Monday, December 22, 2008

A great quote

In today's Monday Morning Memo from Roy Williams in Austin, he quotes a young rabbi about storms:

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”

That is a great thought.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

AIDS orphan tree

Here's the mural painted on the hall at the AIDS home in San Pedro Sula.

Honduras, Hope and Home

Sorry to the 3.5 faithful--I came home with a bad sinus infection and have pretty much done nothing since arriving home from Honduras late Thursday night. I did watch the Steelers clinch the division this afternoon though...

I think I left off on Tuesday morning. We went to two homes that day, both of them large. The first was Emanuel, with about 120 kids. It was actually a pretty nice place for a group that size, and the children were very excited to see us. I spent most of that trip organizing shoes with Ruth Kramer. The leadership in Honduras had actually taken the time to put each child's name on a shoe that was--at least when they drew the outline of their foot--the right size. And probably 80% of the time it was great. It was that other 20 that would get chaotic. The last thing anyone wanted to do was to disappoint these kids, but when you had to say "espera" (wait) you could see the downcast eyes. Fortunately I think we were able to get shoes for everyone there.

Tuesday afternoon we went to the most challenging house of the trip for most of the group. Nueva Esperanza is a government home with almost 180 kids. 35 of them were babies in a nursery with only 2 adults supervising much of the time. Some cribs had 2 babies in them. It's a heartbreaking scenario, and you can't help but want to bring them all home with you. And it doesn't help at all when the orphanage is right next to a juvenile detention home with teenage boys in the trees shouting obscenities at the American women in our group. But the impact was so profound, that many of the group were considering giving up their recreation time on Friday to go back to Nueva Esperanza.

I actually spent a good part of that afternoon at the warehouse trying to get shoes together for the next day's 1.5 hour trip to Tela. I met Linda, a city councilwoman in San Pedro Sula, and she showed me much that their little NGO does there with 19 different orphanages, including gathering them all each May for a day in the park. 700 orphans in one park--that's got to be a fun day! We left the warehouse at 5:30 to pick up the group from Nueva Esperanza, and the trip that had taken 35 minutes a couple hours earlier now took an hour and a half, and ended with Manuel the bus driver backing the bus up a 200 meter dirt road to get to the orphanage. What fun!

Wednesday was a stop on the way out of town at a teen girls home, then we drove to Tela, another resort-ish community on northern shores. In fact, we had lunch at a resort, and walked on the beach a little. Then we drove to a home/school/community center where hundreds of kids had gathered. There was no time here for the VBS stuff, just handing out shoes and candy and love. We also spent some time with some foster parents in a program there. Several ladies keep multiple foster kids in their homes, one had 12!

A part of that foster meeting were 3 new friends from Shohanna's Hope, an organization that provides grants to adoptive families among other things. They had joined us--along with Buckner staff Randy Daniels, Leslie Chace and our director in Tegucigalpa, Yaneth--on Tuesday after touring several sites in Tegucigalpa, the capitol of Honduras. I had actually been on the flight from Dallas to Houston with them on Saturday. Wonderful people.

Wednesday night I stayed up late again with my new friends Jim and Susan Gray. I watched their kids show them the snow from Houston on Video Chat--amazing. The next day though I hated that snow when our plane from Houston was delayed almost 2 hours, making us 2 hours late getting there, and having to catch a later flight home. But that was better than Nick and Wendy from Shohanna's Hope; I think they had to spend the night in Houston.

I finally made it home around 11pm. Everyone was already asleep, but I gave kisses all around and went to bed myself. This was an incredible experience. Extreme poverty, disease, loneliness--all things to destroy hope. And yet hope was there. As we lifted through the clouds over San Pedro Sula and began our return home, I asked our Maker to not let these kids fade from my memory the way the city was fading from view. But I also ask that I see the same issues all around me here in the States, that I learn more how to identify the poor, to serve them, to learn from them. To see Jesus in them.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

HIV/AIDS in Honduras

Ruth Kramer from Mission Network News is on our trip with us, and she's posted a great article about the HIV/AIDS problem in Honduras here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

San Pedro Sula Day 3

Today was long. And still full of worship and awe.

We went to 2 orphanages today, both about a 90 minute bus ride north of San Pedro Sula, on the northern coast of the country. The trip was beautiful as we went along the mountains, then saw the Atlantic ocean come into view.

The first orphanage was a girls home run by an evangelical organization and church. There were 25 or so young ladies in the home, and they were an incredible group. Excited to see us, they were grateful for the shoes and the play. Less rambuctious than the kids the day before (I guess that's a testimony to leaving testosterone somewhere else), they nonetheless pursued us with gusto in the games and stories and bad Spanish. We had lunch with them (the traditional Honduran meal from...wait for it...Wendy's) and then were on the road for 20 minutes to the boys home.

The boys home (Hogar San Ramon) was run by a nun and several volunteers, and had another 20 or 25 boys in it. They too pursued us with passion--and testosterone--and for another 3 hours we played and loved. It was tough to leave. My new friend Jair began to cry after our goodbyes started, and he cried as I held him in my arms and told him God loves him and I do too. I told him we were friends. Jair's mom is a prostitute in the city there, and comes to visit him once a month. I cannot imagine his life (he's 4 right now--I'll have a great picture up soon of the 2 of us standing beside each other) but I pray that it is full of grace, and that the love of God overcomes the evil he's experienced.

The most amazing thing about these 2 places is the sense of contentment we found there. The volunteers and staff in both places do a great job loving these kids, and it was obvious. They knew grace, they knew love. We were not giving them something they weren't getting, even if they weren't getting it from their birth parents. That won't be the case tomorrow as we visit a couple of government-run orphanages, with 4 and 5 times the number of kids.

But the privates homes we visited today were as good as you can imagine an orphanage being. In fact, I often wonder if those Honduran saints that serve these children don't pull them in before we arrive and say, "now you know those needy Americans are about to be here. Their culture is a little funny, and they don't exactly know about love and grace the way we do, so we're going to show it to them. You love those American real hard."

And they did.

San Pedro Sula Day 2

Sunday was a day of worship.

We began by joining a community of internationals that meets here at our hotel every Sunday morning for worship and relationship and Bible study. It was refreshing to be in a service where people are people and worship isn't scripted. Where sound reverb just happens, and where the Spirit just shows up even though he might not have been in the plans. Praying for those kidnapped and those far from home and those without homes. I'm thankful for the biography of Rich Mullins (An Arrow Pointing Toward Heaven) for always coming to mind. Rich loved the church in all her lack of [current] glory.

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon at an AIDS orphanage. I wasn't sure what to expect, but it didn't matter what I expected I would have had something new. These kids were full of life, full of "live for now" kind of passion. They mobbed us as we went in and didn't let go for 4 hours. We sang, played games, ate candy--all the good things of life. I--as is usually the case with kids--served as the human jungle jim. For much of the time I had one kid on each foot and one on my back, serving as the carnival entertainment. I wouldn't trade for anything.

As we left I saw more closely the mural in the hallway, and was painfully reminded of why these little ones were there. [Sorry I don't have a picture of this, but it's on my camera and as soon as I can figure out how to get it to my computer I will post it.] In the hallway is a tree, and decorating the tree are the hands and feet prints of the children who live there. And in some of the hand prints there is a cross. Those that have gone to be with Jesus at an early age through no fault of their own. Heartbreaking sin in the world, sin without preferential treatment in its impact on life. But praise Jesus that he has overcome sin, and grace can much more abound.

I closed the night hanging way too late with my new friends Jim and Susan, singing La Bomba and Weird Al songs and playing the guitar. You need to go to and buy her new Christmas CD.

Tonight I hope to go to sleep much earlier than last night's midnight, but first I have to tell you about today.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

San Pedro Sula

It's moving day for me. Left the house at dark-thirty, flew to Houston, then to San Pedro Sula, in the north of Honduras. There were about 10 of us flying from Houston, then another 10 or so come from points further east so they had changed in Atlanta. We all met up in Honduras, got everyone through customs without too much trouble, and were met by Buckner's staff person here, Frances. Everyone was crammed into a bus made for just the right number of people we had, the luggage strapped to the top, and off we went.

I've always been amazed at the home security systems in Central America. You've got the low end (nails and glass stuck on top of the cinderblock fence), middle tech (razor wire), high tech (electric fencing) and REALLY high tech (men with automatic weapons). We saw them all on the trip to the hotel.

It's a beautiful place, mountains, clouds, trees. Incredible old buildings. I can't wait to get going tomorrow.

Tonight I lead the first devotion for the group. I've chose to use Isaiah 49.6 as my launch pad. "It is too small a thing..." Boy if we could just get that phrase in our heads. Isaiah over and over says that the love of God and his ways is NOT just a blessing for Israel. That is too small a thing. He also wants the chose one to be a light to the Gentiles, so that they may turn to God and know life.

What in your life has gotten too small? What people have you written off as beyond grace, beyond redemption? Who have you said is outside the circle of the love of God?

It's too small a thing.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Those of us who grew up in the "low church" traditions are not usually too aware of Advent. Christmas I've heard of, but Advent--what is that?

One of the great things I've discovered about the community of saints historically is the whole idea of life rhythms. The so-called Christian calendar is one way of expressing those rhythms. Advent started on Dec 1 and counts down to our celebration of Emmanuel, the God who broke through and is now with us.

Buckner has created an Advent guide with daily devotionals. You can read it online, get a daily email, or listen to an audio download (I do voiceovers on a few of them--got that face for radio thing working). All of that is available here.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Slavery isn't over

We USAmericans tend to think of slavery as a thing of the past. Not true. Today is the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery. Here's a great place to start the conversation...