Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Stepping Up

In the US, when you hear "s/he stepped up" to accomplish something or help out, it connotes a bit of a heroic effort.  One steps up in a situation where everyone else is stymied or it is a task no one wants to do or the task is outside of the person's responsibility.  It is a good thing.

I see people stepping up all the time here.  Last month, the Lord showed me a little girl who desperately needed a wheelchair.  On a Tuesday, I texted my friend, Kathy, my go-to person when we need a wheelchair, and asked her if she could find a child's wheelchair and send it with the team coming the following 
Saturday.  Within 2 hours I had a reply, "We've got a one!"  She collected the wheelchair and then delivered it to the team, a couple of hours away, so they could bring it down.  Lots of people in South Carolina stepped up to help a little girl they didn't know.

A couple of weeks ago, a 5-year-old girl in our school in Flor told our psychologist that her step-father was abusing her and that he had also thrown her 7-month-old brother on the floor.  By that afternoon, they and their 2-year-old brother were in our Children's Home, with a caretaker hired to care for them.  There were no discussions about capacity, about affordability in adding 3 children and a caretaker to the already stretched budget.  The staff at the school and Children's Home stepped up to save these children from further abuse.  Edgar, 8, stepped up and took the 2 year old under his wing, teaching him how to say grace at dinnertime!

Last Friday I got a call in the late afternoon.  "There is a big fire behind the church. We are evacuating all the children.  Can they come to Casa LAMB?"  We didn't have a team that week and Gloria and Dulce had spent the entire week cleaning every inch of Casa LAMB, even scrubbing the wall behind the stove!  When they heard the news, they stepped up.  They knew that all their work would be undone in minutes, yet with big smiles, they immediately began preparing the house to receive 42 children and 8 adults.  They graciously oriented the Children's Home cooks to the kitchen and announced they would be back Saturday morning, their day off, to redo all the work they had already done.



On Saturday, I went to Mengui's house. Mengui and his wife, Damariz, are the house parents for the adolescent boys at the Children's Home.  They built a house neighboring our property.  Marvin, one of our boys, had had difficulties and is in a wonderful program called, "Teen Challenge."  Marvin and a mentor came to spend the weekend with "family."  Marvin doesn't have any viable family - biological family.  But he has a large and loving spiritual family. Mengui and Damariz hugged him and told him they are his parents now.  This is not part of their job description.  They stepped up and stepped in to love a child who needs it so very much.  Several of the adolescent boys were there as well as Mario, our grounds supervisor.  We were all there to support, encourage, and love Marvin.  We celebrated the changes in Marvin that he has prayed for and wept with him as he told us of his new, deeper relationship with Jesus.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

While I was there, I noticed a big cart in Mengui's living room.  "What is that?" It is a bicycle with a food cart attached to it.  Mengui and Damariz have started a neighborhood worship community in their home.  Many of the members are single mothers who have no work.  (Unemployment in Honduras is 50+%) The Lord told Mengui to help them.  So, he took out a loan to buy this contraption and they are preparing to start a business together cooking and selling Chinese food!  Damariz is a cook at the Children's Home so is very experienced in cooking in large quantities.  They both have the reputation of being excellent cooks!  They, the women, and Carlos, one of our boys who has graduated from the program, will run the business.  Carlos, also unable to find work, dreams of being a chef.

Carlos, future chef!
Why all this stepping up?  Because we follow the Lamb wherever He goes.  Because Jesus calls us to step up when we see people in need.   But the real reason is because we are family.   And that is a very good thing.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. - 
Galatians 6:10





Thursday, February 28, 2019

Perfume



The other day I was walking across the campus at the Children's Home on an absolutely gorgeous day.  The cloudless sky was a bright, deep blue.  It was warm with a gentle breeze, causing the pine trees to dance lightly with the sky.  The air was sweet with the scent of pine needles.  I thought, "this must be what heaven is like."  I was reminded of a joke told by one of my clergy friends.  He would say, "If you don't like the smell of incense, you won't like heaven!"  As I walked along I thought, I bet the incense in heaven is not clouds of smoke billowing out of a censer like at church.  Instead, I imagine it is like the pine straw, occasionally wafting up its sweet aroma as a surprise grace note to passersby.

Today, during my devotional, I read, "From the rising of the sun to its setting my Name shall be great among the nations, and in every place incense shall be offered to my Name, and a pure offering; for my Name shall be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.Malachi 1:11   I doubt heaven is covered with pine straw and we don't sacrifice animals on the altar anymore so what is this incense that we should be offering up to the Lord of hosts?  

Several weeks ago, for Epiphany Sunday, we planned on giving food baskets to 3 local families in thanksgiving for the gifts of the 3 kings.  I was in PriceSmart buying the food when I was suddenly filled with the Holy Spirit.  I knew He was saying, “Yes, this is how I want the children to celebrate Epiphany.”  After blessing the food during the church service, we all set off down the hill to deliver the first basket to the family at the gate.  The basket started out very heavy but within a few steps, it was almost empty because many children wanted to help carry the food.  We were met at the house by the gate by Kimberly, a young pregnant woman.  Her face was wreathed in smiles as she accepted the basket, full of nutritious food, milk, and some cookies, for the family.  We went to the second house just up the dirt road from the Children’s Home.  The bigger boys took the food into the kitchen.  There was no food in the house.  Dona Reyna, the mom, joined us in prayer and then prayed herself, thanking God for this miracle.  Although we had planned this, to her it was like manna from heaven.  One minute her family has no food, suddenly they have a basketful!  I think at that moment, a sweet aroma wafted up to heaven.  Our offering of incense to the Lord in the form of food for His children.



In January a medical brigade came and we held a clinic in a rural church.  A mother brought her severely disabled 5-year-old son.  His muscles are so week and flaccid, he can't even hold his head up.  The mom carries him everywhere.  The team left money to buy a stroller for him.  Edson and I delivered the stroller to their home, a long walk down a treacherous dirt road.  The mom was thrilled with the stroller and immediately rolled him up and down the length of the porch.  Then she smiled and thanked God for the stroller.  The incense of her gratitude rises to heaven and God smiles.

Most of our children at the Children's Home have sponsors, or "madrinas and padrinos" (Godparents.)  Many of them have established relationships with the children and communicate with them regularly.  It is a wonderful thing to see a child's eyes light up when they hear from their madrina or padrino.  It is also true that some of our children either don't have a sponsor or don't have any contact with their sponsor.  They are all very gracious and are happy when another child receives a gift, card, or visit from their Godparents.  Not long ago I asked one girl what she would like from her madrina who was coming soon.  After the long wish list from her friend, Genesis (the older one,) who does not have an active madrina, looked at me and said forlornly, "I would like some skates."  Her little face pierced my heart and I determined that she would get skates.  I reached out to the other girl's madrina and asked her if she would add some skates to the list.  The look of pure joy on Genesis' face when we presented her the skates was priceless!  Sweet, sweet aroma!  Later on that afternoon, we saw many other children helping her learn to skate and learning to skate themselves as she happily shared her new skates (and the only skates at the Children's Home!) with anyone who wanted to try.  The generosity that comes so naturally to the children must lift up billows of incense!  (Oh, and now Genesis has her own madrina!  Love sends more incense heavenward...)


Our latest team, another medical brigade, went to Col. Emanuel, an impoverished village behind the city dump.  We saw a young man and his little brother.  We learned that 22 year old, Raul, is head of household for his 4 siblings.  His 4 yr. old brother, Sem, had a serious case of asthma.  Dr. Ann brought them into the pharmacy to nebulize Sem. Raul was so sweet, so loving, so dear.  Sem was adorable.   Sem sat on Raul’s lap and they sang little praise songs during his treatment.  I learned that Raul lost his job several months ago.  “How do you buy food?” I asked.  Raul shrugged and said, “We trust in God.”  We gave him all of our leftover food and some money.  At first he refused the money but we insisted.  He was so very thankful.  Raul embodies grace as he cares for his siblings and puts all his trust in God.  Daily incense offered up to his faithful Savior. 

There is a Spanish praise song that I love dearly.  It is titled, Perfume a Tus Pies. (Perfume at Your Feet.)  The lyrics lead up to "I want my life to be like perfume at your feet."  I believe the incense we lift up, becoming perfume at the feet of the Lord, is the way we live our lives.   It is our actions of love and gratitude, trust and hope, that is the pure offering that makes His name great among all nations.

To listen to Perfume at Your Feet, follow this link.https://youtu.be/JXrGBjKyMvY


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Living ready

Every now and then I see a post on Facebook ominously declaring that we are in the end times.  My reaction is “Of course we are.  We’ve been in the end times since the moment Jesus ascended.” However, our personal “end time” could come at any moment.  A comet could come crashing down down right now and we’d all be in line at the Pearly Gates. Jesus says:
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”  (Matthew 24:42-44)
Whether it is the END TIME or our personal end time, the message is clear:  be ready. What do we do to be ready?  Personally, one thing I do is say the prayer of confession before takeoff and landing every time I fly…just in case!

There are two reasons to be ready.  One is to avoid hellfire and damnation.  The other is to live into the promise that is Christ Jesus -- eternal life in His presence.

After almost 8 years in Honduras. what I have learned is that being ready is not saying a particular prayer or going to church every Sunday.  Being ready is about how you live your life every day.  Soon after I moved to Honduras, I asked a Honduran pastor, “How is it that the poor who suffer so much, with no end in sight, have such a profound faith?”  He answered me immediately, “It’s because we set our sights on the next life.”  I realized, despite my faith, I and many Americans set our sights on this life.  Our measures of success and security are job titles, the neighborhood we live in, the car we drive, our school, the size of our investment portfolio… But, when you set your sights on the next life, everything changes. 

Hondurans know that they are totally dependent on God.  In our independent, self-sufficient, do-it-yourself culture, does that make you feel a little itchy?  The Hondurans give everything over to God.  The country is one of the poorest in the western hemisphere and the government corruption is mind boggling.  If you ask a Honduran how those conditions might change, they smile and shrug, “God knows.”  It is not fatalism, or complacency, it is trust. When they talk about a future event, even meeting for lunch the next day, they say, “Si Dios permite!”  If God permits!  And as far as I can tell, they rarely try to do God’s job for Him.  Have you ever done that?  “Don’t worry, God, I got this!  I’ll let you know if I need help!” Or, do you ever lay out the solution for Him?  “Dear Lord, here is the situation so please first do this, then this… or…you could do that…either way works for me. Amen.” (Personally, I hope God has a sense of humor!)

The Hondurans walk in the Spirit.  And they want you to join them.  Last year during Holy Week, Dony, a staff member, received tragic news.  His father had been murdered for no apparent reason.  The morning after the wake, Suzy, our founder, and I were in my car on the main street waiting for the funeral procession to start.  Dony came over and leaned into the car to talk.  Suddenly an older man, slightly drunk and reeking of alcohol, came up.  He tearfully told us his story. He has no family, his mother abandoned him when he was young.  He thinks God might love him but he isn’t sure.  Sometimes he wants to “leave this world…”  but he is afraid of death.  He is even more afraid of not being loved. Dony, on his way to his father’s funeral, began sharing the Good News with this man, assuring him that Jesus loves him and will never leave him.  At the worst moment in his life, Dony was evangelizing.  He’s ready.

 Hondurans help people who need help.  If you are trying to back out of a parking spot or parallel park, a man (or boy) is always there to help guide you.  Not for a tip, it’s just what they do.  I can’t carry anything around the Children’s Home for more than about 3 steps.  Someone, even our smallest children, will rush up to help. 

Israel and a small portion of the food
Soon after I got to Honduras, I impetuously set off with a car full of food to give to the family of a young woman who worked for us.  We drove 3 hours and stopped at a restaurant.  It was there I learned that the family lived in some remote area where “taxis couldn’t go.” Well, I certainly didn’t want to go, at least not in a car full of women.  So I walked outside onto the dirt road to look for help. We were right next to a gun store so, not knowing what else to do, I started explaining my predicament, in fractured Spanish, to the heavily armed guard.  (Why did I think that would help?)  Well, the woman behind the counter heard and rushed over, dialing her phone.  “I know someone who can help you!”  10 minutes later a young man named Israel (!) roared up in a pick up truck.  He cheerfully loaded all the food, hundreds of pounds of it, into the truck and off we went.  We drove for an hour and a half!  All the while he was smiling and chatting with me.  He knew a little English and I knew a little Spanish.  When we arrived, we discovered the house was deep in a ravine.  No problem! Israel loaded the food on his back and ran up and down the treacherous path until all the food had been delivered.  As we set off back to the village, I was so grateful for his help.  I looked at him and said, “Tu eres mi salva vida!”  (you are my life saver)  He looked puzzled for a second, then smiled and nodded.  He dropped us off at my car and drove off with a wave.  The woman in the gun store called Israel and he came -- because someone needed food and they are always ready to help. (By the way, it wasn’t until I was back in Tegucigalpa that I realized Salva Vida is the name of their beer.  It was like I had told him, “You are my Budweiser!”)

Eva
Hondurans are clear about from whom all blessings flow.  The last team of 2018 came at the end of October.  In addition to all the other usual activities, they decided they wanted to build a house in a day for Ernestina, a tiny, homeless, elderly woman in San Buenaventura.  The mayor had given her a minuscule bit of land way down a dirt road in the mountains behind the Children’s Home.  The only way to get the materials to the site was to carry them down and back up a ravine.  I was standing in the woods monitoring the progress when another woman appeared, arms full of wood that she had gathered for her wood burning stove.  Eva, too, is impoverished but slightly better off than Ernestina.  She put down her machete and wood and smiled broadly at me.  “I am so thankful the Lord is helping Ernestina!  Thank you letting Him use you to bring this miracle to her.”  Eva knows where that house came from.  We were thankful to be part of Ernestina's miracle.

The team realized Ernestina didn’t have a mattress so they gave me the money to buy her one.  I asked Angel, our singing construction worker, if he could help.  No problem!  I gave him the money and the next day, he recruited a friend with a pickup truck.  They went into town, bought the mattress, and then hauled the mattress and box springs to Ernestina’s new house.  Again, because that is what they do.  If they can help, they do…with a smile.




Hondurans live lives of hope.  Jimmy came to us, broken and malnourished, at 3.  One day I saw him at our school where he does volunteer work.  He is 19 now.  He was doing his university homework, playing very complex classical music on his guitar.  His fingers were flying over the strings as he changed chords and picked a sophisticated pattern.  I asked him how growing up at the Children’s Home changed his life.  “Suzy came and gave us the possibility to dream and the possibility of having a better life.  There is a lot of Christian influence at the Children’s Home. They teach us that our lives have a lot of value.  It changed the way I dream.  My hope for the future is more than a degree from university. More than that, it is to influence society positively. More than changing my life, it is changing the lives of others in a positive way.  I want to give a future to kids who don’t have one now.”  Through LAMB God has given Jimmy hope…and now he plans to share that hope with others.

70% of Hondurans live below the poverty line.  40% live on less than $2 a day. Unemployment is over 50%.  The government is so corrupt it makes your teeth hurt.  There is no end in sight for the poor in Honduras.   And yet, they are always joyful, ready with a smile, eager to help, full of hope and focused on the Risen Lord.  They know this life is less than a blink of an eye in the context of eternity but the next life is forever. They are ready.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be ready…for a life filled with joy!




Thursday, July 5, 2018

Just share

From the time we are tiny little children, we are told to share.  Moms and dads, teachers, and grandparents encourage us to share some of what we have with siblings, friends, and, sometimes, "starving children in..." The Bible exhorts us to share all throughout the old and new testaments.
One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. Proverbs 11:24 
And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:16
Often, we are sharing out of abundance.  We have a bag of candy and give a few pieces to a friend.  We have clothes we haven't worn in a long time (or no longer fit) so we give them to a charity.  We have a couple of $1 bills in our wallets, beside the $10s and $20s, so we give them to the homeless person on the corner.  We pledge money to the church, working towards fitting a tithe into the family budget. 

What does it look like when we just share?  Not out of abundance but out of love?  It looks like this:
Little Alex Eduardo just graduated from kindergarten.  He got the award for being curious!  He also got a gift of an airplane, some cars and signage to go with it.   Pamm Ferrand, from the Atlanta team, was walking by as Alex was playing and he handed her the above items.  "It's a gift!"  Pamm checked several times that afternoon to see if he wanted them back.  "No, it's a gift!"  Our kids don't have many of their own toys and Alex only received one toy for his graduation.  Yet, unbidden, for no particular reason, he shared it with Pamm.

This is actually pretty common at the Children's Home.  Just a couple days ago, a child casually shared part of his small pack of Smarties with me.  Candy is a real treat for the kids.  No words, just a couple of Smarties offered up. 

Reina, Andrea, Joseph
The most touching example of sharing happened twice in June, by the same person.  There is a student, Andrea, at our school in Flor with cystic fibrosis.  Dr. Ann Von Thron and Joseph Klosik have become involved and are able to find CF parents in the US and pharmaceutical companies to donate meds and more sophisticated and effective equipment to help Andrea.  Her mother, Reina, is overcome by the love and generosity shown by anonymous people in the US.  As she thanked Joseph and Dr. Ann, she explained that there is only 1 doctor in all of Honduras who treats CF and meds are expensive and often impossible to get.   So, despite her own very limited resources and a child with CF, she shares the meds with other families with CF children. 

This leaves me speechless.  I imagine what it would be like to have a child with a life threatening illness like CF.  I am certain I would hoard any medications I could get my hands on to ensure MY child had what he needed.  I am equally certain it wouldn't occur to me to share the meds that were otherwise out of reach.  And yet, that is what she does.  She shares out of love and trusts in God to provide.

My experience in Honduras over and over again is that those who have nothing share everything.  If they have 2, they give you 1.  If they have only 1, they give you half.  It makes no difference if you are poor or wealthy.  They just share because that is where their heart is.

 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Luke 12:34

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Friendship

I have a devotional that I do most days from a book called, The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer.  Each day includes a section called Christ the Friend discussing the appointed scripture from the perspective of Jesus as our friend.   During Lent, I have been thinking a lot about Christ-like friendship.  How would Jesus handle the ups and inevitable downs of friendship?   I have often wondered what Jesus thought about Judas.  Over the course of his 3 years of ministry, Jesus must have been a friend to Judas as He was to the other disciples.  Jesus loved Judas, even knowing how that relationship would end.  And Peter.  How heart breaking it must have been when, at the time when Jesus needed him the most, Peter was busy denying Him.  Jesus was not a fair weather friend.   He loved and forgave his disciples and friends no matter what they did.  In one Christ the Friend section we read in the author's version of Jesus's advice : 
Rest in my heart for a moment now, and see how I love those who hate and persecute me. Since you know that I am always with you, always loving and guiding and protecting you, you have the strength to do the same.
One of our boys, Elias H. is severely disabled, both physically and mentally.  He is mostly a delight but, frankly, he can also be annoying. (Like all of us can!) He lives in the adolescent boys' cabin.  The boys share in the care taking responsibilities for Elias, making sure he stays safe.  Friday was Elias' 15th birthday.  As I was perusing FaceBook that evening, I came across this post from one of the other boys, Jimmy:


It says: 
On a day like today Gabriel celebrates the birth of Elias (Elijah in English.)  There are no records of it, but regardless of whether it was today or not, we remember that on a very special day Elijah was born. (Our) Elias has been in the LAMB family since he was very small, he grows up with teenagers and in a very special or sweet way he teaches us so many things. He teaches me that you don't have to have everything to be happy, that a simple hug fills your life. He teaches me that no matter the sex, color or race we are all human and we are all family since he hugs every person he finds, Elias does not see if you have more money than the other Elias will always embrace you. Many times we have everything and we are not happy, give Elias a snack and he is already happy, Elias laughs with you and also cries with you, every person who comes to live with Elias is aware of all this and many other things. Elias does not need to see the morning to be happy, Elias is happy today because, for him, life comes to have more meaning than we imagine. People like Elias teach me how valuable life is and that we waste life being bitter, wondering what I need to be happy? Elias teaches me that I just need a lempira (5 cents) in my pocket to be happy all day.

Jimmy understands how to be a Christ-like friend.  He looks beyond the times when Elias annoys him to see the authentic Elias - a child of God, who shines the love of Jesus all the time and loves us unconditionally.

I pray we all have an Elias in our lives and that we can be friends like Jimmy.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Joy and wonder

Happy Epiphany!

In the Baptism liturgy for my denomination, there is a prayer I just love for the baptismal candidate:

Heavenly Father, we thank you that by water and the Holy Spirit you have bestowed upon these your servants the forgiveness of sin, and have raised them to the new life of grace. Sustain them, O Lord, in your Holy Spirit. Give them an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love you, and the gift of joy and wonder in all your works. Amen.
My favorite part is when we pray for "the gift of joy and wonder in all your works." I imagine the wise men experienced that joy and wonder when they had their epiphany - the tiny baby Jesus, bringer of joy and wonder to the world!


Leafy Sea Dragon
I am also reminded of construction worker, Angel's, answer when a team member asked how he knows there is a God.  "The sun comes up!" God's creation is filled with constant joy and wonder, if we pay attention.  We open our eyes to see a myriad of beautiful flowers, the ever changing sky, the magnificence of the stars and galaxies, wacky fish in the ocean, the majestic mountain ranges, and on and on. 

I have thought a lot about our two newest lambs, Daniel and Isaac, abandoned at birth.  They have no idea what their lives could have been.  Thanks be to God, instead their lives are filled with joy and wonder.  All they know is love.  These tiny babies are also are bringers of joy to all who encounter them.  Can you see this picture without breaking into a smile? 

Every once in a while Suzy will give me some advice:  "Don't let [situation/person] steal your joy.  Her message is that joy isn't the same as happiness.  Happiness is fleeting, situational, tied to a moment in time. Joy is bigger, broader than that.  It is more a state of being, a gift from God that we choose to accept...or not.  Jesus doesn't promise happiness all the time, instead He promises to remain at our side through good times and bad.  More important, He invites us to follow Him into a life of love, joy and wonder...eternally.

Some people choose to live a life filled with joy and wonder in spite of circumstance.  I recently met and wrote about Doña Santos.  (Gracias Papa) She lives as hard a life as just about anyone.  She and her family survive by digging through the dumpster along the side of the road.  It is generous to call where they live a "hut."  It is really scraps of wood crudely nailed together against the side of a cliff.  No electricity, no water, plenty of gaps for wind and rain to flow through.  And yet, Doña Santos and her family choose to live lives of gratitude and joy.  For her, like us, the holidays are a time to celebrate, to decorate, and to bring the joy of Christmas into our homes.  

Despite the hardships of her life, her home is transformed into a place of beauty and celebration to share with all who pass by.  She chooses joy and brings joy who pay attention.

As Brother Jim Woodrum writes:  
What you’re searching for, you already know. God has blessed us with this amazing life, with eyes to see, ears to hear, a mind to discern, and a heart in which to perceive the living presence of God in our midst.
My prayer for you this Epiphany and this year is that God will give you an inquiring and discerning heart, the courage to will and to persevere, a spirit to know and to love Him, and the gift of joy and wonder in all His works. Amen.




Saturday, November 11, 2017

Gracias, Papa

One of my favorite songs is called Alaba a Dios (Praise God.)
To me it is exemplifies the Honduran faith.  It is about praising God no matter what. 


Praise Him
Simply praise Him
If you're crying, praise Him
when you're tested, praise Him
you're suffering, praise Him
no matter what, praise Him
He will listen to your praises

It goes on to encourage us:

God goes before you opening the way
breaking chains, removing thorns

He sends His angels to struggle alongside you

He opens doors no one can close.
A few weeks ago, I was reflecting on the words, "He opens doors no one can close" when suddenly they struck me a new way.  I had always thought about God giving us opportunities, new hope when, perhaps, a door in our lives had closed.  I realized that they have another meaning and fear flooded my heart.  He opens doors in our hearts that no one, not even us, can close.  I knew exactly where He was leading with this new interpretation and I was not sure I wanted to follow.  Really, for the first time since I have lived here, I was afraid.  Not for my physical safety but, instead, for my heart.  

You see, for almost 7 years I have driven the road to the Children's Home countless times.  Every time I look at a ramshackle hut built into the side of a cliff. A mass of garbage bags line the front filled with recovered trash from the dumpster in hopes of selling it for pennies to support whoever lives in there. I have often tried to imagine what life is like in there.  The rain streams in through the gaps and holes in the roof and walls.  Cold wind howls through them at night.  Each time I wonder, "who lives there?" 

Over the last few months, I have felt more than curiosity. I have felt drawn there as the van zooms by.  I couldn't stop thinking about the people and worrying about whether they have enough, or anything, to eat.  Each trip past it, the feeling grew more urgent. But what could I do?  I didn't know who lived there.  How many people live there?  It could be one family or many families.  How would I know how much food to bring?  What kind of people are they?  Violent men?  Gang members?  I would have to go with a Honduran man, I decided, IF I went at all.  Most of all, I feared that if I made contact with the people who live there, they would move into my heart.  The Lord would open a door that I would not be able to close.  It wasn't just about money.  Food is expensive here but I figured anything I could do would help.  It was more than the time it would require to shop for and deliver food.  My real fear was capacity.  Does my heart have room for more people?  Why are you asking this of me, Lord?



On the last Saturday of October, I took the last team of the year to the airport.  It had been a great week and they were filled with joy.  Joy turned to dismay as we heard the announcement.  All flights in and out of Tegucigalpa were cancelled due to bad weather.  They were rebooked on flights leaving Tuesday!  We returned to Casa LAMB in varying stages of panic.  ("What in the world am I doing to do with them until Tuesday," I thought. I had not prepared 2.5 days of extra activities!) 

Suzy called and offered to come to Casa LAMB on Sunday and have a church service since the children were going to a different church.  It was intimate and lovely.  After the service was over, I felt a spiritual nudge and found myself saying, "Do you remember that awful hut on the side of the road?  How would you feel about taking some food to them?"  The team's eyes brightened!  It turns out the Lord had placed the same thing on their hearts and provided reinforcements for me, giving me the courage I needed.  We went to PriceSmart and loaded up with rice,beans, flour, sugar and more.  Luis, our driver, pulled over by the hut and got out of the van with us.  There was a teenage boy standing in front of the hut. "Hola!" We brought food for your family!"   He called for his mother.  A tiny woman stepped gingerly across the plywood bridging the gutter between the hut and the road.  She has no teeth, was dressed in filthy clothes, and thin as a rail.  She looked at us puzzled.  “Hola!  We brought food for your family.”  She looked at her son, “God brought these gringitos to help us.”  She explained, “We had no breakfast this morning.”  She broke into a broad grin as her sons took the food inside.  We introduced ourselves and she replied, “My name is Doña Santos.” 


Yep, the door in my heart was opened.  I promised I would come back with more food.  This afternoon, I stopped by again with Suzy and Kristen, a visiting friend of Suzy's.  When Doña Santos saw us, she recognized us, raised her arms to heaven and looked up and said, "Gracias, Papa!"

This door in my heart is not closing and that's ok because when God opens it, He makes your heart bigger.  Gracias, Papa.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Ariel's Miracle

A typical house 
In Honduras it is very common for extended families to share the same home.  For the poor, this means many people squeezing into a very small house.  A family of five may share one bedroom in a two bedroom house.   Often there are multiple generations sharing the small home.  A sheet hung from the ceiling provides the only privacy for intimacy for a married couple.   There is no room to move around or space to be alone for a few minutes each day.

Our collaboration with Torch Ministries has given Suzy and I the opportunity to provide a home for some of the people we know and dearly love.  Suzy and I have a mental list of people who need a house.  Earlier this summer, the Holy Cross team built a “house in a day” for Virgilio, who helps Suzy with her yard.  "Virgilio is a new man," Suzy said recently.  

Two weeks before Christ Church Anglican in Overland Park Kansas was to arrive, Karen, the team leader said they would like to build a house in a day if possible.  "Great!" I answered, "Ariel is next on the list."  (We had built a house in a day for his brother, Jose Luis.  Ariel told me then, two years ago, he would like one too.)  Christ Church knows and loves Ariel so it was a done deal.  When I told Ariel he smiled and strode forward ahead of me.  It seemed like a muted response but I could tell his excitement was growing the closer we got to the day as he asked more questions to verify we were actually going to do this, made sure the team had arrived and even called in the morning before we left Casa LAMB to check once again that this was happening.

Early Monday morning, we met the Torch team on the way to Ariel’s lot.  We drove as far as we could and then walked down a dirt road, over a footbridge and up a hill to the site of his future home.  Of course, we had to haul all the tools, wood, roofing material, lunch, and water with us.  Each house is 16x16, wood with a raised wood floor, tin roof, a door and one window.  The Torch team builds about 100 houses a year.  They got right to it, digging the post holes and measuring out the dimensions off the house.  They agreed upon the placement of the door and window with Ariel.  The Christ Church team figured out quickly how they could help.  Jose Luis and Angel both came to help, sacrificing a day's work.  Of course, Ariel grabbed a hammer right away!  Soon the framing was done and the teams were hammering away at the floor and walls.
The building site








Meanwhile, his brother and co-worker, Jose Luis, took me on a tour of the area.  “Our family lives in all these houses.  That one is my sister’s.  That one up there is my uncle’s.”  He invited me to visit the house in a day Torch built for him a couple of years ago, straight up the mountain.  He proudly showed me the improvements he had made and his plans for expansion one day.  I explained to him that in the US people pay big bucks to have a view like he has!  It was there he shared with me how he became a Christian. (Read his story here.) When he was 19 a friend invited him to church.  The pastor was preaching and suddenly he got chills and felt “filled.”  He came forward and said to the pastor, “I accept Jesus.”  At that moment, Jose Luis, who never had a relationship with his father, heard a voice, “I love you.  I am your father.” 

As we were walking back down to the build site, Jose Luis asked me if I knew about Ariel’s situation.  I didn’t. Ariel has been living with his 2 sisters.  The landlord is evicting them.  They have until right before Christmas to move out.  The sisters have a place to go but Ariel didn’t.  Unbeknownst to me, this has been weighing on him heavily.  Making $13 a day, 4 days a week only when we have teams does not allow for any savings.  “Amanda, for Ariel this is a miracle.”  I believe his initial muted response was the reaction to the unexpected answer to his prayers.  Two years after his initial request and just in the nick of time, he was going to get a house.

We spent the next couple of hours building the house together.  More and more family members and neighbors arrived to watch, smiling and sharing Ariel’s blessing. When the last board was nailed, the roof on, and the new floor swept, we all gathered inside to inaugurate his home with prayer and love.  "It is so big!" he exclaimed. Angel sang, we all prayed, and hugged.  
The extended family celebrating the new home
Ariel and the Christ Church team

Ariel’s response now?  See for yourself.  His smile went from ear to ear and his face shone all day.  The team retraced its steps back to the van for the ride home, all filled with joy and walking lighter knowing we had been part of Ariel’s miracle.