couple weeks have been nothing short of sweltering.  It’s pretty much sweat from the time we step outside in the morning, or earlier, till sometime in the middle of the night.  For some reason, the builders of our apartment neglected to think about any type of ventilation, so even when there are beautiful cool breezes off the ocean in the evenings, our apartment stays a stuffy 90+ degrees till way after 11.  Nick and I have been tempted many a time to knock a hole, even if it’s just a small one, in our north wall.  I can just imagine the breeze now….

Anyway, in all seriousness, I wanted to spend a bit of time reflecting on our time spent so far with the kids in the Los Laureles community and our time with various other people we have met during our time here.  As most of you reading this are probably aware, the first month that we have been here was mainly focused on cultural adaptation, language learning, and relationships.  We “graduated” from the language school where we have been occupied in the mornings last Friday, which marks the beginning of a new chapter for us as we will now devote all day to the Laureles community and related work.

So, what have we been doing here.  The days seem to have developed a bit of a pattern for us.  We walk up from the language school, and by the time we’re close start spotting some of the kids we’ve gotten to know.  We have a little chat, then ask where Mateo (Matt) is.  We’ve learned that answering based on facts really isn’t important to many people in Honduras, its more important to answer, so we usually get different answers from every kid.  Then we arrive at Martha’s house.  Martha seems to be one of the Matriarchs of the community, and there’s always a good deal of people and kids hanging around her house.  We pull up chairs, stumps, or rocks and enjoy a relaxing bit of time with her and the people there before connecting with Mateo.

From there, we do any number of things.  Depending on the day, we might load up a pickup with barrels, head to El Centro, and haul water back for cleaning, bathing, etc.  It’s not an easy task, and as Nick and I have discovered, it can be dangerous when not done correctly.  We also help out with various activities with the young kids, whether it be playing games, helping with Bible story lessons, or just engaging in spontaneous things.  Then there’s more in-depth Bible studies that we’ve sat in on, as well as a lot of visiting and relationship building.

In the next two months, we will continue these things, but will also begin doing some things on our own.  There seems to be a group of guys we have really been connecting well with, and hope to deepen these relationships and help mentor/ be an example for them.  There’s work projects to do, soil sampling, and other things that will come down the pipe.

We’ve also been blessed to have been able to get to know a bunch of the people from the Spanish school we were at.  We have sensed that part of our mission while here has to do with these people, and were thrilled when God gave us an opportunity to hang out and share Christ’s love with them this past weekend.  The Holy Spirit was definitely at work, and we’re excited to follow up and see where those relationships might go.  That, along with our Laureles work, is certainly something to keep in your prayers.

When things are rough or when things are going well, God is still at work within and through each of us.  This was certainly a truth learned by me this past week.  Thanks for all of your prayers and support!

-John

Dariana, always a drama queen

One of the many photos from our photo shoot…

Soccer? In Honduras?

A proud Mateo, after “writing” his name

Don’t be shy, Jennifer

Poni and Dino, not sure what to make of that combination

Soccer, Soccer, Soccer

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It’s a sport that is known worldwide. It’s a sport that sends nations into an uproar. It’s a sport that “glues” millions to their TV’s and radios. Simply put, that sport is soccer (or as it’s better said here, futbol). In Honduras, a person is never too far from a field to play on. There are plenty to choose from: big or small, they got them all. At a field close to our apartment, there seems to be a game going every day. And if a person wants to go to a more professional match, the stadium isn’t too far for people to root for La Ceiba’s own, Vida.

For the people of Los Laureles, soccer is an everyday subject. Here, a person is either a Real Madrid fan or Barcelona fan (better catch up on your soccer knowledge here if you need to). Dare I say, these two Spanish teams catch the hearts of everyone there? With us being in Los Laureles just about every day, we quickly had to choose which of the two teams we were rooting for (and just so you’re not left wondering, Jetmir and John chose Barcelona while I’m alone with Real Madrid). In fact, these teams have been great conversation starters with many of the kids. Asking the kids if they saw the game the other day is a great way for us to connect right away. The kids never tire of talking about soccer, and it’s also perfect for being able to practice our Spanish.

I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to kids, playing “speaks” louder than some conversation. The best thing to play here is, you guessed it, soccer! All three of us on the team are getting into pretty good shape with all the running we’ve been doing lately. And I have to say that I love being able to watch and play with the kids. Being older, I thought I would have to take it easy playing with the kids, but I thinking was completely out of line there. I need to give it all I have to even be able to keep up with them. It’s easy to tell that these kids grew up on soccer. The kids of Los Laureles also have a team that plays every Saturday around noon. So we usually end up traveling along with them to watch them play.

Being in Honduras, I’ve come to the conclusion that soccer is very much part of the culture. I’ve also come to the conclusion that this is one of the more fun parts of the culture. Playing and talking about sports is right up my alley. Soccer is a sport that has given us an opportunity to build relationships.

Soccer at its finest….in 90 degree sunshine.

John having a sweaty fun time in/on the old water tank.

Nick always draws a crowd.

Nature’s water park. From left too right: massage chair, diving board (various heights), water slide, and in the far right (not shown), cliff jumping

Just another day traversing La Ceiba.

Jetmir’s a father?!

Simply a happy boy!

Kids will be kids.

Not a bad view from our apartment.

Neither is this.

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