Sunday, November 30, 2008

Visiting Santa Katarina

A house in Santa Katarina
Some of graduates in their graduation dresses

One of the tiny school classrooms where children attend school

A shared pila with the hand pump

The site of the new feeding center

Yesterday we went to Santa Katarina. As we traveled south, I could tell the dry season was beginning already. Everything was dry and brown. What a contrast to when we last traveled that way, with it raining and flooding. We could not get to Santa Katarina in October. The people swam rivers to get to us.

We turned off the highway and the road was dry and dusty. Even as dry and dusty as it was, we had to cross water four times to get to Santa Katarina. The rivers were low enough that we could drive across. These were the same rivers that the people had to swim across in October. They were so hungry that they gladly swam the rivers just to get some food for their families.

As hard as the rainy season on these communities, the dry season is usually harder.

Our friend, Carlos, took us to the site where the feeding center will be built next summer. The people in the community have already started clearing the land.

Carlos then took us to his house. By Honduran standards, it was a fairly nice house with a concrete floor. There was only a small table inside the house. They sat us down and fed us chicken, rice, potatoes, tortillas, and coke. Hondurans are always gracious, even when they can't afford. It would have been the highest insult not to eat it, but I felt so guilty eating their food when most in Santa Katarina are starving.

There are eighty six houses in Santa Katarina, some don't look too bad and some are horrible. In these 86 houses, there are 600 people, 300 of them are children. What we saw in Santa Katarina looked like what we see on tv when organizations show pictures of starving children in Africa. Many of the children had thin, thin hair, streaked blond. Two sure signs of malnutrition. Also we saw many bloated, distended little bellies. We also more family units; mom, dad and several kids. These people are so far from town, they rarely see gringos. A lot of the children were afraid of us.

Not everyone has a pila. There a few pilas shared by all. The pilas have a hand water pump and everyone has to pump water in order to wash clothes. What a hard life. Don't we have a lot for which to be thankful.

After we ate our wonderful meal, we went to the school. It was graduation day. Fifth grade graduation. Graduation is a really big deal in Honduras. People don their finest clothes. The beginning of graduation was held until the gringos arrived. What an honor. We were in jeans and t-shirts. There were seven graduates. Seven. In a community with 300 children. How sad. None of these kids were 10 or 11 like we would expect fifth graders to be. Most were 13 or 14. There is no secondary school in Santa Katarina. For most of these young people, their education is over. The only way for any of them to continue their education is to walk for three hours and then ride a bus into Choluteca. Most parents, as much as they desire for their children to have a better life, could not afford the daily bus fare, much less the tuition, books, and uniforms.

Everyone was friendly and greeted us warmly.

I am still processing and reflecting on the things I saw yesterday. I am excited that we will be able to help this community.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

An American Holiday in a Third World Country

Thanksgiving. A totally American holiday. It is one of my favorite holidays. It is a time to for family, friends, food and football.

Karen and I decided we wanted to fix an American Thanksgiving for the kids, our staff, and, of course, ourselves. We planned a menu as close to traditional as possible. Friday, when I went to the fruit market, I bought extra potatoes, celery, onions, and bananas. The saddest, smallest celery I have ever seen. Saturday I went back to town to do the rest of the grocery shopping. Even though a lot of Americans live in Tegucigalpa and, because of that, a lot of American items are imported, this is Honduras. In my mind, I prepared to make some substitutions or possibly drop something from our menu.

Since I have no Wal-Mart, I headed to PriceSmart first, vowing to not go back to town on Saturday until after Christmas. I was fairly successful finding the items I needed. I was just a little over confident, making my next stop La Colonia which was on the way home to Santa Ana. That was pretty much a bust and I then had to back track.

After finding most of what I needed, or suitable substitutions, I stopped a couple more places looking for Durkee's french fried onions for green bean casserole. I stopped at all the places that have American food and still could not find the Durkee's. I was so tired. I finally grabbed two bags of Funyums. I like to cook and am a pretty good cook. However, I am not a creative cook. I follow recipes exactly and do not make substitutions. Substituting Funyums for Durkee's french fried onions is way out of my comfort zone. Believe it or not, it wasn't half bad. Not as good as Durkee's, but not too bad either.

I came home needing just a few fresh items which I thought I would buy Tuesday or Wednesday.

I started cooking yesterday. Started cooking in my little kitchen with no counter space. None.
I set up a table so I would have work space. I was doing all kinds of things, but when I finally got ready to cook that first time, I found my propane tank was completely empty. I sort of acted like a helpless female and gave Milton some money and my car keys and asked him to go get the propane for me. I go get propane all time. That was the first of many challenges. I definitely felt the welcome to Honduras thing. A couple of things with which I am use to having are knowing the temperature of my stove and having one of those little buzzers to tell me when to take something out of the oven. Also, the electricity was flashing on and off, on and off. Not that you need electricity to cook with propane, but eyes my age need the lights on to read the recipes.

I just kept plugging along and getting more frustrated by the minute. After I finished all my bread, I happened to think about all the places I have lived and realized I had never baked at 4000 feet elevation.

I was constantly adjusting the temperature, some things looking not so done and some looking a little too done. I was convinced nothing would be edible.

Marc showed up last night with the last few items I needed and pizza. Yay! I sure didn't want to cook or make any more of a mess in my house. Pizza. Just what I needed. After I ate, I settled down and got many more things accomplished.

This morning, as is my tradition, I started bright and early. Things went much smoother today. Other than peeling the sweet potatoes and discovering they are white in Honduras, things went well. Karen was busy in her kitchen and we had kids running back and forth, hauling stuff from her house to mine and my house to hers.

At one point, I looked around at the food and thought " I may be cooking more food today than Ginger Freeman." No way. I am pretty sure I didn't cook that much.

With things going smoothly, I began to have the kind of fun I usually have cooking Thanksgiving dinner.

As food was finished, Marc and Tracy were running it up to the kitchen in Casa. Someone should have a video camera of all the activity.

With all the food in the kitchen, it was time to eat. Our kids were so excited. But each one had to tell what they were thankful for. We chose to honor our staff and let them go first. They went through the line, filled their plates, ate, and jumped up and went right back to work. That isn't really what we had in mind.

The kids ate and ate. And ate some more. Their little bellies looked like they had eaten watermelons. There was about 40 of us. We had fun. We will be eating off of this food for the rest of the weekend.

And there is not much football here. We may get the game tonight. And we may not. It is what it is.

While my mother and Karen's mother were not here, their presence was felt in a great big way as they provided the funds for us to provide the meal. Thanks to both of you.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Work Week

When the flooding was so heavy and many homes were being lost, Marc asked anyone that wanted to come the week of Thanksgiving to come and we would build some houses and enjoy Thanksgiving together. We had two takers on that offer, our friend Tracy from Charlotte and the dad of one of the AIMers. Both arrived yesterday.

Today they built a house for a lady named Sandra and her son. The house in which they had been living was in shambles. There was nothing in it but one bed. No food. It was on a steep slope. Several people worked on the house today. Even though it looked like it might be a difficult one to build, this house went up easier than first thought.

When Marc handed Sandra one of the home boxes from Columbus, Mississippi, she wept. Not just a few happy tears, she wept. I don't think she has ever owned that many things at one time.

It is hoped, two more houses will be built this week. For various reasons, I am missing all the fun this week. I have assigned myself to administrative and domestic duties this week.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I thought Thursday was going to be a welcome to Honduras day before I ever left St. Louis. I got on the plane and went to sleep. About 30 minutes later I woke up and knew the plane was on the ground and I felt sure it was not on the ground in Miami. I thought I would for sure miss my connection. I turned on the phone to call Marc and tell him things were not very promising.

Before I got Marc's number dialed, Nicole called me. I could feel disappointment welling up from deep inside. I so wanted to be home.

When I complained to Nicole, she chastised me, saying, "Mom, don't you think God can answer the little prayers as well as the big ones." I guess she had a point. The longer we sat in St. Louis, the more I resigned myself to it is what it is. I was hoping to be home, but if I should be in a hotel in Miami, I could think of worse things. A warm bed, food and a bath tub isn't so bad.

Upon arriving in Miami, the stewardess said if you are the Tegucigalpa passenger go directly to the gate. At least there was hope. The Miami airport is not arranged in such a way that makes getting from one concourse to another an easy task. I was walking as fast as I could and carrying my laptop, which I probably should not have been carrying that soon after surgery. I walked right on the plane and found my seat. I had already figured out the plane to Tegucigalpa was delayed or I would not have been on it. It was further delayed. Many were grumbling. I was thanking God that I made my connection. And those cashews came in quite handy.

I was sure I would not see my luggage in Tegucigalpa until Friday. I was wrong again. Somehow, all of my luggage made it.

I was so happy to see Marc.

After hugging everyone at Casa de Esperanza, I came down here to my house and called it a day.

Yesterday, I took the time to notice what had been happening while I was gone. No one has ever accused Hondurans of being lazy.

The cottage has been stuccoed inside and outside. The electrical is installed. Plumbing well on its way. Part of the the flooring is in. As I walked through, the rooms are beginning to look like bedrooms. I could almost hear the happy sounds of chilren's voices filling those rooms.

And I am just glad to be home.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Great News

I know, and believe that God is in control of all situations. But, waiting on biopsy results breeds anxiety. I could not have been more anxious this morning if I had tried. I woke at 4:45 ( my standard getting up time at home) and I was anxious. I prayed and cried and quoted scripture to myself, and I was still anxious.

I wanted to believe everything was ok, but just in case, I took a friend with me to the doctor. I didn't mind getting good news by myself, but I did not want to get bad news by myself.

For everyone that hasn't already heard, all is clear. Gracias a Dios. Thanks to God.

And, it was great to not be by myself to get good news. I thanked God and cried tears of relief and celebration. I hugged my friend. I stood in the main entrance to the hospital and made phone calls. I hugged my friend and cried some more.

To everyone that sent cards and emails and called me, you don't know how much I appreciate it. To those who held my hand and hugged me, you are the best. For the tears shed, both from concern and relief I am grateful. For everyone in Illinois that just tried to keep my mind occupied for a week, thank you is inadequate. And most of all, for every prayer that was said in my behalf, thank you. Prayer works.

It has been a great day in Illinois. I continue to cry those tears of relief. I continue to shed tears of gratitude for each one of you that God has placed in my life. That love me everyday and have carried me and supported me through yet another trial. Thanks to everyone of you.

I will be on the 6:00 a.m. flight out of St. Louis in the morning.

I love you all.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Last week Matt and Nicole asked me to go back to Searcy with them after surgery. I really, really wanted to do that. My doctors advised against that. While I was disappointed, I quickly knew that it was best for me not to make that trip. The thought of being in the states this long and not seeing Julia, Nathan and Camille was crushing.

Nathan informed me late last week he would be in St. Louis this week. It brought a bit of joy to my step to think I might spend some time with him. My phone rang at 7:30 yesterday morning and Nathan said he was at the St Louis airport and did not have his first meeting until 2:00.

I had a fresh burst of energy as I mapquested and made plans to get to St. Louis. There was definitely a spring in my step that had not been there in several days. I got to St. Louis and Nathan and I ate mexican food. I so enjoyed spending that hour with my son and wished I could have seen Julia and Camille as well. Of course, Grammy had a few things to spend to Camille via her dad.

Going to St. Louis was more than I have done in a week and I was exhausted, but it was an exhaustion that was well worth it. To spend one hour with my son was indeed a bonus for me and I thank God for that blessing.

Today, I hope you get at least one bonus on which you were not counting.


Saturday, November 15, 2008


Dependence. We usually have bad feelings when we say or hear that word. We don't want to be drug dependent or alcohol dependent. We don't want our adult kids being dependent on us still. Most of us do not want to be dependent on anyone or anything.

Basically, I am a pretty independent person. I can do for myself, and in most instances, would prefer to do so.

I know I was tired and needed some rest. I really was going to slow down and get some rest. Maybe when I got home from Illinois. Maybe after Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Or maybe before the groups start arriving next summer. But I was going to slow down and rest. But it wasn't going to be this week, because I had to much to do.

Because I have had no choice, I have slowed down and rested this week. It wasn't my plan, but that is the way it happened. Now that I am feeling a little better, I am going crazy as Marc tells me about the progress on the cottage. The electricity was been wired in the cottage and in my store. Well, there is not too much I can do about that right now. I have no pictures of the wiring going in. The floor is being installed. I was suppose to get to pick out the flooring. I may not even get home in time to paint. Those things I was bound and determined to do.

As I have rested, I have reflected. I have reflected on how badly I needed rest and why didn't I choose to slow and rest rather than being forced to rest. I have reflected on the fact that I don't really like being dependent. Dependent on someone else to take care of me. Don't get me wrong, I am being taken care of as if I was royalty.

But dependent is just what God wants us to be. Dependent on Him for our every need, for our every breath. How many times have I not been dependent on Him as I rush through things that need to be done. Not slowing down and depending on Him to give me an opportunity to share His love to someone. Not taking the time to rest, physically and spiritually, being dependent on Him to provide that rest and peace I so desperately need.

I hope it does not take minor surgery and waiting on results to slow you down, make you rest and become dependent. I hope you all just start being dependent on the God of all peace and rest.

Have a restful and dependent weekend.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Still in Illinois

I am still in Illinois.

I had minor outpatient surgery on Wednesday afternoon. Matt and Nicole drove up from Searcy to be with me. I appreciated that. I am with friends and I am being taken care of very nicely. My incision is small. I am moving quite slowly still. Getting a lot of reading done, something I have not done much of in the past few weeks.

I appreciate all prayers offered so far. I will have results onWednesday. Please keep those prayers going. I want a good report on Wednesday and be on a plane home on Thursday.

Thanks for your support and encouragement.


Monday, November 10, 2008

I Am In Illinois

Last Tuesday, November 4, I flew into St. Louis. I had been planning and anticipating this trip for many months. As the time drew nearer, I became more and more excited. I was coming to lead a ladies retreat and spend time with friends and our sponsoring congregation. I scheduled all those routine doctor's appointments.

I was so glad to see fall was still here. The golds and oranges and rusts were everywhere. I love fall and it is one thing I really miss in Honduras. I also am getting to feel a blast of winter. I only thought it was cold in Honduras last week. I forget what cold really feels like. Being with friends warms the soul and the cold is easily forgotten.

It was a good retreat and, like always when I am in the states, I have been blessed and encouraged.

Right now, I should be in the Miami airport waiting for my flight back to Tegucigalpa. I am still in Belleville. All those routine appointments turned out not to be so routine. I will be here until at least next week.

I am so thankful for my many friends and my church that are taking care of me while I am so far from home and so far from Marc.


Monday, November 3, 2008


After, the rains stopped, the wind began. The cold, howling wind. Maybe I was just being prepared for Illinois, but the wind was cold and biting.

I have a fairly tight house. I have a bed and blankets (plural). And I have been so cold. I just can't imagine how cold other people must have been. Those whose houses are made of paper or sticks that are full of holes. Those who have no blankets or sleep on the floor. We were in one of the houses last week. The people told us they never get warm. And those people at the dump. I don't think I can even imagine that much cold.

Today was a sunshiny day. A beautiful sunshiny day. The wind still blew some, but how blessed we were to see sunshine. I hope some people warmed up for just a while.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

College Football

Marc and I enjoy watching football on tv. We don't get much of it down here. What we do get is in spanish. There is something really wrong with American football in spanish. But, on the other hand, it is fun. The announcers are neutral and cheer for both teams.

We get Monday night football and sometimes that is all. Last week we got one college football game. It was Notre Dame and Washington. Marc was excited because at least it was football. It was not a big enough deal to me to quit what I was doing.

Tonight our team, Texas Tech, was playing a big game against Texas. Marc was getting his computer ready so he could watch the highlights, when all of a sudden there rose such a clatter. Marc was saying, almost unintelligibly, Texas Tech and pointing. I thought he was a lost cause until I realized what he was trying to say. Our only game this week was Texas Tech and Texas.

What a game. What fun for two Texas Tech fans in Honduras. To be perfectly honest, I thought it was all over. We have seen Tech snatch defeat from the jaws of victory too many times. What an absolute perfect ending.