Echo growing up

First day home...
How he used to ride in the car...
...How he rides now.


2 Steps forward 1 step back

That's how we feel like the construction process has gone for us with our new home.
We get moving and feel like something is accomplished right about the time something else falls through.  But, we are making process- in fact the roof went on Mon. and we started pouring the concrete floors today!  The hope and prayer is to move in this Sunday.  There will still be plenty of loose ends to tie up in the next few weeks/months to get our property to be the model we desire - but with the walls, windows, roof, floors, and doors - we'll move in!  We started digging ditches at the beginning of February and it's been a lot of work since then - we're ready to be living there!
Some days we really wish there would have been an existing home that we could have rented/purchased, or built a faster home - but when it comes to hosting all of you - we're very glad with what we've made.  It's simple (20ft. by 25ft.), but very well built - we could live there forever.  As our mason said, "your grandkids could live here."   God knows better than we do.
So that sums up what we've been up to - literally working sun up to sun down.

We've come to know our nearby neighbors well and are very thankful for them.  They watch out for us, share food with us, and lend us a hand (or a child) to help in the construction.  We are amazed by the answers to prayers from a year ago.  We started praying for our "future neighbors" last April when we made the decision to move down here and now we know the faces and the names to the answers to those prayers.  We'll try to get some pictures to you of the families (especially the ones to our right and left) in the next few weeks.  One of the things we would like to do for the community as a "thank you" for donating us the land is taking a family portrait and then printing them to hang in their home.  We'll share some of those with you over the coming months and introduce you to them.  Lot's of kids hang out with us each day so we continue to memorize names, learn where they live, and connect brothers/sisters and kid to parent.  We work with the kids on things like "please" and "thank you", sharing, being respectful, not interrupting church services, and not fighting.  They have learned well how to behave on our property and are now correcting each other. Stacey's 2 summers of kid's club director in Mexico are coming back to help her here.

Our future home.
Putting on the roof.
Kaleb and Naun digging the cistern on our future porch; brother Eduardo waiting his turn to drop in the hole.

Kaleb and Naun laying block toward the top of the house.


Come Visit!

Ok, so the house isn't quite ready yet (missing the roof, floors, windows, doors,etc.), but it's time to book your flights.  If you come and stay in our guest room this is your view. 
 A little closer now to get the reality of it.

Las Lomitas (our community) is located high in the beautiful mountains of Honduras.  It might not have running water or electricity, but the view is breathtaking and worth the trip!

Here are a few other pictures of other places in this mountainous country.

Can't wait to see you here!

Toad in a Pit

Well, the inevitable happened, something alive finally fell into our 16 foot deep septic hole (6 feet wide and as of now without anything foul in it). To the delight of every child within screaming distance, a toad was spotted hopping around in circles on the bottom; all that was left was to get it out. After tossing dirt clods at it for a while and realizing that it could not climb out with any amount of encouragement, the rescue effort began. An empty 3 liter Coke bottle was cut in half and attached to the end of a long piece of wire. Señor Toad wanted nothing to do with that and hid himself in a little overhang. Down went the stick on the end of the rope to pop him out. To a chorus of joyful screams, the helpless animal was prodded from his hiding place.

At about this time, the village teacher arrived to see what 15 of his pupils, two white people, a mason, and a preacher were so interested in. Full of wisdom, he informed the children that the terrified animal was probably not overly interested in climbing into the foreign container lowered down by screaming monsters in the sky. “A sack!” he yelled. Five kids went running for a plastic bag. When he had it, he used the wire to make it open wide and lowered it down. As it turns out, the toad was even less interested in climbing into the bigger, noisier thing lowered down by the chief of the sky monsters. Failing twice, we realized what had to be done. The children had now realized without intervention, the toad would die Someone was going down the hole.

Once we had brought the rope from the car we discovered something else interesting. Rural children are about as interested in going into a massive hole as a toad is interested in climbing into a strange space vessel. Eventually, Naul, 14 years old (more on him in a later post) accepted the mission. We tied the rope around his waist, and down he goes. About that time, his mother and our next door neighbor, Arhelia, stops by to check out the fuss.

¨What´s going on?”
“We lowered one of your (12) children down into the awful pit.”
“Haha, sounds good.”

Needless to say, she’s seen a lot in her life and was not surprised that her child had been lowered into a pit to retrieve some hideous amphibian. Following this interchange Señor Toad was unceremonially plopped into the sack by Naul and hauled out, savior clutching him firmly in hand. Very skinny, tired and clearly grateful, we took the toad to a calm, brushy spot and set him free.

I like to think that the toad will be grateful and will come to eat mosquitoes every night at our homes. We’ll let you know how that goes.

Damos gracias a Dios por: salvarnos de nuestros propios pozos y problemas.
We give thanks to God for saving us from our own pits and problems.



A "Crappy" Week

We attended conference this week, and it was all about poop. If we didn't know the Spanish words for excrement before, we certainly know them now. Some of them for use in polite company, some not so much.

With Pastor Fredy we went to the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, to spend a week in a workshop on "Alternative Sanitation Methods at Low Cost." We'd like to sincerely thank Covenant Creek Community Church in Bellbrook, OH for providing the funding to go, it was truly a blessing that I'm sure will apply to many people here in Honduras. The conference was both class time and literal construction time and was highly interactive; all-in-all, we would rate it as excellent. Canadian development organization CAWST did a great job.

We built little platforms to hold eggs off the ground, representing how important a decent floor is for a latrine. Especially latrines that dangle people over caverns of human waste.
 The week focused on how to address a serious issue here, what to do with human waste. In many of the more marginalized communities, there are few or no latrines due to cost or lack of education. People often have no choice but to find a semi-private place and do their business in open air. The practice is wide-spread here and a source of personal shame and also leads to serious contamination issues that can spread sickness very quickly. This shame and sickness feed into the vicious cycle of poverty.

The good news is that there are many low-cost, innovative methods available to tackle this issue. Although low-tech, the work very well to isolate dangerous waste from the community. All of them focus on providing a hole of some sort, with some sort of safe platform above it. From there, they vary widely, we learned 12 techniques in all. Here's a few examples.

  1.  The Arborloo - A shallow hole is dug (>2 meters) with a simple safe, portable structure above it. Users fill the hole fairly quickly and cover the top 1 foot with soil. From that point, they plant a tree above the waste so that it can take advantage of the nutrients below. Clever and simple. 
  2. Simple Latrine - A nice, deep hole with a strong slab above it surrounded with a small structure. The classic outhouse.
  3. VIP Latrine - A nice, deep hole with a strong slab above it surrounded by a small structure. However, this Latrine also provides a method for ventilation and fly capture that also reduces the transmission of disease.
  4. Composting Latrine - Two chambers are built above ground with two holes for the toilet. With each deposit, the user tosses in a predetermined amount of organic material that helps with the natural decomposition process and controls odor. After two years of use, the user switches holes. After two years of sitting and decomposing, users can safely remove the waste and use it safely in their gardens.
 We also spent some significant time working with how we could unobtrusively help the community discover this issue and negate it. We used card games, built paper outhouses, followed case studies, and worked through community development and sanitation theories. In one particularly unforgettable moment, as a group of adults, we were asked to draw turds on a piece of paper, lay them in a group on a floor, then gather around and look at them and talk about how we felt. If it feels ridiculous to read that, believe me it was even more ridiculous to do it. However, it was a surprisingly effective way to see how the community feels about the issue.

For the practical/construction part of the workshop, we constructed a few types of slabs to place over our septic pits, as well as a low-cost, durable, and sanitary toilet. It was all very interesting and certainly useful. We really hope that we'll be able to help apply this knowledge in the communities here. It has the potential to both make lives more healthy and help them understand that they do have value.

Damos gracias a Dios por: siempre tener letrinas que son saludables y comodas. (We're thankful for always having restrooms that are both sanitary and comfortable.)