Time in the States

We’ve spent 2 weeks with each side of our family with a stop in the middle to get to know our 17 mo. old niece.  Thanksgiving was with the Eldridge’s and Christmas with the Reeder’s. We’ll finish up our time visiting in the Dayton, OH area where we lived before moving to Honduras.  After all this craze we’ll head back to our little home in Honduras to finally rest on Jan 4th.  It was great to see many of you and catch up on your lives.  We hope you all had a Merry Christmas and are getting ready for what God would have you do for His glory in this New Year.  What will your 2013 look like?  We’d encourage you to make your New Years resolutions HIS and not your own.  Being back here in the States we’ve been overwhelmed by selfishness.  We first pray for ourselves to not conform and then for all of you to not join our digressing US society in their habits of complaining and self-centeredness.  That we could all learn to always put our brothers and neighbors before ourselves. You can be in prayer for our ministry in 2013; that God would give us time when we get home to Honduras to rest, relax, seek Him, and renew our vision and goals.


Neighbors: The Coffee Folk

Doña Santos is a very respected member of our community married to a great man named Arnulfo. Together they live on a 10-acre coffee farm (finca in Spanish) on the edge of Las Lomitas.

For years and years, they have been a part of the community, but at the same time, lived in their own little world there in their finca. At the bottom of a long slick hill, they live in a little wooden home amidst their beloved dozens of turkeys, chickens, ducks and hogs. For a little while years ago, they tried to live in a more urban setting, but their neighbors didn't share their affection for poultry, so they moved back out into the country. Anytime we visit, they treat us like family and sit us down in their kitchen for one of her famous cups of coffee and and animated conversation.

Their humble homestead sits in the middle of their beautiful finca. Coffee grows best in shade, so all of their property is covered in a variety of trees. Some of these trees bear local fruits, others are old rainforest trees, others still are grown exclusively for their shade. Under these trees grows their coffee in the outstanding soil of our mountain. Along with the rest of Las Lomitas, they live at an elevation of 2200 feet, well within the ideal altitudinal range for coffee growing. We also receive an intense amount of rain, allowing the coffee to grow rapidly. These factors combined provide for a high quality coffee harvest every year from October through December.

In November, we went down to pick up some coffee from Doña Santos to bring back as gifts for our family. They sell the majority of their coffee to large coffee companies, however, they process some of it for personal use. In order for them to make this coffee, they start by harvesting the ripe, red beans from plants that are at least three years old and process the beans in a machine that separates the pulpy exterior from the interior bean from which coffee is made. These fresh beans are then washed in large vats of water. Upon removal, the beans are laid out for a day or two to dry in the sun on large concrete pads or tarps. It is at this point that the beans are weighed and sold to a purchaser, but for personal use, the process continues. This woman makes a very special cup of coffee.

The dried beans are then roasted by the Doña on a large sheet of metal over a wood fire. She slowly moves the beans back and forth as they heat. As the beans reach a dark, roasted color, she adds local cane sugar to carmelize the bean. After the beans have dried and hardened, they are passed through a hand grinder, leaving in a fine consistency. After the coffee is passed through, she adds another special touch. She takes dried seeds from her allspice trees and grinds a small amount into the coffee. This spice adds a flavor to the coffee that makes the brew totally different from anything most people have ever tried.

Every cup of coffee from this family comes through dedication and hard work. Traits that have characterized their lives and allowed them to be content and successful in their context. Even in their 60s, these people work hard every day, but are truly happy, and it shows in their faces. They have raised their family to be hard workers, and their son, Luis, has been an incredible friend to us in Honduras and showed us the true meaning of service and work ethic.

Damos gracias a Dios por: la amistad de este familia especial. We give thanks to God for this special family. 


The Measurement

With a weight in my pocket, I walked through the night rain. Knee high rubber boots couldn’t stop this kind of water. It was the kind of rain that soaked you straight through a raincoat. I reached the edge of the field and forded the new river that was pouring from it. Trying not to slip, I walked through the sludge in the dark, wishing our town had electricity, or at least street lights. Sometimes a flashlight just isn’t that comforting. On the main road, the mud was at least a little firmer, but no less slick. However, within minutes I arrived at my destination, a small dark house with candlelight flickering from the cracks in the plank door.
“Buenas noches.” Good night, I said as I stepped into the room.
“Buenas noches,” replied the weary voices of many red-eyed women.
The room felt heavy, and looked like a battle had just happened. A mangy dog with prominent ribs trotted through then sprinted out as someone raised a shoe. Seconds later, we heard it yelp and snarl in the struggle of a fight outside. There would be no peace tonight.
I saw what I was looking for, a small plastic table with four dim candles slowly dying. Dipping my head, I approached the table to get a better look at the tiny bundle at its center.  I reached into my pocket and removed the measuring tape that my brother-in-law had sent me. From tip to tip, it was twenty-two  inches long.
“Twenty-two inches, twenty-two inches,” I repeated over and over again in my mind. “I cannot get this wrong.” I measured again to confirm. Yes, it was twenty-two inches. I turned away from the bundle. With one more round of “good nights,” I was relieved to be back in the rain again.
As I slipped my way back towards my neighbors, I rolled over the number in my head, twenty-two.  I was born on May 22, I wore the number 22 on my soccer jersey all the way through high school. It had always been my lucky number. Now, walking on this soccer field in a foreign land, twenty-two didn’t seem so lucky.
I swung my flashlight towards the pile of wood where my friends had been, they signaled back with a cell phone. It took an eternity to reach them; nothing tonight would move fast enough. No matter what we did, time was stuck in the same mud, in the same storm that we were, and nothing could free it.
“Entonces?” said the tall man in the cowboy hat. Well then.
“Veinte y dos.” I replied. Twenty-two.
“Seguimos entonces,” said the other man. Let’s get on with it. He was younger , very fit and strong, but tonight his muscles were insufficient to support him. The tiredness in his voice said that it was much later than the hour that his cell phone’s clock told him. For him, it would be a long night. Twenty-two inches was the length of his newborn daughter’s coffin.
Hours before, Stacey held the baby as it gasped for breath. A twin, Gabriela was born with anencephaly. She lived for nearly 24 hours, but without any brain above her eyes, there was no chance of life. One very long day after she came into the world she slid back out, resting in the arms of her weeping grandmother. She laid down the baby girl and picked up her beautiful, healthy twin brother, grateful to God for his tiny life.
It is for this reason that we came to Las Lomitas, to share in the suffering and triumph of life with a people broken all too often, with hope rarely in the forecast. Each day we live trying to reflect the Hope that we have within us.


We're back...

For those of you who didn't know, we're back in the States and will be until January 4th.  We'll have been and will be visiting with both sides of our family (Gallipolis, OH & York, PA) as well as our home church (Apex) & friends in the Dayton, OH area where we used to live.  Pray for us as we "attempt" to rest and relax.  Maybe we'll see you around!


Youth Group?

We have probably mentioned bits and pieces about a group of teenage girls meeting and a group of teenage guys meeting, choreography, community outreach, movie night, etc.  So we thought we’d write up a blog to explain a little clearer what God is doing in the youth of Las Lomitas.

Like Sunday School, nothing like “Youth Group” existed in Las Lomitas.  It is something that we did not intend to do this year, but it has unfolded in a way only God can.  We started with a small group of teenage girls meeting on Wednesday afternoons back in June, later Pastor Erick and Kaleb thought it was a good idea for the males as well.  Females meet at 3pm and males meet at 6pm.  The groups started to grow in numbers but more importantly spiritually.  We now have been meeting almost 6 months and have seen many enter church for the first time, accept Christ, and begin to walk in His steps.  The ones who were believers before have started to take an interest in personal Bible study, prayer, and reaching out to their community with Christ’s love.
We have now combined the groups a few times over the past month and even without trying we sat back a few weeks ago and said to each other, “there is a youth group in Las Lomitas” and “we’re youth leaders.”  It’s been so natural and we’re very thankful for that.

In addition to the gender specific group meetings that we’ve explained in previous blogs, we are now starting to help teach these youth to reach out to their community.  The guys visit local widows, pray for them, and give basic food/home necessities.  They also offer to help with any household chores.  The girls have a ministry to any local family who has recently welcomed a new baby or lost a loved one.  The have learned to make banana bread so when we receive the news, they made a loaf and make a house visit to these families to show love and pray.

We are starting to come up with ways to raise money for the group to have outings or use on other ideas that come up.  Their first activity was having a movie night at the church.  The guys sold drinks and popcorn and the girls sold “pastelitos” (or otherwise known in other places as Empanadas).  We showed “Up” using a borrowed projector on the front wall of the church.  The solar panel battery held up and we had a great night.  Even Pastor Fredy brought his wife, Alexandra up for a “date night.”  It was a great time for the community to have the luxury of watching a movie!  The teens raised about $40, which we saw as a great success.

The guys selling the drinks and popcorn.

The girls cooking all afternoon.

Las Lomitas calls them "Pastelitos" other places they are Empanadas (a corn shell filled with rice and topped with ground beef and veggies).

Their shirts say "Daughter of God."

Watching the Movie "Up"
Pastor Fredy and his wife Alexandra ready for the movie.
Another thing that came up from them was the desire to do Choreography.  The guys and girls created (with a little help) Choreography to some Christian worship songs and presented at our local church, Pastor Fredy’s church (about 15 min. away) and at a large church about 2 ½ hrs. away.  This proved to be a great self-esteem builder.  In many of these small, oppressed communities the people don’t think they have the resources or talents to do anything or go anywhere.  These teens proved to be really interested and did a great job considering it was their first time attempting choreography.  We'll try to get some pictures or video up at some point.


Theological (Philosophical?) 3 of 3..."The Greyscale"

Greyscales seem to not be born, but made. The natural tendency of humanity is to emerge into this world deeply founded in the world of absolutes or postmodernism. This new human then spends his life doing one of four things. 
 1.       Ignoring the idea of morality and refusing to engage in the problems of his race. 
 2.       Growing deeper and deeper in the conviction of their ideology. 
 3.       Growing deeper in his ideology until a critical moment passes that causes them to suddenly reverse their perception of morality. 
4.       Growing deeper in his ideology until the recognition that neither his ideology nor the opposite can fully explain the breadth of Good and Evil and that a suitable compromise is needed.
Those that come to realization number four find themselves living the life of the Greyscale.
The Greyscale is an interesting creature that tends to confuse both the Black/Whites and the Greys. Without being hypocritical, the Greyscale has the capacity to simultaneously agree with and refute both sides simultaneously. Although this seems like the defining trait of any so-so politician, in reality, it is a trait that appears to be fairly rare.
The Greyscale looks at morality in terms of both the absolute and the unknowable. To the Greyscale, Good and Evil are facts of life and absolute truth is undeniable, but at the same time he recognizes that most of life exists on a morality continuum that allows for morally neutral to exist. In addition, the Greyscale allows himself to make decisions based on concepts of common good or utilitarianism without ignoring critical tenants of faith. The ability of the Greyscale to combine absolutes with situational morality provides a very wide base with which to support this ideology.
Black/Whites cry foul at this ideology, distraught at the idea of a world where absolute truth doesn’t answer every question.  Greys find themselves equally offended at the proposed existence of absolutes, fearful that their existence lends to the possibility that they could be imposed on others. However, these groups fail to recognize that they are the ones that birthed the Greyscale. Due to their inability to address the issue of the innate moral law felt by most people breathing or the problem of the contradictions easily perceived in the world of absolutes, the Black/White and Greys find themselves pushing their own into the middle ground of the Greyscale.
Within this ideology, the Greyscale is able to reconcile his faith with the problem that is Evil. Belief in God is possible in a fallen world. I’ve found myself believing more and more strongly in the Greyscale perspective. Growing up, I was painfully familiar with the Black/Whites of the world, and as a result of this experience, very nearly snapped myself over to a solid Grey. The Black/Whites have a powerful tendency to scar those that approach too closely, but the Greys have the nagging capacity for apathy that fails to answer many of existence’s crucial questions.
In this middle ground, a Jesus who scathes the hypocritical religious types with burning sarcasm yet turns to the crying prostitute with immense compassion makes sense. A Jesus who destroys the Old Covenant system of “do nots” and precise ritual in favor of building a faith based on self-sacrificial love and the command to care for our neighbors becomes a Savior worth following. It is in this worldview that love, hope, and truth are set as absolute good and suffering, oppression, and pain are true evil. It is also this worldview that allows life more morally confusing topics to find their place in the in-betweens. Our challenge as humanity is to recognize our position on this continuum and find the place where Truth exists as well as our response to its presence.



Escuelita is what our village calls Escuela Dominical or Sunday School.   

We have an average of 25 kids aged 2-10 each week; we don’t have limits on the ages so we get all over the map depending on the week.  When we moved here, Stacey said she was more than willing to start a Sunday School, but there would need to be a local leader in training to eventually take it over as the main teacher.  This local leader turned out to be a very mature 13 year old named Iris Marlenis.  This picture is great and explains itself, but that's Iris Marlenis at the front with Stacey.

She spent several weeks just observing and helping and then each week started to take on one activity.  She has gradually taken on more activities, worked herself up over the year, and is now running Sunday School on her own.  We still are present but have tried to let her spread her wings and fly.  We recently have brought on another 15 yr old girl who will be an assistant to Iris, her name is Maritza.  It is very encouraging to know that while we are visiting back in the States this holiday season, the children in Las Lomitas will continue to be taught the Word and have a safe and healthy place to be Sunday morning. 

We thought we’d let you have a glimpse into an average Sunday morning at 10am.  

Each child passes to the front of the church as they arrive to “check in” and say their Bible memory verse.  They get a piece of candy as a reward if they recite their verse.  Then we enter into a “song” time where they have learned about 10 Bible kids songs this year.  It’s been wonderful to open these children’s minds to songs made for them that are fun, have motions, and carry a message instead of only “adult” worship songs they knew from church before.

After the songs they all sit down and start the time where they must remain, “Calladito y Tranquilito” (Quiet and Calm) otherwise known as Bible Story time.  We brought down a children’s Bible which is illustrated in cartoon style and the kids enjoy hearing and watching the Bible story. 
That's Maritza and Iris to the left of Stacey, the two who are taking over while we're gone.

If Stacey feels a little reinforcement is needed to understand the story or the lesson for that day it is followed up by further explanation which usually involves using volunteers. At the end of this time we recite what is their “homework,” a Bible memory verse taken from the story.

We then play a game.  We’ve introduced a lot of our typical games as well as used some of the local ones to get the kids moving and have some fun.

After they have run off some steam, we sit down at our plywood on top of boxes make shift table (thanks Apex team for the idea!) and have craft time.  Many times it’s a coloring sheet or many times we create some sort of craft to go with the Bible story that day.

Yep, Echo attends Sunday School too, he's actually our most faithful student!

We finish the morning by making a circle and ending with a prayer that the kids repeat aloud after the teacher.  We also pass around an offering basket and encourage the kids to learn to give, many of them pull out their one or two Lempiras (5-10 cents in USD) and proudly drop it in the basket.

We thank God for the opportunity to share His word, His story, and His promises with these little ones that don’t receive this teaching anywhere else.