Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Columbus Day...Around the World

Last week, while calendars in the U.S. were marked with Columbus Day, countries all over Latin America were celebrating their own versions of the holiday, in honor of Columbus discovering 'the Americas.'  Little did I know that school kids in Central America, South America, and the Caribbean had grown up - like me - learning that "1492" was a very special year, and that "the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria" were very special ships.  On Friday Bart and I were enlightened on just a few of these commonalities that we share with our Latin American friends, as the 4th year Baxter students made presentations on their countries' cultures.
For the presentations, the two of us were asked to be judges for categories like decoration, music, and food.  So I channelled my inner Top Chef judge and enjoyed the delights they had to offer.  In terms of food, my favorite treat of the day was an avocado smoothie from Colombia (I know it sounds crazy, but it was so good!).  In the music category, our brothers from Cuba scored high for their great rendition of "Guantanamera," which means "a girl from Guantanamo."  And while a day like Friday can highlight all the distinctions between countries, for me it also illuminates the fact that, as humans, we are more alike than different.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Children's Day!

Last weekend, the Baxter students celebrated Children's Day!  In Honduras, Mother's Day and Father's Day are celebrated, just like in the States.  But here they also celebrate Children's Day, which is a pretty big deal.  The presents that the kids receive, as well as the focus placed on them, could rival many Christmas celebrations here.
Last year for this event, Bart and I bought a present for one of the children.  This year I wanted to do a little more, so I volunteered to bring some food for the party.  I've taken food to events here before, but this was the first time for me to bring a dish that they suggested...and that I knew they'd have high standards for.  I hate to divulge what it was, because it seems simple enough, but I know many of you reading this will realize how stressful it can be try to fulfill a task according to the standards of another culture.
Well, everybody ate what I brought...and nobody for me, that's a success.  And, honestly, it felt great to walk away from Children's Day this year knowing I had stretched myself a little and tried to adapt to this culture just a bit more.  (poco a poco...right?)


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

JEC Boys Building Bleachers

It has been so neat to watch the high school boys at Jóvenes en Camino these past few weeks.  The director, Ronald, informed them that by helping us build bleachers on the basketball court, they'd be earning their chance to go to the annual church camp at the Baxter Institute, called 'El Encuentro'.  (We plan to raise the money for the entry fees for all those who have helped.) 
Some of you may remember this post we wrote after last year's camp.  Well, the majority of the boys in high school this year were able to attend 'El Encuentro' last year, so they remember how fun it was.  And the rest have heard how fun it was.  So every spare moment, the boys have been out there working on the bleachers: mixing concrete, laying cement block, and putting the finishing touches on this great project. 

We love that not only are they earning their chance to go to church camp this year, they've also constructed some beautiful, useful seats for all the fans of the many basketball, volleyball, and fútbol games to come!


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Loving to Learn

"When we learn from someone, it is one of the great honors we bestow on them."
-Duane Elmer
Cross-Cultural Servanthood

With two church groups in town last week, Bart and I decided to try a little experiment: to ask the Baxter students to teach the North Americans some Spanish using the Bible and simple conversation.  As far as we can tell, it was a success, not only because it gave the groups some one-on-one Spanish practice, but also because - apparently - everyone really enjoyed getting to know one another better.  
It's easy for the two of us to see how integral this act of learning is while doing mission work (because of how much the Latin people here have taught us), so it only seemed natural to try to involve some of our North American friends in some intentional learning activities.  We want to thank the Baxter students for their willingness to be 'teachers' for the night.  And I'd also like to thank the North MacArthur Church of Christ and the Memorial Road Church of Christ for being enthusiastic participants in "La Noche de Español!"


Monday, May 7, 2012

Elvin & Mari

We are consistently impressed by the people we work alongside here.  With the amount of energy and love they are able to show us and each other, we often find ourselves wondering, "How do they do it day in and day out?"  Two such people are Elvin and Mari, who are houseparents for the youngest boys at Jóvenes en Camino.  They treat the boys in their care like their own sons, constantly interacting with them in creative, exciting ways.  
Throughout the month of April, Elvin put on a campus-wide soccer tournament, forming the teams with a mix of ages, naming each team according to bugs ('the flies,' 'the ants,' 'the cockroaches,' etc.), and scheduling the games weeks in advance.  He also kept a record of statistics, in order to award outstanding players.
Every team had to find a "sponsor," who would coach them and cheer them on, and 'the mosquitoes' found Mari.  She ends a game as tired as the players are, from jumping around, cheering, and shouting directions to her team.  And at the end of the game she has candy and homemade refreshments for her players. 

The picture below is of Elvin (black shirt) lining up the two teams for The Championship.  He orchestrated the start of the game just like a professional event, and you could feel the intensity from the players, the coaches, and the fans.

And here is a shot of the winning team, 'the mosquitoes,' with Mari as their sponsor.

Congratulations, Los Zancudos, for a great job in the tournament!  And thank you, Elvin and Mari, for your example of love and commitment.


All-night Bonfire - "La Fogata"

Ever since we began our 2nd year here, things have gotten a little easier, and in large part we attribute that to simply knowing what to expect.  Being in attendance at an event for the always-mysterious first time continually keeps us guessing, "What time is it really going to start?" "How long is it really going to last?" "What are we going to be doing for the next ___ hours?" and, "What's going to be expected of us during this thing??"
So with all these questions spinning around in our heads - on top of the fact that the event lasts ALL NIGHT - last year's "fogata" was pretty exhausting for both of us.  But just the luxury of knowing what to expect really helped us relax and enjoy the experience more this year.
If you're wondering what an all-night fogata looks like, here's a rough outline of the schedule (which might also give you some insight into Honduran culture):
7:00pm - people show up
8:30pm - event actually gets started
9:00pm - preaching & singing
10:30pm - snack break: tamales & coffee (or Coke)
12:00am - more preaching & singing
1:30am - snack break: bread with beans and cream & coffee
2:00am - 'talent show' with singing and "dramas"
4:00am - the bonfire is lit, and several men are designated to lead prayers 
5:00am - event wraps up and attendees are sent home with a thick, rice-based breakfast drink

The photo above is our youth group performing their drama, which was about a girl being tempted away from her dream of serving the Lord by things like a flashy career, 'cool' people, a love relationship, family, etc.  We were so proud of the job they did and the obvious amount of time they had spent planning it.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

In all circumstances

I don't know how many of you are currently enjoying the book Jesus Calling, which is a daily devotional book, written from the perspective of God talking to us.  If not, I'd highly recommend it.  If so, you'll be familiar with this part of today's passage:

"You trust Me when things go well, when you see Me working on your 
behalf.  This type of trust flows readily within you, requiring no exertion
of your will.  When things go wrong, your trust-flow slows down and solidifies.
You are forced to choose between trusting Me intentionally or rebelling:
resenting My ways with you.  This choice constitutes a fork in the road.  
Stay on the path of Life with Me, enjoying my Presence.  Choose
to trust Me in all circumstances."

This really hit home with me, because the Latin Americans we're around are teaching me great lessons about this very theme.  An excellent habit I've noticed they practice is not dichotomizing every event of their lives into either 'good' or 'bad' categories.  Whereas our tendency might be to call something a "blessing" or a "curse," depending on how much trouble or pain it brings us, our friends here are more likely to view trials as blessings, because of what God might be teaching them through it.  (And they really value that Divine lesson.)
"Blessings," in my mind, have really only ever been those things (usually material) that bring me happiness, ease, comfort, or some kind of success.  When I hear someone pray, "God, thank you for all you've blessed us with," my mind does not envision the trials of life...the illnesses, the stress-filled days, the painful moments... 
For the most part, the only thing I think about during a hard time is, "When will it end?!"  I don't want it to last any longer than necessary, and I don't actively seek after the ways God might be trying to mold me and shape me in the midst of those circumstances.
I want to have more appreciation for the lessons that God is trying to teach me in difficult times. And really, what it probably comes down to is trust.  
Do I trust God when my life seems awful, just like I do when it seems great?  
And will I choose to trust God's love for me no matter the circumstances?


Monday, March 26, 2012

Picture Honduras

The Spring Break season means lots of North Americans in Honduras.  Pictured here is a group from Memorial Road Church of Christ and from Young Life in Oklahoma.  We're really grateful for all the help and encouragement they gave us last week.


Monday, February 6, 2012

poor & needy

For several years now I've had an interest in issues of poverty and have sought to learn more about how God feels about and treats the poor.  To me, it's pretty evident that God has a special place in his heart for the needy, as time and again we can read that He "rescues ... delivers ... protects ... secures justice for ... upholds the cause of ... hears the cry of ... and provides refuge to the poor," and encourages believers on the earth to do the same.
So lately, as I've been reading through the Psalms, something has caught my attention and sparked my interest in a new way.  Throughout David's writings he continually uses a phrase that, in my opinion, is a bit unexpected from the mouth of a king: 

"I am poor and needy."

Unexpected, because - usually - visualizing the poor and needy leads our minds to the financial realm, and we may think of people without shoes or food or a decent house.  But I'm pretty sure that King David didn't lack for material things and was not speaking in material terms.  I believe David was talking about his need for God in his life.
And don't we see a similar theme throughout Scripture, that the LORD loves when we are willing to admit our weakness without Him and run to Him for His strength and love?  The Beatitudes tell us that the 'poor in spirit' are blessed.  The story of the Prodigal Son honors the contrite spirit of the young son, as he trusts enough in his father's love and forgiveness to return home.  In my own life I feel closest to God when I'm willing to be empty before Him.
I believe God wants us to live bold lives for Him...but I think He wants that boldness to come from Him and not from ourselves.  It's easy, especially when things are going well, to claim the power or the intelligence or the skill with which we accomplish success as our own, forgetting that everything Good comes from Him.  No breath we take, thought we think, or deed we do is possible without His sustaining power in our lives.
For Christians, the day of our confession and baptism is a salient point in our lives of surrender of our selves - an admittance that we, indeed, are poor and needy, and that we're nothing without the saving grace of God.  But the further I travel along my journey with Him, the more I realize He wants me to regularly and continually bow before Him in that same humble posture, acknowledging His beautiful glory.  
And His glory - I think - is what it's all about.  In Psalm 109:22, David says, "I am poor and needy," and a few verses later, "Save me in accordance with your love...Let them know that it is your hand...that you, O LORD, have done it."


Sunday, January 22, 2012


This is an update for those friends of mine who, a few years ago, kindly pointed out my habit of reacting very demonstratively when people tell me incredible/crazy/unbelievable stories. According to them, I guess there's a lot of "uh-uh!," "you're kidding!," and "seriously?!" coming from my end of the conversation.
Well, I'm happy to announce that I've found equally-enthusiastic ways to express myself in Spanish. In the photo above, I can almost guarantee you the words coming out of my mouth are, "En serio?", which means, "Seriously?" ...and which I find myself saying all the time!
For real, though, this picture is from an amazing lunch we had yesterday with a family from our church. They showered us with love and good food, and we were so blessed to have spent the afternoon with them.  
We'll write more about this lunch in our next newsletter.  If you're not getting our newsletter and would like to, just email me at, and I'll add you to our list!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Time Difference

Of the many differences between the culture of Honduras and the culture we are accustomed to in the US, the view of time is, for me, at the top of the list of the widest culture gaps.  Before we came, I had some knowledge that Latin cultures tended to view schedules and appointments differently.  I had no idea how deeply-rooted and fundamentally different each culture's view of time really is.  I still can't totally wrap my brain around it.  To have a completely different view of something as basic as the essence of time seems unfathomable.  But however difficult it is for me to imagine not completing an important task on-time because of a long chat with a neighbor over a cup of coffee, it would be equally unthinkable for many Hondurans to turn their backs on something as important as an enjoyable discussion with a friend in order to finish an inconsequential task that can always be done later.  Each view of time certainly has its pros and cons.  And while I do think we should be good stewards of our time and "seize the day," I think we could benefit from learning some lessons from this different perspective.  Whenever I have an unexpected "delay" or "interruption", I usually think something like, "What else could I be doing right now?" or "If I wasn't having to wait here or be interrupted like this, there's no telling what I would be accomplishing!"  The truth is, I would probably be happier and have better relationships if, instead of focusing on what else I could be doing, I was just present wherever I found myself.  To quote John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans."  The fact is, wherever I am, that's where I am and I'm not somewhere else doing something different.  It could be that right now I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.  Maybe that's part of "making the most of every opportunity".


Monday, January 9, 2012

Being back in the U.S.

On our visit to the states a lot of people asked us if it felt weird to be back or if we were experiencing any "reverse culture shock".  It did feel strange to come back to the US for the first time in 14 months after living in a "developing country".  It was strange to hear so much English being spoken, for the roads to be so wide and smooth, and it was weird to see how much of a selection of everything there was the first time we went to the grocery store.  

After a few days, though, probably the most shocking thing to me was how "normal" things in the US felt.  That initial shock wore off much more quickly than I thought it would.  Pretty soon it felt normal again to be able to find nearly any type of food you could ever want in any grocery store, or to see really nice houses without a wall and razor-wire around them, or to be able to walk down the street at night.  I'm definitely no expert on living abroad and there's lots of places in the world I haven't been yet, but I've learned enough about the world outside my home country to know that the lifestyle that most people in the United States enjoy is not normal.  I don't mean that there's anything wrong with it.  I just know now that what we have experienced here in Honduras in a little over a year is much closer to reality for the vast majority of people around the world than the culture I lived in for 31 years. 

I think probably the best thing about being back in the US was, for me, being able to enjoy the small (and not-so-small) luxuries that I had grown accustomed to.  I was able to better appreciate those things and to feel gratitude to God for them.  I think that must be the point.