Sunday, November 8, 2020

Hurricane Eta


Experiencing a hurricane in a third world country is eye-opening…

We heard about Hurricane Eta about 12 hours before it touched down in Nicaragua, on our Monday afternoon after lunch.  We learned that it was a category 5, and it was moving slowly but we had to wait until it touched down to see how destructive it would be.  We also learned that we needed to prepare our bags in case we might be evacuated from our beautiful beachside home ground in anticipation of flooding.  The preoccupation was that the rivers would overflow (a common occurrence) and flood, and because the storm had not yet touched down, we weren’t sure if flooding meant ankle-high, knee-high, or roof-high.  The uncertainty was great.

“Hay que confiar en Dios,” one of the tias reminded us.  Trusting in the Lord is the only true security we have. 

In the afternoon, one of the maintenance men collected our bags in the busito (little paddy-wagon-like bus) to drive them to the other side of the plancha…  Planchas are an interesting thing…They are roads that rivers cross over.  They are made from concrete, and are much steadier than bridges, as bridges here are made from unsteady materials.  The river flows, crossing the plancha, and continues on it’s way. Planchas are very common, and there is no way to leave the finca or neighboring community (besides walking on the beach) without crossing a plancha.  The problem with these planchas occurs when the rivers se crecen (grow) because of heavy rainfall.  In this case, it’s not possible to cross them (in car, on foot, on horse) without being swept away with the river.  The plan was that we would wake up around 2 AM and walk from the Finca, cross the plancha (because the water would be too high to drive through, but not too high to walk through) and the busito would be waiting for us.  We would then continue on to our destination… a storm shelter of sorts. 

On Mondays, the missionary community has our “community night.” We played a few rounds of charades filled with many laughs and silly-heartedness.  Megan, our missionary coordinator, came with the news that we had 15 minutes to get our things and that we were being evacuated sooner than expected.  We prepared the house by closing the shutters and unplugging everything (refrigerator included), and I ran to the clinic to do the same. 

They picked us up around 9:30 PM and off we went.  The little girls, adolescent girls, and tias (18 total) went to stay at a convent and the little boys, teenage boys, tias, and missionaries (19 total) went to stay at a house owned by the diocese.  We arrived there around 10:30 or 11 PM, and there we stayed for 3 and a half days.

We shared a three-room corridor, each room with metal bunk beds and foam sleeping pads.  The 3 younger boys were in one room with their Tia; the 3 older boys with their house parents in the other; and the 10 missionaries in the third room.

The winds were very strong, as to be expected with a hurricane, and the rain fell by the bucket.  The water (from the spigot) quickly dissipated from a light trickle, and we went the next 3 days without water.  We put a large pot outside, which quickly filled to make our portable kitchen pila.  And we washed all dishes under the abundant waterfall of rainwater that fell from the grooves in the tin roof.  Everything was saturated.  The second night we were there, I washed my pants, tshirt, and underwear-it was already so saturated that I figured it might as well be clean too. And I hung it under the roof to try to dry. (by day 4, Thursday, it had dried) The electricity was spotty, until on the night of the election, we lost power for good.  No electricity, no cell phone service, no nothin’.  We were completely powerless (double-meaning)…



In all the craziness of moving from our home, trying to entertain kids, figuring out meals, and sleeping 10 missionaries to a room, I easily got caught up in my own discomfort. 

On day two, during my prayer time, the Lord spoke to me in a profound way about the suffering of those in Nicragua, y de los demas en Honduras. It really brought me to my knees.  As soggy and chilly as I was, there were people, MANY MANY people, people who I call by name who were truly suffering during this storm, and my raisin-toes were no match.  As I watched the rain pour and saturate everything in its path, my mind was flooded.  Flooded with images – the image of Dona Migdalia’s* mud and stick walls melting.  The image of Belky* and her 5 kids huddled together on their damp and musty bed (the only bed in the house) trying to keep warm.  The image of roofless houses because the banana leaves or manaca couldn’t withstand the wind.  The image of Doris* and her poor children hungry because they couldn’t cross the plancha to buy food for 4 days.  (*Names changed) My mind was littered with images, feelings, and deep pain.  This is the reality that my friends live.  This is the reality that I witness and cannot do much to change.  This is the pain that I pray that the Lord carries when it’s too much for my friends to bear.

We, here in the Finca, live a good life.  Easy, some might say…We never really have to worry if we are going to have food, or about other basic necessities.  And that is thanks to the goodness and generosity that we have experienced, and the generosity that we currently experience from all of our bien-hechores.  But not all in Honduras, or even in our area, live like we do.  Actually, very few do.  And while I can serve our neighbors in the clinic and try to be present to them during this COVID pandemic, there is nothing that I can do to change their situations.

The faith of the people I have encountered is amazingly profound.  We in the states get caught up in doing all the Catholic things.  Asking all of these thought-provoking questions or arguing gently about doctrine or other things.  But true faith, true Faith, at least for myself, lacks so so much.  True faith is TRUST.  Trusting that not only the abstract plan for my life will be good, but also that although the brigade isn’t sending all the meds this year (because of COVID), we will still get the medications we need to serve our neighbors.  Trust in the Lord is not only the abstract but the very VERY material tambien, y posiblemente even more-so.  He is just so good, so so good to us, and we overlook it every day. 

A missionary from another city in Honduras visited us (hace ya dias) and in the prayer before lunch, she said, “Lord I ask that there always be bien-hechores (good-doers) in the lives of those who most need to be served.”  How beautiful is that!? God, the Holy Spirit, works through other people.  He is the impetus for any and all good that we do, and it’s so easy to mistake him for the goodness of people alone. 

I think of a quote from the movie, Miracle (about the 1974?? US Olympic men’s hockey team).  In a classic scene, after a huge loss, Herb makes the men get back on the ice to do torturous drills, and at one point he says, “You think you can win on talent alone…Gentlemen, you don’t have enough talent to win on talent alone.” 

We often times think that humans are the source of goodness, whether that goodness be money, parties, medications for the clinic, a relationship with another person.  Humans don’t have enough goodness to live on our “goodness” alone.  We can’t and don’t (even if we want to) EVER do it alone. 

Anyway, the hurricane…I so easily get derailed…

A few things:

1.       After four days of no water, hot three-stall bathrooms smell rank.  So much so that self-dehydrating may seem the best option…

2.       Teenage boys can turn any word, any word, into a dirty word by the way they say it.  EYE ROLL

3.       Honduran tias like to be I charge in the kitchen

4.       Showering outside in the pila or the rain (fully clothed) is a great way to save water and time because you pretty much wash your clothes too! And it’s liberating.

We entertained the kids (or at least tried) for a few days.  The Red Cross came a few times to drop off food, water, and medications to us.  And by Friday afternoon we returned to the Finca well-fed, moderately-bathed, and ready to be back, only to encounter the aftermath of the storm.


There are 3 giant trees, with roots the girth of my thigh, which have been uprooted and sunken into the sandy ground.  And a few more that were broken and fell.  Things smelled pretty rank, but we cleaned up joyfully.  All in all, everyone is happy to be back at the Finca.  After almost 8 months of not leaving the Finca, it was a welcomed get-away for the kids (and missionaries).  Gracias a Dios!

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!