The Gonzalez Family & School Supplies

Stories from Honduras continue….

There is a family, we’ll call them the Gonzalez family, they have 3 sons in the local K-6 school. The mother, is a short and feisty woman. Her life story has helped her become this way. Unfortunately, she can be found frequently screaming at the top of her lungs at one of her four children (she also has a daughter) be it at home, along the street, or on the soccer field. Frequently yelled are such encouraging phrases as “good for nothing,” “you never listen or obey,” or “you will never become anything.” We have watched her in a few street fights grabbing hair and yelling, we have heard her in the middle of the night yelling. She is also the woman who attends the Catholic church, claims she is a believer, and stops by and talks to me a few times a month while I wash clothing at the pila pretending nothing is wrong, saying hello to Alida and asking how the discipleship class is going. She always is sure to tell me she “knows about Bible stuff and is going to join.” I always encourage her to do so and tell her we are waiting to welcome her in! 

The first father of her children told her “give away the kids.” She says she would never do that because “children are not pets to just be given away.” The man she is living with now is the father of the last boy, not her daughter or first 2 boys. He is known as the town drunk. Most people here take the saying, “like father like son” to the limits and most feel that this is an inevitable fact of life – her boys will grow up to be good for nothing drunks like their father/step-father. Unfortunately, the community is a very condemning one. The father is almost continually drunk, he does sober up enough to work most days as a day laborer and gets an average wage. Almost anytime we see him he is staggering around, especially on Saturdays (payday here). If he did not spend the majority on alcohol this family would probably be doing fine, but primarily due to the alcohol problem, they are well-known within the town as one of the poorest (materially) families.  We could go into MANY more details about their family, but I think you get the idea. We could share stories every week just from this family. We’ll stick to one for now.

School Supplies Giveaways…
This family receives so many school supplies in giveaways in a year that when they receive their $500 from the government, the alcoholic father blows it getting drunk almost on a daily basis. The past 2 years when the “Bono” is given out, we have not seen any improvements to their home, food intake, children’s clothing, etc.  $500 is A LOT of money here (equivalent to approximately 3 months’ income).  This home is one of the most materially-poor in this community and continues to stay that way. Partially because of a father who is addicted to alcohol and who does not seem to feel the responsibility to provide for his kids’ schooling. With good reason – it is taken care of for him.  In addition, their health, and their health care is typically taken care of by the several international medical brigades that come to town every year and give away more medicine than they need.
Again, we are asking you to hear these stories and begin to think before just acting.  Gather all the facts, listen, learn, and move slowly - this is development, not a relief situation.  No one is going to die without school supplies.  If they were in immediate, dire circumstances then that would be a relief situation that would apply for dramatic and sudden intervention.


Stories from Honduras: Mariela

Mariela is from a rural village.  Three years ago, she graduated from the highest level of education in her village (6th grade). Shortly thereafter, some North Americans visited her town one day with a local NGO and offered to pay for her sign-up fees, uniforms, books, school supplies, etc. in order for her to continue on to 7th grade.  For 7th, 8th, and 9th grades, she has received this educational sponsorship from a North American sponsor. This sponsorship has allowed her to attend high school in a community 25 minutes away (by car). Her family only had one basic requirement: transportation costs to and from the school. This is a very good thing; her family participated, valued, and gave toward this education that would benefit their entire family.  They fulfilled this requirement for the entire first year of the scholarship without fail.

Following her first year, it was reported to her North American sponsors that Mariela had passed the year with excellent grades. They happily responded that they would like to reward her by paying her transportation the coming year (8th grade). Of course, she and her family were thrilled with this news. At first glance, this is an excellent idea. Reward a good student. Certainly makes a good story about the US sponsor save her from a life of poverty, etc. However, this simple decision to increase support instead of increasing local collaboration is one that makes us very uncomfortable, especially in the context of Honduras. Anytime that one human secretly believes that he/she is saving another, they begin to believe that they are the savior, and the one rescued begins to see themselves as in need of saving; saving by another person.

Here is where the story takes a sad, but common turn. Now, the organization began to give Mariela’s family $3/day provided by the North American sponsor in order to pay for her transportation. This amount is sufficient to pay a private mototaxi to take her to and from school from her front door, no walking, no bus.  Thinking that all was in order, the year continued, and the sponsors continued to sponsor. Very early in the school year, Mariela’s family realized that the organization would just be handing them the cash.  So they came up with their own plan. 


4 Year Anniversary brings….Stories from Honduras

September 15th marked exactly 4 years we have lived in Honduras.  It has been a long, hard journey with many tough, sad days.  We know we have mentioned since before we moved here how passionate we are about Asset Based Community Development, Helping WITHOUT Hurting, HOLISTIC development, increasing transparency, and decreasing dependency.  True holistic poverty alleviation with long term positive results.  Some of the saddest times over the past 4 years have been watching and LIVING with the consequences of dependency that has been created over the past 50+ years of international aid in Honduras.  We have heard so many people say, “this can’t possibly hurt, it has to be right” – only to watch first-hand how that action caused a ripple or WAVE of hurt in a person and/or community over time.

We would like to dedicate our posts the rest of this year 2015 to stories.  We will change names and locations to protect the identities, but trust us when we say these are true, first-hand stories we have experienced living in and among Hondurans the past 4 years.



Dignity seems to be a difficult goal to achieve. Not necessarily because it unattainable, but because it seems that we often are not entirely sure what it means. Like “empowerment” the very mention of “human dignity” almost seems to trigger thoughts of political and ideological conspiracies designed to catch us in word traps and make us vote for things we’re not even sure if we believe in by the time the syntax gymnastics are all over. (Kind of like this sentence).

However, the concept of dignity should be near the heart of every believer. Whether we talk about it in terms of “sanctity of life,” “human rights,” or “basic dignity,” there is nearly universal consensus that human life is worth something. For those of us that believe that humanity is designed in the image of loving, just, Creator God, we should hold to this conviction even more seriously. However, these brief paragraphs are not intended to determine whether or not human life is valuable, instead it is to ask the question of “How do we value human life?”


Yes. It does get cold in Honduras.

From the Archives: We had a good visit this week with friends Stephen and Melissa Smith. Steve and I were reminiscing about the pre-electric days (they visited prior to the arrival of the heavenly light), when I remembered that this post was in a draft from some time last year. Have a great Friday all!

A couple of years ago, on one cold afternoon we found this in the kitchen.

For the most part, living in the un-electrified Concrete Palace when it's cool and cloudy outside is no fun. In winter, the night is;a magical, damp time of 50 degree nights and 100% humidity. Humidity of the sort that you can't see through and slips through the window panes like a smoke monster. Clean laundry won't dry for days, and when it finally does, it has the refreshing smell of clean mildew. My feet spend the hours of 3-6 AM trying to convince me stay in the warm bed (as if I need any encouragement) instead of braving the frigid floor. My mind and body pucker at the very thought of a shower. Kittens go to extreme measures to warm up. 


Honduran Homestead

Note: This post is a big one and picture heavy. Click any of the photos to enter into a full screen slideshow.
Three years ago, we started digging in our front yard. We pulled out dozens of old shoes, thousands of corn cobs, hundreds of plastic bags, more than a few metal files, and to the great delight of neighbor kids, at two or three marbles per day shining out of the dirt like the egg of some feral window . What was once an abandoned lot slowly yielded to machete, hoe, pick, and shovel. Within a few months, the community dump had transformed into a productive garden. The work that began three years ago has not stopped evolving into a more sustainable form of living. One that is finally arriving to the level of what I would call a permaculture homestead.


Game time.

The homestead in Las Lomitas continues to be a popular place for in the evenings for games and good times. The kids have gone through their phases of favorite games that we’ve either had or have been given to us by family members.


Community Project in Las Lomitas

Average rainfall in Las Lomitas is somewhere in the 120”/year zone. That is QUITE A BIT OF AGUA. Anyone who has visited can attest to the incredible benefits and detriments of having this much rain. It means near constant, magical irrigation for crops, but serious also erosion issues. We always have rainwater in the cistern, but the dirt roads always have ruts in them. Rut is the political term, baby canyons might be more accurate at some times. The variation in the condition of the road in Las Lomitas is based primarily on how strong the storms are at any given time and when the last time the municipality passed the machina over the surface. When our road is at its very best and capable of rally-level autocrossing, I can be home in 7 minutes flat. When our sorry excuse for a road hasn’t been resurfaced in a couple of years, it can take up to 25 minutes to pull into the house and let the shocks and first gear take a break.


"Average" day.

A common question over the past few years has been “What’s an average day like for you guys?” The easiest (and most accurate) answer is that there is no regular day. Weekly activities change more often than Alida’s dirty diapers. Chores are the most consistent thing, but are different for Stacey and I. Since Alida’s birth, our roles have changed some, so with this overview, I’ll try give you a sample of what life looks like for Kaleb now… This was my Monday, July 6.


Mom, where do baby coffees come from?

There is a huge pile of dark black topsoil in Las Lomitas. Fortunately there is a road (of sorts) that leads towards where it rests. Unfortunately, the last little tail of the road ends at the base of an enormous slope about 100 meters downhill from where that beautiful dirt lies in waiting. A friend in town, Len, told me I could take as much as I wanted since he was done with it. So I and a couple of my gardening guys have been filling feed sacks and hauling them through the yucca fields and down the slick path on our shoulders. 100 pounds at a time, each sack gets chucked onto our car's roof rack every time I get a spare minute. We've hauled about 40 sacks so far and there is still at least that much again to be brought down.


Mahogany Men.

In April, a five of us from Las Lomitas drove down the PanAmerican highway to Siguatepeque (See-gwa-teh-pek-eh), the next major wide spot in the road heading south. It is a beautiful drive for those of us that enjoy beautiful drives up into the mountains. For thirteen year-olds who have scarcely ridden in a car, it is apparently a nauseating, terrifying death trip. However, an hour later we arrived at Semillas Tropicales (SETRO) with no vomit in the car. SETRO is a company that collects/distributes/sells/stores high quality seeds of trees utilized for lumber, fruit, and other agroforestry endeavors. We had arrived to attend a workshop with Don Oscar, the owner of the company.



Those of you familiar with Community Development projects may frequently notice that labor is often listed as a contribution by the beneficiary. What does that mean exactly? Lest we under-appreciate this portion, we should examine it a little more closely. The concept varies from project to project and community to community, but might be explained most easily by the following example. 


Goat jumped over the fence of course.

One of our favorite children's book to read with Alida is The Little Blue Truck, a rhyming tale about a helpful old truck that is friend to all the farm animals. When Blue gets stuck in the mud trying to push out a big mean dump truck, the animals come running to help...

Everybody heard that beep, beep, beep.
The cow came running with the pig and the sheep.
Upon at a gallop came the big brown horse.
Goat jumped over the fence of course.


The three main concerns Update

When we moved back home to Honduras in October last year we asked you to pray specifically for three concerns and we said we would trial it for a while and see how they go:
1.      Security
2.      Alida’s Adjustment
3.      Stacey’s broken tailbone

We wanted to give you an update as of now (5 months later) on how we feel regarding these concerns.  As we mention frequently our life down here could change on a dime, so we just take one day at a time. But for now…

1.      So far we have felt great security wise.  We feel like God has given us a peace as we travel and stay home as well as confirmation from the people we talk with and current events.  We have had no issues.  We always keep our eyes and ears open!
2.      Alida does great here.  She loves the people, her animals, and is developing like a very average healthy baby.  She doesn’t seem to be phased by major temperature and weather changes, new people, places, or even her 3rd - 6th teeth that have come in.  Since the new year she has only gotten sick one time, a virus that passed in 4-5 days in January.  She has had a great routine since November of two naps a day and 10-11 hours of sleep through the night.  (which was only interrupted by the crazy Christmas travels) We have very little desire to travel with her any more after our last trip to the States.  She loves to travel, but sleeping in different places and getting behind on sleep were horrible.  We pray she will get better as she gets older.
3.      Stacey’s tailbone continues to be a source of great pain.  The PT doctor’s advice in early January was to wait at least 6 weeks after she stops nursing to see if her body returning to normal(hormonally) will allow the body to focus on healing.  She continues to do her PT exercises and we will work toward weaning Alida as soon as we have another option (since she is allergic to cow’s milk we are hoping the goats are an answer).  If she shows no improvement even after a few months of not nursing her next option would be injections to hopefully keep the inflammation and pain down and allow the bone to heal.  If that doesn’t work we would probably move forward with surgery.  So… needless to say, she needs your prayers as the pain is great and it will still be a long road ahead.

For now (again, our life can change on a dime and we follow the Lord’s lead) we have no plans to return to the US and are looking forward to a good year at home in Honduras.  We are starting Alida's residency process so she will not have to leave every 90 days.  We are truly enjoying being a family of 3 and being at home, sweet home.  At this point Stacey’s health will probably dictate when/if our need to return to the States for treatment.

Thanks so much for your prayers in these three areas, please keep them coming!


Honduran Landscape

Since the passing of our good friend, Canon G12 (the camera we had for the past five years), in the death grip of frozen North Dakota , I have been trying to console myself with the new addition of Fujifilm X30. The quality of images has helped me deal much easier. One of the slick functions on the device is the ability to create fairly high resolution panoramas directly on the camera. I'm sharing a couple of my favorites from our hideous local landscape.

Click any of the images for the full-size version.

Lake Yojoa on a Saturday afternoon looking west.
Santa Elena office grounds looking towards Cerro Azul National Park.
Another Las Lomitas sunrise looking out over the valley below.


The other half

All of January and February we both kept saying how we needed to get an update on the blog and never had time to get it done.  So apparently we both wrote "updates" separately.  Kaleb posted his on the 23rd not knowing Stacey had written one too.  So here is Stacey's version too.
We traveled to the States for 3 weeks to see family for Christmas and have some meetings with our organization in late Dec. - early Jan. 

8 flights, 3 States, 4 homes, tendonitis, and 2 teeth later we returned or our home sweet home exhausted. To be totally honest we were at the end of our ropes in all areas.  Home never felt so good.  Alida does great on planes, airports, and meeting new people.  But, she did not do well when we continued to change her surroundings.  Her main problem is sleeping in new places.  Once she gets behind on sleep (actually I should say, once we ALL get behind on sleep) things went extremely down hill.

Between readjusting and all of us getting sick it took a few weeks to get back to “normal.”  We have been thoroughly enjoying “normal” now for well over a month!  We love HOME!

Some other new things since the new year include adding to our life Alida’s new puppy, Pimienta(Pepper), two goats, and 6 chicks. So we have been busy making our tiny plot of land a functioning farm.  We also have been building permanent garden beds out of stone and concrete to get the garden ramped up again soon.  No end to stories of God working in people’s lives as well.  We wish we had time to write up their stories.  Maybe someday we will.

Our three days a week with HTH have been quiet busy as well as more and more communities adopt the community development process to solicited assistance in the their own community projects.  More about Community Development in another post coming soon.


2015... So far.

After spending some time in the States (Honduras>ND>PA>OH>Honduras) for Christmas, we returned more than a little tired with a little goober more than a little off her schedule. However, after a few weeks, a fever for each of us, and hideous weather, life and the climate have finally begun to equalize yet again. The sun has returned to Honduras from its foggy, drizzly mess and things are drying up a little. Without beating you to death with details. Here are some of the more significant things that have happened since the last update.

1. HTH Community Development 2015 Report: A comprehensive report of last year's projects focused on collaboration and community involvement. Full post to follow on the interesting results.

2. Increasing mentorship with local pastor: Recently a couple of older, more experienced pastors have begun to get increasingly involved in the life of a young pastor very important to us. This is very significant for Las Lomitas and us. Please be praying that the new dynamic is healthy.

3. Raised beds in the garden. Full post coming up.

4. Possible microbusiness training with Guys Group. More to come if it comes to fruition.

5. Increased community leadership training. Via the new HTH/CPH leadership, we will be more intensely focusing on training local  leaders and providing learning opportunities. More to come on that this year.

6. Dairy goats at home. We have now been living with free goats on our porch for a month now. We're working on providing them with a living situation more convenient for all of us. Full update to come on how we came to acquire Pasas and Gota and how that's going.

Hope you all are doing well. We'll be fleshing these topics out with more details in the coming day.

Grace and peace to you all.


Photo(s) of the Day:

On the way to visit a community today, we spotted this alongside the road.


An orchid in full bloom as the dry season begins. Many trees are flowering now and the heat is beginning to slowly increase, as will hopefully the blog posts. Be looking for a full update soon.