10/26/12

Theology Thought 1 of 3



 I thought I’d share a little personal philosophy/theology with the interested folks out there. I’m probably not the first one to think of this, but I think it’s worth of discussion. I’d like to break down the Christian world into three basic types of people based on their perception of good and evil, and sin. Please know that this is strictly Kaleb’s opinion and not meant to harm or offend anyone. 

I realize that there are probably thousands of types, but for the sake of discussion, we’re going to break it down into three. I’m also sure that most people will fit in between one of these three profiles, but again for the sake of discussion, we’re going to pretend everyone fits nicely into one of these three. This can also probably be applied to many faiths, but being a Christian I find it easiest to explain it in this way.

 
1. The Black/White.
We all know this Christian, for better or for worse.  When someone utters the word Christian, this is the person that immediately comes to mind. For decades, he has screamed the name of Jesus loudest, then taken expansive liberties with the application of His lifestyle to his own. This is the man you know that appears confident in his faith, sure of his convictions, often to the point of war or a fistfight in the name of peace.  He may appear on the local nightly news, very patriotic, and committed to “the cause,” but is very likely fighting demons in a very dark closet. 

His way of addressing good and evil is simple. It’s either sin or it’s not. Alcohol=Evil. America=Good. Smoking=Bad. Million-dollar church=Good. Welfare=Evil. Capitalism=Good. Other Religions=Bad. All Christians=Good. So doing, he effectively reduces the amount of effort required to analyze moral decisions and removes the possibility of scary problem areas that may introduce contradictions or difficult questions into his faith. 

Assuming this person manages to isolate himself well enough from the world or avoid major tragedies, he may very well negotiate his entire in this mode. It’s a very comfortable life for the individual, but often introduces some very difficult decisions. In order to adhere to this lifestyle, he must be a person of tremendous personal resolve and character, allowing him avoid sinful situations and seek forgiveness upon inevitable failure. This “Strong Black/White” is a very rare individual, often very respectable, however, understandably distant from society and of limited effectiveness. 

 Should an adherent to this perspective be lacking in resolve, a “Weak Black/White,” a very different person emerges from the fog. Desiring to be a Strong yet lacking the will to execute, the Weak finds himself in a constant battle against the temptation of his natural flesh, and often failing. As a pattern of failure begins to emerge in his life, the guilt begins to build, as well as his defensiveness. He may become even more devout superficially, even as he inwardly dies. 

There is an interesting phenomenon that happens in a variety of flowering plants that we will call the “Bloom of Death.” Sensing it will soon die and fail at its reproductive mandate, a plant will summon all its energy and photosynthetic powers to create one final spectacular bloom in an effort to spread its DNA before it slowly withers away. Exhausted from the effort, the plant dies shortly thereafter. Someone unfamiliar with the plant may see this beautiful display and think “What a spectacular, healthy plant.” However, someone who has seen the plant struggle and wilt will recognize that this display is only an exercise in survival and not an indication of true health.

So it is with the Weak Black/White, he makes the perfect hypocrite. Driven by the desire to be clearly in the white, but constantly stepping into the black, the guilty man hides his tracks in hypocrisy, desperate to be received by his kin. When this too, proves to be too much and he finds the majority of the members of his faith delivering the same performance, he leaves his faith behind, condemning it as restrictive and false.

How many young people have been stillborn into faith by parents that never allowed their children to experience the gray areas of life? Receiving praise in the white and beatings in the black, these kids arrive to adulthood startled by the amount of unanswered questions that their shallow faith does not address. In order to avoid the hypocrisy they perceived by all those around them, they bypass this step and walk defiantly into a life of neither white nor black nor gray. The ultimate in reaction formation, these products of generational knee-jerk faith fill universities and businesses, nursing a bitterness that often never finds relief. 

We'll continue with a "Grey" next. 

10/24/12

New Addition...Nala

We're proud to announce that we've added another critter to the stable. We are now the proud owners of a baby orange poof!
 
 
It meows like a kitten, has claws like a kitten, but runs like a monkey and seems to be made only of pure fluff and raw energy. However, a few other clues have led us to believe that it is indeed at least in the feline family, if not an actual Honduran kitten, which are the following:
  • It seems to hate water and being bathed and Stacey's poor hands can prove it.
  • It is capable of hosting and sustaining a small nation of fleas.
  • It has the demonstrated ability of climbing to the tops of all screens in the house for no reason, meow incessantly, then throw itself to the concrete floor without harming itself. 
  • It has an unnaturally strong urge to repeatedly walk between your face and a book while you are reading and then at the last second, turn and thrust its disturbingly close, tiny butt directly at your mouth or nose.
  • It insists on following you into the bathroom and then staring at you as you try to go about your business.
  • It hates the big black animal with the huge tongue and paws with a passion that rivals its hate of water.
  • At every mealtime it screams and leaps incessantly at diners like a starving, rabid raccoon until you finally provide it with food, at which time it sniffs it and walk away without interest. 
Kitty and the Tongue Beast.
 Thanks to a recent persistent rodent guest with a fondness for people food and a supernatural aversion to rat traps, we decided we were open to the idea of an animal with an appetite to that type of visitor. We almost immediately decided that a poisonous snake snake in the house would probably make life a little too exciting and that our house is a tad too small for most birds of prey. So, when this abandoned kitten showed up Fredy's last week and followed us around, we decided it might be our best option.

We're enjoying our time with Nala right now, despite the less enduring traits of her species. She's a 1 lb ball of dynamite just starting her mighty hunter training. If nothing the flies and spiders in the house now have to stay on their toes and look over their shoulders.


Flies are tasty.

10/12/12

Passing it on...

As we´ve mentioned the idea was for our property to be a demonstration area.  The dream was for someone, someday to take an interest and want to better their life with a similar idea such as a vegetable garden or water system.  Well this week it started.  People are starting to see our great success after they had all sorts of doubts. 
The local 1st-6th grade local teacher admitted his failures with the school garden and wanted to know what we had done differently.  So, off to work went Kaleb teaching about erosion control.  The teacher has tried 3 or 4 times since March to plant vegetables for the school children and has failed every time.  So, we are hoping now that Kaleb is involved they will have some success and get greens into these kid's diet!





Pastor Fredy has taken an interest as well now that he is starting to share in some of our harvest.  So we're sharing seeds with him for him to have another demonstration garden in his village.



I addition, Kaleb has shared seeds with one other man in our community that has been the most interested, Antonio. He and his family are now eating fresh radishes, with cucumbers on the way. As insignificant as all this may seem, it's the beginning of healthy diets for at least a few local people. This makes a big difference in the lives of these families and their kids.

10/9/12

It's Food Time!

The little girl is walking along our "Lemon Grass Fence." Tea from this grass is very popular medicinally in our region.
These photos were taken yesterday and today to give a general idea of where we're at with the garden. The house photos were taken last night as a storm approached, and the close-ups this morning after it had passed. Over the past 48 hours, we've overwhelmed the rain gauge with two extreme storms, but the erosion control is working like a charm. I haven't watered the garden now for several weeks.

The garden has been receiving a lot of attention as the plants near maturity. Right now we're eating two kinds of lettuce, cucumber, peas, and radish. It's been amazing to see what is possible with a small piece of land.

In the background is the weather that had us with pillows over heads for two hours in the middle of the night trying to sleep through the "gentle, relaxing sound of rain on a tin roof." It may be the loudest rain we've experienced.
The cucumbers are nearing harvest size.

Largest fruit at 50 days. We'll be letting the rest grow larger.
Cabbage heads are beginning to form.
We'll have about 50 heads of cabbage coming in this month, which won't be enough for sale in Las Lomitas. These people love their cabbage.
Peas down here are commonly used in tamales, but we're using them more in soup. This variety is "Early Alaska." We'll be drying many of them to distribute for growth at community homes.
The folks here are used to peas that are harvested from a medium sized tree, not the vining type we're using. So they've been fairly shocked to see us picking them in as few as five weeks.
Our chosen variety of green bean is a low bushing type. It's been bothered somewhat by a beetle that likes the leaves, but nothing that's required intervention. Again, the folks are fascinated by this variety. The plants appear nearly identical to their beloved black beans. Due to high interest, we'll also harvest a significant amount of these beans for seed stock.
The striking colors of beet leaves draw a lot of interest. No one in this area knows of anyone successfully growing beets, but are very excited about the possibility. Our cooler (relatively) climate helps them form successfully.
We now have several beets nearing tennis ball size and will begin to harvest the largest ones of the coming week for personal use and sale.

Ancient grandma heard that we are growing garlic and brought me a head of "Indian Garlic" to grow; it is likely a wild variety here.  It was very small, with a very strong smell, we'll see how it does. It seems to be handling our wet weather better than the "regular" garlic.
Large heads of romaine lettuce are our most exciting success. We've also harvested a good deal of "Buttercrunch" and are letting it bolt right now for the seeds.
Damos gracias a Dios por: El milagro que es comida que viene de la tierra. (We give thanks for God for the miracle of food that pops out off the dirt.







10/8/12

Nicaragua

As most of you know by now, Honduras does not give visas for more than 90 days.  So, as foreigners we have to leave the country every 90 days.  Since we have not been back in the States since Christmas, we have had to leave 3 times this year.  The first was to Hopkins, Belize, second to Antigua, Guatemala, and most recently to Granada, Nicaragua.  We have chosen bordering countries to cut down on costs, but this is still a heavy part of our budget.  Law requires us to be out of the country 3 days before re-entering and getting a new stamp for 90 days.  We would put Antigua as our most enjoyable visit.  Some say, "Oh, how great you get a built in break every 3 months."  Others say, "Wow, that's a lot of traveling."  Both of these statements are true.  It is a bitter sweet time for us and each time we find ourselves really wishing we didn't have to do it.  If we wanted a break every 3 months we could think of much closer and cheaper options.  As we continue to pray about how long we'll be in Honduras that includes if we will start the process of becoming residents which would not require us to renew our visa any more.  Just to clarify, that is not changing our citizenship, just country of residence.  This would be a huge decision and that is why we have not done it yet.
This past time we chose Nicaragua because a staff member and HTH vehicle was driving there, so we got a free ride!  We were able to ride for free with them to the capital, Managua and from there took a small bus to a smaller town called Granada.  Here are a few pictures of colonial churches from our time there.

View from a church bell tower of Lake Nicaragua






10/2/12

Story of a Fighter


We would like to introduce you to our good friend Carlos Santamaria.

He's holding the baby.
This man is the most crucial player in the large purified water project that is being executed in Caliche. He is the Presidente de la Junta de Agua (President of the Water Council), and we would like to share his story with you.

Carlos has a big-toothed smile that he readily throws at anyone, friend or enemy. He lives in a modest adobe (mud-walled) house along the road between the communities of Aguas de la Reina and Caliche. The house is full of smoke from the poorly-ventilated cooking fire and black soot coats most of the interior surfaces. 



Six nights a week, he makes the 30 minute walk to one of two churches that are in the communities above and below with his prized possession, a guitar. There, he pounds the three chords he knows on his poorly tuned guitar with an outrageous amount of energy for up to an hour. Anytime you talk to him, you can’t escape him without him grabbing your hand and earnestly saying “God bless you brother.” His smile makes you believe that he truly means every word. That heart behind that smile is what has sustained him through a difficult life and the challenges he has faced throughout the past year.

Even by Caliche standards, Carlos is very, very poor. They are one of the few families we know that genuinely struggle for food at times. However, their four school-age children faithfully walk the 30 minutes to school every day and take pride in their attendance. Their youngest hangs onto the legs of her mother while she cooks.

It is here that the story turns a sad page.

When we met Carlos last November, we were preparing to start the water project. He was glowing with the pride of his 5 month-old twins, a boy and a girl. We held the kids and congratulated him. When we arrived in Caliche again in the New Year, the community had just passed the night in a vigil grieving the death of one of its youngest members. Through tears, Carlos explained to us that his son had a simple respiratory infection. He considered over and over making the four-hour walk to the road in the midst of the rainy season’s downpours, but realized it would be in vain. He had no money for bus fare, let alone for a doctor. With no medicine, no money, and no transportation, he held his little boy as he died in the night.

Carlos has a special faith. In response to the evil that passed in his life, he chose not to blame God, but instead dedicate himself to preventing this from happening again in his community. Recognizing the importance of the clean water and the health that it brings, he threw himself into the project with unstoppable vigor. With no transportation available for meetings in town with the government, Carlos sets out at 4 A.M. walking towards the road to Santa Cruz. Four pairs of shoes later, he has never been late to one our 8 A.M. meetings.

In our frequent trips to Caliche, Carlos always faithfully explains the progress of the project, and usually takes us walking along the five kilometers of pipe that have been laid 18 inches deep in the rocky soil. Halfway along this pipeline, we pass by Caliche’s humble cemetery. A tiny marker always catches my eye as we move through. Arriving at the filter house that will clean the water clean for the town’s 500 inhabitants, Carlos always expresses the importance of this water, “Not for us, for our children.” Along with the other men of the community, Carlos has dug hundred of meters of pipeline, mixed countless bags of cement, carried hundred-pound metal pipes on his shoulder for miles, and missed numerous days of work that he could have used to work for his personal gain. The community pays only for his bus fare to meet with the government.

This dedication has always impressed and humbled me. I always make a point to thank him for the work he is doing for his community and family. But one day recently, after months of work on this project and weekly conversations, he floored me by a simple sentence, “It’s a shame that the water from this project won’t arrive at our house.” Carlos’s house sits so far away from Caliche proper, and so high up, that the gravity-driven system's distribution lines will not reach his house. I had never realized it, but Carlos had. Every day that he had worked on this project, every blister, every bloody cut, every frustrating day and enormous rock in the ditch, every day without income, he had worked for the people of his community and its children. Carlos is man of an incredible faith, and a man that I believe understands the heart of God in a way I am still trying to reach.

It is here that Carlos’s story takes a brighter turn.

For more than six months, Carlos has quietly expressed his desire to have work in his home, outside of the very unlucrative job of growing corn to sell to make tortillas. He had also mentioned that he was skilled in the traditional work of his family, making ropes and products of twine, namely hammocks and nets for hauling produce from the fields. So, we took Carlos a form, soliciting help from our organization (Heart to Honduras) in the form of a capital seed: a one-time gift used to purchase materials necessary to start a micro-business. We presented this sum, a whopping $220, to donors, who quickly agreed to provide this money for the purchase of materials.

With the money in hand, we hopped in a car with Pastor Fredy Martinez and Carlos and headed into the big city, San Pedro Sula. Cruising its busy, stinky streets, we found the district that sells the raw materials necessary to make Carlos’s products. We let Carlos and Fredy haggle the lady into 12 enormous roles of twine with some metal rope terminations thrown in for free (Fredy has a magnificent way of guilting people into things they would never normally do). We then put Carlos on a truck for a ride back to Caliche and waited for word.

Two weeks later, we made it back out to Caliche, and were amazed by what we found at Carlos’s home. In two short weeks, he set up his entire system necessary to make his products. With a hand-driven system using bike wheels and pulley, Carlos spins the raw twine into ropes up to 100 meters (over 300 ft.) in length.

video

The thicker diameter ropes are sold for $3.00 per rope. He has already sold ten.The thinnest spun twine is used to make his hammocks and corn nets. He has now sold five corn nets at $17 per net, and one hammock at $27. In addition, demand for his product is increasing as the region discovers a new source of product.

video

The work is tedious, but it goes without saying that this man is skilled. He works quickly and nimbly with the tools made by his own hands. Locked away by poverty for years, his hands have finally found the freedom again to work.


Once you have pressed play, click the small expansion cross to enlarge the photos.

This chapter of Carlos’s story is just beginning, and certainly his own children’s books will be written differently because of their father’s resolve and the benevolent heart of a stranger. He is a man with incredible drive, extraordinary vision, deep faith, and a love for his family. This is proving to be a lethal cocktail to the demon of poverty that haunts this country. In a crucial moment of decision, in the depths of sorrow, this man chose not to be beaten down. He is “pressed by not crushed, persecuted but not abandoned… struck down but not destroyed.”