Honduras is a land of extremes…

There are moments during the day that I forget that I am not in Canada anymore. Times when I am walking through  mega stores like Diunsa, Price Mart, Lady Lee and the beautiful mall near by where things seem very North American. They have many of the brand name stores that we have in Canada and the States and while walking through these stores one would not think this is Honduras; except for the fact that armed guards stand outside each door.
There are also restaurants that we are familiar with; such as Applebees, Ruby Tuesdays, Baskin Robins and even Wendy`s.

There are other times like when I am walking in this gated community that I feel more or less safe but I wouldn’t dare step outside the gate on my own because to do so wouldn’t be wise. Dale and I have walked to these places together along the busy highway and that’s ok to do in this area, but we always need to be on alert.  Traffic is another indication you are not in Canada anymore! Four lanes of traffic could actually become 7 with cars passing on both the left and right and cars or motor bikes zipping between each lane. Dale and I crossed these lanes on the highway the other day and it was an experience! Cars will not stop for you so you need to run and run fast!

 Then there are the peddlers walking between the lanes of vehicles at the traffic lights, selling meringue cookies, back scratchers, cell phone covers and chargers, candy floss and fruit.
It breaks my heart to see even elderly women and little kids walking between the cars at these lights trying to peddle their goods to whoever will buy them,  knowing full well that they cannot come home until they make their quota for the day. Some days; because of the fact they need to earn their keep, they will not make it home. It is beyond sad and I am sure it breaks the heart of God to see the injustice of it all.  It seems so hopeless. The elderly and children were not made for this.  To picture my own mother on the streets having to earn her keep after years of raising my brother and I would be so unfair. Yet, this is reality here in Honduras. These are real people.  People with emotions and needs. People with  real dreams. They are someone’s mom, grandma,  sister, or child.  Oh, that I never become immune to it, that it never becomes the norm to see, that it always breaks something in me.

On the drive up to the mountains where the schools of hope are, is also like entering another land. It is a very bumpy, rough and winding terrain.  A grave yard  “The potter’s field” lines most of the right hand side on the way up; a place where the poorest of the poor are laid to rest. It’s overgrown with grass and make shift crosses mark the resting place of the dead.

Pulperias are  all over the place.  Every few homes you will find one along the side of the dusty path they call a road. They are little boarded up shacks where you can buy pop or chips and perhaps some eggs through a caged window.
If  you  are not able to find what you are looking for at one store, you can just go to another one a few doors down.
 Some moms sell tortillas from their home in order to make a little extra money for their family.  They have little handmade wooden signs above the door of their home “Tortillas para la venta”

 Even the animals are starving here. Dogs roam the paths aimlessly. Dogs are everywhere actually. Many of them you can see every bone in their body.  Cats too. I have never seen such skinny cats as I have seen here.

 There are children outside who should be in school, but because there is a quota on already full classes, there is not room for them all.

 It’s an entirely  different world from the city below. You really do go from one extreme to another.

And yet I reminded of this that whether we are rich or poor or somewhere in between, God’s love is real and doesn’t depend on our financial status. He just loves us as we are. No matter who we are; young or old. Whether we are a little old lady peddling stuff on the side of the road, selling tortillas from our shack, a child washing windows at the traffic lights or living in a mansion in the city. He doesn’t love one person more than another and He wants to give us a future and a hope.
Like our theme verse  says..
Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.

 

House Hunting

It’s a warm 27 degrees as I write this morning. I just returned from a walk around the neighbourhood, and although it is hot, there is always a gentle breeze blowing. One thing I love about Honduras is the weather.

We have only been here a week today and yet it seems as though we have been here much longer.
All this week we have been house hunting. We have looked at nine homes. The first place was rather scary. It was in a secure area, but for whatever reason it didn’t feel all that safe. I think it could be the house that made me feel that way. Dark, dingy, and dirty. Mouse dirt all over the floor, the bat that flew out of one of the rooms side swiping Dale in the head, and the dead bird on the balcony were just of the few things it had going against it.

I never thought I would want to live in an apartment. However when we saw the second place we were sold. We were ready to sign a contract and move in. It was in a safe area, had enough space for our family ( though not for guests) and had an amazing view. It was almost at the top of our budget though; not a lot of wiggle room budget wise. Plus the boys would have had to share a room. That would not be good. Jake could have had the maids quarters but it was not even attached to the apartment. It was down a flight of stairs and just outside the gate in the parking garage. I wasn’t comfortable with that as a mom and would not have been able to sleep at night wondering if he was ok. Maybe in Canada he would be fine but this is Honduras.

We were cautioned  to take our time, not to rush or take the first thing we see.  We were told to look around and see what we could rent for what our budget would allow. “Don’t be in a hurry”
I knew that in my head, but also was anxious to get settled into our own place; to start setting up house for my family. It has always been my prayer from the beginning of this journey that we find something so the kids can get settled in the home before they start school August 26th, rather than have to change their bus route, change the address again for the school after they have begun attending.

We saw a few homes that were far out our reach; couple hundred over budget that I am not sure why we were shown them; except that maybe we could potentially get it for less, or just over budget.  Thing was we didn’t want to go over our budget no matter how nice the house was. One thing we wanted was a view, but generally in most of the homes we looked at you look out a window and you are looking at a wall not scenery.

Fast forward seven houses and we have settled on a beautiful home in a gated area. The rent is a hundred and fifty LESS than the apartment we had first wanted and far more space. If company were to visit from Canada we will have the space to accommodate them.  Like all homes here in Honduras it has a maids quarters.  This one; a small building of its own is just outside the side door not far from the laundry area. There is a room enough for a bed and desk and has its own three piece bath. This will be Jake’s “man cave” He is looking forward to having his own space.  Also since there are only three houses in this area, and the house is on a hill, there is room for Ben to skateboard there without the fear of being hit by a car or being kidnapped. The street is not rough or cobble stone like everywhere else. For Ben that has been a priority. He would look around a potential  house and say “but where can I skateboard?” I so wanted that for him. For all my kids really, that they could be kids, not locked up in prison so to speak.

I will be honest; at first I didn’t think this was the house for us. Don’t misunderstand me. I really loved it. It is very cheery, nice and bright, spacious. A dream home with an incredible view of the mountains and of the city.  It has a bath tub in the en suite. Bathtubs are rare in Honduras, and something I didn’t even think to put on my wish list because I didn’t think we’d ever have one in Honduras.  God knows our hearts desires though even if we don’t voice them out loud. He gives us good gifts…even bath tubs!
The house is surrounded by barbed wire topped walls with a thirty foot drop below so no outsider can get in. The reason I didn’t want it is this:  Its location.  I would not be able to walk outside the gate. Dale wouldn’t be able to run; the two very things that keep us fit.  If I wanted to walk I would have to walk in circles up and down the street of only three houses and back again; over and over.  That would drive me nuts and for sure the neighbours too. Those who know me know I love to walk and outside that gate just wouldn’t be possible. I knew Dale loved the house and was sure it was the one. I kind of had my heart set on another one we had seen that was smaller and in a gated area. At least there I would be free to walk. However the location was far from where we will be working and the traffic horrendous. Not only that but it was the top of our budget.

That night I hardly slept; spending most of the night praying about it. As the hours ticked by I felt my heart begin to change and it was clear to me that yes this was the house God had for us.  I felt it clear as as day. I could totally picture my family there, watching tv, myself cooking at the stove and looking out the window at that incredible view and all of us going about our daily activities.  A solution came to my mind or perhaps God whispered it to me. We have an allowance for furniture so we could buy a treadmill that I could walk on and Dale could run.  The rent  was well under budget so that freed up a little cash for something extra like that.  We could situate it right by the window with the view.  I could hardly wait for Dale to wake up so I could tell him.
Not only that but there is an Olympic size track that we visited one afternoon and saw at least a hundred people walking/running on it. So, once in awhile we could walk or run there. Walking wasn’t going to be an impossibility after all.

Just this afternoon we decided to make an offer without appliances for a ridiculously low amount for the house…two hundred less than our budgeted amount just to see if they would take it. The realtor said “no way will they go for that ” but she said she would ask. This is where we see God’s hand at work because the offer was accepted! We can totally see God’s hand at work in the renting of this house. It is such a blessing and far better than I ever imagined in my wildest dreams. We just put a deposit on it today and are hoping to move in by next weekend. The timing of it is perfect because we should be moved in just in time for Jake’s 15th birthday. Also in time for them to start their new school while settled in their new home. We are looking forward to this next step of our Journey IN Honduras.

 
 

Our home is in Honduras.

The night before we flew out, our parents and my brother came to the apartment for an early birthday party for Jake and Elisa.  My parents bought pizza and my mom’s yummy “three step salad; a salad with candied almonds and mandarin oranges and a tangy dressing. My in laws brought ice cream cake…yum!!
It was our final goodbye with them. One last hug, until who knows when. I didn’t want to let go when I gave them a hug goodbye at the door. After they left the tears flowed. Elisa and I were a mess.

Sleep evaded me all that night. So many emotions and thoughts swirling around in my mind. I had a lot of what ifs… what if we have too much luggage? Thirteen bags, do they even allow that? What if the bags are too heavy? What if they confiscate some of our food items and don’t allow us to bring them in? What if the kids don’t do well on their exams? What if, what if?  I was also afraid if I fell asleep I would sleep through the alarm and not get up in time. The alarm was set for 2:45 and needless to say I didn’t sleep at all.

It was early afternoon yesterday when we arrived at the airport in Tegucigalpa.  Four of us with our thirteen hockey bags, four carry ons and two lap top bags.  Jake is arriving later on because he is doing ministry at Braeside camp with the Rubber Chicken Company.  One funny thing at customs was Ben’s question ” hey…why are there only four passports?” He has his blond moments and that was one of them..:-)
 We managed with all our luggage without getting too stressed. We were able to load them up high on two small luggage carts. Dale and Ben steered them and couldn’t even see over the top.
The only mishap was a large container of baking powder I brought. Somehow the lid came off and though I had secured in a tied bag, the contents went everywhere! What a mess.

Not long after we arrived at the team house we had a lunch of salad and sandwiches. Then Randy took us to the bank to see if we would be able to set up a bank account. The bank was so impressive. (Except for their logo. It looks like angry birds.)  Apparently that is the running joke in Honduras. That’s according to the lady behind the desk who heard our conversation and understood English. Armed guards everywhere at the bank. Very modern and high tech. We entered at a “private” entrance and were given a card that you swipe. Without it you can’t get anywhere in the bank. Security is that high.
After what seemed like forever, we had our bank account. It took almost two hours. I’ve heard from more than one person that was fast! I was getting inpatient wondering why on earth it was taking so long. I realized that is pretty much the norm and I need to get used to that. God is going to be teaching me patience. I am going to need it because I am not one to like to sit and do nothing.

After this we headed to La Colonia; the grocery store. We purchased a few supplies to last us a couple days until we get to the market on Saturday. I found the prices more or less comparable to Canada with the exception of a few items. Milk was more. Cereal was more. Crackers are almost five dollars a box…so I guess that will be an occasional treat. We were told not to buy our meat there, but to buy it at Price Mart. ( Cosco)

Their are certain things to remember. Things like not flushing the toilet paper. Following up with hand sanitizer after you wash your hands. The way we wash dishes. Washing in hot soapy water and then rinsing in bleach water. The way we prepare fresh produce is quite a procedure. It’s different ways depending on the fruit or veggie. I really need to write it all down so I can refer to so it’s engrained in my mind and becomes like second nature. I don’t want my family getting sick!

Please remember to keep my kids in your thoughts and prayers this afternoon as they do their entrance exam for school. I have no idea what it entails but I can’t help but feel nervous for them.

In closing I just want to say that as we were flying into this beautiful land of Honduras yesterday I didn’t feel like I was a tourist or that we were just passing through. I felt like I was coming home.

Between here and there….

It was over two weeks ago now that we moved out of our home in Stratford. For some reason it seems much longer than that.
From there we moved into a temporary home; a three bedroom apartment on the top floor of a church in Kitchener. It’s quite comfortable actually with enough room for us all to have our own space and not get in each other’s faces.

A day after moving in to the apartment, Dale and I ordered our new eye glass frames.  It was during a deluge of rain. I remember driving through the storm and the water going up over the top of the van. It was scary and kind of fun at the same time!  I don’t know if I have ever seen rain like that before. Fairview mall had to shut down due to the amount of rain that fell. The water was knee deep in places.

 Then the next day we loaded up our camping gear and headed to Wasaga Beach. Almost every year since Dale and I married we have camped at Gateway camping. We love it there. It’s about a ten minute walk to the beach and a quiet place to camp. It’s within walking distance to Tim Horton’s, Walmart and Bulk Barn. They even have a salt water pool that Dale and the kids enjoy. We had dinner each night at Dale’s aunt Norma and uncle Jerry’s home who graciously had us in for the evening meal. She is an amazing cook. We didn’t want to put her out at all but  Aunt Norma insisted. She seems to enjoy cooking for more than just her and Uncle Gerry and she invited us to come in each evening for dinner. Afterwards we would head back to the campsite and have a campfire. Dale made camp pies for him and the kids. They don’t appeal to me at all. I actually think they look gross. Dale and the kids all love them so it’s all good. Basically it’s bread with jam, marshmallows, chocolate chips and peanut butter. Put it in a pie iron over the fire and cook until done.

We headed back to the apartment Thursday afternoon. We all had physicals at the Dr’s in Woodstock on the way home. Then once back at the apt. I did a couple loads of laundry and were on the road again first thing Friday morning. This time we went to our old stomping grounds…Essex.  We had arranged to meet a few friends for lunch at the Chinese restaurant there; A1.
I also stopped by the daycare center that I worked in, hoping to see a few friends that still work there.

Then in the evening we met up with our children’s biological siblings and went to the mall in Windsor. They all watched a movie. None of the movies playing appealed to me so I chose to sit in the mall with my kobo and read. I kind of needed the alone time.

On Saturday we picked our good friend Maureen and did a little state side shopping. I only spent around ten bucks!

While in Essex we stayed with a lovely couple who have a beautiful home outside of town. Gaye and Gerry were amazing hosts. She too is an incredible cook and we ate well while there.  Elisa’s friend Julie also joined us one night and the two girls had a blast catching fire flies. They were everywhere! I guess it’s a sign you are in Essex county. They are in an abundance. It’s so cool to see their little butts lighting up the sky everywhere. The girls had so much fun together. It was like no time had past since they were last together.

We attended our old church Sunday morning and it was so nice to see everyone. Of course with facebook we never really lost touch with most of them, but it was good to see them all in person one last time.
Sunday night we dropped Jacob off at Bethel camp outside of Rodney where he was to minister with the Rubber Chicken company for the week. We met up with the Powell’s who treated us to ice cream on the wharf.

Everything after that is a bit of a blur. So much has happened I know I won’t be able to remember it all. I think it was Monday that Dale and I had a call to pick up our glasses so we did that as well.
We went back into Stratford the same day. A lady from our church in Stratford treated me to a free hair cut from her daughter who is an amazing stylist…and a bag full of hair products.  That was such a blessing!  I was so touched! Though I am growing out my hair for Honduras, I desperately needed a trim but in all the craziness had not made time to book an appointment.

Since then Dale has been working on getting documents together for our residency. It’s so much we never thought of, things we needed to have signed and notarized before we go.  Passport photos, birth certificates, marriage license, bank statement from the last 6 months and medical certificates.  I am sure there is more that I am forgetting. Actually we are getting a head start on it by starting now rather than when we are already there.  We purolated everything on Friday and hopefully it’s all done correctly so we can proceed with what ever comes next. Hopefully we know before we fly out on Thursday morning.

Friday one of my oldest friends, Sandra invited us to her parents for dinner. My friend, her hubby and girls live in Owen Sound but they happened to be “home” when we were in the area. It was good to see her family and her parents. Sandra and I met in home ec, way back in grade ten and have been friends ever since. I am so glad it worked out to see her one last time before we leave.

Most of you know Dale is an amazing deal finder. Before Zellers closed their doors for good, Dale redeemed our club z points. We have been to African lion safari this week for FREE and tomorrow we head to the Toronto zoo for FREE! We also had FREE passes to play mini golf and did that yesterday after spending the morning with his bible college friends. A few of them we got together with earlier in the week for dessert one night. We had a lot of laughs!

Today we went to church at New Life. ( Formerly Howard Park)
What an awesome service that was. The worship was real. Very lively, upbeat and loud!  It was powerful. We all loved it. Elisa said to me afterwards that if we lived in Toronto she would definitely want to go to this church!
It was awesome seeing everyone as well.

So, as you can see; things have been super busy. Tomorrow like I said is the Zoo. Tuesday we are back in Woodstock for another Dr’s visit. Wednesday we take the van to get safety checked and to be sold. We are getting together with our Pastor and his wife there as well. Wednesday night is an early birthday bash for Jake and Elisa who both have birthday’s in August.
We will not get a lot of sleep that night! I imagine I won’t get any. I will be afraid of oversleeping. We have to be up around 3am to be picked up and taken to the airport with our
belongings crammed into 12 hockey bags. We fly out around 6:25am!

Jake will be going to my inlaws  and will be going to braeside kids camp for a week of ministry with the Rubber Chicken company.  He flies out at the end of his time at camp to be with us. Please keep him in your prayers as he flies to Honduras on his own. I am a little nervous of him getting through customs in Honduras!
There are only three and a half sleeps left!

Do you have a dream?

How many people have a dream; something they would love to do…..someday? Maybe when the time is right. When the kids are grown. When they retire. Someday in the future.
How many of us have a bucket list of things we want to do before we die?
Maybe… just maybe those dreams are God given, dreams that God has put in your heart. Maybe it is Him stirring things up inside, the desire for more. The desire to do more, do something different, something outside the box.  Perhaps it’s a career change. Perhaps it’s for missions. That desire to go.

Can I encourage you for a moment to take a risk? Be like Peter and be willing to step out of the boat. Sure, he doubted and he began to sink. But out of all the disciples in that boat he was the only one willing to get out of the boat and walk on water. The others sat back and watched. Some of them may have thought “I wish I had the guts to do that” or maybe they thought he was crazy. It doesn’t matter what thoughts were running through their minds really…except that Peter was willing to take a risk. The only one.

Maybe you have a dream. If you have a journal or a blog or some other means of recording your thoughts, why not write it down? Record how you are feeling and thinking. Record what  you feel the spirit of God speaking to your heart.  Record the dreams he has given you. You never know where they will take you. Or when.

Habbakuk 2:2-3 ( the message) says
    And then God answered: “Write this. Write what you see. Write it out in big block letters so that it can be read on the run. 3 This vision-message is a witness pointing to what’s coming. It aches for the coming – it can hardly wait! And it doesn’t lie. If it seems slow in coming, wait. It’s on its way. It will come right on time.

My thought is that God is not going to put dreams in our hearts and leave it at that. We need to be willing to step out in faith and watch how God works. He isn’t going to abandon us. He is faithful and will walk with us each step of the way. Sometimes it may seem like the process is taking forever…but know that it will happen when it is meant to. We need to take that first step.

Tonight we went to Braeside camp to take in one last service there before we leave for Honduras. The speaker told an amazing story about someone that took a risk and I am going to attempt to tell it to the best of my memory.

There was a minister scheduled to speak at a pastors conference in a large city. For some reason he felt God telling him to preach a message of salvation. He questioned it because all the people there would be pastors. Why would God want him to preach on salvation to a group of pastors?  It just didn’t make sense. He told his wife, who told him ” If God is telling you to do it, then you need to do it  ”

In another part of town there was a man who felt strongly led to go into the red light district of his city.
He had a plan and talked to his wife about it.. Her response was “Woah…you need to talk to the pastor”
He told his pastor who told him basically the same thing. ” Woah.. you need talk to your wife”
So the man took a large amount of money from his life savings and went into the red light district with the church van and the church’s name blazoned across the front. He began to stop and ask the girls who worked the street..
 “How much do you charge for three hours?” Each one would reply with their rate and his response to each of them was  “OK. Get in the van”
 One by one the girls went into the church van. Finally after his money was gone, thirteen girls sat in that church van. The door closed and the man announced. “Ok. We are going to church”
He drove them to the church hosting the pastors conference.  All the girls, thirteen prostitutes sat in the back row.
For the first time those girls who worked the streets…heard the Word of God. The wonderful message of salvation. And do you know what? One by one each of the girls made their way to the front of that church full of men of God, and gave their lives to Christ.
Now, three years later, all thirteen of those girls are serving the Lord. Not only that but they are bringing others to Him.
All because of a man who heard God’s voice and was willing to take a huge risk.
How about you? Are you willing to be a risk taker, pursue the dreams He has given you?
What would happen if you did?