It is hard to believe that our second Christmas in Honduras has come and gone. It really does not seem possible. Another year spending Christmas away from our loved ones. My husband has said that we survive the holidays. As difficult as it is not seeing our families in Canada, we are still making a lot of new and wonderful memories here. Memories that right now I am treasuring in my heart.
We were able to attend an English Christmas eve service here in the city.
It was about an hour long. We sang Christmas carols and the pastor talked about the sights and sounds of Christmas. It was nice to attend a service Christmas eve, like we used to in Canada. While I was there though, I was missing Bethel church in Stratford’s traditional Christmas eve service…especially Pastor Charles and the annual impromptu mens choir singing “We three kings.”
I love, love. love how Christmas eve is celebrated here in Honduras. It is amazing! Just before midnight on Christmas eve, the fireworks begin. The evening sky is lit up all over with fireworks. They are spectacular! They are pretty much non stop for a good half hour and then they continue well into the morning with more fireworks and firecrackers. Christmas eve is a time of celebration!
We began a new tradition last year. Since we have a large balcony that faces the valley, we dragged all of our mattresses out to the balcony so we could not only sleep under the stars on Christmas eve, but also we would have a pretty sweet view of the fireworks. This year it was a tad chilly sleeping outside because there was a cold front that moved in during the night. Hard to believe as it was so hot during the day. But we all stuck it out and stayed outside the entire night under our cozy comforters.
This year we had Kathy join us for Christmas. She is our newest team member, who just moved here in November. She camped out with us on our balcony and we even put new pj’s under her pillow. That has long been our family’s tradition; ever since our kids first Christmas with us. I think she was taken by surprise to find pj’s under her pillow too!
This Christmas we also invited another lady from our church to celebrate with us. She came later on in the afternoon. This is her first Christmas in Tegucigalpa , although she has lived in Honduras for over two years. She has no family here so she is on her own. I remember well how hard last Christmas was for us… our first Christmas here. I remember even though we had each other, our hearts ached with loneliness and sadness. It was especially made worse when we looked on facebook at photos of families and friends getting together for Christmas, while we too were longing for home. I didn’t want her to feel the way that we did a year ago…
Anyway we had a lovely visit with her. She brought these really yummy, very chocolatey brownies for dessert. After dinner we sat down and watched a Hallmark Christmas movie that had an hilarious ending. It was not suppose to be funny but something went wrong and the last seven minutes of the movie the people were talking like the Chipmunks! It has us all in stitches. I had tears streaming down my face it was so funny!
Laughter…. the perfect ending to Christmas day!
There are a few other things I wish to write about…..like the fun we had shopping for gifts for the sponsored children. The handing out of SOME of those gifts whose sponsors sent a little extra money for Christmas. The majority of the gifts purchased will be handed out in the new year, so I will write about it then.
Feliz Navidad & ¡Feliz Año nuevo!
I have known Victor for over two years now. Ever since we first came down to Honduras with a team from Stratford. For a while now, I have wanted to write a post about this man of God.
Victor pastors a church in the area of Nueve capital; one of the most impoverished areas of the city. It is where the schools we minister in are located. He also works along side us at Schools of hope. He is in charge of the child sponsorship progam. He profiles the children that need to be sponsored, does home visits, helps them write their letters twice a year and everything else that is involved with that program. Once in a while he will translate for us. He also lives in this area; among the poor, the hungry and the broken. He is well known there and well loved.
He is married to Iris and they have a beautiful daughter who is 4 years old. Victor and his wife love Jesus with all their hearts, they love people, they love to worship, and they both have hearts that follow after Him. Iris is a teacher at their church’s daycare. She is also an excellent seamstress, sewing most of her clothes and hair accessories.
Victor has a true servants heart. He is funny, compassionate, loyal and kind. He is a gentleman, giving others prefernce before himself. He opens car doors for others. He insists on riding in the hatch so that others can have a seat in the car when have too many people for everyone to have a place to sit. He is willing to pitch in and help wherever needed. He has a heart for the people in his community, especially the children.
Just this past week, we took a road trip to San Lorenzo school; where one of our feeding centers is. It is about an hour and a half or more away. Before we left the city bright an early that morning, Victor asked us if we had room in our car for a coulple of bags. Well, it was more than a couple of bags. Into the hatch of our vehicle Victor loaded six HUGE bags of clothing and shoes. His church decided to take on this school near Danli as a missions project. This is a church who members are very poor, they don’t have a lot of earthly possesions. They struggle to feed their families. They have very little. Infact you or I would think they have nothing. And yet here they were giving what little they had to those who were in even greater need than themselves. It as a very humbling and moving moment that made us want to weep. The heart of God. His hands and his feet. Being Jesus. Kind of like the widow in the the bible (Luke 21:1-4) who gave everything she had.
At one point during the day, we were sitting in our vehicle eating our lunch while Victor had a crowd of children sitting around him. I have no idea what he was saying to them but I heard a lot of laughter from both him and the children. In my mind I pictured Jesus speaking to the crowds that gathered at his feet. Victor reminds me alot of Jesus.
Near the end of our time at San Lorenzo. I told Victor how much it meant to Dale and I seeing him sitting there with all the children gathered around him. He just laughed and said he wanted to be like Jesus. I told him “Victor, you ARE like Jesus” Because in the life of Victor, that is who I see.
For many years, my husband Dale has been one of the leaders for Kids Camp at Braeside camp in Canada. He loves that sort of thing. Then shortly after we knew we would be moving to Honduras to work with the Schools of Hope, God gave my husband Dale a dream. A dream to give the sponsored kids here in Honduras a chance to experience camp. Then this past weekend, that dream became a reality.
Many of these kids have never been off the mountain on which they live…so camp was a totally new experience. All of the sponsored children were invited…over one hundred of them. In the end only 50 came to camp. I guess one reason might be the parents being a little skeptical about sending their kids away for four days with a bunch of Canadians. The camp was up in the mountains of El Hatillo at camp Shaloam.
Those that went had an amazing,amazing time….life changing!
The children had many first time experiences. I wish you could all have been there to see their excitement, and the smiles on their faces. Horse back riding, bike riding, a trampoline, scavneger hunt, a trip to the zoo and different food to what they are used to having. The portions of food were large…and the kids were so happy to have meat on the menú at each meal, with the exception of breakfast. The food was incredible! I am sure the kids all went back a few pounds heavier.
Each day the children were able to do crafts and other activites. These kids are so creative and they really like to take their time, making their craft perfect.
On one of the nights, we had a birthday party to celebrate all the birthdays and on another night we had a Christmas party. The children were able to make” gingerbread” houses with Graham crackers, icing and candy.
Dale flew in children’s pastor Natalie Dickert and her niece Carter from Woodstock Ontario to do the services for the kids. Six in all. Her theme was the Fruit of the Spirit. If you recall…that has been our theme all school year long. This reinforced it. Kind of like the finale on the fruit of the Spirit.
The kids absolutley loved the games. Some of them were quite messy….like the coconut bowling and a relay race involving squished bananas.
It was so moving to see these kids worshipping God with everything in them. They loved the songs and totally got into them.
Most touching of all was at the end of the services when Dale called the children up for prayer. Children came up to the front and sat, praying and seeking Him. God has begun a great work in their hearts. Despite the poverty in which they come from, despite all that they have been through, the situations they face at home, despite the many hurts buried deep in their soul, God is moving in their lives in a greater way.
My husband Dale could not hold back the tears as he watched them seek Him. As he watched God at work. Another dream becoming reality before his eyes….that these kids would know and hunger after God. God has incredible plans for them and I can’t wait to see what He is going to do in them. Even in the hearts of the junior leaders; God moved. They later had prayer with Pastor Victor and his wife Iris….they were dealing with deep hurts in their hearts and wanted someone to talk with and prayer.
On the final day Schools of Hope put on a carnival for the children. It included everything one would expect to find at a carnival. Bouncy castles, popcorn, sno cones, cotton Candy and then chili dogs at lunch. Some of the kids went back for seconds and thirds! Many of the children brought the extra food back home to their families.
After the carnival it was time for the kids to go home. They all said “Thank you!” in English…of course it sounded more like “Thank ewe” So cute.
All in all, it was unforgetable, life changing experience….for the kids and the leaders. God has begun a work in the lives and hearts of these precious kids.
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.