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!