Hope camp 2019 and school supply shopping…

Life goes so fast it seems. We have been back in Honduras for about two weeks now but have been busy since our return, jumping right back into ministry and our life here. A couple of things that have happened since our return are Hope Camp and the Schools of Hope “Store”.

Hope Camp is something we look forward to each year. The annual camp for the sponsored children was a huge success this year. This year was a little different than years past. Because we have well over two hundred sponsored children and a lot of them are youth, we now have two camps. The camp for our youth was earlier in the year and ran by Kathy Mizen our director. This year, while Dale planned and organized everything, it was basically run by our amazing, top notch Honduran staff.  In years passed we had Canadians come and do the minsitry and programs. That was amazing as well, but we have some incredible people that we work with here who have a heart for God and the children we serve and who are very capable of pulling such a huge event off.

We bus the kids off their mountain to another area outside of the city. Some of the children have never been off the mountain they live on. They come from a very rough and dangerous neighbourhood, where there are no parks or anywhere safe for them to play and just be the kids that they are. We take them to a rustic camp for a few days where it is safe and they can just have fun and learn more about God at the same time there is the opportunity to get closer to him and make him their forever friend.  There are  three good meals a day and late night activites like arts and crafts with snacks and a movie with popcorn. Each day were services with a Bible lesson, songs and games followed by team devotions. In the afternoon there are other off site activites. Things like the zoo, bike riding, the park, and a restaurant where they had smoothies and anafres.  It is a very busy time, and by the end everyone is exhausted. But it is so worth it. Many of the children do not want to leave when it is time to get back on the bus that takes them home. There was one boy in particular who cried for the first twenty four hours.  He had never been away from home and missed his family. By the end of camp he was all smiles and so happy he that came and stayed.

 

 

Once again the Schools of Hope “store” was a success. It’s one the highlights of our year. Once a child is sponsored one of the things that is covered with sponsorship is school supplies. Each school and grade require the children to bring certain items at the start of the school year. Some of the kids have quite extensive lists. The things like pens and pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, notebooks, ruler sets, compasses, dictionaries, dry erase markers, permanent markers, bristol board ect.  In years past we bagged everything according to the school and class list. Blue striped bags for boys and pink striped bags for girls. Then they would all come to a meeting and we would hand each child their bag of supplies one by one.  There was nothing wrong with doing things that way, but our director Kathy had a God idea. And that was why not let the kids come and shop for their supplies? Wouldn’t it be great if they could pick out their own notebooks and choose what colour compass or pencil sharpener?  So that is what we do now and it has always gone very smoothly. The room is set up with tables stocked with the supplies which are pre ordered and delivered from a store in the city.  Children come at set times according to their grades and pick out what supplies they need as they go table to table. In a way I guess it gives each child a sense of pride or value rather than just being handed a bag and sent on their way home. It’s more personal this way and  gives us a better chance to interact with the kids and the moms or dads who come with them. I LOVE what we get to do!

 

 

Back to Canada…

Our time in Canada over the Christmas season came and went so quickly. Our first Canadian Christmas in six years! Although not long after we were in Canada I was struggling and wanting nothing more than to get on a plane and head back. There was this tug of war in my heart going on. The feeling of not really belonging in the culture I grew up in and wanting to go back to what is familiar and what I knew. Yet on the other hand I was happy to finally be together with my family after so long of being apart. There were a few moments where I froze because I didn’t know or rather forgot how to act or respond as a Canadian and would think and at times verbalize “I don’t know what to do!” There was one time where my son Jacob exclaimed laughing..”Mom! I can’t believe you just did that. You are so Honduran!” Greatest. Compliment. Ever.

We crammed a lot into the  relatively short time we were there. I can’t possibly share it all and unfortunately I didn’t think to take a lot of photos until afterwards. I guess I was just savoring the moments one day at a time. Moment by moment. Time with our boys who have moved back was a huge highlight and blessing I wish we could have had more time together. More walks and more talks.

During our time in Canada we mostly stayed at my parents in between all of our coming and going here and there. It was nice to have a home base and somewhere to lay our heads. Even though my suitcase puntured a hole in my air mattress with a wire sticking out that I wasn’t aware of and I spent much of my time on the floor. This is not a complaint though. I felt pretty bad for breaking it.  I was actually pretty comfortable and warm with tons of blankets. Our son Ben was not with us for the enitre time, as he was still in school and dividing some of his time between us and his girl friend Heather …whom we adore, and her family.

50096377_10156629698371049_7088530663745257472_n

There was a short trip to Toronto with Jacob after he picked us up at the airport. We visited my old stomping grounds where I once worked…the indoor amusement park Fantasy Fair.   Saw a couple friends from there who I am still in touch with almost twenty years later! Visited the Eatons Center, road the TTC subway and of course the Spagetti Factory for Dale’s birthday dinner.

 

The four of us helped out with a community dinner To Stratford With Love. It was the 30th Anniversary of this amazing annual event started by Richard and Ruth Kneider.  It was the first time I had ever helped out at this event. I wish I had begun helping out years ago. I guess I tend to shy away from that type of thing. Fear of messing up. Fear of things being chaotic. But it wasn’t at all.  It was so well run and organized and so much fun! There were people there from all walks of life.

 

We spoke in five different churches plus an event in London, and then a couple times in Stratford. ..a mens breakfast and a very casual evening coffee and dessert time. We were so blessed by all of these churches. They truly loved on us, gave generously to the ministry and most important… they encouraged and prayed over us. It was an honor to share  especially given the fact it was the Christmas season and many churches have programs and such. Photo credit Rev. Garry. E. Millley

49288374_10156629685696049_6449019963335245824_n

We also spent a little time in the Niagara area. Time at the falls with the family was priceless. Like back in the old days when we used to go there when our kids were small. So many memories came flooding back.  We walked around at night shivering in the freezing cold and looked at all the pretty, sparkling Christmas lights. The next day was spent walking around Niagara on the lake..such a pretty town. We had a lovely lunch at the home of Siggy with the others who came down to Honduras on a team. Everything was amazing, but I especially loved the curried butternut squash soup!

49376000_10156629751146049_3761614142604050432_n

Right before Christmas we attended the Christmas production at Gateway Church in London. Amazing! Not your typical Christmas pageant. We even had VIP seating because Ben’s girlfriend’s dad is the worship/media director.

Christmas eve we went to a Christmas eve service at Bethel in Stratford and then back to my parents where we opened our traditional Christmas eve pjs. This year we changed things up a bit and Dale pre ordered matching pjs online. What a fun idea, right? Well it ended up being hilarious because the bottoms were tights made from spandex!

49002919_10156576989011049_1346477130673815552_n

When we were in the Essex area we stayed in the home of some of our favorite people in the world. Gaye and Gerry Demers. They hosted a potluck dinner with the team who recently came down from there. So great to see them all again and catch up. Essex, like Stratford is our home away from home. We spent a lot of good years there, and have many fond memories. It’s where our adoption story began.

Jake, Ben and Elisa spent a weekend with their sisters at the home of Maria and Scott while we were in Essex. So neat to see them all as adults now and the closeness they share. We are so elated for Maria and Scott because they are expecting their first child, and our kids are pretty excited to be an aunt and uncle!

50122806_10156629693556049_1923829264784818176_n

Last weekend we had a family event with Dale’s side of the family. Seems so different now and sad in a way because both of Dale’s parents have passed and we really felt their absence.  He described it to me once that he felt empty. Sad. Still it was great to see aunts, uncles and cousins. Fun times. Then on Monday we went with Dave, Dale’s brother to Wasaga and spent some time with aunt Norma.  Dale’s cousins came and we met their wives and children. We watched a very moving video made for the memorial of uncle Gerry and I wanted to bawl my eyes out. He passed away in the Spring and he is so missed.

Here are a few other highlights of our Canada trip from my perspective.

Coffee at the  Burnt Brick  cafe and thrift store shopping with my sweet cousin Gwen.  My friend Kathy treating me to a haircut and highlights. Mediteranean coconut yogurt, buternut squash soup, black bean roasted redpepper soup. Pad thai. Peppermint fudge crackle ice cream. The traditonal jigsaw puzzle. Elisa and my mom decorating cookies. Lunch at the Dairy capital with my mom. David’s Peanut butter cup tea. All my finds at the Goodwill.  Meeting up with Jennie after all these years. Not being sick…not even once. Coffee with Heathers parents. Anna Maes. Walking, walking, walking everywhere just because I can… even in the refreshing cold especially when the sun came out.  New years ever with the Eastmans. Just like old times. Family.