I am personally a bit down of late. Physically, actually not too bad. Back is not too bad, just an ear infection and otherwise, God be praised, still in good health. But mentally/emotionally...I am drained. Apparently so is my keyboard. Some of those repeated letters in the title are its doing. It seemed appropriate, so I went with it. Also seems to describe trying to get to sleep every night.
No picture to share to show why I am feeling stressed, computer screens with big red Xs doesn't feel like necessary to share.
For almost five months now in quarantine, I am used to facing each day a little not knowing what I am doing, what should be done, how, etc. But with two containers coming, and government offices still somewhat closed or moving things online, I am finding myself as the only guy apparently that can do some of the paperwork that needs done, and with no clue what to do. Three or four different agencies (so far, gulp) different registrations, paperwork needed, payments...and all in different platforms, rules, etc. And...asking for information in that way that only government agencies do: beyond my understanding.
It is so draining and stressful I begged our customs agent to do some of it. "'Can't I just pay you to do it?" His answer, with sympathy in his voice: "No, has to be you pretty much." I got a little solice from him though when he told me he couldn't make heads or tails of the online system for the phytosanitary permit either. Although, it still left me then going to the physical office (two days in a row..the first day about 1 hour trip to find out we needed to have made an appointment) for another 1.5 hours to find that the people in charge...had no clue the online system was so confusing and requiring a username and password, that I had no way to request online. At least I got to leave the property I suppose. Now, I have to buy stamps...but electronically. And that means another organization to talk to. I mean, this last part came up literally as I was ranting here about the previous steps! I have been tested, and been found wanting...at every step of the way. I can't do this stuff, I am in way over my head. I am lost actually, and just keep stumbling from one email to the next. I need to place some more God calls. And also remember...so what, I don't know what I am doing? Who cares? Keep calm...and carry on. It will get done, eventually, and my ego bruising is ultimately a small price to pay if it means getting the things the mission needs. Even if it kills me! Well...hopefully it won't be that drastic. Although we did go over procedures if one of us were to die last week, that one being me since I know where all the passwords are kept.
But, there is other stuff going on, let's try to forget the soup of paperwork I am lost in, (you can pray for me after though, I need it) and talk about some other happenings.
We are taking advantage of Soren's welding skills, his availability, and desire to help to tackle another project that we wern't sure otherwise we were going to do for a while...a new backup tank for the mission house. Soon, when the power goes out, we will still have water for the groups to use. Also soon, if we need more welding, it will have to be on the weekends as Soren starts online classes next week.
The Milk Project...Maria and the rest of the staff continue to keep busy every day of the week. Helping pack food, cleaning the property, classes for themselves, even painting some more of the mural space outside.
And...creating Birthday cards for the kids. We can't celebrate like normal, so...time to celebrate, but not normal.
It feels like sometimes, the ministry work there is stopped. In some ways, sure.
But the letters I see from the kids, and sometimes from parents...I think they are more aware than ever of what they are missing, and what a blessing it is right now, with food for the families, and ongoing homework help, that the staff is there and helping how they can, even staying in touch via messaging and social media.
I love this picture. I mean, among many things buoying me and keeping me going in spite of my drained state, quite literally, this is a big one, because it is just one picture but represents a mentality, a way of being, that we exist for and want to see/be as a mission/people.
The bags of food we are sending out lately are not as full as they used to be. Donations have dropped off, and to make sure we can keep going into September, we had to drop to just doing beans and rice.
In Sampedrana, they took up a collection and are adding oil, sugar and more, like we used to be able to do as well. They see the needs, they visit the families, and they want to continue to help. Here is pastor Henry, his wife Isela and their son packing some of those extra items in the bags we sent.
Starting again...another 10,000 pounds of rice and beans to distribute. We have had to winnow a bit of the other great things we were adding in the past, not enough funds, and also distribute less every week. A kind of restructuring after about four months of doing this.
We are still receiving enough via the Milk Project to make sure those families get a bag per week, plus a few other goodies we bought for them in August (milk and granola bars), but otherwise it is going to have to drop as we try to make this last into early September, and by then hopefully as well have the corn here and able to distribute. Prices on staples that which had been up almost 100% since March have dropped just a bit, we are hoping that will continue.
We are still taking donations since our economic restrictions are likely to continue through that time period in some form, any "phases" we get to after getting out of the 0 we are currently in, will certainly be in place now in September.
I'll include that link here for making donations to do more food distributions in case anyone is interested, we will be hoping to raise another $5,000 for September/October, to distribute another 500 bags.
The road work in our neighborhood has begun again. Although most people can't work...at least they have started this again, putting some construction guys to work again. They are digging trenches right now for sewer lines (right about where one of them are standing will be where we connect the property at some point.) Once all that is done, eventually then they will pour concrete roads here as well. Community transformation indeed. When we can connect to sewers, that will be a big change for us as well...and involve some expense to reroute all our waste from where it currently goes (about three different locations right now)
We have had several reasons to tackle a few small construction projects of late, including needing some extra hands available to do some other things. And actually as of last week, hardware stores can actually be open as well, so not only was Santos able to do the concrete work for the new garden areas around the mission house, but Soren was able to weld up some fence to protect the future flowers/berries/whatever we can get to grow there, and finish up railings on other parts of the property. So we are trying to find any other welding projects we need him to do before he goes back to school (albeit online) in a few weeks.
The clinic continues to fill the parking lot to overflowing almost every morning, and leaving late every afternoon (although that has improved a bit, no more leaving almost two hours late) and Oscar has been out and about some getting food to the pastors, checking with them...he spent last night in Las Botijas as well.
So although we are still restricted...and our case count for COVID and deaths is steady, we are slowly finding some more ways we can work safely and do what we can to help in different areas.
I have been getting up early for many months to get my exercise on the campus. Getting up early enough to beat dawn here means you have to be up by 4:30 in the summer time. A lazy 5:15 I think in December. Not being able to go anywhere else means I have got to see quite a few different views in the last...oh who is counting now anyway, four plus months.
With challenges come opportunities. With COVID comes lots of both in how we respond, as a mission and personally.
Taking steps of faith and God providing has been awesome to continue to see. Working on paperwork now for the coming containers is challenging...but worth my angst at not knowing how almost any of this shipping stuff works. That and it really being mostly out of my control when any of that happens.
Spending money where you think it is needed, looking to see what should be done, how, and how to try to be an encouragement is a very interesting challenge.
I'll admit though...those sunrises are one of many kinds of God calls, gut checks, faith walks. Not just the beauty and awe of what God does...but how He does it.
One of the things of my youth, and now, is that erroneous way of being that thinks we can understand God, that things will eventually all make sense, that we will have a handle on things.
I don't understand quite a bit lately. People, their opinions, viruses, death, hunger...it's a pretty long list actually.
That doesn't really bother me though. God gave us several reminders that He is in control, only He gets the full picture, and instead of trying to plug the gaps and/or invent what we don't understand, we just need to trust in Him.
Job 42, Isaiah 40 (Who can fathom the Spirit of the Lord, or instruct the Lord as his counselor?) and more...all pointing to the fact God is God, and we are not.
We call it sunrise. Another language says "sun up time" and then sun down time. It makes sense. Of course, it is not accurate. We revolve around the sun, not the other way around.
Things not making so much sense is a lot easier to process when you have the right perspective.
I listen to several podcasts. Several of those podcasts would look at similar world events and have different ways to interpret those through different lenses. Sometimes then, I disagree with them. That seems like a good thing. It certainly means I get challenged, and that is definitely a good thing.
This week, during one of those podcasts, the title to this post was mentioned, that when we read the Bible, we tend to identify with the hero in the story, the downtrodden, the righteous person. Just like when we watch Disney movies, or dress up to be like them when we are kids, nobody dresses up like the villains or says they identify with them.
But...real life, our societies can be Egypt, Babylon, or Rome, not Israel. On the flip side, maybe we are Israel...when they were screwing things up for hundreds of years. Am I acting like the apostles in the boat? Am I a pharisee? Haman? Jezebel?
So the challenge was to read the Bible, and put ourselves in those people's places. What would we have done? What do we do?
Cool, interesting, thought provoking. Then I got to live it.
All of that, and more...fingerprints of God's handiwork...going off like bombs around us. Buoying us in many ways.
But...when the bumps come, and they have been coming as well of late, how do I react? How well am I remembering how much God is in control, and showing that right now, when those bumps are thumping me in the soul?
Trying to go to sleep last night, I was reminded of looking at the Bible through a different lens. Jesus walking on water. Peter walking out to him...and 11 other guys scared out of their wits not even willing to get out of the boat.
Today, I can identify a little more with the guys in the boat. That's not really comfortable, but it is challenging, and that is a good thing.
Roller coaster is what I feel I have been riding for a while. Not for almost four months as we have been locked down. No, for the first month or two, I was busy, catching up, playing the waiting game, helping with the food purchases, etc. It was not fun, but manageable.
But as this continues, it hits harder, more happens, things start to add up.
We had some theft hit us personally, we had some crisis of faith for someone close to the ministry, some got scared and chose to walk away for fear of what could happen, we had some staff diagnosed with COVID...I think you get the idea.
Roller coasters don't crash into the ground though, and neither have we. God has sent us unexpected, unusual, and lots, of encouragement and ways to keep us going back up when circumstances trying to bring us down low. Holy Spirit action is powerful stuff. Encouraging texts, kind words, some tips for sale items, donations from people we don't even know, the upcoming FAME and corn containers...sometimes the worst part of being on an emotional roller coaster is feeling like you are alone. You aren't alone. I'm not alone. (Say that outloud...it helps.)
We keep rolling with the punches, and as a mission are trying to give some punches back. Against hunger, against despair, against sickness. Times of trial and test show what we are made of I suppose.
What will come next? I know we had a long meeting today talking about some emergency options of expanding the clinic work...into different areas and also different buildings. Crazy talk just a few months ago. Now...when someone, including myself, has a crazy idea, I try to stop, breathe, and then make sure I leave the door open for how God wants to move. I won't share more here yet, just not to get hopes up or raise expectations on what I don't know will happen yet. But definitely time for lots of prayer. Been doing more of that of late.
I could really start a ramble here, but let's stay on focus on our roller coaster. I guess, it is called life, right?
So many people are saying such great things to challenge and push us for change on racism in the US, I have been feeling like I don't have anything better to say on the topic. But whether I am eloquent or even have a really good handle on everything doesn't matter so much as my willingness to speak out against it, learn, and try to help others around me as well.
That means speaking out against myself. I would like to think of myself as a pretty decent guy, but I know I can point out things I have done in my life, even at best perhaps well intentioned or just ignorant, that were still racist. Living in Honduras, I have had my eyes opened to racism I didn't even know existed before, and have read history (some distant and some recent), of racism I didn't know existed either.
During our devotion today, I asked another of our leadership team to pray about the current situation in the USA, that even from afar I was sensing this is bigger and deeper than has been seen for quite some time...maybe this can be a time for bigger institutional and individual change? They prayed a very thoughtful prayer...and included in that prayer was this: "please help anyone who thinks they are better than someone else because of their race, the color of their skin or what country they were born in." I didn't mention anything about countries/nationalism...but when I mentioned racism, it clearly was something they thought included. In some instances, it is the same category. Whether around the world, or pretty close to home. At any rate, it made me think.
I love the book of Jonah. I have been blessed to be able to preach about it, deep dive some into it, and then today, watch the Bible Project video on it, not planned, just was the next in the series we are watching on the Old Testament. Part of the reason I like the book was something they pointed out in the video today in a way. The book is written in such a way that we are ultimately supposed to ask the question... How do I identify with Jonah? His racism? His nationalism? His jealousness? His selfishness? His anger with God? His stubbornness? I mean, when you read his story, it is really highlighting that for a prophet...what a jerk he was. And how good God is.
The book ends with a question from God to Jonah...about whether he is ok or not with the fact that God could forgive and reconcile his enemies to Him. There is no answer given...God asks the question, and that is it. I can only imagine what Jonah would answer...he displayed his feelings pretty clearly for the people of Ninevah throughout his journey. He wanted to see them all in hell, even their animals (God mentions them too.)
What if God was asking that of me though?
Sometimes we as humans get caught up in the human race...like it is a competition, trying to get ahead, or keep ahead. Either fighting for our privilege, fighting against people we think are worse than we are, trying to feel better about ourselves by putting someone down, keeping our heads in the sand because it is in our own best interest, or just reliving prejudices we got from someone else.
What if we prayed and worked, and tried to love others...even the people we may not think nice things about for whatever reason, whether real or not, to treat them the way we want to be treated, and in reflection of how God loves us?
The race isn't to get ahead of anyone...our goal should be to get us all closer together...and closer together getting closer to Christ. Hand in hand, no matter the color, the country, the tribe, etc.
That is not some sappy platitude!!! We are supposed to live it, we are supposed to breathe it. We are supposed to proclaim it and work to help everyone be on the same path together...body and soul. We are supposed to tell it to our kids, and to anyone and everyone! It's part of our mission as Christians!
It won't always make us popular, or liked...it is one other reason that will actually cause us to be hated, persecuted, and made fun of. People will try to distract us by trying to get us off topic or say we are trying to get away from the Gospel or whatever, there are many reactions. I don't avoid it because I know it will offend people...but no matter how you touch on it, people will be offended all the same. It is part of the Gospel, and that good news not only frees, but offends. Racism has not part of the Gospel. Working against that seems a natural part of what we should be doing.
History shows that as people/societies, we love to scape goat people different from us, where they are from, how wealthy they are, their race...someone they can blame all their problems on, direct their misplaced anger towards, base their assumptions of superiority on, etc. In sin, in selfishness, we want to be better, on top, to feel superior.
God calls us to follow His lead. Even when he chose Israel, and in the Old Testament, there is call after call about how God's Kingdom would ultimately be made up of people from EVERY nation.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves means also trying to learn from them, see things the ways they see them, understand, empathize with them...before we try to answer, or object, or say how we think they are wrong.
I don't know. I just want to cry. I'll do that, for the injustices continually around us, and for my part in them. But I also want to help, to learn, to understand more.
Got something I could learn in general, something I am missing, or from my past with you, in all this? Email me, let's talk. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Let's talk regardless, it would benefit me to know what you think, whether you agree with me or not.
I wanted to record this somewhere and it seemed too long to post to Facebook. The clinic this month, as the pandemic rages on and almost everyone is trapped in their homes most of the time, has been getting busier and busier, even with the distancing and other restrictions we have to adhere to. We were able to add dental services back this month...we are trying salaried dentists now so that hopefully eventually we can schedule staff, pastors and the Milk Project kids to get seen and helped, that will be a big change.
494 General Medicine patients
143 Gynecology patients
14 blood pressure checks
41 pap smears
(I won't detail all the other misc. services provided)
157 eye exams
31 eye checks
3 ambulance trips
144 teeth pulled
13 teeth cleanings
20 temporary teeth
(and a bunch of other dental services)
around 660 laboratory exams
Numbers show part of a picture...but they always miss the tear jerking moments, the sweat and effort of the staff who keep going non-stop, and looking people in the eye over and over again who are afraid how they will survive another week.
I had the pleasure to listen to Mike Rowe this week. He has the voice and wit to read the phone book and make it interesting. He was talking about safety in general, relating it to COVID, and then discussed the refrain that we are "all in the same boat" and discussing that while we are all currently in the same storm...we are all actually not in the same boat. Different boats, same storm.
And that hit me like a ton of bricks.
Worldwide, there are changes, impact, and suffering related to COVID19, but how those take shape are definitely different. Add to that..how we perceive that impact for others is also skewed from our own perspective. I may have grown up in the USA...but I don't think I really understand well how people are dealing with this there in general, and in different areas of the country and dynamics. Then again...sometimes I am not exactly sure I understand how I am dealing with it myself.
We have been shifting gears here as you may know, trying to raise funds to buy food to feed people. We have a presence in eight different communities around Honduras now, and trying to get food to those different areas, something is becoming increasingly difficult. All the while...the need for such food is becoming increasingly important.
That is somewhat frustrating. The whole situation is frustrating, and I am not talking personally, but more for what I see for others. The future is especially murky right now, but it can be seen that in fighting one battle, there is another being waged...hunger, which is tied to the economy, or just being able to work, earn money, buy food.
Honduras has a population that lives in its majority on less than $2 per day. Take away most people's ability to work or leave their homes for two months, and the results of that won't just go away whenever quarantine restrictions are lifted, just as the results of this in general aren't going away anytime soon, in a myriad of ways. But I won't go on about that here.
How about some stories from today before I close with some clarity?
Clairty. It is lacking. It certainly plays a part in conspiracy theories. We want it, we crave it...we want an ordered and orderly world. But...it isn't there. At least not in the way we want it.
Very little seems clear right now, making plans or even anticipating anything more than a week ahead.
What is clear, through Christ, is that God is in control. I don't have anything to fear...because while murkiness abounds for me, I follow Him who sees all. He sees every boat in the storm, as well as the calm that will come.
Now I can take a deep breath, glance around virtually at dates, plans, hunger, problems, and more...and give it over to God, and try to play my part taking baby steps day by day. Now I just need to remember this every day.
I don't think we are understanding our new normal yet.
Trying to think outside the box all the time I have not found veyr stimulating, especially since i am not even sure what the box looks like even a few weeks down the road. It feels like planning a painting looking at a set of colors, but the colors you can use keep changing.
We were discussing this week...how do we go back to doing the Milk Project even when the lockdowns end...smaller class sizes? Fewer hours...instead of two sessions a day...maybe four? Will masks be required? Will we have to modify how we serve food?
We are discussing things like this for just about every other area of ministry as well of course. We are still evaluating and changing how the clinic works on a semi-regular basis, so it requires some flexible thinking to be sure.
In the meantime though, we continue to look for ways we can show love and work within the restrictions around us. Plenty to be seen if we have the right eyes to see it. How about a few examples?
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