Transformation 2017: Part 3/3 - Las Lomitas

Afflicted for three decades by truly deplorable education, Las Lomitas is finally breaking through. For the past 10 years, the community had settled into the debilitating state of mind that their children were receiving the best that they could receive. Arriving to their graduation ceremony in sixth grade, the majority could not perform simple addition or subtraction without the help or tables - without even considering multiplication. A great many of the youth graduated without being able to read. The one teacher trying to cover 50+ children in all six grades was clearly not cutting it.

Following multiple trips to local supervisors, a second, excellent, young teacher was added to the school in Las Lomitas. In short order, the existing teacher was run from town - although not in the most upright fashion. The community is now actively seeking a qualified second teacher to complement their children's education. Many are now discussing how to extend the program into high school.

Right next to the school lies dormant the bumpy, pock-marked face of this rural Honduran town - the soccer field. With a great deal of local effort, collaboration, and financial contribution, Las Lomitas worked with the municipal government and HTH donors to build a large retaining wall and level out the field. What was once certainly the steepest soccer field that anyone had ever played on (15 feet out of level to be precise), is now set to become one of the premier fields in the area.

Correspondingly, pride in our tiny town has risen significantly over the past year as these events have unfolded. Kids now feel like they might be sharp enough to continue studying, or actually enjoy it. Parents now feel like it might be worth the trouble - maybe their child won't just grow up to simply grab a machete or give birth to their first child at 15? The very face of the community has undergone a tremendous makeover, and all of those that love the sport feel more beautiful by association. This is not to be undervalued in a country where a significant proportion of young men are dispatched prematurely from this world due to their involvement in violent crime in their free time. Here, soccer just might save their lives.

Smack in the middle of all of these remarkable changes happening in town, we find one rather extraordinary man - Eduar Funez, our local pastor. Having moved with his family from a larger, more prosperous town at tremendous financial and emotional expense, Eduar has become a catalyst for change in Las Lomitas.

He has cried and begged for action from pulpit that the church awaken and cast off the chains of fear and conformity. He has stood with dignity in community council meetings and implored the community to not stop or slow down until justice has been done. Coaching 11 young men, he has taught them values through sport on the same soccer field that he has fought to see reconstructed.

Perhaps most importantly, he has stood beside other community leaders and encouraged them to keep on. Some of these new leaders certainly would have soon given up, others, old and burnt out would have long since fizzled out. Standing firm in the power and hope of Christ, he has grabbed exhausted arms and hoisted them up - empowering, not overwhelming those who fight for change here in our town. For these reasons, and so many more, we have come to love and respect this remarkable man.

As we rejoice with these overcomers, we are simultaneously burdened by the financial difficulties that Heart to Honduras is currently experiencing. HTH exists to empower and encourage the remarkable people fighting an uphill battle against the status quo here in the Yojoa region of Honduras. As these leaders take important steps - shining light into very dark holes - we hope to continue alongside them.

We very seldom do this - maybe even never here on the blog - but we do want to ask those of you that are passionate about what you read here to consider giving to Heart to Honduras. It is a truly-remarkable organization that has grown exponentially in impact, sustainability, and fiscal stewardship since we joined six years ago. It has become something that we are truly proud to be a part of, and will fight to see continue. Those of you that want to give, you can do so easily online at hth.org/donate-now

Join us on this journey.


Transformation: Part 2/3 - Caliche

At the incredible cost of more than 400 "total days" of labor, three communities have come together to improve access to their communities. As we have frequently-referenced, the overland access is... lacking. In particular, a half-mile grade at the head of the road is better suited to horses than to vehicles. This severe access limits development of the region: medical care, new markets, educational opportunities, jobs, and SO much more. People have certainly died due to the difficulty of reaching these communities.

Together the communities of Caliche, Aguas de la Reyna, and Posas del Agua banded together to form a commission dedicated to fixing the three worst passages - beginning with the opening grade. Now nearing completion, 50 local men have devoted day upon day of their labor, working with materials provided in part by Upper Arlington Lutheran Church(a Heart to Honduras "Partner in Transformation"), COHERSA (a local hydroelectric company), and the municipal government of Santa Cruz de Yojoa, Honduras. I cannot emphasize enough how difficult this work is. You know a community really wants something when they dedicate this much time and effort to it.

Once these communities overcame the primary obstacle of unifying themselves, the work has moved quickly forward. Heart to Honduras has been grateful to work alongside these remarkable people, full of hope, in their struggle for progress. HtH facilitates relationship reconciliation, support, encouragement and collaboration initiation with each involved party to make these local initiatives possible. These initiatives are not the most "popular" for North Americans because you don't get to come and DO and it's not as flashy or social media friendly to support locals building a road, but in the end we personally, the local communities, and HtH believe it accomplishes SO much more long term, holistic development for the community.


Transformation 2017: Part 1/3

As I write this, my hands reek of white lithium grease - the only thing I could find in the house to get this filthy, asphalty-pitch roof patch stuff off my hands. As I schlorped it into a crack in the roof this weekend, apparently it glorpled down through said crack onto our pila.... where we wash our clothes. One crisis averted, another nearly created.

Roof asphalt hasn't been the only thing leaking through cracks around here. From what I have been able to measure, we have received about 4 feet of rain in the past month or so. Five of those storms have released 6 inches + of rain into our yard in a matter of a few hours - one dumped 10 inches overnight. We gauge our need for response on the sound of rain on the metal roof. The liquid soundtrack progresses from intermittent trickling to steady static to pounding waves to train in the living room to 747 landing in our bedroom. As the train approaches, we leap into action, jamming plastic bags under the front door with a spatula and setting up twisted-towel jetties to sop up and slow anything down that sneaks through.

Of course, during all of this, the girls sleep mildly on -- even during the night that taught us our defensive strategy. After the storm had passed on that cool June evening, Stacey stepped lightly out of bed to go feed Eliana... directly into three inches of standing water. The experience was identical in the girls room. Slipping around on hands and knees in our little indoor pool, we drug out suitcases from under the crib before sweeping out gallons of water and mopping it dry. All of this without once waking a baby. When we want the child to sleep - no power on heaven or earth seems to be able to knock her out... and now we know that the opposite is also true. In the end, some well-placed ditches seem to have the majority of the precipitation issues under control for now.

As we fight our own little skirmishes in water world at night, we have continued by day to stand beside our brothers and sisters of Honduras in their remarkable battles. Communities now find themselves far down the very same road that in the past they couldn't even agree needed traveling. Along that road, local leaders have gone from skittish, frightened bystanders to passionate, determined warriors that endure isolation, threats against life and livelihood, and seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

This week, we hope you'll check back in to read about a couple of these examples.


July Update

Well, we still have yet to get you the “comprehensive update of life around the house and HTH” soon.  Trust us everything is in full swing and very busy! For now we wanted to give another brief update which might explain why that promise has yet to be fulfilled.  I was just working on some reimbursements for our international health care since we have returned to Honduras and wow, did we have a lot of “e-claims.”  Each of us has one and several of us have multiples. 

We believe that we have been fighting against a lot of spiritual attacks this year.  Satan continues to try to get us down and if he doesn’t get us in one area, he tries another. If doesn’t succeed in attacking our spiritual life he tries physical, if not physical then emotional, or relational etc. etc. we have felt stress and strain(in so many areas of our lives) like never before in the past 5 months.

Kaleb is finally on the upswing for a few weeks now after more than a month of continual illness after illness. Eliana continues to take meds for acid reflux as well as struggling with daytime sleep. Alida had a skin problem called folliculitis and needed a med. and cream to get it under control.  Stacey has dealt with sinus infections, stomach bugs, exhaustion, and other abnormal symptoms which we recently went to the doctor for who wisely found some ovarian cists. So we are pursuing options for healing for her.

Needless to say we need your prayers for our physical, mental, and spiritual health and stability. Thank you SO much to those of you who have kept in touch via email during these especially hard months. Your emails, thoughts and prayers go so far with us.

When we struggled through our return to Honduras with Alida 3 years ago, we quickly came to find out one of the reasons God had us return and that was to help root out deep oppression in our village Las Lomitas regarding our previous local pastor. This return with our second child has quickly revealed that we are here to be a part of rooting out deep oppression in the area of education in our village. Satan has tried to keep Las Lomitas tied down for decades intellectually. Last year(with the addition of a second teacher) and this year(raising expectations of the previous teacher) we are starting to break chains alongside community leaders who are fighting for better local education. Our presence and support alongside of those leaders has led to the previous teacher leaving and the search begun for another qualified teacher. This is an amazing story that we will have to tell in another post, all GOOD though.

Again, we come back to poverty not being a lack of material things. Poverty = broken relationship.  This happens holistically (spiritually, intellectually, physically, and social/emotionally).  The way for communities to develop and alleviate poverty is not to give away things or services; is it to restore broken relationships, root out and break chains of oppression, and walk together in unity toward bigger and better things God has planned for all of us. Please pray against Satan’s attempts to hold our family back from the ministry God has for us here and now.  Pray for sin and deep rooted problems to be brought out and chains of oppression to broken. For sin, ways of life or ways of thinking to be gone in the name of Jesus and for us and those we work with to have the minds of Christ.


Update from May - a little late.

One could say that Honduras is not exactly Ohio…

If our return to Honduras has reminded me – it is of the tremendous adaptability and resilience of the human being. I remember when Fall fell down on top of us in Ohio last year. My body had the peace of half a decade without transitioning into a true cold season. It seemed like once the cold had oozed into my hands, head, and feet that only fire itself could thaw me out – then eventually my body remembered that this could be normal and the internal thermostat cranked back up – only in time for us to move back here.

Slowly but surely, my thermostat has reset itself again, 90 degrees feels less like a 190 degrees now – although I still wish the sun would back off a bit. Out of the month + we have been here, we have had only a few days of relief lower than 94-98. It’s all up in our business at 4:30A – anxious to get caught up with the wet blanket affectionately known in Honduras as “air.” Around 7:30A, humidity and temperature meet up for a midmorning coffee chat at around 85 before the sun stands up and heads up to get the real work done. Eliana has long-forgotten what clothes feel like and sweats through a 30-minute nap before getting back to being awake and hot – smile on her face sometimes. My straw hat seems like it is constantly smoldering, threatening to burst into flames at any moment and scorch my bald head even worse that the rays beating down on it. Stacey turns towards the freezer – our dearest friend – and plops the ice cubes into the liquid of the hour.

The sun isn’t the only thing with an obnoxious streak. I’d forgotten that our cat really, really, really likes to eat and is willing to risk anything to get just a little more food. His hungry meow is a hideous low yowl, like some demonic raccoon – relentless and brain-gratingly effective. When that doesn’t work, he is fond of chomping at our legs and then sprinting off to his food bowl before whatever we just chucked at him reaches its target. Now he has some new tricks.

Let me just stop for a moment to say this thing is well-fed, not fat, but certainly the thickest cat in the Republica. There’s no reason for him to be so persistent. This is malice – plain and simple.

The meowing begins ferociously and relentlessly in the middle of the night when he’s managed to stow away for the night. That earns him no food, but an unceremonious toss out the door onto the dog. So – he’s wisely stopped that now and moved onto something even better. At about four in the morning, he starts making rounds from window to window, with his ridiculous siren yowling away. He’ll park it for about 5 minutes at each window – trying to figure out where we are. Once he locates us, he slips into Park, puts on the emergency brake, and lays on the horn. We’re all eventually learning to sleep through that now – not that this is stopping him at all. Two mornings ago, he revealed his secret weapon – the aerial assault.

At five in the morning, I got up for my morning routine only to hear some foul-hearted creature stalking me on our tin roof. I thought I was imagining it. Then last night, I went out at about 8PM to separate out the baby goats for the night. As I stepped outside, I heard a familiar – yet weak – meow. It shakily repeated a few times. I couldn’t see him. The weakness in his yowler suggested that he was ill or hurt, and for some reason, instead of glee I felt sympathy. Then I figured it out. Dear God, I’ve parked the car on him! Nope. The weakness was only the result of distance from the source. I flipped the flashlight up to see two giant yellow eyes smiling back from the roof. This morning, I heard him slip onto the roof above our room from the mango tree, walk across the house and camp out. When I got moving, he started to wander about – soundtrack on repeat. Once everyone was up in moving in the girl’s room, it sounded like he was going to come through the roof.

A truce of some sort is going to have to be made soon.

Outside of the relentless demon cat, the sun’s uncomfortable proximity, and an exhausted baby without a discernable biological ability for longer than 30 min. naps, we’re doing alright. Things have truly been extremely busy, and we’re trying to axe those things that aren’t of super-high priority and determine what will both allow us to survive and be effective. I think that we’re beginning to see that path, and we appreciate your prayers as we attempt to navigate our way to the trailhead of FAM O’ FOUR + HN.

I’m going to try to get a comprehensive update of life around the house and HTH sometime over the next week. Thanks to all of you who have reached out. We love to hear from those we love and are grateful for your communication. Those that haven’t. Drop us a line (good ol’ fashioned e-mail is preferred). Let us know what is going on in your lives – we’d love to know.

Grace and peace to you all.


Home (and hot) Again!

Our return to Honduras went as smoothly as we could have hoped. International travel went better than can be expected with a 3-month and 3-year old, and we received a very warm welcome upon our return to Honduras. Eliana slept like a baby supposedly should sleep for about three days. Our friends and neighbors were waiting for us inside our house with cake and food. Our coworkers at the office also fattened us up with cake. The climate was beautiful, low 80s and cool at night, with a little rain. Sincerely, we could not have arrived in a smoother transition.
These past few days have been more trying. Eliana is doing great at night, but fights naps like it was the grim reaper and not her parents that were holding her in the rocking chair! She’ll sleep for about 30 minutes and then be up at it, ready for more! Fortunately, she’s usually happy when she’s awake, but when she cranks up… look out! Even our neighbor Argelia, mother of 12 children, has been shocked at Eli’s ability to resist sleep and crank up the volume. That being said, she could be doing much worse, and has steadily, but slowly improved since the worst of the colickiness at around 2 months.
Alida has rekindled her love for her friends and animals. Abi, Kensi and the twins are back around the house as usual, and have been easing Alida back into the world of Spanish – where she has to respond in Spanish. At home, for the past 10 months, we have spoken to her strictly in Spanish when we are alone, but she seldom responds in Spanish. As a result, she is able to understand her friends perfectly, but usually responds (correctly) in English– certainly frustrating for both parties! That is slowly improving however, as she increasingly recognizes the issue. She loves her dog, Pimienta, the goats, the chickens, Eliana, and the cat.

The real issue as of late has been the heat. These past few days have seen a record heat wave that has driven the daily temperature inside our house to well above 90 F for hours on end. Throughout most of this week, we hit 90 degrees inside the house by 10AM and do not drop back below until nearly 9PM – with a high of 96-98 degrees for several hours. This is certainly fatiguing the family and exacerbating Eliana’s napping issues - a couple of times she has ended up napping outside in the hammock to try to pick up a little breeze - but for the most part she's pretty uncomfortable. We hope that this heat wave passes within the week, and we can get back to tolerable living conditions. Sleeping doesn’t come easy for any of us with nighttime lows of 85 degrees. Strong heat is normal for April, it just happens to be exceptionally-infernal right now.

For the most part, we are truly happy to be back in the swing of things – busy, hot, and fatigued, but glad to be home. We covet your prayers as we all weather this heat with an infant – especially Stacey as the majority of the care of Eliana falls to her during the long, hot days when I am at the office or in the field. Things have been rather taxing for a few days now.

In spite of the temporary challenges, here are some things for which we are truly thankful:

·       Electricity: We have cold things to drink now – which makes an enormous difference. Even when we came back after Alida, we didn’t have light or refrigeration. We won’t admit how much Pepsi/Coke we’ve had since we’ve been back – let’s just say more than usual.

·       Mango season: Delicious, sweet, cold, smooth mangos are as good as it gets right now. For that matter, tropical fruit in general. Papays, ciruelas, pineapples, guavas, zapotes, limes, mangos, bananas, everything is sliding down just fine.

·       Neighbors: Our house was in wonderful, freshly-cleaned shape upon our return. Animals look great, yard looks great. Smiling faces have been coming over to hold Eliana for a while or wash dishes as we get back in gear. As mentioned above, Alida is deliriously happy to have her friends (practically sisters at this point) back in her life every day. Eduardo helped me get some heavy chores done around the house.

·       Homestead production: The goats are giving 2 liters a day right now in addition to what they’re giving their 2-week old kids. The chickens are giving about 6 eggs/day even though they should be at the end of their production cycle. Bananas are abundant right now. Overly abundant actually (if there is such a thing). These are simple things that are hugely helpful in a pinch.

·       Warm reception:  We have truly been received in such a kind, generous way by those that surround us here. Sincerely, we could not have asked for a nicer reception. Just friends coming home after a long trip.

It’s good to be home... hot, sweaty, and a little testy.... but good.


Heading Home

Nearly every time we walk out the doors of a plane, we are arriving home - regardless of destination.

We find ourselves one week away from our return "home" to Honduras. Home has been an ethereal but dearly-treasured concept for us over these past few years. Indeed home is where the heart is. As it turns out however, our hearts are not tied off to any particular geographical anchor. It would seem that in our case, our hearts are tied to family - yet another slippery concept that we have already spoken to, but will elaborate upon yet again as we prepare once again to cross the threshold of our house in Las Lomitas with another baby girl.


Identity - 5 Years (Section 6)

This is part six of a series reflecting on the past five years we have spent in Honduras. Scroll down or click here to reach the first section of this series.

One remarkable thing about this experience has been that, for all of the immense effort and time we have spent in learning this language and culture, a great deal of it is very specific to a small locale. Much of that cultural minutia is lost driving just two-hours down the road. In one place, the local slang for kid refers to food in another, with an infinite number of variations on an infinite number of words and concepts. Cultures are inexorably linked to their geography, in much the same way they are to their language. A quick conversation with a Panamanian, Mexican, Brit, Australian or Argentine in the airport is proof of this simple fact. Those interactions alone are enough to keep one humble. No matter how proficient you may become in one or two cultures, thousands more exist - often times several within a single state or city. We are a remarkably diverse species – in appearance, in language, in thought and culture, but we are also beautifully unified by an underlying common identity.

For the Christian, this identity is a two-part paradigm, one that is initially-imparted to our nature and finally completed in our faith. We believe that all humankind exists as a menagerie of image-bearers, created to bear the likeness of a Creator God. All humankind bears this basic identity – along with its accompanying brokenness and separation from our Creator through sin. This understanding of ourselves is also expressly manifested in our original work as stewards and caretakers of all created things.


Minority - 5 Years (Section 5)

Along with the process of language learning, comes the inescapable fact that, no matter how much you want to just blend in, you do not. All of the lovely integration, cross-cultural understanding, and community-building discussed previously only comes through a period of patience, frustration, and feeling like “other.”

Clearly the process is not an easy one – and at first it generates quite a bit of heat. Some challenges were foreseeable, others not as much. Having always been a member of the majority ethnic group in the United States, becoming a minority in a biased culture that does not shy away from emphasizing the difference between ethnicities has been a challenge. Not only do many Honduras naturally- and internally-assume us to be strange, wealthy people seeking to give away our presumed fortune to every acquaintance, they often have no hesitation in expressing that feeling by candidly or indirectly asking for a piece of that pie. Not only do we deal with unbreaking stares and solicitations from passersby, we are often ignorantly (and innocently) addressed as “Gringo” and “Gringa” by complete strangers. Every trip to town involves multiple conversations surrounding our US identity. Many just address me according their perception of me – Chele Pel√≥n (Bald White Guy*). 


Tuesday Morning Photo

A Rufous-tailed Hummingbird sits on her nest in a chain-link fence at our next-door neighbor's house. This is our most common of a plethora of hummingbirds. We've seen multiple nests in our yards over the past several years. They're always a sight to see.