Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Honduras Day 6: Back to Tegucigalpa

Today was a much more relaxing day. We left La Paz and headed back to Tegucigalpa for our last night in Honduras. After checking into the hotel, we took a 30 minute journey to the Valley of the Angels where we sauntered through souvenir shops.

 Upon returning to Tegucigalpa, we said our goodbyes to Ricky and Arianna, our young interpreters for the week. For the record, if there's anything in the world that is crazier than driving in Tegucigalpa, it's driving in Tegucigalpa at night! We came across this car while driving. The thought that it could have been us crossed our minds since it was in our lane of the intersection.

Since our day was low on the activity we had some space to breath. I have some observations:

First: Tegucigalpa, as the capitol city is clearly where the government money emanates out of. The farther you travel from the city, the less help there is for infrastructure, jobs, education, etc., and thus the poorer people are. La Paz is actually pretty close. The coast, where we visited in January, pretty far. But even in the capitol, there are the haves and the have nots. From beautiful homes to this tent home on the edge of a garbage strewn cliff beside the road.

Second: Austin South (and his wife, Keila...who we only got to meet today), Ricky and Arianna made our trip incredibly enjoyable. They didn't just speak for us when necessary (which was almost always for me), they got their hands dirty by working side-by-side with us. They were as much a part of the team as we are. Though Sister Edith may get (and deserve) all the credit for her loving care at the orphanage, Austin and Keila help her
do her job better and in a more sustainable way. Ricky and Arianna are the same age as Ashli and Lexi, which made the journey more fun for them as well.

Third: Though it didn't happen with everyone, God gave me Milton to love this week. One of the six boys, he stands out as the only boy who didn't "demand" his own way with any of us. I got the picture that he spends life in the background because the other boys are louder and more aggressive than he is, and they have the tendency to push their way to the front (or take what they want from him...not in a bullying way, just like older brothers might).

Every time we saw the kids, Milton sought me out. When we walked to the hot springs, Milton walked hand-in-hand, almost the entire way. When we had to cross the "Indiana Jones" bridge, he had me hold his hand...both directions. When we walked to the soccer park, again..with me. On the way back, he rode on my shoulders. At every lesson, he sat next to me and had me help him with the art projects.

When we first met, he wouldn't speak at all (at least around us), though he was always quick to smile. But by the time we left, he did speak (though I couldn't understand).

Milton was in desperate need for one-on-one attention from a positive male role model. God chose me to give that to him, and I believe it blessed us both...though I know it bless me.

Fourth: If a worship pastor from Salem; grandmas from Burns and Salem; 16- and 18-year old girls; a school teacher from Silverton; and a stay-at-home mom can make a difference...anyone can make a difference. As Sami reminded us this week...we are responsible for the loaves and fishes, Jesus turns it into banquet for thousands. What difference will you make?

Thanks for joining us on this journey. May you be inspired to take one of your own...whether it's serving in an orphanage in Honduras or serving up love in your own hemisphere.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Honduras Day 5: 100 Wheelbarrows of Dirt

The day started at the new facility, continuing the work project from yesterday. I think I personally filled more than 100 wheelbarrow loads of dirt for the courtyard. We were incredibly grateful that God saw fit to let some clouds roll was about 10 degrees cooler than yesterday. Of course, that didn't stop the sweat from coursing down our bodies. There were several nationals working with us who, we're sure, were thinking, "Don't give up your day job!"

When we finished, we stopped by a local bakery run by Paquita, an elderly woman who learned to make bread from her mother and aunt. Her family bakes bread in an old style oven. Shaped like the top half of an orange, they begin at 4 am each day by building a fire to heat up the oven. For ingredients they go through 200 pounds of flour and 720 eggs. After the wood has burned to coals, they clean out the ash and coals and then cook the bread throughout the day. She gave us a sample of one of the sweet breads and it was delicious. A woman of faith, she clearly allows the Lord to lead her life. She is content. Happy that she is able to leave her family a legacy.

After lunch we returned to the orphanage. Homework kept us from getting started right away on our activities. Finally, we took a walk to a local pay-to-play soccer field where we spent an hour and a half running, playing, giggling, and yes, crying. The kids had a ball (pardon the pun), and the adults wore out way too quickly...all except Sister Edith. She had as much fun as the kids. She even broke Douglas' sunglasses when she kicked a soccer ball to his head! Maybe she should be on the national soccer team.

We trudged back to the orphanage and shared Douglas' last lesson and art project with the kids. By the end, all of us, including the children were clearly done with activities. We said our goodbyes, shed some tears and headed home for the evening.

What a great day. Tomorrow we head back to Tegucigalpa.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Honduras Day 4: We all get our hands dirty

Well, for those of you who thought we were on a cushy vacation...if it were true, today it ended.

We started our day at the construction site for the new orphanage. They asked us to prepare part of the courtyard area for grass planting. It was hot, we were sweaty. But, we made good progress. When the time came for us to head to the orphanage we had accomplished quite a bit. Just because you only see me in the picture doesn't mean I'm the only one who worked. But it is my blog after all.

We were told that if we were being paid laborers, we would get $15 per DAY. It made us appreciate greatly our real jobs!

After lunch we returned to the kids...much more weary, but still excited to see them. They had school today so we spent quite a bit of time helping them do their homework. Well, some of us did. Others had the privilege of washing hand. It was backbreaking work, and made Lori, Dana and Sami empathize greatly with Sister Edith who doesn't often have this much help.

After homework was completed, it was time for the next
lesson that Douglas had prepared. This one included finger painting for the young ones, and watercolors for the older kids. Everyone had fun (well there were some tears, but what can you expect when you are herding cats?) and most kids ended up with paint on them somewhere. I guess they should have taken their baths after the lesson. Oh well, we can blame that one on Douglas.

Tomorrow is our last day with the kids. It's hard to believe that our time has gone by so fast. We have a few tricks left up our sleeves, but you'll have to wait to see what they are.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Honduras Day 3: Waterlogged

The day began with a double dose of language barrier. We decided to attend the Catholic mass with
the kids from San Jose Orphanage. For those of us raised Baptist, it was quite unfamiliar...oh, and they spoke in Spanish as well! The church was filled with icons familiar to the Catholic religion. The service was a little over an hour long, and we could tell when the kids had hit their limit sitting still and quiet. At one point, Sister Edith had 4-year-old Jonathan by the ear trying to keep him quiet. Little Maria Jose, sitting next to him, grabbed his other ear, which only ticked him off more. I'm not sure who won the battle.

Next up was a field trip to the hot springs with the kids. Most of us decided to walk with the kids. After all, it was just a 30-minute hike...Honduran time...really it was more like 60 minutes uphill most of the way. (For the record, the cars went a different the end of the afternoon they needed us to walk up the steeper hills so the cars could make it...which means it was uphill both ways. Go figure.)

We were quite surprised by how nice it was. We expected a dammed river, but there were three pools of varying hotness. To get all of us in the gate cost around $25. About $1 per person. Too bad they rarely have the money to come because it was clearly quite a treat for the kids.

They had a ball, which means we had a ball. It was fun for us to watch them just be kids, to throw them in the pool like we would our own (when they were much they'd throw me in). They loved playing with us, splashing us, and getting us to jump in with them. After an hour and a half we were tuckered. They weren't. So we watched them swim a while longer.

Germaphobes probably should never visit these pools. The "pool rules" we have in the US are a little more lax here in Honduras. For example, the kids ate their lunch in the pool (so much for that 30-minute rule), they drank their orange juice in the pool, when Sister Edith's hands were sticky from cutting melon or oranges, she'd just wash them in the pool. No one cared. It just was what it was. A couple of times we thought we might need Tony  Snook because some teen boys (not in the orphanage) kept climbing higher and higher into the trees to jump into the waist high water (note: Tony is always saving someone's life).

On the way back we all (including the kids) were too tired to walk, so the kids took the "bus." The truck belongs to a friend of the orphanage who came with us for the afternoon. No...there were no car seats!

Tomorrow begins our work projects in the morning and continued lessons with the kids in the afternoon.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Honduras Day 2: We finally meet the kids...

Today we journeyed from Tegucigalpa to La Paz. Like Salem, La Paz means peace. It is a peaceful little town. We are at the base of some mountains so it is hilly. The terrain reminded us of eastern Oregon.

The Guest House
After settling in to the Guest House, a home owned by Ene, a woman with a heart for missions, we finally got to meet the kids. It is an oasis in the middle of a desert when it comes to homes we've seen.

From the moment we met them, it was clear that they hunger for positive male interaction. Nicol had me sit next to her while introductions were made. Personal space wasn’t an issue. There wasn’t any. She was looking up and smiling, laying across my lap…all while yelling her answers to other kids’ questions.

Chris losing energy very quickly.
After introductions we just played for a while. It’s been a long time since I had three early elementary boys climbing on me at the same time. I was swinging them around, lifting them up, giving piggy-back rides, chasing…you name it. Missions to orphanages is for younger, more energetic people!

The current orphanage from the courtyard.
The orphanage itself is in sad shape. Imagine a courtyard with a square building built around it. Everything is open and accessible, but everything is falling apart. Sister Edith runs the orphanage. She is a quiet (ex-nun) lady who clearly loves the children. She has some, but not enough, help. Orphan Outreach is raising funds to help pay for a nanny to give her a break.

After a while we left to tour the new orphanage, which is scheduled to be completed on October 30. It was a stark difference. Every room has been thoughtfully laid out. It is still a courtyard centered building, but it is huge in comparison. The whole space is about the size of a football field, with room for 32 children.

In La Paz, people only get water every 5-11 days. And power outages are apparently pretty frequent. At the new location, they were able to drill a well and build a water tower cistern to make sure that water is available 365 days a year. They will even have enough to sell water to some of the surrounding neighbors to help pay for orphanage expenses.

We returned to the current location and Douglas taught our first lesson to the kids. He did a great job, teaching them that Jesus came to find everyone, not just some people. We attempted a few songs, but the language barrier made that challenging. Our activities were hackey-sack and hopscotch.

It was a great day. The kids are awesome…energetic and fun loving. One thing that is true no matter where you go…kids love to laugh, giggle, chase, and climb.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Honduras Day 1: Tegucigalpa

We arrived in Tegucigalpa at 11:30 am local time. The "scary" flight that everyone has warned us about was overrated. Our seat belts might have worked a little over time, but it was hardly noticeable.

After working our way through customs and baggage, we met up with Austin, our in-country Team Leader. He's worked with Orphan Outreach for about four years. Austin took us (with our driver, Willy) to lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Next came an exciting drive through Tegucigalpa to the Hotel MacArthur, our home away from home for the night.
If you never had the "privilege" to navigate the streets of a developing country, you are missing out. One word describes it all...chaos.

Our hotel is located near the old downtown area, where some streets were so narrow that we weren't sure the van would pass parked cars, pedestrians and motorcyclists without someone being hurt.

Later, after checking in, we left to head to a national park at the top of the city. We passed the US Ambassador's residence on our way.

At the top of the mountain we walked through the beautiful park on our way to overlook the city, which has a population of more than one million in the metro area.

There, Austin oriented us to the week ahead, and we prayed over the city beneath a huge statue of Jesus.

Tomorrow morning we head toward La Paz, which is about 90 minutes away.

After being up for too many hours to count, we are glad to have a night of rest.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Honduras Day 0: The Adventure Begins...

We're off to La Paz, Honduras to spend a week with 15 kids who live in the San Jose Orphanage. They range in age from two to 12-years-old. You can find their pictures at if you'd like to see them.

They are getting ready to move. Up to this point they have lived in a less than acceptable home. Not too long ago, the mayor of La Paz donated land and someone from the United States donated the money to build a new facility.

We'll have the privilege of helping with some of the final projects at the new place, teaching them about Jesus, and playing, hugging and generally making them smile.

Tonight we fly out of Portland International Airport at 11:47pm. After a four hour layover in Houston, we'll head out on our final leg to Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We arrive tomorrow about 11:30 am, and will meet our in-country coordinator Austin and our interpreters. They are as excited to host us, as we are to be hosted.

Allow me to introduce our Orphan Outreach team (from left to right)
Lori Schilling, REACH Coordinator at Corban University (and Chris' editor)
Ashli Dehm, High School Student at Trinity Lutheran (and Sami's daughter)
Douglas Bonham, 5th/6th Grade Teacher at Bethany Charter School
Sami Dehm, mostly stay-at-home mom (and Lori's sister-in-law)
Chris Voigt, Worship Pastor at Dayspring Fellowship
Dana Copenhaver, Secretary at Burns High School (and Chris' mom)
Alexi Voigt, Chemeketa Student (and Chris' 18-Year-Old Daughter)

Pray for travel safety, sleep on the plane and chemistry as a team. Some of us just met at dinner tonight.