Saturday, November 26, 2011

Random Reflections about Life Back Home

We returned from rural, poverty-stricken Honduras two weeks ago.  A culture shock to say the least.  Here's some of my impressions and observations, most of which are not "pretty."

**We're becoming a bunch of fat slobs.  I'm not suggesting that there are no fat slobs in Honduras.  Neither am I implying that all people who are overweight are slobs, i.e. lazy couch occupiers whose only calorie burn is the effort it takes to wipe the cake off their face.    I know there are genetic and medical and organic (e.g. thyroid) factors for a number of people.  But, really?

Maybe it's the diet of the poor in Honduras--typically rice and beans.  Maybe it's the small proportions of food available at any given time.  Maybe when you eat to live rather than live to eat you tend to have little excess weight.  

**I notice the extreme sensory stimulation with which we are bombarded here at home.  Non-stop traffic movement. Unending traffic sounds.  The decibel level of human voices in most restaurants makes it nearly impossible to have a quiet conversation because you have to talk more loudly than the surrounding clamor so that the person  sitting three feet across from you can hear you. Visual overload everywhere.  Technological incoming messages abound.  Advertising screaming for my attention, whether via billboards, commercials, internet.  It's exhausting.  When are we ever still?  Quiet.  Silent.  And how?

**I left basically gracious and thankful people only to return to basically in-your-face entitled people.  Thank God there are exceptions but that black-hearted woman who pepper-sprayed competing shoppers on Black Friday may be more of a mirror than an anomaly. 

The pace here is nerve-wracking. We are in fifth gear, pedal to the metal, and continually.   We sprint to a point of exhaustion.  In Honduras they know it's not the 100 meter dash--it's a marathon--and they pace themselves accordingly.  I'll be honest--their pace drives me nuts, not because their pace is deficient but because I'm wound up tight and it's difficult to downshift once I'm there.  Now that I'm back, I'm noticing the intensity with which most of us sprint.  I think it's a recipe for burn-out.

 **I am neither glamorizing or idealizing the poor but this is my experience of them.  Generally, they are thankful for what have and do not speak much about what they lack.  They have very little and somehow find joy in the scarcity.  We, on the other hand, are driven by consuming and acquiring and do not seem to be grateful for the abundance, but, instead, complain about  that which we do not yet have.

**I go on these trips to serve and help the poor.  The great white missionary goes to impart all he knows and he builds these wonderful houses and he thinks he is such a blessing to them.  Invariably,  these people who are so poor materially bless the great white missionary who is spiritually bankrupt.  

I go with the purpose of giving; I return with the outcome of receiving.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Heaven Invades Hell in Honduras

She is less than five feet tall but larger than life.  Her name is Maria Isabella, mother of eight children.  She is the quiet matriarch.  There is no patriarch. Her husband, who apparently regarded himself as a mere sperm donor, left after their eighth child was born.  She has been sole provider, comforter, teacher, protector for years.  She has raised them alone.  She works 60 hours a week in a little bakery.  The three adult daughters who live with her lament about growing up alone and left to themselves while their mom was making a living in order to provide for them.  There are tears as they look back on those early years.
Two of the three each have two little ones of their own. These eight and several other family members have shared existence in this hellhole of a shack for ten years.  It's dark, damp, and depressing inside.  They burn wood or anything they can find that is combustible in order to cook and heat.  The smoke permeates the shack.  The upper walls and ceiling are coal black.  And their lungs?
There is no room, no space, no privacy.  They can't afford dressers or containers, so everything is piled or stacked.  A fish-net hammock is hung inside; I look closer.  A little baby is lying in it.  No room for a bed, even if they could afford one.

They have been on the waiting list of families for whom Mercy International would build a house.  It's been two years.  Day after week after month--"Maybe today?"  Finally, their wait is over.
We arrived at their little father-forsaken but Father-favored shack last Sunday and we began digging trenches to serve as a foundation for the house of their dreams in an open, barren area in front of their shack.  20x24--or as a friend described it--"a garage and a half."  To them, though, a mansion.  Saturday, we left and in those 7 days we built them a house that will last them for generations.  I wish you could have seen the light in their eyes.  Their smiles. Their hugs of gratitude.  One of the daughters joyfully confessed, “I don't have words." Another, “I wish I could have a big party for all of you."  Maria Isabella thanked God and us.
I gathered several from the team and asked the family if we could pray for them.  They welcomed our prayers.  I asked them what they would like us to pray for.  A daughter quietly said, "Food."  I was speechless.  I'm sixty-two years old and there has never been a single day of my life when I have ever prayed that I would have food.  I was humbled by her earnest request.  I asked if there was anything else she would like us to pray for.  Work so they have income.  Peace in their family.
This family now has shelter.  Concrete block, concrete floor and metal roof never looked so extravagant.
I visited a family for whom we had built a house this past Spring.  Momma looked good and her 16 year old daughter, Kenya, was full of smiles as she held her two year old, Melbie, in her arms and a growing child in her belly.  I was surprised at her pregnancy, though she is not the exception, and saddened.  We hugged and re-connected.  Just a day passed and I was talking with Momma and she was particularly distressed.  I inquired and she told me that in the last 24 hours someone had "deceived Kenya" with a the promise of a job and this stranger convinced her to leave her mother and Melbie and travel with her to the capital city, Tegucigalpa, and work there.  Tegucigalpa is a city of 1.7 million people, and a 5-6 hour drive away.  Momma doesn't own a cell phone and has no idea what is happening to her daughter.  What depths of lies or persuasion--coercion?-- could convince Kenya to leave her little boy and mother on a moment's notice?  What will become of Melbie?  How does a little boy deal with mom abruptly leaving him?  Life was hard enough with her family intact; what worry must  now consume Momma each day as she wonders if she will ever see her daughter again and if she does will Kenya be dead or alive?  Life had been weighing on her enough and now she has sole responsibility for Melbie, also.  It's hell.

Yet, I would not be providing an accurate picture if I left it at that.  There are moments of heaven as team members hug all these kids who are often discarded.  Glimpses of heaven as the kids laugh and frolic with the team.  The team gives their undivided attention and unconditional love and for some moments these kids do not have a care in the world. It's heaven.

Today, I ask you to thank God for what you have. 
And ask God to provide for them what they don't have.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Did You Think The Titanic Sank?

I didn't name it The Titanic Swim Team just to be cute.  I've been in a slump for some time,  some days feeling as though I'm barely keeping the ship afloat.  Other days the water may be up to my neck but I'm "Footloose" on deck.  I apologize for the drought.  If you're still on board I invite you to resume the sail with me.

This will be brief.  In one hour my wife and I leave for Honduras, to lead another team from our church to serve the poor.  Our goal is to build a house for a family living in and on the dirt.  We have 7 days to do it.  Over the course of a mere week of work we have the chance to make a difference that will last for generations in the life of this family.  Exciting!

Upon our return I will fill you in.  

Thanks for your patience and I hope to continue blogging with consistency.

p.s. sorry--no time for a photo