Saturday, November 26, 2011


This was our second time to host a Thanksgiving meal in Honduras, and I must say it was definitely easier this time around!  We, again, decided that our guests would be Baxter students, which meant that several countries were represented this year: Cuba, Peru and Honduras.  While Bart and I have always been intrigued by international people, after living here, I think we're moving beyond intrigue to commitment.  
When moving here, we knew we would feel committed to the people of Honduras, but I think 2 things have broadened that commitment to all international people.  First, we are international people as we live here in Tegucigalpa.  We are the aliens in a foreign land, and we now know what it's like to try to adjust and adapt to a new culture, to want to share your own culture with others, and to wonder where "home" really is.  So we also understand how meaningful it is when others are patient with us, when they openly extend their lives to us, when they make us feel part of their 'family.'  
Second, through the travel to several other countries that God has allowed us to enjoy this year, and through all the nations that are brought to us (through the Baxter students), we have come to appreciate the varied food, music, architecture, terrain, traditions, people and personalities of many unique countries.  And while no nation is perfect, I believe there is something we can learn from people in every single corner of the world.
So, this year we are truly thankful...For the welcoming spirit of our host countries, for the opportunity to experience new aspects of God through the world's cultures, and for our newfound commitment to serve the 'stranger'...which we hope will be lifelong mission, no matter where we live.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Top Ten Things I'm (Pretty Much) Accustomed To Now:

Although my 'journey of adjustment' in our new culture has taken longer and been more difficult than I'd imagined, I'm finally feeling more comfortable and able to re-define what "normal" is in everyday life.  So - here it is - after almost 13 months in Honduras, the Top Ten list of things I'm (pretty much) accustomed to now:

#10 - Geckos in the house.

#9 - Seeing women breastfeeding as they walk around the mall.

#8 - (Let's be honest), seeing women breastfeeding everywhere!

#7 - Delicious avocado - for pennies on the dollar - throughout the year.

#6 - Pulling up to an intersection beside a family of 4 on a motorcycle.  (If you're wondering how that goes, it's: younger child in front, followed by Dad, then older kid, and finally Mom in the back.)

#5 - Being the only female with light skin, light hair, and light eyes as far as the eye can see.

#4 - Buying cartons of eggs off the regular grocery store shelves...not from the refrigerated section!

#3 - Getting home and finding those eggs still 'embellished' with feathers & chicken poop.

#2 - Living with the windows open year-round.  (The climate here really is amazing.)

#1 - Almost-daily getting the chance to observe different aspects of God's character through the people of this culture!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Super Sweet 15

Yesterday we had the pleasure to experience our first 'quinceañera.' In Latin America, when a girl turns 15, there a many traditions that surround the celebration.  Sometimes there's a shoe ritual, where the birthday girl changes from flats to high-heels.  And at times there are formal dances with dozens of family and friends.  Yesterday's festivities included a sit-down lunch in the front yard of the family's home, and - honestly - it reminded us more of a wedding than a birthday!
And, of course, something to add to our very-Honduran experience was the pouring rain and the fact that there are no roads to this family's home.  So arriving at the party meant a mile trek down a mountain 'trail,' which had quickly become a small river.  The party-throwers tied tarps onto all the tree limbs (hence the blue glow in the photo below) in an effort to keep the rain off the tables, and were continually wiping rain drops off the guests' chairs.  Despite this, everyone was giving thanks for the downpour, because "it's God's will," and "will be good for the fruit in the valley."  Again, very Honduran.  And one more thing we'll never forget about this place.     


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Picture Honduras

We pass by this mural almost every day.  "Paz" means 'peace,' and "Guerra" means 'war.'  I just love the symbolism.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

El Encuentro

'El Encuentro' means 'the encounter,' and that's exactly what some of our youth recently got to experience: encountering God in new ways...and encountering numerous other young people from all over Central America!  Twenty-two of the oldest boys from Jovenes en Camino and 18 of the kids from our youth group in Mateo were able to attend a fantastic camp last week, thanks to generous sponsorships from many of our Facebook friends.  The camp, called El Encuentro, was put on by the students of the Baxter Institute, whose hard work was evident to everyone involved.  From breakfast to bedtime, the youth were involved in devotionals, ice-breakers, excellent classes, sports, social time, and a talent night.  It was so exciting to see the young people we've grown to love being able to interact with so many other neat teenagers.  
Note: Be sure to ask Bart about the basketball tournament!

The photo quality on the picture above is horrible, because the windshield on our truck interfered...But hopefully you can see how our JEC boys are packed into the back of that pickup.  How many people (plus all their luggage) were crammed into the two trucks??  27!!

Two of our boys sporting their JEC shirts, as they participate in 
a daily devotional with 500 of their newest friends!

We were really impressed with how our boys volunteered to participate in a number of different activities.  Here, Erick (in the grey t-shirt) and Luis (in the black jacket) are pulling their hardest in a game of tug-of-war.

Although they unfortunately didn't win a trophy for their efforts in fútbol, they did bring home first place in the basketball tournament.  
Basketball?!?  In soccer-dominated Honduras?!?  I didn't say it was pretty. :)


Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Heart

Here’s some news that I’m certainly the last to hear:  Being a missionary doesn’t make you a good person.
Before moving here, somewhere deep in my subconscious, I think I believed that just through the act of getting on a plane and settling down on the mission field, I’d somehow become a way better version of myself.  I’d grow some wings and a halo, I’d naturally be nicer to people, it would become really easy to talk to others about Jesus, and the temptations that once plagued my life would naturally disappear.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that Melissa-in-Honduras is still Melissa, with all the shortcomings, weaknesses, and attitude problems that I had in the States.  Only here they probably started creeping out more often, simply due to the stresses of cross-cultural adjustment.

Darn!  You mean I’m still self-centered?  And at times kinda lazy?  And (gasp!) even in this ‘developing nation,’ I still struggle with materialism?  Yep, yep, and yep.  Unfortunately.

It has brought to mind so many devotional talks I heard as a kid by former missionaries or missionaries-on-furlough, when they’d say things like, “It doesn’t matter where you are in the world, you can serve God,” or, “You don’t have to be a missionary in another country to be sold-out for the Lord.”  Back then, it seemed like they were selling their cool, overseas lives way too short.  But now, I get it.  I really doesn’t matter where you are in the world.  All that matters is your heart.

I can live in the middle-of-nowhere, Africa, as a “missionary,” but if my heart’s not right, it’s pointless.  Likewise, I can live in Anytown, USA, working a “secular” job, with a right-heart, and that’s everything!  A right-heart might look different from person to person, but for me, it means a heart that’s filled with God’s love for me & mine for Him, overflowing onto those around me; my motives are centered on Him, and my attitude reflects that, so that my service is joyful, instead of some resentment-filled duty I’m fulfilling.  And living in Honduras day-to-day, I’ve really had to check myself: that it’s not just the actions I’m doing that look right, but that my heart really is right.

I’m so glad that God has put me in Honduras at this point in my life.  And it’s so comforting to know that - no matter where in the world I might live in the future - what matters to God is my heart...that’s it’s close to His heart and seeking to be ever-closer.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Picture Honduras

Rainy season has had dramatic effects on the scenery down here!  This picture was taken at the agricultural school in Zamorano, Honduras, just down the street from the boys' home.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wealth & Poverty

Almost every day, because of my surroundings here, I think about poverty in one way or another.  Now that we're 10 months into our Honduran lives, I have way more questions than I do answers.  One image I will never forget actually comes from our short stay in Guatemala a few months ago.  A favorite nighttime activity of ours was to go to the central plaza, sit on a park bench, and just people-watch for hours.  Tons of locals walked and played in the plaza at night, so it was a great way to experience their culture.  
Our last night in Antigua, as we sat peacefully on a bench, we suddenly got caught in the middle of a crowd of adolescent girls!  Some native Guatemalan girls, dressed in traditional clothing and carrying big loads of materials on their backs, were offering to give hair wraps to a family with several teenage daughters.  Hair wraps, if you don't know, are just small sections of hair that have been wrapped in colorful thread, and are many times a 'souvenir' for tourists to take back home.  
I watched as the seemingly wealthy, Latin teenagers asked their parents for the cash, then picked out their favorite colors of thread and fancy beads.  And then I watched the skillful young hands of the native girls as they wrapped their customers' hair.  Being in a different culture helps me see things in new, and many times clearer, ways, and that night as I observed the native girls - working at 9pm to earn a couple bucks - and the wealthy Latin girls - enjoying all the thrills of their family vacation - I wondered, 'Why is one girl born into poverty, and thus destined to work and struggle in a difficult life, while another girl is born into wealth, with access to opportunity and all she may need or desire?'

And then, of course, I thought about my own life...Why was I born in Edmond, Oklahoma, USA, and not into the slums of some of the poorest nations in the world?  What makes me different... 'the lucky one?'  And now that I have been born and raised in one of the richest nations of the world, what do I do with that?  Many short term mission groups are visiting Honduras right now, especially because it's summertime, and I know that members of those groups often ask themselves similar questions.
One of my favorite authors, Henri Nouwen, wrote Gracias, which is actually a journal of his time living and serving in South America.  He was daily faced with issues of wealth and poverty, and I love some of the perspectives he shares.  He explains how, because of the many "safety systems" in his life, he would not be allowed to become truly poor.  I believe the same is true for Bart and me, too, as we live here in Honduras.  He says,
I am not poor as my neighbors are.  I will never be and will not ever be allowed to be by the people who sent me here.  I have to accept my own history and live out my vocation, without denying that history.  On the other hand, I realize that the way of Christ is a self-emptying way.  What that precisely means in my own concrete life will probably remain a lifelong question.
For me, the key words are 'self-emptying' and 'lifelong.'  When we empty self, we strive for ways of being and living that are sacrificial, focused on the good of others.  We ask ourselves, 'Okay, I'm giving this much of my time/energy/resources, but can I give more?'  And when we acknowledge that this is a lifelong question, a lifelong process, we're saying that a regular, honest examination of our lifestyle and future goals will have to occur for the rest of our time here on earth.  
My favorite part of the book - which the title alludes to - is that none of what we do is to be out of guilt, but out of gratitude.  We can joyfully live each day in the service of others, completely out of gratitude for what Christ has done for us!  So inspiring!


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Pat, I’d like to solve the puzzle...

You know when you’re watching Wheel of Fortune (don’t pretend like I’m the only one!) and somebody solves the Prize Puzzle and wins a week-long trip to some distant, tropical island, and you’re like, “LUCKY!!!”  Well, that just happened to Bart and me, without having to solve the puzzle (or be a part of the Wheel Watchers Club...which I need to join soon)!  Some Honduran friends of ours - two couples around our age who each have 2-year-old daughters - were given a week’s stay in a condo on the island of Roatan, plus the use of a car, and they decided to invite us along.

This is a big deal.  Only a small percentage of Hondurans ever get to visit this island, even though it’s just a short boat ride off the Caribbean coast, so the fact that our friends wanted to share their blessing with us was truly impressive.  Actually, the people who gave them this wonderful gift are a family from Texas who currently sponsor the ministry work of one of the couples, Carlos & Idalmi.  The other couple, Elvin & Mary, are house-parents at the boys’ home where we work.  So each of these Honduran couples work in the ‘ministry trenches’ down here and truly deserved a restful, rejuvenating vacation.

Roatan is a beautiful island.  The weather is warm and sunny.  The snorkeling off West Bay Beach is awe-inspiring.  And the ocean is calm, warm, and bright blue.  I can’t help but see God when I’m there: in the tropical flowers, the amazing coral reef, and the many unusual, brightly-colored fish that demonstrate His creativity and design!  It seemed like an unbelievable opportunity before we left...and now that we’re home, I have to look at pictures to convince myself we were actually there.  So the following pictures are really more for myself than anyone else!

Idalmi, me, Mary

Elvin, Carlos, Bart

My swimming buddies for the week: Shelly and Ellen


After a day of snorkeling on West Bay Beach

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Enjoying our Alameda Family

For their 2nd annual trip with an organization called TORCH, over thirty members of the Alameda Church of Christ in Norman recently visited Honduras.  It's hard to believe that Bart and I attended this congregation for almost 4 years!!  Saying goodbye to them was difficult last September, but we knew we'd be seeing many of them during their short-term mission trips here.
Most of their group stayed for 2 weeks, so we were able to spend some of our work days as well as our down-time with them!  They were really fired up about Honduras, so they encouraged both of us with their positivity.  Plus, they helped make Bart's birthday special, which was so thoughtful.

We really love the Alameda Youth Group kids, and these girls really
impressed me with their ability to make fun things happen for the kids
in our church...even at the end of a tiring work day.

We were blessed to work with almost everyone who came from Alameda,
building a house for a family in our church's community.

Some fellow TORCHers helped us paint trash cans for
our church property.

And...always a favorite project...the futbol cancha!
These guys are laying block for the goals.  And though we're 
a few steps away from being completely finished with the cancha,
we're pretty close to being able to play on the field!!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Good Humiliation

This morning I had the pleasure & privilege of speaking with a man I really respect, Howard Norton, who is the current president of the Baxter Institute here in Tegucigalpa.  He has lived a long life of faith, serving as a missionary for many years in Brazil, and preaching and teaching at the university level in the U.S.  Now that he and his wife, Jane, are serving here in Honduras, they are adding a third language to their repertoire.  To me (especially now that I’m experiencing the struggles of learning a new language), this task they have joyfully chosen to take on is truly impressive.  

During our chat Howard said something great: “Learning a language is humiliating.”  He is so right!!  Standing in front of a native Honduran, knowing my mumblings and mutterings make me sound like a 3-year-old, is stressful, tiring, and often embarrassing!  And while I’m so grateful for the seemingly endless patience of the Hondurans that we’re around (they really support any effort we make to speak Spanish), it has been so frustrating to know what I want to say to someone and not be able to say it.

But the gift in this ‘humiliation’ is that I need to be humbled!  I need to be reminded that I don’t have it all figured out.  And I need to be in a place where I have to rely on God and on the people He’s put in my life.  When I finished school there was a big part of me that believed I wouldn’t have much more to learn in my life.  And now, thankfully, God is showing me that it would be a sad, sad existence to stop learning and challenging myself.  Not only because my brain would get bored and my life would be a yawn, but also because my faith needs exercise. 

Having said all that, I must also say that being in the midst of the learning-spurt is very difficult.  At the end of a bad-Spanish-day (sort of like a bad-hair-day, just your brain & tongue don’t function well together), I find myself yearning for an easy day, a day when I know how to do what I need to do.  

But today (thank you, God!) I’m encouraged by Howard and Jane, who, in their late seventies, are still continuing to seek after God’s next challenge for their lives.  Truly inspirational!  

Happy to Have the Dodsons

This month Bart's parents were able to make the trip from Colorado to Honduras to see us and the things we do here.  They experienced some of our typical, day-to-day tasks, as well as helped us with some special, one-time events.  Pictured below are some of the events.

Susan and I held a ladies brunch for all the women employees at Jovenes en Camino.  These are some of the hardest-working women I know, so it was great to honor them with a morning of food & crafts.    

To help reinforce some of the English classes Bart & I have been teaching at JEC, Barry & Susan helped us play an English BINGO game with all three groups of boys.  Barry will now forever be known as 'Bingo Gringo.'

Thanks to a donation of reading glasses from the States, we had the opportunity to help those in the community of Mateo who needed a pair of glasses.  

And we also got to tour some of the pretty places in Honduras, like this great park on the north side of Tegucigalpa.

Thanks, Barry & Susan, for making the trip!!


Saturday, May 14, 2011


A few months ago we found out the law had changed which had once restricted visa-renewal travel to countries outside the CA-4 (Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador & Nicaragua). This was great news for us, both because being able to travel to one of these bordering countries would be cheaper for us and because we were really interested in seeing parts of these great countries. 
So last week we visited Antigua, Guatemala. It was a beautiful city, filled with old architecture, gorgeous fountains, tasty restaurants, and lots of international travelers. We were so thankful to have the opportunity to take a short break from our daily routine and experience the rich culture of Guatemala. 
I just posted pictures on my Facebook, so enjoy those...and for now here's a self-portrait in front of an old cathedral on the main square.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Picture Honduras

One way the city celebrated Good Friday was to decorate the downtown streets with these colorful, sawdust "carpets." It was so beautiful!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Great Days

I count it a 'great day' when something occurs that makes me smile/laugh so much my cheeks hurt. Well, I'm pleased to say that both yesterday and today were great days! Tonight Bart and I returned from our weekly stay at Jovenes en Camino, and here's what we enjoyed:

Yesterday, there was a 'birthday party for everyone.' Thanks to a donation from the States, all the boys and employees got to eat Church's Chicken, birthday cake, and - of course - got to celebrate with 3 different piñatas. A few minutes after the youngest boys started wailing away on their Sponge Bob piñata, the rope holding the piñata broke, landing the piñata on the ground. And the boys, without a moment of hesitation, pounced on Sponge Bob (and each other) and ripped him apart with their hands in order to grab as much candy as possible (pictured above)! The adults around the action proceeded to drag the boys away from dog pile (pictured below), but - I must be honest - Bart & I just stood there laughing and pointing...It was such a perfect moment...I'm smiling just thinking about it.  

Then today...

This afternoon, we had the privilege to attend the youngest boys' soccer game (to which we had been invited 3 separate times by the same boy yesterday!). It was the first time we had seen the team in such 'official' uniforms, and they were psyched to be playing on a nice field against a team from a bilingual school in the area. When we arrived at the field, it was impossible for us to ignore how, um...perfectly...the uniforms fit them. Especially the littlest ones! Their little ankles didn't even fill out the socks. When they came off the field, it was hard for me to give them a high-five instead of a huge hug. 
Again, I can't stop smiling.


Monday, April 4, 2011

fun with family!

Last week was a great one! Four precious family members made the long trip from Colorado to Honduras to join us in our work. We are so thankful that Matt, Betsy, Josiah & Drew were able to spend a few jam-packed days of service and sight-seeing with us. Here are a few of the ways we stayed busy:

tie-dying t-shirts with 60 kids at Jovenes en Camino...

repairing a burned kitchen for a church member in Mateo...

(along the way, earning a couple 'handyman badges' for Boy Scouts...)

enjoying some quality sibling-time...

and taking advantage of every spare moment to enjoy
the beauty of Honduras.

Thanks, guys, for making the effort to come down & be a help and encouragement to us! We love you!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Picture Honduras

There are lots & lots of men with guns around town. They stand guard at stores, homes, restaurants, neighborhoods, banks, delivery trucks, etc. Sometimes they look either way to young or way to old to be bearing such arms. But I think this guy looks like he knows what he's doing!


Thursday, March 17, 2011


In the future I will be sure to post pictures of the "before" and "after" of our projects at the church building in Mateo, but this week I wanted to make sure I posted a few of the "during." For their Spring Break, several groups of amazing people from the States decided to make a trip to Honduras, and we have been blessed to work alongside them. Many have been here in the past, so they have been able to share some great stories. And some are here for their first Spring Break (like us!), so we've been able to learn together.
My initial expectations for what projects could be completed this week were WAY to low. Thanks to their experience, work ethic, and enthusiasm, these groups will leave on Saturday having put us 10 steps ahead of where I thought we'd be! Bart & I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone, and we're thankful for their willingness to show so much love for the people of Honduras.  


Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day at the Museum

Yesterday Bart & I had the pleasure of taking the four kids from Shine! Honduras (the tutoring program) to a children's museum in the city. The museum is called Chiminike, and it kept us busy from the moment we arrived until they closed. Here are a few good shots from the day.

Josè and Escarleth



The kids watching their recording of a newscast they just made.
Actually, the 'newscast' was their rendition of "Holly, Jolly Christmas" in English.

Josè and Bart running the crane.
Like I said, it was a pleasure for us, too!