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!

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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!