Our beliefs have lead us to the strange place we find ourselves now. Many mornings I walk out the side door, watch a family patriarch pass by on horseback, look down to see baby chicks peeping, smile and wave to our little three-year-old neighbor, brush the growling puppy off my pant leg, smell the woodsmoke from traditional stoves, glare at the clouds waiting for the dry season to end, and I just sit down.

I sit there and I think the ancient question. Why? Why am I here? I have an answer.

I have passed long months, years actually, without being able to answer that question. I have sat unfilled in the office chair, making decent money, living comfortably, doing okay work, getting into the car I wanted so badly, driving home to my beautiful, loving wife, opening my Bible in the morning and evening and serving people around me to some degree. I had faith. I had work. I had my money, family, car, even passions. But it still wasn't enough. You see, you can understand something, you can even react to it with some degree of passion, but there is no substitute for giving it all up.

In Christianity, there is the concept of the "law that gives freedom." For me, many other believers, and nearly all non-Christians, this idea often rings as ridiculous. But over time, I am beginning to understand that only by our willingly and freely relinquishing control of our lives to a capable and all-encompassing goodness can we ever truly be free. Because we're all slaves, as much as we, especially us raised under the red, white, and blue, fail to acknowledge it. Our desires, our confusion, our mixed feelings and even our dreams quietly slip in and capture us. And before we can even cry out, we're done. Life has passed by and we didn't even resist. We peacefully followed the path that our silent chain led us down.

I have passed sleepless nights, hanging on my chain over the pit of sweet existential doubt. Our proximity to the pit brings us clarity; the closer we come to the edge, the clearer things become. As we doubt our being and question our deepest assumptions, two possible answers emerge from the darkness, and a choice must be made. We are confronted with the only two options: I exist for a reason or I exist for nothing. Our choice is then in our reaction.

Should we decide that our lives have no meaning, we must respond accordingly. Should we truly accept that we have no significance, that we have not been created for a purpose, but have instead risen from nothing for nothing, then our only logical response is hedonism. Should existence have no purpose, why should we treat it as if it does--for a meaningless future? However, we exist in a culture full of moral expectations and principles that we insist on forcing onto others. "No!" our culture cries out, "I believe each person has the right to choose what is right for him or her." But do we really? Or is genocide always wrong and there is a moral responsibility to oppose it? If we do believe that, then why? If our understanding is that there is no absolute overriding principle, why do continue to treat humans as if they have innate value? Why should we respond to humanitarian crises? We lie to ourselves when we live as if people have value when inside we know that they do not.

However, should we, in our trip to the pit, admit to ourselves, no, accept that we do have meaning, that we exist with purpose, then we must respond to this truth. Whatever this truth is, whatever this meaning may be, we have an obligation to ourselves, as seekers of truth, to do everything in our power to respond to its principle and purpose, and no amount of half-hearted partial commitment will do.

Should any part of this discourse interest you, please read The Reason for God by Tim Keller. He takes a much more intelligent, comprehensive look at some of the logic and philosophy that surrounds Christianity and discussed here briefly.



As you can imagine, without a refrigerator, eating meat turns out to be a bit of a rare activity. However, just because we don't have electricity doesn't mean that animal flesh is non-existent. In fact, we're surrounded by it, the only little job is to catch it and get the feathers, fur, feet, scales, etc off of it. Although at times I've considered grabbing the chicken pecking at my feet or the insomniac rooster, the truth is that we've decided it is probably best to not steal hungry children's only protein source. Noble, I know.

So, up until now, our meat quotient has been met in various ways. The one time that we bought old cow rubber out of the back of the rusty pickup truck that serves as the Sunday meat wagon convinced me and my aching jaw that this was not a suitable avenue. Four hours sitting in a leaky boat with a hook, line and  suffering worm and only a half pound of minnows to show for it was also a non-starter. The truth of the matter is, we eat meat when we go down the hill, when our neighbors slaughter something, or when we catch or are given a wild animal.

On that last point, we've eaten two or three kinds of doves, tepisquintle (lowland paca), chachalaca (a big bird), and way more than our fair share of armadillos. Everyone else also includes iguana, rabbit, guatusas, possum, boas, and maybe the occasional anteater on the menu. We'll probably try them eventually, we just have missed the opportunities up until now. Armadillos would almost be a reliable food source if it didn't require traipsing around rainy tropical mountainsides at night with a flashlight, stupid smelly dogs, and an hour's work to convince them they don't need to spend the night in their holes. It turns out that they are even less interested in getting out of their shells. Thankfully the excitement and newness of showing up on the gringos porch with a live armored possum has also calmed down.

So, all that leads to where we are today. With our own little two-story meat factory.

The Steinbeck Memorial Petting zoo. Everyone dies in the end.

It has been the plan to raise chickens for some time, but the garden prevented us from just free-ranging them. In addition, we've had a few wild rabbits for a while now and thought it might be nice to eat their babies some day. So, we built this little cage and fenced area for them to live in relative safety. The chicken was actually given to us some time ago as a little one from an ancient townsperson, but it was happier with the neighbor. Arjelia benefited from the chicken's eggs until the moment that she brought over a plastic bowl full of ten tiny pollitos and the mama gallina under her arm as we finished the coop.

People seemed a little concerned at first. Apparently, chickens don't like to be closed in. In fact, if you just leave them in a small space they will die! And, and if you don't give them more shade, they will burn to death! And, if you give them just chicken food, they won't make it!  In addition, they had too much water. Sounding a little bit like the "dogs and cats just eat corn" advice, I took their help with a healthy dose of skepticism.
But as it turns out, contrary to popular predictions, the chickens are just fine. More than fine in fact. A week after getting them, somebody came by.
Visitor: "Who gave you more chicks?"
Gringo: "No one."
Visitor: "Those aren't the chickens you had."
Gringo: "Yes they are, why?"
Visitor: "They can't be; they're too big."

So, the chores are growing as well as the chickens. Not only do we need to weed and water the garden, feed and water the cat and dog, but now let the chickens out, check the water, give them food, come back at night and shut them back up in the coop and feed and water the bunnies (maybe rabbits is a better term if we're going to eat them). In additions our little serving-size companions generate a substantial amount of brown bi-product that is certainly helping the garden.

The rabbits have been pretty low-maintenance. Water, high protein green stuff, vegetable biproduct, a little space, and they grow like crazy. A guy name Luis walked past while I was working in the garden sometime in early March and said "Do you like rabbits?" I hesitantly replied yes, and was immediately gifted with three tiny rabbits. Since then, they have easily tripled in size if not more. They seem very content. They're in the top story of the meat palace and have a pretty good view. Before they moved in, they were in a hastily constructed cage hanging from a rope. Maybe they miss the boat-in-a-storm experience they had before, I hadn't even thought to ask. And, I don't know if they're male or female, if anyone is a rabbit genitalia expert, feel free to chime in. I've tried a couple of times to flip them over and look for informative shapes and such. They don't appreciate it and there doesn't seem to be a whole lot to see. So, who knows. I'm tired of checking and little ashamed of bothering them so.

But, all in all, it's worth all the goofiness, and is generating a lot of positive conversations. A lot of the food for the rabbits and chickens come from garden leftover and other beneficial species that we planted. We talk about the value of water that improves personal and animal health and allows for the garden to be a possibility. All of this is done in a way that gives them confidence and hopefully inspires them to replicate the efforts in their home.

Special thanks to Bob and Kim Westfall for their donation making this project possible.


A frequently asked question

We get the question from time to time: "what does a typical week or typical day look like?"  Or, "what do you guys do?"  So we thought we would try to answer.  Obviously it's hard to answer because of how "routines" and "normal" don't really exist for us.  We never know what a day will bring!  The bottom line every day goal is to be most effective for the Lord.

A Typcial Week:  We try to spend 5 days a week in our community and our main goals there are two fold.  Number one: Supporting the local pastor, church, and community leaders in their development.  We are not leaders in the community, we only support and encourage the locals.
Number two: Creating and living in a demonstration area.  Modeling sustainable technologies such as rain water harvesting, gardening, small animal production, hygine, security, education, etc.  Not just material modeling, but as well in our lifestyle (spiritually, socially, physically, and emotionally).  We're not perfect and never will be, but as all Christians we all need to be at all times ambassadors of Christ.  We attempt to model positive thinking, conflict resolution, manners, etc.
The other two days of the week we volunteer with the ministry Heart to Honduras specifially in their Community Development department with their Coordinator Fredy Martinez.  We spend one day in the office organizing, planning, reviewing solicitations from communities/churches.  The other day we spend in the field working side by side with community pastors and leaders in their own development. Everything we do in our village, but just with less frequency.

A Typical Day:  We wake up at 5:30/6am, have coffee and a bread/cracker (very cultural for early morning here) while we have our personal devotions.  Remember that the village doesn't have running water, electricity, or public transportation, so all that implies (you can imagine) changes to our day.  From there Kaleb hits the garden (weeding, plating, watering, etc.) and Stacey hits the pila to wash clothes by hand.  Making 3 meals a day also takes much more time for Stacey.  Without your typical refrigerator, microwave, oven, etc. we eat a lot of what the locals eat plus what we harvest from the garden.  The 5 most eaten foods in our village are: rice, beans, plantains, yucca (cassava), and corn tortillas.  If we are caught up on projects around the house (currently it's a rabbit/chicken cage) we have time to visit families and help out with community projects like the pilas, rain water catchment, gardens, etc.  When we're not out in the community we are supporting, teaching, and training locals.  We also have Sunday School and Youth Group to plan and execute with local leaders.  We wrap up our day around 8pm and are usually asleep before 9:30pm.

Hope that helps catch a glimpse, it's about as simple as we can write it out.


Rusty Movements

Something is happening at the church in Las Lomitas. Something strange. Something great. We have a pastor who has been very much a preacher of obedience, of wrath, of a great and terrible God. But over these past three or four weeks, a different flavor has begun. In our personal talks with Pastor Erick, we’ve begun to talk about the person of Christ. Who was he? How did he behave? What were his wishes for his disciples? How did he propose that the church would change the world? Our conversations have taken a shift towards the fatherless, the widow, the abandoned. During the services, the name of Jesus is now being mentioned as a thing of hope, not a brick to beat over someone’s sinful obstinate head.

And (Gasp!), it seems that the church is beginning to move itself. The joints seem a little creaky, and the pastor a little uncomfortable, but from within, locomotion is beginning. During this past week, several signs of hope are bubbling up. The group of young men is starting to realize that they could actually  make a difference here. It’s a small start, but there’s already a new bench next to the soccer field, standing as a proud monument to the power of change. In addition, this same group of young men put forward $25 to match the church’s $25 to help a local widow. We have an elderly lady who is very sick and whose children are very poor. Word trickled down through the grapevine that her bed was literally rotted through, and that she is entering her last days. The church took action and last night, we had a service in her house, where we turned over her new mattress, sheets, blankets, and pillow. I had to hold back the tears as Erick passionately urged his congregation to not forget the community’s widows. To not wait until they were gone and then put something pretty on their grave. We must take care of them while they are still with us.

Then (Gasp again!), when little Noe’s need for eye surgery came up. Erick invited Noe’s Catholic mother to church to explain his needs. Then, the people responded by providing $50 to help offset the cost of the surgery. This is a culture that doesn’t typically allow for this kind of interactions between protestant and Catholics; this gesture rips apart many preconceived notions that hold down many church bodies.

Then today (nearly fainting), Erick and I went down to another widow’s home today and split firewood for a couple of hours while she wasn’t home. This particular widow has a delightful story attached to her. She goes by Doña Berta and is old, toothless, and tiny, but so full of spunk that rowdy puppies seem listless around her. Her image isn’t dampened by the bandana she constantly has tied around her head. Every other word out of her mouth is “Dang this” or “Heck that.” Enough said, she’s a fireball.

When a medical team was here from Apex, I had the pleasure of translating for her as the doc asked her for her complaints. Her reply (gesturing grandly).

“Well, you see, I have this air that starts here. RIGHT HERE in my legs. Then I feel it rise up into my stomach where it rumbles around. It makes all kinds of godawful noise. But, then, it doesn’t stop there. It keeps RIDING up, HIGHER and HIGHER! Eventually, it gets into my dang head, then comes hissing out my ears. Puchika. That’s when I know it was the air, when I hear it sliding out my head through my ears. What’s causing that Señor Doctor?”

As deadpan as possible, I translated her complaint. The doc and I looked at each other for a moment, neither of us trusting our mouths should we open them. Then, with all the professional constraint of a good practitioner, he replied. “I really don’t know.”

All of the craziness aside, my heart jumped in my chest as we were discussing what she would think when she arrived home to see all of the wood prepared. Erick said, “I wonder what she’ll think when she gets back? She’ll ask her daughter who was here.” And the answer? “Jesus.”

These are the changes that we have prayed for, cried for, and gently encouraged for more than a year now. Our dream, our vision, is to come alongside the local church and help it recognize its potential as an agent for social change. That true hope would be shared with the world. A hope that doesn’t stop at a prayer of salvation, but encompasses someone’s whole being. Let us assure ourselves that we are not simply walking coffins for a fake, dead Jesus. Our faith was never meant to be locked up and used as a weapon against those with whom we disagree, but as a viral hope: something that starts in the visible and infects the soul, overriding our cynicism and changing history.

 Written early February.