One Week Down, an Entire Culture to go

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Coming from Albanian to USA, it was hard for me to get used to the culture. It took me almost one month, but then I got used to it. But now that I’m in Honduras, I see that I’m getting into the culture quickly. It seems to me like I’m back in Albania even though I have to speak Spanish and I need to get used with the sun here: it’s hot. But yes, God has been good with me until now .

Being for six days in Honduras has been good because I’m starting to make friends and trying to talk in Spanish even if they laugh at me. But I like that, its fine with me because I got used to that. When I was back in USA sometimes my friends at HDC will laugh with my English, so it’s ok for me. Trying to ask some young boys in spanish if it was ok if I can play soccer with them was good because they liked me being with them and playing soccer. They love soccer so much, and they played so good. It was fun because I love soccer. God has been very good with me and I know that God has still things for me to do in Honduras.

-Jetmir

 Well, we’ve just about completed our first week here in the sweltering jungle that locals call La Ceiba. Looking back to a week ago, I can see that I, and we as a team, have come a long ways in just a few days. I’m pretty sure Matt can attest to the fact that at least for the first day or two, the three of us were pretty much in “little kid” mode. We walked around with huge eyes attached to a head that couldn’t seem to decide which way to face. Any new sight brought squeals of exclamation from all of us, not to mention the fact that we hung on every word or instruction from any English speaker, especially Matt or the Eby’s, like it was the Greatest Commandment.

Now in the language of HDC and the many sessions we had on “cross-cultural adaptation,” this kind of behavior is perfectly normal and can be explained by what is called the “honeymoon” stage of adaptation to a new culture. Honeymoon, an interesting way to describe this stage, especially since it is usually directly followed by a sharp decline in one’s moral and emotional state and a general dis-integration with everything and everyone around oneself. Then a rise back to a new “normal” and assimilation. Maybe the whole cross-cultural bell-curve is deeper than I thought. Is this how marriages go too? Hmm…I’m pretty sure I’m not licensed to answer that.

O yeah, Honduras. So, I definitely experienced the honeymoon stage, and maybe still am there. I also pretty much crashed and burned a couple days into it, and since that time have been feeling pretty comfortable here (not in the temperature sense of the word). However, as I am not a psychologist, I do not feel l should take the liberty to say that I have assimilated into this Latin American culture in a weeks time. Actually, I’m quite sure I haven’t.

Sure, I’ve learned a lot. A. Lot. Who knew that the sap that leaks out of the stem of a freshly picked mango is likened to poison ivy and needs to be scraped and washed off right away? I do now. What do you do when you’re walking down the road and a couple times a minute a taxi pulls up beside you and blares its horn offering a ride? Certainly not wave it along, just wag your right index figure. What do you do when you’re riding one of the city buses and there’s some sort of engine malfunction so they pull into a truck repair place? Nothing, just sit in your seat and watch the men with the wrenches drink their cokes and fix everything up. Don’t worry, no one will be mad that your late; there’s no such thing as late. And lastly, who knew that a garbage dump community could be so… quaint.

In between starting language school (4 hours a morning, plus an hour or so of homework in the evening-but super helpful) and furnishing the little two bedroom apartment above some friends of a lady from the Mennonite Church, there has been a nice amount of time spent getting to know Los Laurelles (the community). We’ve met many of the families, oodles of kids, swam in the river, jumped off the rocks, and drunk coffee with the people there. They were right- the kids love to laugh at language blunders and pronunciation, but they sure are helpful.

We’ve been so blessed here already, whether it’s the guy driving into the mall as we were walking out who bought us all coconut juices and then proceeded to spend the next three hours with us driving us around in the back of his truck, bartering over prices of stovetops, chairs, and wastebaskets, buying food, and just being awesome. Or the hospitality of the people who have prepared meals for us or helped us practice spanish. Or the simple joy of a smile in the same language from a young guy who just showed me how to launch coconut leaves.  It really is the simple little things that make big impressions.

-John

 Welcome to th…

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Welcome to the Honduras YES Team’s blog, where we will regularly share our experiences and encounters during these next couple months.  Currently, we are on Easter break, giving us a chance to reconnect with family and friends before we head south.  This also gives us a chance to reflect on the experiences we have had during our training.

Looking back over the last two and a half months of training in Harrisburg for Eastern Mennonite Missions’ YES (Youth Evangelism Service) program, it is virtually impossible to summarize the experience in just a few words, but if I had just one word to use, it would be relationships. 

Relationships between Nick, Jetmir, and myself as the Honduras team.  Relationships we each built with the staff at Harrisburg Discipleship Center (HDC) and the broader Eastern Mennonite Missions organization.  Relationships with other people through church, mini-outreaches, and other HDC activities.  Relationships with the many children we interacted with in the city and through the after-school program we volunteered at.  And most importantly, the strengthening of relationships with our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Now, anytime you step out of your comfort zone and go into new experiences, your eyes are going to be opened to the injustices that surround you.  The whole training experience was eye-opening for me, but there were several moments in the past couple weeks where I felt like God was really making things clear to me.

The first of these happened a couple weeks ago, as Jetmir and I were getting gas in preparation for our last mini-outreach of training in Baltimore, MD.  It was around the time that school had gotten out, and flocks of kids were streaming by on their way home.  It was amazing to me how many kids came by for a high-five or a hug, or started jumping up and down shouting our names, or shyly waving as they walked by.  All in all, it wasn’t anything super special, I mean there weren’t so many kids crowding around us that they had to redirect traffic, but still, it really struck me. 

When this happened, training was drawing to a close and we had started wrapping things up.  In the midst of this, I had begun to feel disillusioned, wondering if all the time, energy, and effort we spent with the kids in the area was really worth it.  This experience at the gas station showed me that it really was.

No, we didn’t get rid of the drugs, poverty, and other problems in Harrisburg; we didn’t even succeed in keeping our yard cleaned of trash.  But what we did accomplish was far more important.  We were able to embody the love of Christ as we interacted with the kids, and they noticed and appreciated this.  Seeds were planted, and we trust and pray that these seeds can continue to be watered and nurtured toward maturity in Christ.

“Give me Your eyes for just one second; give me Your eyes so I can see everything that I keep missing; give me Your love for humanity. Give me Your arms for the broken-hearted, the ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten, give me Your eyes so I can see.”

This song, (Give Me Your Eyes, by Brandon Heath) really struck me during our last mini-outreach in Baltimore.  We stayed in the home of a young guy in a neighborhood somewhat similar to the location of HDC in Harrisburg; drugs, crime, and prostitution are rampant.  However, the difference was that in Baltimore, there was basically no trash or abandoned buildings to take attention away from the actual people who lived in these neighborhoods.  Since the physical “clutter” was not present, I felt a lot closer to the people of this neighborhood and the daily trials and struggles they face.

It is not always easy to love like God loves, but I have found that when I take the time to get to know the people society tries to make us forget about, it is time very well spent.

“Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me. Because on and on and on and on it goes. It overwhelms and satisfies my soul. And I’ll never, ever, have to be afraid. One thing remains.”

This song (One Thing Remains by Jesus Culture) fits with the last relationship I mentioned; the deepening of relationship between myself and God.  In addition to community outreaches, cross-cultural preparation, and a lot of fun, we had many sessions on various aspects of a Christian’s walk.  Some of my personal favorite topics included “The Father-heart of God,” “Identity in Christ,” and teachings on the Holy Spirit.  Through the entire training experience, including sessions, experiences, and interactions, I have felt myself being stretched and challenged in many areas.  I have deepened my relationship with God to the point that I know what I believe and why I believe it for more of a reason than “it’s what I’ve always known.”  And do you know what?  There’s always more to learn, more to know, and more to experience of our God, and that is what is exciting; He never gets old or boring.

So, after a brief respite over Easter, the Honduras Team will reconvene at HDC, take a collective deep breath, and excitedly board an airplane on Thursday, April 12.  If all goes as planned we will arrive in La Ceiba, Honduras by that evening, meet our host families, and dive into the culture and experiences that await us there. 

-John

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Yeah, we're pretty hood.

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Quite the range of emotions...

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The Honduras Team makes a new friend!

 

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