Blog: November 2010
An overwhelming sense of God’s presence and blessing has swept over me this past week. Programs are over for the year, and I am preparing to leave Honduras this coming Friday. This past week I have completed some promotional and informational brochures for UPH, celebrated Thanksgiving with the UPH staff and friends, and went on a wonderful staff retreat. My heart has been so overwhelmed this past week with some many emotions, in reflecting on my time here, leaving this place on Friday, what the Lord has done, and what He is going to do.
This past Thursday our staff of 7 along with 6 other friends from Copan gathered to celebrate a Thanksgiving meal together. We worked in the office all week on final year business things; closing out the books, finishing up evaluations with families and kids in our programs, finalizing some brochure and promotional pieces, working very hard to leave for break having everything wrapped up and ready to go when the staff returns in January. After work on Thursday our UPH staff and friends gathered across the street at my host Aunt Carla’s house. She cooks all my meals for me here and graciously offered to us her roof as a space for us to have ourThanksgiving meal. We do not have access to a space big enough for 13 people to sit down and eat together, so we gathered on Carla’s roof. Everyone made one or two dishes to bring to the meal, along with drinks and pie’s.
Earlier that day I was feeling a little homesick as I had called my family and talked with them right before they were going to sit down for their meal. That night, my heart was filled with so much joy as I celebrated a day of Thanks with my Honduran community and family. We shared stories of Thanksgiving traditions, successes in ministry, jokes, and the things we are thankful for. My Honduran friend Luis joined us that night for his very first Thanksgiving, his first pie, and traditional thanksgiving food. The table was filled with conversations in both Spanish and English, with people of different ages, backgrounds, ethnicities, beliefs, and walks of life. It was such a collaboration of so many joyous things, of true community and a family brought together by the Lord. I felt the love, and joy of what it means to have fellowship with God’s sons and daughters from such different walks of life than my own. We have so much to be thankful for, and the thing that I think really struck me that night was the blessing and opportunity God has given me to be a part of spreading His love to the people of Honduras. That He has given me this opportunity to serve Him in so many ways through UPH, and life here in Copan. That is what filled my spirit with so much joy that night; that the Lord has called me to help spread His love to others, and has been working through me to bring His kingdom here on earth.
This past weekend was the end of year UPH staff retreat, a time set aside for reflection, celebration, evaluation, and planning for the future of UPH. We stayed at a coffee plantation and farm a little over an hour outside of Copan with a friend of the ministry Carlos. We spent some time reflecting on the success stories of the past year of ministry. The ministry of UPH can be very discouraging sometimes, when teachers don’t want to work together with our afterschool programs, kids are disrespectful, and fight, ministry is rewarding but can also be discouraging at times. We took time to write down and talk about success stories from the past year, thank the Lord for bringing them about, and being encouraged by the accomplishments of UPH this past year. We talked about our programs, about the frustrating school system and lack of curriculum in the Aldea’s that we serve. We brainstormed ideas and ways to get more buy in from the local teachers and schools, how to change the failing school systems, and how to grow our programs this next year.
Along with a lot of work we also had delicious meals together, freshly grown and brewed coffee, horseback riding, and picking coffee on the plantation. We were able to spend some time with Carlo’s family who run a little rural tourism company out of their house, farm, and plantation. They are also believers and were such a joy to be around. They welcomed us into their home, cooked us our meals, gave us a tour of their plantation and farm, and made us feel like family. We were able to take about an hour to go to the coffee
plantation where we joined with some of the workers in their gathering of the coffee berries. I was able to work with a little girl who was probably around the age of 13. It is now break for many of the public school, in which many of the kids from ages of 11 and up work for their break. Many families rely on this their kids work to help feed and sustain their families. I could hear the kids laughing in the forest of low lying coffee bushes. They were running around in bare feet with big baskets full off coffee beans, ready to turn them in for profit to take back to their families.
This reality of the lives of many families of Honduras is another reminder of the many blessings that I have. That I was given an education, that I had the opportunity to be a kid without a care in the world, that my family could provide for me, that I was given the opportunity to become anything I wanted to be. I have been so overwhelmed this past week with the reality of blessing and opportunities that I have and don’t deserve. God is so good, and I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to serve Him in such a way. That I am able to bless, serve, and share His love with others through the blessings that He has given me, and that is our calling and challenge to you. To use the blessings that God has given you to show his love to, and bless others. I will leave this place on Friday with a full heart, having learned and being challenged by so much, praying that the things the Lord has done through me in this place will make a difference.
- For Luis as he is going to be taking his test that determines whether or not he will get into university or not on December 5th. He has been studying nonstop for the past two weeks and is very nervous for the exam. However he was very encouraged and blessed when I told him how my friends and family were praying for him.
- For my last week here in Honduras, and my transition into this next phase or being at home, and then going on to serve in Malawi. The I will be able to healthily process all that the Lord has done and showed me in the past two months
- That details and plans for my time in Malawi will continue to come together. I will be meeting with Lindsey, the director of UPI a lot during my short time back in the states to work out important details for my time of service in Malawi.
The days are flying by as I count down my last two weeks here in Copan. Things have been very busy with trips and special end of the year events with the youth and children. Thank you for all of your prayers over the past week. I am fully recovered from my sickness and am feeling so much better. I am so thankful for the return of my health as there are a lot of things that I need to accomplish over my last two weeks.
Since I last wrote I was not sure if I would be able to join the youth leaders from our program on their end of the year youth retreat. Our youth leaders are paid staff members of UrbanPromise Honduras. They work in our after school programs and summer camps with the children that we serve, planning and teaching classes, mentoring kids in homework, teaching Bible lessons, acting out skits, and simply loving the children and the community we serve. The youth are also poured into by our staff and given leadership training, help with high school and possibly college prep, fellowship opportunities, and much more. The youth leaders are a significant and important part of our organization and truly make a difference in the lives of the children we serve.
Since I was feeling better last week I was able to join the retreat in which we traveled 9 hours to the town of La Ceiba, a little coastal town. We spent our first night in the house of ministry friends who run their own nonprofit organization for the deaf in La Ceiba called Signs of Love. They were so gracious to us and let us pile our group of 17 into their office space as a place to stay. They lent us their 15 passenger van for us to use as transportation and joined us in a few of our activities. The second day we traveled to the Jungle River Lodge in a national park in La Seiba. The lodge was right along a river, with a breathtaking view of the rushing river below, large rocks and bolders, and beautiful trees all around. We jumped off rocks into the rushing water, swam, and went white water rafting. The youth had the time of their lives, full of fun, fellowship, training, and debriefing.
The retreat was intended to be a time of reflection on the past year, evaluation, and self- reflection and rejuvenation for the youth. The theme was puzzle pieces, and how each one of the youth is so significant in God’s eyes, each one fulfilling a significant role in the lives of the children that we serve and in our staff. The youth leaders truly were so blessed by this retreat. They were able to fellowship with one other in the love of Christ, search within themselves to find out more about who they are and who they want to be, and reflect upon the amazing things that the Lord has done in their lives over the past year. It was such a unique and wonderful thing to be a part of, to help them process a lot of these things and encourage them as they look towards their future.
These next two weeks will be filled with lots of administrative and office work for me. I am hoping to finish the two brochures that I have been working on this week which will include information about UPH programs and will be used as promotional materials both here in Honduras and in the United States. I need to finish them this week so we can translate them into Spanish and send them to print before I leave. I will also continue to work on details for a potential “Promise Partner” program forUrbanPromise International and will be brainstorming and putting together more details as the ideas for this program unfold.
This coming weekend we look forward to a two day staff retreat in which we will reflect on this past year, evaluate our programs, and look and plan for the coming year of UPH. This will be a very crucial time for the staff here. We will work very hard and hopefully come out of the retreat with a rejuvenated vision for the coming year of UPH.
Please Pray :
- For details to come together for my time of service in Malawi. I am still in the process of working out all the details for this time and need prayer for discernment and ease of details to come into place
- For these next to weeks to be very productive as I finish up my projects here and prepare to leave
- For our staff retreat coming up this weekend. We will be taking time to reflect on the year and to plan and pray together for the future of UrbanPromise Honduras
- For Luis as he continues to study and prepare for his upcoming exam on December 5th
“A child’s eyes wide open”; this one phrase encompasses my last week here in Honduras. We began our end-of-the-year field trips with the different groups of kids this week. For many of the children, it was their first time out of their aldea, and it was my first time visiting the field trip sites as well. What an experience to see many first- time things with these precious children.
The middle-aged kids took a day trip to the Mayan ruins and the hot springs. We crammed about 10 kids and 6 leaders into a travel van and took off for our adventure. At the Mayan ruins we met up with our very energetic and captivating tour guide. He took us all around the ruins, telling stories, asking questions, playing games, and teaching the kids about the amazing history of the Mayan people who lived in this place literally 10 minutes from Copan. After our time at the ruins we traveled about an hour outside of Copan to a natural hot springs park. There we grilled hot dogs and ate bananas for lunch and played in the natural hot spring pools, and went on a short tour of the more expensive part of the hot springs with natural waterfall massages, quiet pools to soak in, and other beautiful natural sites. The kids had such a wonderful time playing and splashing in the warm water, enjoying a nice lunch together, and simply being kids, which they are not given the opportunity to do very often.
Friday afternoon we left with the old kids for a four hour trip to the closest big city to Copan, San Pedro Sula. Our first stop upon arrival was the mall, with a food court, movie theater, and bright stores with new shiny things. My favorite thing to experience with the kids for their first time was the escalator and the hand blow dryer in the bathroom. They thought these were two very amusing things. We ate dinner in a food court where they could pick whatever they wanted for dinner, and took them to see a movie--a real movie in a theater. They hardly knew what to do with themselves in the theater because they were so full of excitement. We saw Nanny McFee, a very fun kids’ movie that they all enjoyed. We stayed in Pastor Lee’s house, a friend of the ministry who runs a bilingual school about an hour outside of San Pedro Sula. He had a big house with some extra rooms with bunk beds and a big yard for the kids to play in.
Saturday we piled back into the van to head to Tela, a beach town about an hour away. Again, the beach was another first time experience for most of our kids. They loved playing in the waves, burying each other in the sand, and finding little rocks and seashells along the shore. That night back at Pastor Lee’s house he led a devotion with the kids, encouraging them to take hold of the dreams that the Lord has placed on their hearts, to trust in the Lord, and to work hard to accomplish their dreams. Sunday we took the kids to the best anthropology museum in San Pedro Sula, ate bagged lunches and headed home. Saturday night I came down with some sort of intestinal sickness. I had not been as careful with the things I ate that weekend, so it was probably a bug of some sort. The kids were so sweet to me, giving me hugs, telling me to feel better, giving me the best seat in the van so I could try to rest, and showing me their love through their hugs and smiles.
It was just an amazing thing to see these kids experience so many things for the first time this past week. Their eyes were literally opened up to so many new things these past few days. Many of the kids who come to our programs don’t have the same opportunities as most children that you and I come in contact with in the States. They go to school, help their parents gather food and firewood, make meals, clean the house, take care of livestock, and raise siblings. They are given so much responsibility at such a young age that they barely have time to simply be kids. This is something that we try to provide for them at UrbanPromise Honduras--a place to dream, to have fun, to be given new experiences, and to just be kids.
I would love to write more but I am still recovering from being sick the past couple of days and am still pretty weak. If I feel better later this week I will be joining the youth on their end-of-the-year retreat to La Saba for a few days. I hope to write again sometime next week.
- For my health and strength to come back after being sick for the past few days.
- For the UPH staff as we take some time over the next two weeks to evaluate and plan for the future of UPH and what next year’s programs will look like.
- For wisdom and discernment as I continue to work on a sponsorship program for UPI.
- For details to start coming together for my time of service in Malawi starting in February.
- Praise the Lord for the wonderful experiences that the children have been able to have over this past week--for their dreams and big hearts.
I can’t believe I am saying this, but as of the end of this week, I am at the halfway mark of my time here in Honduras. It feels like it has been so long and yet the idea that in a little over a month I will be leaving this wonderful place behind makes it seem so short.
Last Saturday we took the children from Camp Hope on a very special field trip to El Jaral, a small water park about 30 minutes from Copan. We gathered 40 of the children and crowded into 3 smallish bus-like vans to drive to El Jaral. Some of the kids had never been outside of Copan and the surrounding aldeas before, and this trip was simply beyond exciting for them. We spent the rainy morning, and sunny afternoon chasing the kids around the water park, catching them off of the 3 water slides, hearing the laughs and screams of children whose experience that day was probably one of, if not the most exciting thing they have ever done… It was a wonderful end of the school year trip!
This week the rest of the UPH staff has been in Camden, NJ at the UrbanPromise Conference. Since we do not have programs this week, my sole responsibility and focus has been office work. I am continuing to work on our current fundraiser for the special field trips coming up in about a little over a week. Currently we have raised $1,500 towards the trips, which you can read more about on the UPH website at http://www.urbanpromisehonduras.org/ . I have also been working on the Child Sponsorship Program ( I think I am going to call it Promise Partners) Program for UPI, and a brochure for UPH. The goal for my time of service with UPI over these next couple of months is to create a Program that will help UPI in Honduras and Malawi be more financially stable. I am working to create a program that links donors up with the children from UPI sites in hopes of bringing in more funds to help both UP Honduras and Malawi continue to reach the children in the communities they serve and grow their programs.
I have had a bit of extra time on my hands these past few days in which I have been able to study my Spanish With Luis, my Honduran friend who was my Spanish teacher for my first week at the Spanish school Guacamaya up the road) and I help each other study. Luis is a good friend of the UPH staff here in Honduras. He has lived in Copan for the past few years and has taught himself English through much practice and by working at the Spanish school in Guacamaya. Luis was born in Honduras, his parents were divorced when he was a little boy and he lived with his mom and sisters in San Pedro Sula (a bigger city in Honduras). His mother moved to the United States when Luis was about 12, and left him to live with his 4 older sisters. Through the strength of the Lord and a lot of hard work, Luis graduated from high school, but was not able to go on to the university because no one could support him to go. After high school Luis moved to Copan in hopes of learning English because he believed that if he could learn English it might help him get into the university. Luis is now 23 and is practically fluent in English.
In the café, our conversation turns from studying to our life goals. His goal is to be able to speak 5 languages by the time he is 35. He will take a test in December to see if he can get into the university and will continue to work and use the little money he has saved up to pay his way through.
Luis tells me of his frustration with life’s unfairness and asks, “Why am I so unlucky, and why are others so lucky?”
This is a question that has been rolling around in my head the past few days. It’s something that I don’t think anyone can explain. Why me? Why was I born in the United States and handed the opportunity of education and a degree? Why did I go to a school that had books and more than one teacher for every 3-5 grades? Why did I have access to clean water to drink and nutritious food that allowed me to grow as a child? Why was I was born into a Christian family? Why me, and why not Luis, and why not the little boys and girls here in Honduras and all around the world, and what does this mean for us?
In conclusion to our conversation, Luis tells me of his philosophy. You see, Luis wants to learn so many languages so that he can help others. He already uses his skills and knowledge of both English and Spanish to help in medical brigades here in Honduras. He travels with doctors and nurses to help translate as they serve the medical needs of the poor. Whether we are “lucky” as Luis would say in life or not, our calling is to use what we have been given to reach out to those who are less “lucky.” Whatever we have been given, our calling is to use it to show the love of Christ to others. If everyone lived their lives this way I think the world would have a lot less “unlucky” people.
- For Luis as he prepares for his big test in December that determines whether or not he gets into the university.
- For the money to come in for our upcoming field trips with the kids of Camp Hope.
- For the UPH staff as they are at the conference in Camden. That they Lord rejuvenates them and sends them back to Honduras with new energy and motivation to press forward.
- For details of the “Promise Partner” program to come together as I continue to work on creating this program.
This week marks the last week of Camp Hope for the school year. The children here in Copan have their summer break during the months of November and December. The kids are so excited for the end of school, but sad at the same time as the after school program with Camp Hope comes to an end. We had our last snack time, English class, art class, Bible class, and end of the school year party. In Bible class we taught a few lessons to the kids about Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven. We talked about how He is still alive and living in our heart. We ended this week with a craft, cutting out ``hearts`` from colorful poster board, then colored in different sections of their hearts for different things in their lives that they loved. The kids filled the spaces with Jesus, their family, Camp Hope, school, and some of the kids even made a space in their heart for me. After three weeks of being a part of their lives, they have allowed me to become one of them, to be accepted and loved as if I were always there, and somehow, I have made an impact on their lives and have found myself a special place in their hearts.
This week I was able to spend some one-on-one time with my host mom, Brenda. I have been praying for opportunities to talk with her more and show her the love of Christ even though I can´t speak the language very well. One night I came home around 10:30 and she was sitting in the living room by herself cutting out little cars and airplanes out of poster board for her students' class the next day. She teaches kindergarten. Brenda is usually in bed by this time and she still had a lot more to do. I asked her if she wanted me to help, and she gratefully said yes. We worked together for about an hour and a half, cutting shapes for her students' projects. We talked about a lot of things, and she was so grateful for my help! I am so thankful that the Lord gave me this opportunity to share His love with her, and be a blessing to her in a small way.
The UPH staff travels to the UrbanPromise conference in Camden, NJ next week while I stay here and do some work while they are gone. When they return, we begin to take the different age groups of kids from Camp Hope on their special end of the year field trips. Many of the kids from Copan and from the Aldeas have never been outside of Copan. We plan special end of the year field trips to give the kids new and exciting learning experiences. We are taking the younger kids from grades 1 and 2 on a field trip to the Mayan ruins, grades 3 4and on a trip to the Mayan ruins and the local hot springs, and grades 5 and 6 on a weekend trip to the city of San Pedro Sula, and a weekend trip for the youth leaders to the north coast. One of my development projects is to raise some funds for these trips. I am working with the full-time staff here and our current donors to hopefully raise $4,000. You can read more about the trips on the UPH homepage at http://www.urbanpromisehonduras.org/ . These trips will give the staff more of an opportunity to work one-on-one with the kids, giving them more personal time and attention, and teaching and showing them things they have never seen or experienced before.
Thursday night we had an end of the year celebration dinner for the kids of Camp Hope and their families. We ask some of the parents to prepare food for the event, we had special music, and we celebrated the joy of our Camp Hope community. About 80 to 100 people came out for dinner and fellowship. It was such a wonderful thing to see their joyful faces and grateful hearts for the program. We celebrated each child’s participation in the program with certificates for them, and a special song and program the children put on for their families.
These families and children are so richly blessed by the programs of UPH. Most of the schools that these children attend have very few resources, teachers, and curriculum to teach and challenge the students. Some have math and English classes if they attend some of the better schools, but most children are barely challenged to learn meaningful things in their schools. UPH gives them opportunities to grow and expand their knowledge, learn about art, the Bible, English, reading, math, and so many other worthwhile life skills. We are planning to work closer with the kids' schools and teachers in order to come up with a more challenging curriculum. I pray that the development and marketing work that I do here allows UPH to grow its programs and start new sites throughout Copan, so that more children can be reached by our mission : `` UrbanPromise Honduras seeks to inspire the children and youth of Honduras to fulfill their dreams by equipping them with the skills necessary for life management, academic achievement, spiritual growth and leadership rooted in the Christian faith.``
Please Pray :
- For the funds to come in for our end of the year field trips with the kids of Camp Hope
- For my computer to continue to work – the laptop I use for my work here at UPH is only a year old. Earlier this week it would not stay on and would keep turning off about 20 seconds after I would turn it on. I dropped it off with a local computer repair man who was able to look at it and he thinks he fixed it, but can not gurantee that it continues to work... Please pray that it continues to work.
- For the staff of UPH as they travel to the conference in Camden, NJ next week. That the Lord blesses them and allows them to learn a lot and bring back some good ideas and plans for the future of UPH
- Praise that the Lord has given me opportunities to show His love to my host family and to the kids of Camp Hope.