Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eben-Ezer

There are alot of places around here called Eben-Ezer -- churches, stores, signs on buses even.  Leamarie and I could not figure out why that name was so frequently used.  The only Ebenezer we could think of was Mr. Scrooge.  Somehow we didn't think Dickens was the inspiration for so many in Honduras.  Finally, it occurred to us to look it up in the Bible!

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”  1 Samuel 7:12

In Spanish the translation is "The Lord has not stopped helping us."  They also refer to it as meaning, "The Lord provides."  And so He does.  Case in point...

Thursday late afternoon, Mari told me the Lenca people in the La Paz Department were experiencing a famine due to an El Niño induced drought.  Maria and 2 yr. old Evelyn live with Suzy and are pure Lenca.  (I have a deep love for Lenca pottery and am fascinated by the indigenous people of Honduras.)  Their family was among those starving - 2 sisters, 2 little girls and a 7 month old baby.   Mari, Leamarie, and I immediately decided we had to take food to Maria's family on Saturday.  On Friday, Leamarie and I bought well over 300 pounds of food - rice, beans, maseca corn flour, shortening, baby formula powder and cereal, spaghetti, tomato sauce, and tuna. 

First thing Saturday morning, Mari, Maria, Evelyn, Leamarie and I jumped in the "chuckwagon" and headed off towards Marcala.  We traveled on a "carreteria" or highway (when the construction is done next millennium, it will be a great road) to the turn off to La Paz.  This was an "orange road" on the map.  Paved with a patchwork of big potholes randomly appearing.  From La Paz we drove to Marcala on another orange road.  Marcala is a small town in the heart of Lenca country. The first thing that happened when we got there was, as we walked into the first decent restaurant we saw, little Evelyn threw up!  One of God's little mercies that she waited until she was out of the car!  The entire restaurant had been reserved for a wedding so we just started walking down the street until we found another one.

This is when the trip got a bit interesting and it dawned on Leamarie and me that we could have thought the food distribution method a bit better...

Maria is a very sweet young woman of very few words.  She is also very shy and timid.  As we sat in the restaurant, I asked where we were going to take the food.  You see,Friday night she had told us that she lived in Marcala .  I had googled it and discovered the route was very reasonable and would take about 3 hours to get there.   Sure enough, it did!  So, we are sitting in this little restaurant, sweltering.  We were having some communications glitches and it was beginning to look like you literally couldn't get there from here.  Suzy had cautioned us to be careful about driving along dirt roads that could become impassable.  There was confusion about whether a car could get to Maria's house or not.  (To her doorstep - Not.)  It was also unclear how far the walk from the road to her house was - a 10 minute walk was her estimate.  Some quick mental math made it clear that 4 women and a baby could not carry 300+ pounds of food that far.   She also explained that her sisters couldn't come into town because they don't have transportation and they have 3 small children to care for.  We were really in a quandary.   Although we could have taken the food back to very deserving people in Teguc, we were committed to helping Maria's family.

The IBMer in me came to life and I jumped up to find someone who could help us somehow.  I still had no idea where we were going or how far away it was.   I walked outside and looked around to get my bearings.  There was a hardware-ish store across the street and a gun store (scary hand guns, not hunting guns) next to the restaurant.  My first thought was to try the hardware store but then, on a whim, I asked the armed guard standing outside the gun store.  The normally locked door (they buzz you in) was open so the woman behind the counter heard my stumbly Spanish as I tried to explain my problem.  With a very sweet smile she approached me with another man who was in the store.  She told me they both were volunteers for Cruz Rojo (Red Cross) and they could help!  Never in my wildest imagination would I think to go to a gun store for help delivering food!  Off the man went on his motorcycle and about 10 minutes later, up drove a young man, Israel, in a Red Cross pick-up truck!  (1 Samuel 4:1 -- And Samuel’s word came to all Israel...The Israelites camped at Ebenezer...)


"We're here!"

We moved the food into the back of the truck and all piled in for the next leg of our journey.  The roads we took were dirt roads, some pretty steep up a mountain and then down again.  All were narrow and often rutted and very bumpy.  I can't imagine what the roads are like in the rainy season.  It took us 1.5 hours to get to the place Maria announced was "here!"  "Where?" Leamarie and I squawked in surprise!  We just stopped on the side of a mountain road with forests on both sides.  There was a tiny little break in the brush.  Maria slipped through it and down what looked like a complete vertical drop and disappeared into the woods.  A couple of minutes later, 2 little girls, a woman carrying a baby and Maria reappeared.  Their house was down in a ravine, not visible from the road!  Gulp. But, Israel is the type of person who is ever cheerful and is unfazed by such a small obstacle.

Me and the food in the clearing
Leamarie, Evelyn and Eduard with

Israel taking another load down

About 6 ft. below the level of the road was a small, narrow clearing.  We piled the food there as a staging point to get it down to the house.  Israel leaned over and put a 25lb bag of flour on his upper back/neck.  Then he had me put THREE MORE on!  He practically trotted down this nearly vertical non-path with 100 lbs on his back!   All the while smiling!  Maria did her share running up and down the path like a graceful antelope (I know I should say mountain goat but she is too pretty and petite for that.)  Leamarie, Mari and I each picked our way down with a small item - needing one empty hand to hold on to bushes and limbs.  Mari was particularly valiant since she is terribly afraid of heights.  The sister, Lucia, was helping as well and Leamarie and I took turns holding the baby up in the clearing. This 7 month old baby, Eduard, looked like he was 3 months old and may have weighed 12 lbs.

Mari reported that the kitchen (a corner in the 2 room house) in the house had not a single morsel of food.

The house
The "kitchen"


They have no running water - they get all their water from a tiny stream behind the house.
Water source


Meanwhile, as the food was being hauled down to the house, I was up in the clearing with the baby.  A tiny, barefooted elderly lady appeared with her two young grandchildren.  She had been walking on the road as we drove by.  She asked if we were helping just that family or other people too.   We learned from Maria's sister that she is even poorer than they are.  We had held back 1 bag of each type of food to give to the Red Cross to distribute but agreed on the spot to give it to her.   Israel, cheerfully loaded her and her grandchildren in the truck, and zoomed off to deliver it to her house in the same ravine but across the stream from Lucia's house.  Think about this:  As she is walking along a truck filled with food stops just up the road from her house, appearing out of nowhere when she had absolutely nothing to eat.  It must have seemed like a miracle to her.  In fact, it was.  What a joy to be an instrument in one of God's miracles.

After delivering all the food, we piled back in the truck for the long ride home.  It was mostly downhill so it only took an hour.  We were very hot, sweaty, tired and so happy to know that God is still keeping His promise to Israel to watch over His children.

Arely, 3 yrs old
Maria and her family
Naomi, age 5
Leamarie picking her way up the path

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