I feel a duty to stop this evening and write this post, as often times with blogging, perhaps more for myself than you, dear reader.
Stress is a part of life. Some of us tend to seek/desire/want a low stress life, and boy, I have to agree that sounds good to me. All of us have different levels of stress, and different desired levels.
I am told, and I suppose I recognize, that doing what we do as a family brings a much higher level of stress on many levels than the average Joe. Most of the time, it is manageable. Sometimes less "fun" than others, but it feels like it has a purpose, and therefore can be dealt with, in a number of health, and sometimes not healthy, ways.
Today though was the first time I have found myself ready to quit in 17 years.
What? Yes, that is correct. I am ok with the traffic here. I have a handle on our rep as being such a dangerous place to live. I can somehow live in the delicate wrestle of understanding with the ever-present poverty. I can process the complexities of Church/clinic/kids/coffee/groups work.
But red tape, legalese, and inefficiency really got to me today.
I am not quitting by the way. Oh, and I do not always handle the other things I mentioned above quite well either, but today's bout with the government trying to get our new ambulance into the country without paying the roughly $20,000 in taxes they want pushed me over an edge of sorts.
The rules change, get modified in muddy terms, and foisted on me among others. Even with the help I have in our doctor and lawyer, the double speak, confusing language and lack of an explainable path of action is overwhelming. What would someone just trying to start a business here do?
Ultimately though...if I look deep down inside me, and stop and talk to myself, I find that it all pushes me so far because...I cannot control it. I cannot understand it, and most humiliatingly...I do not understand it. I lack the education, the experience, the...well, I guess I don't know what.
What must others think of me knowing this? How I have failed in my job!
What ego. What foolishness. And the soul crushing stress of it all.
So I prayed before today...I asked God to open doors that are closed, to make smooth the rocky mountain roads of paperwork. And then when I find an area foreign to me, not of my skillset (and others as well I have found out...even an accountant we know was unable to help me with the document that pushed me over the edge with over 100 little boxes to fill out with such minutiae that the vocabulary was totally beyond me) I jumped the faith ship and just flailed in the pity pool, ready to sink.
We may not be able to complete the paperwork. We may have to pay the taxes. I am firmly aware of our need for much greater accounting/government reporting representation here and we will be hiring someone to train our staff to handle that in the coming weeks/month. I won't be able to really help with that, even if I wanted to do so.
Sometimes we need a bit of a knock down to remember our place in this world. To remember that God answers all prayers, but that sometimes the answer is no, or not now. To remember that we will never excel in every area, even if we think we should.
I am not sure my reading of Paul's words in light of today is correct or not, but I do not see him writing in 2 Corinthians 12... "9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." ...in a strong, confident voice. I hear God's voice in that reassuring, soft and condescending, like a loving parent to a small child who is throwing a fit, knowing that it is hard for the child to understand. I hear Paul crying as he says those words of verse 10...knowing they are true, feeling that love, and wrestling with the feelings of the heart mixed with the knowledge in the head and of the soul.
Or maybe that is just me.
We had opportunity last week to host a site visit from US surgeons, looking for areas where they can serve. Darwin set up appointments at the two public hospitals here to see what possibilities there would be to have them help.
The interviews we had in both hospitals were quite enlightening. I have some experience going into both to visit with groups, but nothing on this level of administrative sides of things, and to learn more of the needs, as well as the goals and how the hospitals work.
I learned that Hospital Escuela, the main public hospital for the entire country, has 13,000 beds in the hospital. (Darwin has routinely told me that every day there are 20,000 patients between inpatient and outpatient...knowing how many beds there are helped me believe that seemingly inflated number.)
I also learned that the general surgeries going on at San Felipe across town were not being done because that was part of the hospital's mission. It was odd to hear to start the meeting the five areas of focus for the hospital...especially when general surgery was not one of those areas. Turns out, the only reason the hospital does general surgery is because of the overwhelming need in the population that Hospital Escuela cannot handle. Even then...just one of the doctors we met with, to show just how big the need was, told us he had more than 400 patients on his waiting list.
Here is where you can pray...in general for a system here that has good doctors and administrators fighting to give the population here the care it needs. It is a different kind of battle, very complex, and sometimes on many fronts...with finances, circumstances, other administrators, etc.
You can also pray because after seeing the installations there, and the installations we have at the clinic, the surgeons decided that the best place where they could help and do that to honor Christ would be with us in the clinic. There is nothing definite at this point, just a decision to pray, and for us to budget how much a surgical wing would cost, and see where God takes it from there. Surgery has been an area for the clinic (possibly future hospital?) that has been a dream a long time coming. Many years in fact. Somewhat patiently, we wait. Right now that seems much closer...but again I warn us (read: myself), that while we plan, work and pray, that for the most part this is very much up in the air. Just pray that God's will would be done...and that it would be clear and present to us who routinely need refreshers on that.
This past Saturday I got to make the trip up to the coffee farm above Sampedrana. We had a very special visitor in Patty Fancher from CIY, and given that many a CIY group in the past several years has spent several days up on the farm and at the Church, it seemed a great thing to get to show her what is going on, especially for future possible groups (as in...the CIY group upcoming in June), and also a good time for us to test the road to the farm out again with a Ford to see how it is faring and where some repair/maintenance might be needed as the rainy season approaches.
We got quite a few new pictures to show the progress on the farm, and a few videos (processing still a video of the entire drive from Comayagua to post...somewhere) but they really do fail to capture the beauty, the impressive slopes of the property/area, and the huffing and puffing inducing altitude when combined with the previously mentioned slopes. The sky seems clearer, the breeze more steady and occasionally gusting, and from an administrative standpoint...the needs for further improvements and development staggering.
Just as staggering is the progress already made. We struggled for a few years getting things off the ground, but this past year has been very good, and we expect another almost two acres to be planted with coffee this year. We are almost at 50% planted as we stand. We still need this year to also build a bunkhouse for when harvest comes for where workers can stay, that will be a big project yet to come.
Seen here is the farm, at least in the part you can see from the road we built leading to it...there is more on the other side of the ridge. The small puffy trees on the right near the middle of the picture are our avocado trees. The line that goes up and to the left, to the right of the avocado trees marks a cleared line, but the property line goes further up the mountain from there. To the left of the avocado trees are coffee trees.
You might be asking yourself...how much property is there? Well, that is a good question. The exact answer is unknown really, as we have not had anything that could be called an exact measurement. I have not even been able yet to get to the top of the property myself. But the nearest that has been figured is about 20 acres. And we have roughly half planted with coffee, somewhere around 32,000 trees, with another 6,000 to be planted in the coming year.
You might also be asking yourselves...how bad is the road? Well, although rain has visited Tegucigalpa several times in the last week, it has not reached Sampedrana yet, so it was in very good shape. There are a couple places that need widening a bit, and a couple where the underground tiles need concrete poured to set them more firmly in place.
On our way back down the hill, we stopped to talk at the Church before heading home. We were talking about how we can better help Alfonso financially on a regular basis (also looking at getting his daughter a scholarship somehow from the US to be able to go to High School...which in addition to requiring money, would require her to relocate down the hill with extended family) and how we would like to see more avocados and raspberries (already growing wild...we picked two pounds just while chatting) and other fruit trees on the property to not only have the property providing employment but also food we can sell and give away to the workers, Church, and others in the community.
I noticed quite the pile of wood, and someone cutting wood in the back of the property. I asked Henry about this. The woman cutting the wood has her common law husband in jail, and four daughters to feed. Why her husband is in jail is a very sad and tragic story. He has not been sentenced yet (that takes a while) but likely will not be out soon given the circumstances. Their family has been helping them where they can, but Henry was wanting to help more. So they are getting oak wood to put into the smoker (home made, seen in the background) and make charcoal to sell. That is a lot of wood. Apparently you strip the outside bark off so that in the fire, it turns to charcoal and does not instead just burn up.
We were hoping to test a new option for transportation to and from the farm, a modified moto taxi. Unfortunately it was not ready for the trip, but as we progress, finding better transportation to replace the motorcycle will also be a priority. Going up and down that mountain for five years has taken a toll...and constant repairs are not exactly easy up there. Life though is not easy up there in many ways. But wow, it is beautiful.
I had been wrestling with posting something for some time. Within the last week or so several things pushed me in this direction.
So sometimes I feel quite isolated. Some of that comes from within, related to my personality and how I perceive the world. And some not. I am probably not alone in that.
Every time the phone rings, I expect that contact to be initiated because the party on the other end needs something. Which is true...because that is my job, for one, and secondly because sometimes being the guy that reaches out or is outgoing is hard. But of course my view is that it is #1's fault more than #2.
I have felt that way for a while now. It was not until hearing another foreigner at the airport say virtually the same thing, out loud mind you, with a heavy heart and sorrow not anger or frustration, that I realized I was not alone.
Sometimes I have a hard time interacting as well with others, or at least those that I see on a daily basis who struggle with huge issues of money, abuse, lack of education opportunities, healthcare, immigration, crime, corruption...you know, the small stuff. How do I ask the tough questions and then actually listen, and what do I do? What can I do? What should I do? Ooof. Sometimes then that means avoiding asking questions because you know what the answer will be and you do not want to hear it, lest you have to do something with that information.
We have weekly devotionals as a leadership, and that came up from someone else last week. Wait...again, this is not just me, as another out of touch gringo? That was a revelation, and a reminder. A reminder that no matter where you come from...caring can take a lot out of you, even if you don't know what you are going to do after step one of just caring.
Thankfully there was someone else there to remind me that sometimes step one is sometimes where it ends (Not all the time of course!) people just want to be heard, to have a place to get things off their chest where they will be heard without judged, ratted out, or the like. There are times when we are moved to action, but it does not have to feel like that is what we are supposed to do every time...sometimes instead of asking more questions, we just need to listen, to cry, to sympathize, to pray...to care.