Update from May - a little late.

One could say that Honduras is not exactly Ohio…

If our return to Honduras has reminded me – it is of the tremendous adaptability and resilience of the human being. I remember when Fall fell down on top of us in Ohio last year. My body had the peace of half a decade without transitioning into a true cold season. It seemed like once the cold had oozed into my hands, head, and feet that only fire itself could thaw me out – then eventually my body remembered that this could be normal and the internal thermostat cranked back up – only in time for us to move back here.

Slowly but surely, my thermostat has reset itself again, 90 degrees feels less like a 190 degrees now – although I still wish the sun would back off a bit. Out of the month + we have been here, we have had only a few days of relief lower than 94-98. It’s all up in our business at 4:30A – anxious to get caught up with the wet blanket affectionately known in Honduras as “air.” Around 7:30A, humidity and temperature meet up for a midmorning coffee chat at around 85 before the sun stands up and heads up to get the real work done. Eliana has long-forgotten what clothes feel like and sweats through a 30-minute nap before getting back to being awake and hot – smile on her face sometimes. My straw hat seems like it is constantly smoldering, threatening to burst into flames at any moment and scorch my bald head even worse that the rays beating down on it. Stacey turns towards the freezer – our dearest friend – and plops the ice cubes into the liquid of the hour.

The sun isn’t the only thing with an obnoxious streak. I’d forgotten that our cat really, really, really likes to eat and is willing to risk anything to get just a little more food. His hungry meow is a hideous low yowl, like some demonic raccoon – relentless and brain-gratingly effective. When that doesn’t work, he is fond of chomping at our legs and then sprinting off to his food bowl before whatever we just chucked at him reaches its target. Now he has some new tricks.

Let me just stop for a moment to say this thing is well-fed, not fat, but certainly the thickest cat in the Republica. There’s no reason for him to be so persistent. This is malice – plain and simple.

The meowing begins ferociously and relentlessly in the middle of the night when he’s managed to stow away for the night. That earns him no food, but an unceremonious toss out the door onto the dog. So – he’s wisely stopped that now and moved onto something even better. At about four in the morning, he starts making rounds from window to window, with his ridiculous siren yowling away. He’ll park it for about 5 minutes at each window – trying to figure out where we are. Once he locates us, he slips into Park, puts on the emergency brake, and lays on the horn. We’re all eventually learning to sleep through that now – not that this is stopping him at all. Two mornings ago, he revealed his secret weapon – the aerial assault.

At five in the morning, I got up for my morning routine only to hear some foul-hearted creature stalking me on our tin roof. I thought I was imagining it. Then last night, I went out at about 8PM to separate out the baby goats for the night. As I stepped outside, I heard a familiar – yet weak – meow. It shakily repeated a few times. I couldn’t see him. The weakness in his yowler suggested that he was ill or hurt, and for some reason, instead of glee I felt sympathy. Then I figured it out. Dear God, I’ve parked the car on him! Nope. The weakness was only the result of distance from the source. I flipped the flashlight up to see two giant yellow eyes smiling back from the roof. This morning, I heard him slip onto the roof above our room from the mango tree, walk across the house and camp out. When I got moving, he started to wander about – soundtrack on repeat. Once everyone was up in moving in the girl’s room, it sounded like he was going to come through the roof.

A truce of some sort is going to have to be made soon.

Outside of the relentless demon cat, the sun’s uncomfortable proximity, and an exhausted baby without a discernable biological ability for longer than 30 min. naps, we’re doing alright. Things have truly been extremely busy, and we’re trying to axe those things that aren’t of super-high priority and determine what will both allow us to survive and be effective. I think that we’re beginning to see that path, and we appreciate your prayers as we attempt to navigate our way to the trailhead of FAM O’ FOUR + HN.

I’m going to try to get a comprehensive update of life around the house and HTH sometime over the next week. Thanks to all of you who have reached out. We love to hear from those we love and are grateful for your communication. Those that haven’t. Drop us a line (good ol’ fashioned e-mail is preferred). Let us know what is going on in your lives – we’d love to know.

Grace and peace to you all.


Home (and hot) Again!

Our return to Honduras went as smoothly as we could have hoped. International travel went better than can be expected with a 3-month and 3-year old, and we received a very warm welcome upon our return to Honduras. Eliana slept like a baby supposedly should sleep for about three days. Our friends and neighbors were waiting for us inside our house with cake and food. Our coworkers at the office also fattened us up with cake. The climate was beautiful, low 80s and cool at night, with a little rain. Sincerely, we could not have arrived in a smoother transition.
These past few days have been more trying. Eliana is doing great at night, but fights naps like it was the grim reaper and not her parents that were holding her in the rocking chair! She’ll sleep for about 30 minutes and then be up at it, ready for more! Fortunately, she’s usually happy when she’s awake, but when she cranks up… look out! Even our neighbor Argelia, mother of 12 children, has been shocked at Eli’s ability to resist sleep and crank up the volume. That being said, she could be doing much worse, and has steadily, but slowly improved since the worst of the colickiness at around 2 months.
Alida has rekindled her love for her friends and animals. Abi, Kensi and the twins are back around the house as usual, and have been easing Alida back into the world of Spanish – where she has to respond in Spanish. At home, for the past 10 months, we have spoken to her strictly in Spanish when we are alone, but she seldom responds in Spanish. As a result, she is able to understand her friends perfectly, but usually responds (correctly) in English– certainly frustrating for both parties! That is slowly improving however, as she increasingly recognizes the issue. She loves her dog, Pimienta, the goats, the chickens, Eliana, and the cat.

The real issue as of late has been the heat. These past few days have seen a record heat wave that has driven the daily temperature inside our house to well above 90 F for hours on end. Throughout most of this week, we hit 90 degrees inside the house by 10AM and do not drop back below until nearly 9PM – with a high of 96-98 degrees for several hours. This is certainly fatiguing the family and exacerbating Eliana’s napping issues - a couple of times she has ended up napping outside in the hammock to try to pick up a little breeze - but for the most part she's pretty uncomfortable. We hope that this heat wave passes within the week, and we can get back to tolerable living conditions. Sleeping doesn’t come easy for any of us with nighttime lows of 85 degrees. Strong heat is normal for April, it just happens to be exceptionally-infernal right now.

For the most part, we are truly happy to be back in the swing of things – busy, hot, and fatigued, but glad to be home. We covet your prayers as we all weather this heat with an infant – especially Stacey as the majority of the care of Eliana falls to her during the long, hot days when I am at the office or in the field. Things have been rather taxing for a few days now.

In spite of the temporary challenges, here are some things for which we are truly thankful:

·       Electricity: We have cold things to drink now – which makes an enormous difference. Even when we came back after Alida, we didn’t have light or refrigeration. We won’t admit how much Pepsi/Coke we’ve had since we’ve been back – let’s just say more than usual.

·       Mango season: Delicious, sweet, cold, smooth mangos are as good as it gets right now. For that matter, tropical fruit in general. Papays, ciruelas, pineapples, guavas, zapotes, limes, mangos, bananas, everything is sliding down just fine.

·       Neighbors: Our house was in wonderful, freshly-cleaned shape upon our return. Animals look great, yard looks great. Smiling faces have been coming over to hold Eliana for a while or wash dishes as we get back in gear. As mentioned above, Alida is deliriously happy to have her friends (practically sisters at this point) back in her life every day. Eduardo helped me get some heavy chores done around the house.

·       Homestead production: The goats are giving 2 liters a day right now in addition to what they’re giving their 2-week old kids. The chickens are giving about 6 eggs/day even though they should be at the end of their production cycle. Bananas are abundant right now. Overly abundant actually (if there is such a thing). These are simple things that are hugely helpful in a pinch.

·       Warm reception:  We have truly been received in such a kind, generous way by those that surround us here. Sincerely, we could not have asked for a nicer reception. Just friends coming home after a long trip.

It’s good to be home... hot, sweaty, and a little testy.... but good.


Heading Home

Nearly every time we walk out the doors of a plane, we are arriving home - regardless of destination.

We find ourselves one week away from our return "home" to Honduras. Home has been an ethereal but dearly-treasured concept for us over these past few years. Indeed home is where the heart is. As it turns out however, our hearts are not tied off to any particular geographical anchor. It would seem that in our case, our hearts are tied to family - yet another slippery concept that we have already spoken to, but will elaborate upon yet again as we prepare once again to cross the threshold of our house in Las Lomitas with another baby girl.


Identity - 5 Years (Section 6)

This is part six of a series reflecting on the past five years we have spent in Honduras. Scroll down or click here to reach the first section of this series.

One remarkable thing about this experience has been that, for all of the immense effort and time we have spent in learning this language and culture, a great deal of it is very specific to a small locale. Much of that cultural minutia is lost driving just two-hours down the road. In one place, the local slang for kid refers to food in another, with an infinite number of variations on an infinite number of words and concepts. Cultures are inexorably linked to their geography, in much the same way they are to their language. A quick conversation with a Panamanian, Mexican, Brit, Australian or Argentine in the airport is proof of this simple fact. Those interactions alone are enough to keep one humble. No matter how proficient you may become in one or two cultures, thousands more exist - often times several within a single state or city. We are a remarkably diverse species – in appearance, in language, in thought and culture, but we are also beautifully unified by an underlying common identity.

For the Christian, this identity is a two-part paradigm, one that is initially-imparted to our nature and finally completed in our faith. We believe that all humankind exists as a menagerie of image-bearers, created to bear the likeness of a Creator God. All humankind bears this basic identity – along with its accompanying brokenness and separation from our Creator through sin. This understanding of ourselves is also expressly manifested in our original work as stewards and caretakers of all created things.


Minority - 5 Years (Section 5)

Along with the process of language learning, comes the inescapable fact that, no matter how much you want to just blend in, you do not. All of the lovely integration, cross-cultural understanding, and community-building discussed previously only comes through a period of patience, frustration, and feeling like “other.”

Clearly the process is not an easy one – and at first it generates quite a bit of heat. Some challenges were foreseeable, others not as much. Having always been a member of the majority ethnic group in the United States, becoming a minority in a biased culture that does not shy away from emphasizing the difference between ethnicities has been a challenge. Not only do many Honduras naturally- and internally-assume us to be strange, wealthy people seeking to give away our presumed fortune to every acquaintance, they often have no hesitation in expressing that feeling by candidly or indirectly asking for a piece of that pie. Not only do we deal with unbreaking stares and solicitations from passersby, we are often ignorantly (and innocently) addressed as “Gringo” and “Gringa” by complete strangers. Every trip to town involves multiple conversations surrounding our US identity. Many just address me according their perception of me – Chele Pelón (Bald White Guy*). 


Tuesday Morning Photo

A Rufous-tailed Hummingbird sits on her nest in a chain-link fence at our next-door neighbor's house. This is our most common of a plethora of hummingbirds. We've seen multiple nests in our yards over the past several years. They're always a sight to see.


Language - 5 Years (Section 4)

It would be a mistake to reflect on our cross-cultural learning experience without mentioning the critical role of language in culture. The interplay between language and culture is often subtle, but occasionally we see evidence of the strong correlation. Jokes often famously fail to translate well across languages – Monty Python humor and the jokes of Kung Fu movies come to mind. It’s not that the words are unfamiliar or unintelligible, they just often fail to strike a chord. Like looking at the face of a CGI human face that falls in the uncanny valley. To directly translate words without really understanding the social context often does little more than communicate the basic elements of a conversation while leaving it devoid of meaningful emotion. The true implications of a conversation come when squarely-placed in local context and culture.

When we learn to not only speak a language, but to understand the marriage of language and culture, our relationships with our brothers and sisters of different cultures are enriched exponentially. We begin to not only receive information, but absorb unspoken words and hidden meanings. When I talk about biscuits and sausage gravy, my subconscious mind is silently-filled with memories of well-fed Saturday mornings that kicked off a summer’s day of fishing with my brother. A rich tapestry of flavors, feelings, smells, and sensations back up the simple words “biscuits and gravy.” I have discovered that those outside of my native Appalachian culture do not always share my appreciation of those words. I say “biscuits and gravy” – they hear “lumpy bread smeared in cardiac death lard.” Each of us react viscerally to our understanding of what those words represent. I salivate; they recoil.


Tuesday Morning Photo

Alida, Abi, and Kensi play in the goat house/play house. They're pretty big fans of chasing the bantam chickens around the enclosure.


Neighbors - 5 Years (Section 3)

What were initially nothing more than pairs of shy eyes peeking out from behind the inadequate trunk of the orange tree slowly grew into the faces of beloved children. When we built our home, we had to chop off the thick branch of a pito tree that occupied the airspace needed by our future house. The limb was insignificant except for the fact that from it hung a tattered feed sack, barely-supported by two old knotted, frayed ropes – a swing. We promised the 7 year-old twins that we would make another one as soon as the house was done. We made good on that promise and promptly hung it on our front porch. Five years and three demolished editions later, kids still saddle up daily for a go on the swing – until everyone gets too wild and a Big Kid throws it up on the roof for an hour or so for everything to calm down again. Countless games of Uno, Zingo, tops, and dominos have been played in the shadow of the swing on the smooth concrete, while the marble-players seek a more suitable dirt surface to ply their trade. As I periodically hoe through the garden beds in front of the porch, I always inevitably dig up a marble and playing card or two.


Tuesday Morning Photo

An impromptu dedication ceremony for the new streetlights on the road to El Olvido-Las Lomitas.

A few years ago, a spate of violence on this road prompted "The Lawyer," a powerful landowner that lives at the bottom of our hill, to install public lighting on the lower section of the road - years before electricity arrived to Las Lomitas. The night he was going to fire up the lights, he called on the community councils to join him for a spur-of-the-moment dedication of the little project, complete with a mini-sermon by Fredy. Some Lomiteñans walked down and some rode in/on our little Suzuki Samurai (pictured). The lights are still up and running, and they seem to have helped with their intended purpose. The Suzuki has since moved on to another loving owner.


Equilibrium - 5 Years (Section 2)

From private to community life. "Honey how was your day" is no longer a questions shared within the nuclear family.

Over the past five years, strangers have gone from smiling faces to acquaintances to neighbors to friends, and a few have even gone on to become family. Our daughter loves her Mama Gelia next door as dearly as any blood relative and squeals with delight at the mere mention of Fredy, her Honduran Abuelo. We have rejoiced in the birth of hordes of children born annually in Las Lomitas, and mourned as some are too quickly returned to the earth by weeping parents. Still other squeakers have grown into energetic owners of shrieking voices and muddy feet ripping across our front porch, playing the game of the week. Those that were once “other” have become “our own.”


Tuesday Morning Photos

As we look to breathe more life back into the blog, I thought I might post some of my favorite photos from the past 5 years. As it turns out, people really enjoy just looking at pictures! Some of these photos have previously appeared on the blog, others have not.

I am by no means a professional photographer, but I do enjoy photography as a sort of pastime. The vast majority of these photos will be of natural subjects (since that is what I enjoy photographing!). If there is any subject in particular that you would like to see, please let me know and I'll try to post it! Most photos are taken with our beloved Fujifilm X30, but a few are with our previous Canon G11 until it met its frigid end in North Dakota - also a great camera.

Look for these posts on Tuesday mornings. Click below for today's photo!


(Re)introduction - 5 Years (Section 1)

The blog has lay dormant now for some time as we have lived and worked in the US and traveled back and forth to Honduras over this past year. Sorry to those of you that actually read this (all three of you).  However groggy it might be, it is time to wake the blog back up!

We will soon be returning to Honduras, likely sometime in the first two weeks of April. Although we will once again miss our US family, we are very excited to return to our Honduran home and family. So much has happened over the past few months: new children, thousands of miles of travel, a new business, and countless other things.
As much as has happened over the past few months, so much more has happened over the past five years. Some of you know the tale well by now, others are new to our life story. Regardless, as we look at soon returning to Honduras, we thought that it might be productive for us to reflect over these past five years and think of what we have learned and experienced.
As a result, starting today and continuing every Friday for the next few weeks, we will be posting an additional installment of “5 Years” that examines our life up until this point. We hope that you are able to know us a little more through these reflections.
Section one starts right now...


10 years ago, Honduras was just another banana republic to me, one of those forgotten, floundering narco-nations between Mexico and the Panama Canal. In 2010, we made a brief visit to the country without any inkling that it was soon to become much more than just a placeholder on the map. It was to become Home.

Since 2011, we have there built a home and weathered tropical fevers, deluges, and heatwaves. In the tiny town of Las Lomitas, at our even tinier house, dogs, chickens, and goats have squished into the world, and many have gone on to that great farm in the sky (Bought a ticket on Vulture Airlines as the neighbors would say.) At this home our work became our life, and our life became our work. The principles and practices that guided our work also leaked inward, even as our beliefs flowed out. The process of community development is no more an overnight process than that of a newborn becoming a college professor. We knew when we started that this would be a long road to walk and have been encouraged to see positive signs begin to show within our short time in Honduras. These results have only been possible through the careful investment of time, love, and resources, and we hope and believe that the dividends will pay for many years to come.

Much of this investment has been made in Las Lomitas and its 500 inhabitants. Located on the top of a lush hill covered in coffee fields and forest, the town is accessed by a three-mile dirt road that climbs to 3000 feet in elevation. There we built our 500 square-foot block house on a small plot at the edge of the soccer field and slowly put together a small homestead complete with chickens, quails, dairy goats, banana trees, and vegetable garden. After three years of living without electricity, we rejoiced with our neighbors when a collective effort resulted in the extension of power lines into our town. Water comes only three hours/week, so we collect rainwater in an underground cistern which we hand pump into an elevated storage tank for our daily necessities.

Beyond Las Lomitas, we work with Heart to Honduras throughout the Yojoa region in approximately 20 villages to empower local leaders in unity and collaboration as they seek to improve their communities. We do not lay out a prescription for development to these communities, but instead walk alongside them as they determine their own priorities. In the same way, we do not provide all of the solutions and resources necessary for them to accomplish their goals but support them in understanding what local resources already exist and what local connections can be made – a process known as Asset-based Community Development (ABCD). We often work specifically with the local church leaders and patronatos (community councils) in an attempt to break down the wall that has all too often been built between them.

Click chart to expand.
Over the past five years, we have seen many of these communities break out of their former shells of highly-dependent organisms that sought all nourishment and resources necessary to their growth from outside entities. Prior to the HTH CD efforts in these towns, many community initiatives were identified by North Americans and funded 100% by international donors. Through time, very intentional interventions, and the hope of Christ, we are now seeing an average of ~40% of necessary resources be provided by groups within the local community and government.

This improvement has far exceeded our expectations. Our process has been far from perfect, and we have certainly learnt much on our way forward, but the results indicate to us the great potential for local growth that already exists in Honduras. As an organization, we are not creating capacity, just simply uncovering what has been lying dormant just beneath the surface. North American Christians are often surprised to find the evidence of an active faith in Christ in many far-flung places, evidence of our egocentrism – a scathing indictment of our pride. Christ’s power to redeem without us should not surprise us. In the same way, we should not be surprised to find great ability, resources, and resolve in a seemingly broken and impoverished people. We have all been created with great potential, and that capacity has been twisted and drained to varying degrees in each one of us. Let’s not fool ourselves with who the real hero is, and who is actually doing the saving. No matter how white and comely the horse may perceive itself, at the end of the day the thing is still just a dumb beast doing the bidding of its master.

The "5 Years" series will continue next Friday.


Introducing Eliana

If there was ever cause to resurrect the blog, it is the birth of our second daughter, Eliana Paz Eldridge, born January 20!

We are so glad to have her with us.

The first two weeks have gone very well. Stacey is recovering very well from her C-section, and Alida is quite fond of her new sister. No serious jealousy developing just yet. Eliana has really been quite the chill little child, we have joked several times that if Ali is fire, Elli is ice. Thank you to so many of you who have reached out over the past few weeks with encouragement, kindness, and prayers. We appreciate you all so very much.

Grace and peace.
Kaleb, Stacey, Alida, and Eliana