Thursday, May 14, 2020

What a Weird Time

And so begins another late blog post.  Social distance…

What a weird time this has been…It’s been two months since we last left the gates of the Finca.  Two long months inside the chain-link/barbed-wire fence that separates our Finca community from the outside world.  And a little under two months ago, four other missionaries and I decided that Honduras was where we were going to ride out this weird, weird season of pandemia.

And so here we are…

The school and clinic closed just under 2 months ago. I think March 16 or 18 was my last day of scheduled clinic. Funnily enough, I jumped on that opportunity to paint the clinic (with my wonderful crew of missionaries), which had last been painted in 2013 (I believe). It looks so fresh and clean (ish) now. I just wanted to aprovechar (take advantage of) the time we were closed, not knowing how long it would last.  Now I’m thinking of how silly it was to rush to get that done.

It’s hard to realize or remember or imagine what is going on in the rest of the world.  We have no TVs, no radios, and we get 2 hours of WiFi a week (which is usually spent making phone calls to loved ones).  I have heard a bit from family and friends, seen some videos, and looked at Facebook every once in a while, but I don’t know the reality or the gravity of the effects of COVID on the world. 

Honduras took a no-shit approach to COVID, desde el inicio.  Within days of the first case, everything closed, masses cancelled, shops, restaurants, and everything in between closed.  They closed streets and put military/police at the planchas in the roads to enforce that people were not allowed to travel. The borders to Honduras closed, no one in and no one out.  And just like that, my excitement of having any visitors was flipped inside out.  No visitors, no vacation.

As missionaries with very specific roles, we were left with a kind of “what now?” We have started to take on some new roles as time has gone on, but things are certainly different than anticipated and different than they have ever been before.

Emanuel (the baby with the cleft lip/palate) unfortunately did not end up getting his surgery in March.  Operacion Sonrisa (Operation Smile) came, and they said that he was still too small.  That left another difficulty of where we were going to get more supplies for OG feeds until September… Rosa called me and told me that she had no more leche to give Emanuel, so Maria, our director, ordered leche with a special order from La Ceiba.  With that, I asked Rosa to come with the baby, and we weighed Emanuel (while maintaining crazy social distance and what not).  He is still gaining weight. He’s 9 months and 16.55 lb-still below normal, but catching up, which is a huge blessing!! We just recently ran out of pH strips.  Apparently, pH strips are not a thing here in Honduras-we looked in Hospitals, stores, and pharmacies throughout many cities, sin exito.  After consulting a US doctor for consejos, we decided that the auscultation of an air bolus would be the best option for confirming placement of the tube, considering the resources that we have.  When they came to weigh the baby, I taught Rosa to use a stethoscope and auscultate an air bolus through the tube.  Please continue to pray for Emanuel and Rosa during this journey.  Si Dios lo permite, nuestra próxima fecha es en septiembre.

I have still been attending to the needs of the Finca community recently (because we’re all stuck here juntos).  So that’s keeping me somewhat busy, and then de vez en cuando, someone will come to the gate needing a consult.  I have gotten (moderately) good at looking in ears with an otoscope because there is no doctor here to do it. I have done consults through the fence at 1 AM, comforted scared mothers, sent a baby with obvious hydrocephalus to the hospital, and given out lots of chronic disease maintenance medications.

Two weeks ago, one of our little 6-year-old girls came to me with a large ulceration above her front tooth, which we had known was a rotten tooth.  The dentist had advised us to just wait until it fell out if it wasn’t causing problems.  And, of course, this pandemia made the tooth decide to flare up-inopportune timing.  After consulting the dentist, I gave her a regimen of antibiotics and we decided that the tooth needed to come out.  Gracias a Dios, we have a dental chair in the clinic that was donated last year by the dental brigade.  We have none of the instruments or machines, but the good news about pulling teeth is that we don’t need drills, suction, or even water.  The dentist was able to come to the clinic, and she pulled out a small front tooth.  She does all the dental work for the Finca free-she has been so generous with us, a true bendición.

The women’s group has been put on hold for the unforeseen future, as there is a stay-at-home order in place.  However, the food donation program is needed more than ever.  All of the social distancing has many without any type of work, which makes obtaining food so so difficult for our neighbors.  After about a month of COVID here, one of the women called my phone and said, “There’s just no food, Marisa.” She told me that her plan was to eat a cup of beans that she had.  That was for lunch.  No breakfast and no dinner.  I asked her about the following day, and she said that she would have to see what she could find from neighors.  However, she said that many of the neighbors were in the same boat as she.  We had her make a list of neighbors in need of assistance, and 17 families received humble provisions that day. 

We have been trying to keep some sort of normalcy for the kids and jovenes here, but there is a fine line between letting them think everything is normal and showing them that there is suffering outside our gates.  And a lot of it.  We’ve been doing our best here and each day brings new information, new joys, and new challenges.

This time of uncertainty really gives us a beautiful opportunity to trust in the Lord.  Our Christian faith teaches us and gives us the blessing of hope-hope that there is a God who loves us and wants the best for us.  ALL, truly all, that we have is a blessing and is because He willed it and someone said, “yes” to His will.  What a beautiful thing.  We have the capacity to make his will be done here and now, and not only in the big decisions, but in small, ordinary things too.  I have been reading a book about Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and in the chapter on humility, the author describes that “Mother Teresa considered herself ‘a little pencil’ in the hand of God…she understood the dynamic that if you admire a certain kind of hand-writing, or if you enjoy a particular book, you don’t thank the pencil.”  You thank the artist who uses the pencil to make such a work.  What a beautiful way to look at our lives.  “It is all God’s doing, all Gods work.  All praise and glory belong to Him.”

The newly painted clinic!! 😍😍😍

 Our food provisions for the neighbors.

One of our younger girls made a study spot outside her house. 

Quarantine in paradise isn't all that bad. 

La dentista in FULL garb. 

The girls LOVE to do zumba, but they always choose right after dinner. 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Coronavirus, Honduras Edition

This Lent, the Lord has invited me to reflect in a new way on the sufferings of Christ and of his mother, Mary.  Pain, sadness, loneliness, and anxieties have riddled these days to make them some of the hardest. 

Coronavirus has made its way to Honduras, and, as with other countries, it has brought with it a craze and sort of hysteria.  However, the hysteria here is different…It is less obvious because there are no televisions, no real internet, etc.  It’s shocking how lack of information causes craziness, just as to much information does. 

As Dr. Julio explained to me, as a third-world (tercer-mundo) country, Honduras does not have the capacity to treat or contain this virus in the way first-world countries do.  We do not have testing, except in the major cities (7 hours away), so the specimen gets sent to the lab via bus, and we wait for a week to find out the results.  Life is different.  The Honduran government has been begging other countries for N-95 respirator masks, to no avail.  Hygiene is difficult here because water is not guaranteed, especially running water; soap costs money; and there is a lack of education about hygiene.  These differences make it easy to spread such illnesses. 
As of last night, there are 267 confirmed cases of Coronavirus, and that number is growing.  From the beginning, Honduras has been on high-alert and has taken strict preventative measures to avoid the nation being swept by this aggressive virus.  Since the confirmation of the first two cases, the travel has been banned, the borders of Honduras and of the cities have closed, masses have been cancelled, and every non-essential business has been temporarily closed.  Gatherings of more than 10 persons (outside the same house) have been temporarily banned.  Madness…

The Finca is in a tough spot.  The Finca has closed our school, clinic, and gate.  No one is allowed in (except emergently), and no one is allowed out until further notice. 

Nemo, another missionary who started with me, decided that she was going to leave Honduras when the borders reopened (due to personal reasons), and Melissa, Megan, Adam, Ryan, and I are continuing here as missionaries at the Finca. 

What a tough transition.  In addition to losing our strongest part, Emily, the “oldie” who stayed back to help us out in our transition, we lost another community member and friend. 

And so, life goes… meanwhile the world goes on. 

With some reflecting, I was able to relate this time of suffering and pain, desolation, isolation, and sadness to the feelings of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Jesus offers to us an unloading of all these weighty crosses. Jesus willingly and lovingly carried his cross and the weight of our sins so that we’d have a way out.  So beautiful. 

Today, Domingo de Ramas (Palm Sunday), we listened to the Passion of our Lord.  It was so beautiful listening to this recount of the Passion in Spanish.  Throughout my life, I have heard all of the stories of Jesus’ life time and time again, and growing up with these stories, they have gotten worn down (like a frequently worn pair of shoes.  The grooves and details level out and they start to lack traction.  This is how these stories had become for me.  However, listening in a new language (for some reason) re-enlivened the details of the story, like bringing a camera into focus.    

If you give Jesus an inch, He’ll take a mile.

~~~ Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like yours.~~~

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Powdered Milk

I never thought I’d be so grateful for powdered milk … well, actually powdered milk that mixes. Nobody likes powdered milk nor the fact that you have to put it in the bowl before the cereal. But let me tell you how it makes my day when my powdered milk at breakfast mixes easily with cold water. And so begins our catch-up for the past few months …

I left off a few weeks before Ruthie, the nurse from the previous year who was orienting me, and I gave an awesome presentation to women and girls from the community and girls from the Finca about La Salúd de la Mujer.  It was a talk all about anatomy, menstruation, and pregnancy, and at the end of the talk, we gave out reusable pads, made possible through an organization called Days for Girls. It was very successful, and I got by with my limited Spanish!  It made me excited to give more important health talks to the community and to the Finca. 

Time really does fly here!

On December 4, the old missionaries (from the previous year) left, and Ruthie, went with them, leaving me to fend for myself as the nurse.   My designated jobs are Nurse, encargada de la bodega (sorting through donations and distributing when appropriate), and community outreach. 

When I arrived at the Finca I met a family with a baby who has a very severe cleft palate/lip, which disabled the baby from forming any suction on a bottle, thus leading to pretty significant malnutrition. By the grace of God, we were able to get supplies and formula from the renowned Dr. Kelly. We formed a plan for the baby, his mom, and grandma to live at the Finca. The baby's mom and grandmom are both unable to read, write, and tell time.  I was very nervous, but they were SO happy to learn these processes to help him!! Por una verdadera obra del Espíritu Santo, during their five-week stay in December, I was able to use my knowledge and experience to teach (with limited Spanish) the baby’s mom how to insert and give formula through an oro-gastric tube. She rocks!! After supervising the learned skills over and over the family was able to go home to the mountains with plans to check in frequently. God willing, a medical brigade is set to do surgery on the baby on March 8 in Tegucigalpa, which is about seven hours away. The goal is to get him more well-nourished to aid in his healing process after surgery.  **I just weighed him in the clinic and he is now 15 + pounds and growing!

Looking back … what a fortunate experience that was.  Coming from a pediatric inpatient nursing background, feeding tubes are second nature to me, and after trying many less invasive methods, I went to Dr. Julio for his approval of the plan.   I received much push-back because “feeding tubes are not used here,” but in the end, the doctor supported the plan because I was so comfortable with them.  He warned me, “I won’t be of any help to you because I’ve never even seen one.” What a blessing it was to form a relationship with this family and to empower these women to help the baby.

Megan, another missionary, and I are in charge of community outreach.  We picked up a women’s group with women from the neighboring communities, and it’s turning out to be such a beautiful encounter! It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to meet women in the community and share time and faith with them, where they are.  I absolutely LOVE it!  Megan and I started a young women (adolescent) group of girls from the community mixed with the girls at the Finca.  It’s only a few weeks old, but the purposes have been sharing faith, bettering ourselves, and building relationships, and so far, ha sido exitoso. 

Megan and I also help with a food donation program, through which the Finca gives food provisions to neighbors in dire need.  We give out about 10-12 lb of rice, 10-12 lb of beans, flour, corn flour, tomato paste, sofrito, salt, baking powder, spaghetti, coffee, and Manteca to families on the first Friday of every month.  It’s really been a blessing to see and get to know the women in this program and in this way.

There is no birth control here, no condoms, and people are still having lots of sex (as people do).  However, with sex comes babies and STDs.  I perform 1-3 pregnancy tests most days of clinic, and about half of them are positive. There is very rarely a “planned pregnancy” that I have witnessed, and often times the women are overwhelmed with the thoughts of, “How am I going to provide for another child?”  And so life goes for these women and we provide some prenatal care in the clinic and accompany them to birth and beyond.  We make them little newborn care packages with whatever donations we have that a baby could use (Desitin, toys, onesies, etc).  One of my goals is to teach about natural family planning in the hopes of empowering women, and maybe have a domino effect, where they could teach…All thoughts right now.

Another one of my jobs is Encargada de la Bodega (along with missionary Adam), which means we get to sort through all the donations.  It’s very humbling being on the receiving end of donations and donation programs, like Feed the Children, Vitamin Angels, and Days for Girls.  We get our rice from Feed the children, and prenatal vitamins from Vitamin Angels.  Since there are so many unplanned pregnancies here, we give all girls, age 14 and up, prenatal vitamins in the hopes of nourishing them before they become pregnant.

Encargada de la Bodega also means that I go through the donations distributed by the government: donations from the US, from churches, American Red Cross, and other organizations.  We sort the donations between what our kids will use and what we can share with the neighboring communities.  In the bodega (closet), we have clothes, shampoo, toiletries, shoes, socks, sheets, blankets, coloring books, some toys, soccer balls, etc. All of which have been donated.  And school uniform stuff…
Wow!  School Uniforms.  What a feat!  Checking the size, what they have, what they need, what can still be used…And I had the honor of figuring that out (Thank God that I only had to do it for the girls).  We have so many donated skirts that had never been touched, and so my thought was to use them, but they are SOOO long.  So anyway, I pretended to be a seamstress and tapped into memories of my mom hemming our school uniforms.  I measured, pinned, ironed, and hemmed 5 skirts, and I was so proud of my work!  Thanks, Mom! School started February 4, and those kids were dressed to the nines in their school uniforms!

The start of school also meant decreased patients in the clinic- BONUS!  I had the pleasure of teaching 1st and 2nd graders how to brush their teeth and gave them each new tooth brushes (donated by a dental brigade).  That was fun!  I had them each practice brushing their teeth in the clinic one by one. 

There were SOOO many boxes left here by past brigades, and I went through to organize the contents of the medical ones before Ruthie left, but I never touched the dental ones.  Well, recently, I went through the dental boxes and I found a mountain (over 300) toothbrushes for kids of all ages and for adults!  It was a true blessing, as we were almost out of toothbrushes in the clinic. Wow!! ¡Qué suerte!

Two weeks ago, six new kids came to live at the Finca.  Previously, our youngest kid was 9 years old, and the oldest of the new children is 7 years old.  All little girls, except one baby boy of 18 months.  So that has been a transition for the Finca, and things have been a bit hectic from a salúd standpoint, but hopefully settling down.

Community life has been good.  There are 7 of us now, and in a few weeks, Emily (an oldie who stayed back to help us) will leave, making us 6.  Nohemi is the subdirector at the school, she works closely with the principal and helps the functions of the school to run.  Melissa is the librarian and the special education teacher.  Ryan is the new missionary coordinator, so he does a lot of stuff behind the scenes, but he also teaches 5th, 6th, 8th, and 9th grade English.  Megan teaches Kindergarten and does all the women’s group stuff with me.  Megan also is in charge of all Spiritual event coordination and retreats. Adam works in the bodega with me and is also the head of the kids work program, called PAVI.  PAVI is an after school program through which kids are able to work in maintenance, sewing, painting, English studies, event planning to earn points.  With their points they can buy things from the pulperia (corner store/only store) or save them for money after they leave the Finca. 
Spanish has been tough.  I do a great job faking it, and I can even tell I should laugh based on people’s faces when they talk.  LOL!  I do understand and speak a lot, but still a LONG LONG way from fluent, but poco a poco.

Two mission groups are coming in March, which is exciting.  And in April, I have some visitors of my own!  Super psyched!

Thank you all for your thoughts, prayers, patience, and for your generosity.  The holy spirit has been so present here.  Alive and well! I pray for you, my friends and family from the states, daily and think of you often!  May God bless you as we begin this Lenten season! 

Pin the nose on the reindeer for Christmas.  Thanks to Adam's art skills! 

The craziness of women's group! 

One of our jovenes caught in silliness! She dove right into the bag of donated peluchas (stuffed animals) 

Community breakfast for Melissa's birthday (I think) 

The view from inside the fence. 

My dental charla with 2nd grade.  

Outdoor cooking in the horno y fogón 

One of my favorite jovenes, after night prayer. 

                  Emanuel in December (at the Finca).            ^ Emanuel yesterday

Monday, November 11, 2019

My how time flies!  Already one month in Honduras, and three months outside of the US. 

It’s funny how as time has passed, I have become accustomed to not having water or electric all the time, drinking agua pura (clean water) out of water tanks, washing clothes in the pila, cooking food in an outdoor clay orno or over the fogon, and sweating (a lot and all the time).  Sweating at night, sweating while raking, sweating while washing my clothes, sweating while eating dinner, sweating while working  in the clinic. 

I wipe off the heads of my patients who are wearing beads of sweat on their foreheads.  But sweating in Honduras is inevitable, and you never hear shame about it, like, “I’m sorry I’m so sweaty.”  That’s not even a thought.  You hug sweaty people and hold sweaty hands as you feel the sweat dripping down the small of your back.

Two other missionaries, Megan and Molly, and I have started attending a women’s group (bible study-like) in the neighboring community.  I feel so blessed to be sharing faith and spirituality with the women of the community.  Some of the women walk upwards of 45 minutes to come to the group, but they have made it a priority to share in community and be present.  Presence…what a beautiful thing.  Half the battle is showing up, and after that, the Lord takes care of the rest. 

I feel so peaceful here in Honduras.  The culture here is one of community and gratitude.  It sometimes makes me think of “the good old days” that I hear about in America, when a man’s word was trustworthy and when people traded goods.  Life is different than in the US.  There is no “I” in anything; everything is a “we” effort.  People in this town are so patient with us gringos, and they have welcomed us with open arm and many kisses and the cheeks. 

When I first got here, I remember thinking, “Wow!  This is not that radically different than the US.”  That was before I left the Finca grounds…Wow…

The lack of economy here is particularly striking, and people struggle financially.  Aside from college-prepared careers, like lawyers, doctors, etc., there are very few jobs.  People have come and knocked at the Finca begging for work so that they can feed their families.  There are women who make rosaries, tortillas, etc., that Finca missionaries buy to take back to their families, in order to support the community, but the need is ongoing.  We also prepare packages of food (rice, dried beans, coffee, Manteca, etc.) for families and distributing them monthly to families in dire need.  Some houses here are made from concrete and cement, and others are made of sticks and mud clay, all with tin rooves.  Many people have very few belongings.  Walking around, I see many Hondurans sporting clothing with English writing, clothing donated from the US or left by former missionaries. 

People walk for upwards of 30 to 40 minutes on the side of the road to get to the Clinic of the Sacred Heart (Clinica del Sagrado Corazon).  The clinic is open from 8 AM to (technically) 12 PM, but we are always busy, and rarely leave before 12:45/1 PM.  At the clinic we see lots of patients, with all sorts of issues.  Anything from bronchitis, to pneumonia, to wounds (we do A LOT of wound care), to chronic issues like epilepsy, diabetes, hypertension, etc.  A clinic visit costs L 15, about $ .60, if the families are able to pay.  In this way, families take some ownership of their health care; however, about 20% of our patients are unable to afford the cost, which is not a barrier to receiving the care they need. 

Last week, an elderly woman came to the clinic with what looked like a very bright white cataract in her L eye, complaining of pain.  She had ridden the bus from VERY far away, but came to the clinic because she was now unable to see out of her eye, and her bony cheek was swollen and very painful.  We learned that a long thorn had penetrated her eye 8 days prior, and she had gone to a clinic in the mountains the day after and they gave her something for pain. Upon closer inspection, her white pupil was not covered with a cataract…It was covered with infection and pus, and she will now lose her eye.  We cleaned out her eye, gave her a dose of IV antibiotics, and sent her home with instructions for a nurse or doctor in the community to give her intramuscular injections of antibiotics.  My gut hurt after sending home a woman (who can’t read and is blind in one eye) with instructions, syringes, and needles  to administer IM antibiotics, but that is the reality  of life here.  We trust the word of our patients who tell us that there is someone at home qualified to give injections, we write instructions, and we pray for them as we send them home.

All the meds and supplies in the clinic (with the exception of those we have to buy) have been donated by medical brigades, and we are able to give them to those who need them for free (when we have them).  All medications that our patients receive are funded by donations.  That means the boy with epilepsy, the elderly woman’s antibiotics, the anti-parasite medications-all made possible by donations.

I was called to one house a few weeks ago for a Finca kid who had a terrible headache and was screaming in pain- this 8-year-old boy was new to the Finca, arriving 2 weeks before I did.  When Ruthie, the other nurse, and I entered the house, we found him to be having a seizure.  According to the boy’s brother, this same occurrence had happened “8 or 9 times” in the past before arriving to the Finca.  He had been having seizures for years.  The many long days that followed included and inpatient stay at a hospital in Trujillo, a 5-hour ride to La Ceiba to get an EEG and CT scan, a walk-in appointment with a Pediatrician to have the test results read, and starting oral anti-seizure medications.  All of this cost the Finca L 5000, or about $200, which also has been funded by the generosity of donors.

We pray consistently for rain.  We went for a long period here, over a week, without good rain.  The water from the spigot is never okay to drink, but extended periods without rain leave the pilas empty, which means difficulty washing dishes, cleaning clothes, bathing, flushing the toilet.  Then something magical happened last Saturday night.  The skies opened and a torrential downpour began!  What joy!  After placing buckets to collect rain water to fill the pilas and flush the toilets, the missionaries ran outside with shampoo and we had the best water pressure ever standing out in the rain, laughing and dumping water over our heads!   One of my favorite memories thus far!

Esta es la vida, nuestra vida y la vida de nuestros hermanos.  Somos hermanos, hermanos de Cristo, hermanos de fe.  Las bendiciones de nuestro Señor nos han llevado de nuestras luchas y nos apoyarán por siempre.  Toda la gloria al padre, al hijo, y al Espíritu Santo, como era en el principio, ahora y siempre, por los siglos de los siglos.  Amen.

This is the life, our life and the life of our brothers and sisters.  We are brothers and sisters, in Christ and in faith.  The blessings of our Lord have carried us from our struggles and will support us forever.  All glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever and ever.  Amen.

Un evento en nuestra casa-Casa Santa Teresita

Los misioneros con nuestra fundadora, Zulena.

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Esta nueva vida es una bella vida

We arrived at the Finca on Monday, 9/30/19, and we were welcomed at the gates by all the children and staff, after our 20+ hour voyage from Antigua, Guatemala.  They sang songs for us con mucha alegria and presented us with personalized art projects to welcome us…and so it began!

We were introduced to the missionary house and to the existing missionaries, five amazing young women who will orient us and leave in December (the end of their term).  We settled into our rooms, unpacking and setting up our little decorations, and then all 12 of us shared our first mish dinner. 

The next few days were a series of supposedly abnormal fiestas, including pastel (cake), piñatas, and skits.  It just-do-happened that the feast days of St. Francis of Assisi and of St. Terese of Lisuex were this week, Independence day, and the birthday of our founder, Vincente Pescatore.  The missionary house hosted a party for the feast day of St. Terese because she is the patron saint of missionaries.  All the kids came over to our house, and we played games and made a little shrine from the surrounding plants.  We prepared cookies (galletas) for the fiesta too!

Life is a bit different here.  We live in a concrete house with a tin/wood roof.  There is a courtyard in the middle of the house with our bedroom doors that open up to the courtyard.  We flush the toilet with a bucket of water, wash our dishes and clothes in a pila, and cook about half our meals on a fogon stove top.  The water goes out usually a few times per day for a few hours, but once we adapted to preparing for that, it was no big issue.  We have lots of 4 (+) legged friends that keep us company-geckos scaling the walls and GIANT  wolf spiders are among our favorites.  The geckos are cute, but leave little gifts on our pillows, beds, countertops, and every other surface. 

As far as community goes, we’re still adapting to it!  We will take turns cooking meals, cleaning, etc.  So I am excited to get started with that!

The kids are great, some more welcoming than others.  Right now there are 18 kids at the Finca, ranging in age from 7-18 años.   They are separated into 5 houses, by age and gender, and each house has a Tia, or house mom. We have prayed morning prayer, gone to fiestas, and done small activities with the kids, but more interactions will come as time goes on!  I’m excited to learn more about them and the Tias too!

Zulena, Vincente’s wife and co-founder of the Finca, shared with us missionaries the story of the founding of Finca del Niño (Farm of the Child), and my heart had never been so moved. Please see the bottom part for the story!!!

 Vincente’s parents were from Italy, and he was raised in the US, but travelled to Guatemala to serve as a missionary in the hospital, at which time he met Zulena, a Guatemalan young adult.  Vincente loved with all his heart and deeply desired to serve those in need and the forgotten, so he asked Zulena to be a missionary with him and serve in the selva (the rainforest).  On the night of their wedding, they announced that they were starting a mission in the selva, and so it began. ..

They travelled into the deep rainforest and set up camp there, 10 hours from civilization, which meant 10 hours from grocery markets, hospitals, schools.  There they built the first Finca del Niño, taking in over 60 kids whose parents had been killed in the Guerilla warfare that plagued Guatemala in the years prior.  According to Zulena, anything that the they needed, Vincente learned to do.  Vincente learned to treat parasites, tended to wounds, and educated himself so that he could educate others.  He read for hours each night after working tirelessly each day. 

They built a school and clinic along with this children’s home, and people in the area were VERY sick. Many people died from their ailments because they didn’t have access to the treatments they needed, and so Vincente taught himself to fly a plane so that he could transport people to the hospital.  Together they saved hundreds of lives and improved outcomes for hundreds more. Vincente and Zulena fought Dengue and Malaria, all the while raising their own family. After a few years, Vincente pleaded to Zulena to move to start another Finca in Trujillo, Honduras.  After much prayer and reflection, the couple decided to move their family to this rural part of Honduras to serve the people there, and so began Finca del Niño in Trujillo (actually 20 minutes from Trujillo).

Vincente died in 1997 in a plane crash with his 2 brothers-in-law, after only about a year at the new Finca. Vincente was flying with construction materials to finish building the chapel at the Finca, when a strong storm took the plane from his control.  Zulena raised her family there and oversaw the mission for about 10 years, before transferring leadership to another and 3 Franciscan sisters, per Vincente’s wishes.

Today, the Finca stands as a highly respected organization.  A town and community has formed in the area surrounding the Finca.  On our grounds is the only school in the community, and children from the community and from the mountains come to go to school there.  We have a clinic that serves the community and the mountain country.  A community church is currently being built by Finca staff. Vincente’s dream lives on every day through this mission.

Nuestra casa, mi habitacion est en la esquina

La pila donde nosotros lavamos nuestra ropa

El dia de Santa Teresita

El SUPERmercado en la ciudad de Trujillo

Monday, September 23, 2019

Hasta luego, Guatemala!

Well, this is it!  We are in the final countdown to the mission!

I finished my classes today, and I leave for Honduras in just over 24 hours.  My how time has flown!

I can never express my gratitude in words, but all of the spiritual, emotional, and financial support that I have received really has me feeling so blessed.  Through the support of my family, friends, and community, I have made this decision to answer God’s call to serve my neighbor, and this journey began with the blessing of my time in Guatemala.

The reason that I have been in Guatemala for the past 7+ weeks is to learn Spanish, and while doing that I have been tested and accomplished things that I never even dreamed of! 

I have met 6 new friends who have become my companions on this crazy journey.  I have learned to play the most fun card game ever, Euchre.  I climbed a volcano to the top and roasted a marshmallow over the lava.  I jumped from a 15-foot boulder into the clearest water I have ever seen.  I participated in the “Antorcha,” and ran carrying a torch to celebrate the Independence of Guatemala.  I have ridden in the back of pickup trucks, and climbed a mountain to watch the sunrise.  I have watched more desfiles (parades) than I have ever seen in my life.  I watched 10 grown men try to climb a greased telephone pole to win 500 Quetzales (about $65). I have experienced a culture that is much different than the one that I come from, but I have realized that the people are oh-so similar! 

Boys life to play games and wrestle.  Kids like to throw water on each other.  Some adults work hard…others could work harder.  Women go to the bathroom with friends.  Teenagers are sometimes defiant.  So familiar…

I have had so many experiences here that have made me feel like I’m living.  I have laughed until my abdomen was sore, climbed through body aches, cried out of frustration, and loved beyond limits.  
My greatest blessing here was Jesus working on humbling my heart to receive love more fully.  Sitting in front of Jesus here in the chapel is the only thing that has remained constant-he is the same Jesus that I knew from home, and he will be the same Jesus in Honduras.  What a blessing that has been.  It excited me that I am starting to learn to pray in Spanish, and I am learning the mass in Spanish too, but as one former missionary reminded us, “Jesus loves us no matter how much Spanish we do or don’t know.”

So now the journey begins! We leave for Honduras Wednesday morning at 0300, and we have a 12-hour bus ride to San Pedro Sula, Honduras.  We will stay overnight at the seminary there, and then the following day we will continue for an additional 8 hours to Trujillo (with maybe a retreat somewhere in between).  Upon arriving there, we will start the long-awaited mission, and we will receive countless blessings in many forms, including disconnection from electronics. 

“Christ has no body but yours, no hands nor feet on earth but yours.  Yours are the eyes with which he looks with compassion on this world.  Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.  Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world… Christ has no body on Earth but yours.” -St. Teresa of Avila

Cerro de la Cruz es un buen visto para mirar la ciudad de Antigua.

 Rolling squad deep

 As per usual-Con mis peeps

 Un grupo de estudiantes que viajaron mas de 2 hours para hablar con "gringos vivos" en Ingles.

 Una clase de tejido

Antorcha con Melissa.  Estoy llevando mi cinta de pelo.  100% pura chapina!

 Yo estoy incendiendo le antorcha antes de la carrera

 Los hombres tratando de subir un palo..

Mis amigos y yo con pupusas deliciosas!

Thursday, August 29, 2019

She Believed She Could So She Did

I have never been so compelled to write a blog post, but as I lie here in my bed, after climbing Volcan Pacaya, I am overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. 

Let me explain…

Many people know that I’ve had my share of struggles in life, but the struggles I have faced have just made the joys better.

It’s 10:30 here, as I sit in my bed, and I just got back from climbing a VOLCANO.  When we set out on this excursion, we thought, “what a cool experience this will be!” For the others in my group, this fun-filled excursion was just that, but for me, it was unexpectedly so much more…

We got to the start place around 3:45 PM and immediately getting out of the car, people asked us if we wanted a horse to take us up the volano for 200 Q, $30.  Honestly, yes…I did.  I wanted every bit of that horse to take me up the mountain, but $30 is over half of my weekly stipend, and the excursion already cost $25, So I thought, “How difficult could this be..?”  Very fricken difficult. 

I certainly slowed the group down as we climbed.  As the muscles in my legs burned, as ,my right leg froze up time after time, and as I wondered how much further until a break, I wanted to quit. So many times,  I wanted to take a break.  I wanted to get on a horse. I didn’t know if I could do it.

However, I persisted.

I watched my steps and thought to myself, “One step at a time.  I can do this.”  I didn’t ask how much longer because I was afraid of the answer.  Covered in sweat, I told myself, “One step at a time.”
Over an hour later, the most wonderful thing happened…we reached the dried lava rocks. We were close! However, this posed another hurdle.  It was so easy to slip. A few minutes into the hills and bounds of lava rocks, as my fatigued right leg shook, I fell and hit the sharp, cooled lava stones.  As I hit these stones, I was met by the hand of another…a man (maybe 30 y/o) who had seen me struggling on the way up reached out his hand to me, and in broken English, smiled and said to me, “We will do this together.” We walked sliding and slipping through the slick gravel-like hills, and then we hit a BIG hill!  That’s when his friend grabbed my other hand and said, “You can do this.”  Together we climbed through the stones and made it to a landing point.  I thanked the men whole-heartedly, and we parted ways. 

Next decision…Whether or not to attempt the part over molten lava, with sharp larger hot lava rocks.  My initial reaction was, “Heck no!” because it sounded like a nightmare.  But I persisted on because I figured I it’s better to try and fail than not to try…That’s when another beautiful thing happened.  Our tour guide, Mono, took my arm and said to me (In Spanish), “We can do this…I’ll help you.”  He and I jumped and climbed lava rocks (hand in hand) with skin-searing heat coming from the orange liquid lava underneath.  We climbed nearly 15 minutes (very slowly walking), and BAM there it was!  Orange liquid rock-not underneath, but right next to us.  The liquified rock was falling slowly, melting into the solidified lava rocks. 

That’s when I took the marshmallows out of my back pack.  I had bought these marshmallows (called “angelitas” in Spanish) this morning on my walk to school, just in case we had an opportunity to roast mallows, and here it was…the chance!  Mono brought a stick and we roasted marsh mallows over molten lava.  They actually caught fire next to the lava-Crazy! By this time, the sun was setting, which turned out to be so beautiful. After a few pictures and delicious smores, we started the decline. 

That was another adventure, with much slipping and a man on each arm on the way down.  But I was just filled with so so so much gratitude…I just climbed a fricken mountain.  Yes, it was terribly hard, and I probably won’t do it again…but I don’t need to.  Because I persisted and I did it.  I didn’t take any short cuts.  I endured pain, and humbling humanity, and I did it-with the help of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

We got to the end of the hike, and it was hours later than we should have returned, but my friends were so supportive.  Hungry, but supportive.

What beauty…the support from my team, as one held a light for me on the way down the hill.  Two stuck back with me as I struggled up the mountain, supporting me as I was telling myself I couldn’t go any further.  And others took plenty of pictures of us.  Everyone played a part.

This evening was a beautiful reminder of the love that surrounds me, through the trials that I face.  Reflecting on the immense support I have had from my family, friends, neighbors, and everyone in between.  That support has come in many shapes and forms, like an environmental services woman (that I had never met before) at work asking my story/mission while we were stripping a room, and then she gave me a big hug and a few dollars to support my fundraising.  It also looks like a visit from far away, support of my fundraising, a hug and smile, and now the men who held my hands while I climbed a volcano.  My mission is to achieve and spread love, and I am able to do that because YOU have taught me to love…and so I thank you! 

 Not long before the guy grabbed my hand.

Standing about 15 feet from liquid rock, falling like pudding.

Roasting marshmallows heated by lava!

Nice burn on those mallows.

My team!  Monos!

Beautiful sunset.

Grupo son nuestra guia, Mono.