Sunday, March 27, 2011

Honduras Update: Leave It All On The Mountain

A few years ago when I was down here a U.S. team came and I hooked up with them.  They had a very charismatic, full-bore Rambo-like team leader.  He would lead us in a cheer.

Leader: What are we gonna do?
Team:  Leave it all!!!
Leader: Where we gonna leave it?!?

And he would then lead us through the cheer 2 or 3 more times, each time increasing in passion.  This past Monday our staff led a team of young women from Arkansas up into the mountains.  They were accompanied by a pediatrician and his wife, and then a Honduran physician and a dentist joined us later in the week.  The trip had 3 purposes:  construction, building relationships and playing with the kids, and hosting an outdoor medical clinic.  

Here’s some of my impressions:

**Leaving it all on the mountain is certainly an inspirational concept.  The problem with it is that you then have nothing left for hiking back out of the mountains.  The last day a fourth of the team were sick, and during the night I became ill and woke up to a day of hiking out of the mountains.  An hour and a half into the hike I had no reserves left and couldn’t go any further.  I had to ride a pack-mule the rest of the way back.  Embarrassing and an assault on my male ego, but I had nothing left.   (I was concerned about my wife, Leslie, handling the rigors of the hike and, fortunately, she avoided all sickness and managed the hike.)

**Les, Dr. David, and Tiffany (one of the Arkansas women) provided a medical clinic in a little mountain village, Las Crucitas, “the crosses.”  My understanding is that no one had ever done so in recent memory.  In light of time restraints and the difficulty in getting there the 3 rode mules in and out.  (Out of curiosity, I googled Las Crucitas, and was informed that “nearby accommodations” were in Tegucigalpa at the Hotel Excelsior.  Tegicigalpa is a 3-4 hour drive from the mission-base, and then it’s a two hour and 15 minute drive on an unpaved road from the base to Monte Verde, followed by 3 to 4 hour hike, and then a mule ride to get to Las Crucitas.   Thanks for the hot tip.)  Regardless, they provided medical care to a number of children and adults and were received with much gratitude.

**Many of the women become pregnant at an appalling early age.  Very disheartening and typically sealing their fate and future.  While they were in Las Crucitas a woman proudly told them that she is 49 and just celebrated her 38th anniversary. You do the math.   At our base camp in the mountains I met a young mother with three children.  She is seventeen; her oldest son is 7.  We met a thirteen year old mother. Many of these women have lost their childhood, their adolescence, and, without some intervention, have forfeited their future and dreams.  It makes me very sad.

**Reg. the construction, we completed a house by constructing the trusses,  putting on the roof and white-washing the adobe brick walls.  The family was so eager to get out of their shack that they began moving in before we were even finished.  They now have a shelter that will protect them and last them for generations.

**the kids.  The team brought coloring books, some soccer balls, balloons, bubble-blowing stuff and provided unbelievable care and individual attention.  They arranged a “salon” and washed the kids’ hair.  The physical touch and tender stroking of their hair was moving.  More than hair was cleansed; something on the level of the soul was touched, as well.

**When the three returned from Las Crucitas, we then hosted a major medical clinic where we were stationed, Santa Maria.  We held it in open air “pavilion.”  People stood in line for hours, waiting until they could be seen by the doctor or dentist.  The team had brought a massive supply of antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals.  The dentist pulled a lot of teeth, team members washing the instruments each time and then proceeding to the next patient.

**It’s all about personal contact—one on one. The team leader, Linda, would take several of her team and hike to the individual shacks that housed each family, befriending them.  They came to one mother’s house and she was very moved by their personal interest in her.  She told them, “I had heard you people were here in the area; but you came to me.”  It’s one thing to talk the faith; walking it is what it’s all about.  This team did both.  As Christ-followers we represent God; we are to mirror Christ’s love.  God comes to us; we don’t have to figure our way through the maze, and we, in turn, go to others.  Way to pay it forward, team!

**I can’t dance.  When I do, onlookers usually think I need medical attention and fear I’m having a seizure.  I was in a mother’s “house of sticks”—the mother for whom we finished her new  house.  She’s 56 y.o., a grieving woman whose husband had died recently.  She had a little portable radio that could pick up a signal and was playing some music.  I began dancing and she began laughing and it was a beautiful thing to see, even for a moment, light in her saddened eyes. Laughter on her grief-ridden face. 

We will have a few days back here at the Mercy International base and then another team comes in Wednesday.  We will be building in the local area this week.   Thank you for your prayers and for your encouragement. 

 Be thankful for what and who you have.      

 Grace and Peace, Steve and Les

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Two Weeks in Honduras Is Like a Year Anywhere Else: The Glory and The Gory

As of today, we've been here two weeks.  Here's some snapshots:

**We've rented a little  2 room"apartment" in Yamaranguila, a town of maybe a thousand people.  We narrowed our selection down to this one primarily because it was the only one.  No stove, no frig.  We did buy a hot-plate in order to heat up some food.  Still no frig, and may not get one.  We will be eating our meals at the mission base and may forgo the luxury of a refrigerator.   Our landlord lives in a house adjoining our apartment. He has a housekeeper who for some reason precisely between 5:30-6:00 a.m. daily chops wood on the concrete sidewalk fifteen feet outside our bedroom window.  An unsolicited alarm clock.  Our landlord has has 3 roosters in a pen about 30 feet away form our window.  One of them is apparently neurologically deficient and crows around 3:00 a.m. and the rest begin about 5:30--just in case we were to sleep through the wood-chopping.

**The mission base, Mercy International, builds houses both locally and up in the mountains where the poorest of the poor reside.  I just returned from our first hike up into the mountains.  (Les did not accompany due to some strained neck muscles from an accident about a week before we arrived here.  She hopes to accompany me on the next hike next week.)  First, it is a two hour plus drive on a very rough, unpaved mountain road, and then we abandon the vehicles and hike a minimum of 3 hours up into the mountains to get to this little mountain village, Santa Maria.  We hosted a team from Florida State University, a number of them on the football team.  They all concurred that the hike was beyond what their conditioning involves.  We divided into 2 teams, one team to pour a concrete floor for a mother and her children, the other to complete a house by adding trusses and a roof.   Ironically, the family for whom my team built a roof is the same family for whom I poured a concrete floor this past Nov., and it was a great pleasure to meet them again and re-establish our relationship. I went to the other site and met the mother for whom we were to construct a floor.  She's 56 y.o.  She has lived in what I call this "house of sticks" for 25 years.  No floor, no running water, no electricity.  Literally, sticks packed with mud for walls.  She cried as I asked her about her life.  Her husband had died in January and she has no idea how she will provide for her family.  I would ask her about other matters but she would resume talking about her husband whom she misses dearly.  She is filled with grief, both recent and old.  She told me she had 14 children and 6 of them have died.  Hopefully, a concrete floor will serve as a metaphor for something of substance for her to stand on as she regroups and faces an even more difficult life ahead.

**These are a humble people.  When we built the trusses and added a tin roof to "my" family's house we asked if we could gather around them and pray for them.  They were very appreciative and wanted us to.  When we finished praying for them the father, Melbis, asked if he could pray for us.  You who have so little have so much compassion that you want to pray for US?  We gratefully received his prayer.

**The hike out of the mountains was in the rain, and the mud was slippery and many of us slipped and fell but only our pride was injured.  As we drove back on the mountain road, the van was slipping in the the mud.  We had two trucks leading the way for the van.  As we were descending, I noticed a full-sized school bus ascending the approaching mountain curve, but then stopped.  We couldn't see what was going on.  All of us left our vehicles to discover that the bus had lost traction in the mud and had begun to slide back down the hill.  The bus driver had hit the brakes, got it to at least stop, and had someone attach a rope to the bumper and there were about 15 Honduran adults and children attempting to pull this full-sized school bus up the mud-soaked mountain incline. We all ran over and joined them in the mud and somehow pulled this bus up the hill to a level place where once again the driver could get traction.    The bus driver proceeded to  shake our hands in fervent appreciation.  It was a joyful feeling joining these Hondurans as a team, agonizing in pulling this bus up the hill.  What a wild ride!  

Well, those are a few slices of life thus far.  Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.  And be grateful for what and who you have.

(Sorry, no photo; problems loading and want to post before I lose everything.)