Natalie Borrowman
Natalie Borrowman
Honduras 2016
Natalie Borrowman is a recent Belmont graduate in Spanish and Global Social Entrepreneurship. This summer, she is in Honduras with Mission Lazarus. Working with the boys in the ML vocational program, her project aims to secure business elements for their social enterprise structure. Read More About Natalie →

The Last One

Monday marked one month. A month of being home, feeling surrounded by people who know me best while, somehow, feeling so out of place. Feeling conflicted when I see the prices on things I used to have no problem buying. Feeling weird.

My time in Honduras ended abruptly, or so it felt. In my head, I would have had a week to say goodbye and tie up loose ends. But in reality, I spent every hour of that last week doing something important that needed to be done, up until the 15 minutes before Nacho and Ernesto dropped me at the airport. You know we went to look at a potential leather source and purchase supplies for the vocational school. I wanted to leave things there in the best condition possible. So we pulled late nights and I cried a lot with every goodbye, but I didn’t really give myself a chance to process it, all that I had seen and experienced.

These are three moments I cherish and am most proud of in my four months abroad:

Leading a seminar with our women’s sewing school on freedom in the presence of The Lord. Being in their church building, which doubles as a school in the day time, brings tears to my eyes each time. The sweet couple Pastor Josept and Nohemi mentor and guide our 25 girls in the vocational sewing program. All summer, we led tours up the mountains on an extremely rocky road (ask my dad) to share this place and its people with the North Americans visiting Honduras on their service/mission trips. One afternoon, Pastor Josept was very vulnerable. He spoke about the spiritual warfare he and his family were feeling as a result of this program. See, they are empowering young girls to think differently, to value themselves and the skills they have, to trust Christ with their lives and dream beyond their circumstance. And this is shaking up the cultural norms in the area. Up in the mountains, there is not much access to education, to opportunity, to knowledge that there is more beyond the mountains. There is a lot of oppression for women, a lot of physical and verbal abuse, and no real way to stop it when there is no education to these young girls that sexual abuse shouldn’t be something they experience. And these girls are standing up and speaking out, and it doesn’t always sit well with the men in the communities, who have threatened our Pastor and leader, our revolutionary. He asked for prayer, physical and mental protection from the enemy, who cannot keep him and his family from The Kingdom, but can try to stop as many girls as possible from being released from oppression. This day still sticks with me.

Two months later, the couple approached me and asked me to speak to their girls. They said I was a representation of a strong-willed, God-fearing woman, someone they need to hear speak so that they can see the potential they have. I was honored, and scared, and I prayed a lot as I prepared something to do and share with them. Then one Thursday, when my parents and sister came to visit, we drove up to La Bojita to lead a seminar focusing on 2 Corinthians 3:17 – “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” When we know the Lord, we experience freedom. Freedom from oppressors, freedom from fear, freedom to dream and be the most we can. We talked about our oppressors and read scripture over them to release that fear. Then we dreamt about our lives, who we each could become with the freedom to dream. We cut out magazine images and created mood boards to represent our dreams, and by the end of it, many tears were shed. As a girl who was only ever encouraged to dream, supported in my dreams, provided every tool to reach my dream, it breaks my heart to know these faces of girls who are just like me, filled with potential and desire, but have never received the nourishment to flourish. Its why this program is so important, it is changing that for these girls.

Holding my own in Spanish business meetings. This happened a couple of times and I am pretty proud of myself for the language confidence improvement as I grew in my ability to speak, explain myself and defend my ideas. In very official settings, I represented Mission Lazarus as an employee, although foreign, communicating effectively and completing tasks. That was something I had only ever dreamed of! When I was unpacking after returning back to Nashville from my trip, I found old goal setting board I made during my collegiate career. In the professional column as a five-year goal, I dreamt to have an internship abroad for 2-6 months in a Spanish only environment. I did it, and I survived. I held my own in meetings where my work was under scrutiny, and I defended the work’s legitimacy. Just because you are young does not mean you aren’t able, as 1 Timothy 4:12 teaches us, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” You can do more than they say you can, and you don’t have to prove it; you just need to know your worth comes from Christ and not from words that are said in support or in slander.

Spending Fridays teaching English. I’ve always liked kids, but this summer, I felt like these kids became my own, a part of my family. I didn’t anticipate teaching English classes before coming, but when I arrived, there was a need and I wanted to be useful. In the mornings, it was the oldest girls, ages 17-22. They were in the grade equivalent of high school and needed grammar help and homework help. In the afternoon, it was the middle school aged students, and we learned vocabulary and played games. It was sometimes overwhelming; I would start to explain verb conjugations, only to learn that they didn’t understand what a verb is or does in a sentence. I would finally see breakthroughs in the students as they understood a grammar rule, only to be asked a question and realize that this word I an exception to the rule, and so is this one and that one. English is hard. But I loved to see them learn. To be asked for homework help in the middle of the week showed me their interest in learning! To host extra lessons Sunday before church helped me develop deeper relationships with them as individuals outside of group classes settings. And on my last day in town, they shared gifts and letter and SO MUCH FOOD with me. My shirt was drenched with their tears as we hugged, and their hairs were wet from mine. I wake up sometimes and my heart hurts because I can’t see them today, and I don’t know how else to explain it but that they are a part of my heart now and it aches when we are apart.

I flew home on September the 10th, and have spent more money in the past month than I have in the four months I was gone. I’m keenly aware of things like this now. Unfortunately, a virus got the best of me the first week back, but eventually I began my job. I am happily full-time for Mission Lazarus as the Social Enterprise Manager, where I can sell the products made by our vocational program artisans and share their stories. I have a unique advantage, knowing these boys like goofy brothers (I actually had a dream they went wedding dress shopping with me!). I miss being with them, encouraging them, watching them turn a pile of materials into a piece of art. But here, I can do more for them. I can bring their craftsmanship to a market who will pay a fair price to them, who can financially support our ministry and the change we are after, the change in the hearts of those living in Honduras and Haiti, a change for Christ. It’s a joy to get to be a part of that day to day. It isn’t easy living in this weird world of contrast, where things look more black and white than before, but it’s a daily walk, step by step.

Mission in Action.

Before coming down to Honduras, I heard over and over again how noble, how selfless, how kind my heart was to sacrifice my summer and energy to come down here and serve. It really built me up, like in the head-too-big-for-your-shoulders way. I went into this trip thinking I was awesome for doing this thing for other people, that I am living into God’s call on my life to go to the nations and proclaim the gospel, that it was my job. Go me.

Reality check came day one. Throwing up on the plane ride down here, I didn’t feel very noble. I felt more selfish rather than selfless as they showed me the cabin where I would be staying: no AC, have to wait 4 minutes for the hot water to kick on, “watch out for scorpions”. My heart wasn’t at its kindest the first time I walked out to the school by myself, resenting the heat and my weak ankles on the rocky and hilly road to the workshop.

I had to humble myself, and fast. As I met folks here and learned more and more about the operations of Mission Lazarus here, I realize that these are true missionaries. Each day, they serve to their best capability with the resources they have, making sure that the everyday focus is on serving the whole of the person for the glory of Christ’s Kingdom. It means sucking it up and working through the difficult stuff, praying a lot, holding each other up when the road gets tough. It means doing your best and knowing that it is good.

Sometime in the first two weeks, I’m standing in my bathroom looking at myself in the mirror thinking, “There’s no way I am a missionary. I have enough hair product to cover a small town for three months.” And it was the truth. But a missionary is not defined by the look, the stuff, the words that are said- rather the disposition of your heart towards the work you are doing, towards the people around you, in every moment, in every place. If I’m a missionary, you’re a missionary.

A mission is an important assignment given to a person or group of people. Each of us, uniquely designed by God, has a unique and perfectly fitting mission. Finding it and living into it is the challenge. Sometimes, that means spending four months in Honduras. Other times, it means going to class, going to your place of work, doing your day to day. While the mission looks different to each of us, its base is the same no matter who you are- make Him known and glorify His kingdom. It means living into your God given mission to make His name known to other people.

You don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to live on mission. I guarantee that people in your neighborhood, in class with you, at your favorite coffee shop- they all need more Jesus, and you get the divine opportunity to be just that for them. If only you will be brave enough to step into it through daily living.

Yes, I am here and at work, “living on mission” in Honduras. But, I am not the one doing ANY of this. God blessed this trip and brought it to life. He orchestrates little movements so that big things can happen, like the baptisms of boys in our vocational program. While it feels a little routine for me to input information of production daily and plan a calendar for the graduates to work with, its needed for their growth. And this is the perfect example of how I can still be on mission in the mundane, letting them know that this work is done for them because they are loved by a God who wants them to succeed in their leather craft, that they are not forgotten, and that the work they produce is beautiful and desired by clients. That meeting them and laughing with them is a blessing to my heart by which nothing can compare.

You have the chance every day to do this. Will you?


Last Wednesday, I celebrated my twenty-second birthday here in Honduras with the sweetest second family. Birthdays have always been moments of pause for me, where you think about everything that has happened in the last year, and you dream about what the next year holds. I get that I am still young, and there’s a lot left on this road for me, but the past five years have brought a lot of change that I didn’t anticipate and wouldn’t trade.

We ate pupusas and played Pictionary Spanish style and after cleaning up, I cut an extra slice of brownie pie to take up to Panchito. I walked up the ranch and was struck by the size of the sky. Here, I swear there are more stars than anywhere else. There is less man-made light to compete and the sky is littered with five thousand sparkles, each twisting to shine in their own way. It catches your breath, and you get a little disoriented, standing up straight, head dropped back looking at the painted sky.

Two years ago, on that same day, I sat in a gabezo on the Belmont lawn and listened to a song  about stars. It was a birthday gift, from Kyle and his residents. I remember looking up at the sky that night to see just a few stars, wet hair on my back. I was wearing a navy and black dress, still damp from my baptism that night at church where I committed to live a life by Christ. And since that moment, that song, the stars, this day, it all became a little more special than before.

Looking up at the sky last Wednesday felt like a sure whisper to my heart, I am still after you. It was a birthday gift, this time from our Good Lord. “The stars remind us that we’re not alone. The stars remind us we’re not in control.” I’ve heard these lyrics and sang them so many times, but the truth of them remains. Looking up at the sky can make you feel so small, but in our smallness we are reminded how great our God is. That he would seek you out, speak life into your heart, have a plan for you that matters in the grand scheme of His Kingdom, that He invites, He is calling you. You are small, but you are mighty because the God who goes before and behind you is mighty. The stars remind us that in a vastness of this place, that God reigns, coordinating every moment so that at the end of the day, I would be standing before Him, staring up at the night sky, renewed by His pursuit of me.

God-sized Problems

I’ve had the pleasure to meet a lot of different types of people this summer, as groups traveled down to Honduras to serve with Mission Lazarus in a variety of fashions. Some were here for the first time, their first mission trip or first time leaving the country; others were seasoned, well experienced, here for the 12th year, eager to share stories from their trips to Africa and Haiti and other rural, “worse” places. Regardless of their experience, the feeling you get when you’re looking at a problem and you don’t have the resources to solve it is a common thread; “it’s like trying to empty the ocean with an eye dropper in the pouring down rain.

The first time I heard this phrase, the visual really hit me. Yes, that is how some days feel here. And then I heard it again, and again, and again. I thought, how can there be so much need in some places that its overwhelming? Our God did not create his children and this world and forget to create enough resources to shelter, feed and clothe them all. He is a wise, all-knowing God. That’s not on Him, that’s on us.

This phrase isn’t limited to the scope of international missions; it applies to all of us, everywhere, day to day. When you’ve worked nonstop all day and the job isn’t even halfway done, when you’ve shuffled money around in as many ways as possible and you still come up short at the end of the month, when you are giving your all and yet nothing has changed, your efforts feel dry, without impact. These are God-sized problems.

So frequently, we don’t have to worry about where the next meal comes from, if we will be able to cover all our bills this month. We manage all of this on our own, we almost don’t need God. And we can get so wrapped up in our abilities and our strength that we think its up to us to do everything. So when there is a problem, our natural reaction is the same, to take care of it ourselves. We forget these problems, all problems, all things are only solvable by His provision. Two things for thought.

One, You can only do as much as you can do. God did NOT put you in front of the ocean and say, empty this by sundown. If He brought you to the ocean to work, He expects you to work at it with all your heart to your best ability, but does not expect you fix everything on your own. Know what your responsibility is to the situation. Don’t hold yourself to an expectation that God does not even hold you to. You are a human, it is not your job to fix everything and make it perfect. It that were true, we wouldn’t be so desperate for Jesus.

Two, Once you’ve done all you can do, give it to God. Use what you can to do all you can, and trust that He will come through for the rest in His timing. This is my grand lesson of last week. I am here in Honduras to work with a vocational program from young boys in leather, and last week, we found out that finances for the ministry are simply too tight to continue providing the lunch meal and weekly stipend to the boys who attend our program. With 55 boys in the program at $1.15 for each, we just didn’t have the resources to continue, so the program would continue, but the meals and stipends would be suspended.

I was devastated- crying in my room, couldn’t sleep, sick to my stomach. I mean, I know these boys by name, I understand the economic situation of their families, the impact that stipend has on their ability to receive education and vocational training, to provide food for their families. See, without a program like this that pays them a stipend for attending, they wouldn’t be able to attend. They would have to find a job to earn this money from somewhere else so that their family can eat. Which means they won’t receive education past 6th grade, they won’t receive a hot meal, a daily devotional, a connective network of trusted mentors and friends, a skill they can master and later use to support themselves. My heart sank, knowing that without a stipend to give to our students, many would have no other option but to leave the program to find work elsewhere. It’s not that they wouldn’t want to stay, but that they simply couldn’t.

I looked at the situation and felt so small. What can I do to help them? I could afford to sponsor 1 or 2 kids, maybe the whole program for a week. But what about the rest of the weeks this year? What about the following two years of the program? How can we get them to graduation in 2018 if we can’t get food in their bellies today?

God sized problem.

God did not ask me to fund their program costs for the next two years. He asked me to do as much as I can in the best ways that I can in the time that I am here. And that looks like developing a strong system for production, so that our graduates have consistent work orders to fulfill and can earn more. It looks like seeking out and developing relationships to sell old product, money that’s been tied up in inventory. It looks like planning for the future, identifying what the market at home looks like and serving to connect these ideas to our product makers here, providing them access to a market who can pay them fairly for their craft. It looks like creating strategies for current sustainability and future scalability for the program. These are my responsibilities.

So when faced with this seemingly insurmountable struggle of finances, my dear friends MZ and Kirk took initiative. We may not have the ability to fund this program, but we do have friends who care as much for these students as we do. We can do our part to spread the word that we need help and support and leave the rest at the feet of The Lord. These boys matter so much to us, imagine how much they matter to Our Father. In just one week of social media campaign regarding the program’s lacking of funding, we received enough funding to last through the rest of 2016!

God sized solution.

It is not our job to figure out how to fill a grand need, or how to fix a large problem. It’s our job to do our best with what we have and trust the rest to God. It’s not your job to change the world, but to be at work in the world daily. It’s the buildup of small contributions, tiny victories, that creates a lasting and impactful change. Whatever is in front of you, no matter how big or seemingly insurmountable, it’s not up to you. You are asked to work diligently and daily towards your goal with all you have, and leave the gaps to God, trusting Him to be sufficient. Let go of your hold on life and watch how His will covers.

Worthy of Help

I had enough. It started my third week of being here, that stomach thing: sick by day with diarrhea, awake by night throwing up. Some days were better than others, but after three weeks, my condition worsened. I went back to the states for a week and couldn’t be out of sight from a toilet for more than 3 hours. I couldn’t keep any food in my belly, and over the counter medicine wasn’t working.

Part of me felt miserable, as I was constantly hungry and thirsty, because my body craved energy in any form. But any time I ate or drank, it rushed through my system and I was sick in 30 minutes.

The other part of me thought that it was just something I had to deal with. It was my burden to bear, to suffer for The Kingdom. This is the name of the game when living on someone else’s turf, eating from someone else’s kitchen, in a foreign country working with ministry. If I am sick, my body will eventually right itself and I will get better.

So I dealt with it. I worked in my cabin so I could be comfortable in my weakness. I didn’t tell my family I was sick because I didn’t want them to be upset that I was sick overseas. I didn’t tell the staff here I was sick because I didn’t want to be THAT American who couldn’t suck it up and live like they do. I didn’t want to be a burden. And every day that passed, I got weaker and weaker.

I had diarrhea or threw up every single day for 6 weeks. I rarely slept through the night, so my rest was broken. Many days my stomach was wound so tightly in knots. I was frustrated with myself, feeling like I couldn’t do all the work I wanted to in a day because I just felt weak, off my game, out of it.

Then I hit my bottom. One night, like clockwork at 4:30am, I woke up to throw up cause my body couldn’t process the meal I had eaten 8 hours before. 8 hours no lie. And I felt desperate, crying alone, sinus cavity filled with the tortilla bits from dinner- this was my low. For a moment, I thought to cry out for the guard Panchito who I knew was on duty. And no doubt, he would come running and hold my hair and get water, but I couldn’t be vulnerable like that and I couldn’t be a burden. So I didn’t call for him, and I suffered alone. And when I laid back down in bed, I begged God to take it from me, this cumbersome selfishness that isolates me and dictates how I handle suffering.

When I had to energy to get up and go to the office the next morning, I couldn’t stop crying. It was God breaking down the walls I had built, and out flooded every emotion I had. He provided opportunity to safely share this physical illness I was experiencing, and the fear and desperation that stemmed from it in my heart. And there was immediate response, a medication to take away the nausea, a tea to settle my stomach and appointment made with a gastroenterologist for the following day. And they asked, why didn’t you tell us sooner? And I didn’t have a good answer.

Why do we let ourselves hit the bottom before we ask for help? Why don’t we ask for help when we are slipping down, in prevention, for support? Help is available at every rung on the way to our lowest lows. But we don’t always let ourselves believe that. How many times have I been that friend on the other side asking, why didn’t you tell me sooner? I wish we could have done something to keep you from so much pain for so long. When will I take the words I say to others and start applying them in my own life?

We are all guilty of this, waiting to say something until it’s too late, or until we simply can’t take it any longer. But friend, the road to recovery from the bottom is a LOT longer than from that point in the road where you start seeing warning signs. Ask any person who has struggled with depression, eating disorders, self-esteem, you name it. If you don’t struggle with one of these issues, ask they next person you see. The struggle is embedded in our everyday lives, but if it’s so common, why is there such shame in it? What keeps us from being vulnerable and honest with others about things that weight heavy on us? I bet we don’t have a good answer.

What if we all thought this way instead: You’ve been sick every day for six weeks, that’s six weeks of suffering we could have avoided. That’s six weeks where your healthy spirit could have been working at full capacity, enjoying the mission you are tasked to. Plus, there’s just something not right about your stomach not processing a meal for 8 hours. You shouldn’t be throwing up your 6pm dinner at 4:30am. You were designed by a God who made you for a purpose, to daily reach your full potential in Him for his Kingdom, and you can’t do that when you are suffering. So let’s address it and get you straight, free of judgement or condemnation in your lows, overwhelmed with a loving response toward your health.

How radical would that be?

When the test results came back, it was a parasite and a bacterial infection. It was something my body couldn’t process on its own. It was a problem that could only be fixed with proper treatment, with help. And I’m telling you, after 4 days of medication and full nights of sleep, I felt stronger, strong enough to lace up sneakers and go for a run. Now, it’s been almost 4 full weeks since I’ve thrown up and I finally feel like I have rehydrated, like I am 100%, all in, every day.

This is how we are made to be. If you’re feeling less than your full self, reach to a trusted friend who responds with love, to help you get your heart aligned with Christ, to guide you back to Your Maker, to help. There is no shame in saying something, anything. You might start something new, give courage to someone else in a similar situation. You are worth the help.

Road Trips

So we went to El Salvador. This week was kind of a whirlwind, meaning I’ve spent a lot of time in the car. The car rides here aren’t bad, or are bad- I think it depends on the type of person you are. Let’s see if I can explain this.

Honduras is a little bigger than the size of Tennessee, but it is mountainous. The capital city, which is about 60 miles direct from where I am in San Marcos de Colon, cannot be reached directly because each road carves in and out of the mountain ranges. Instead, it takes about 3 ½ hours to get to Tegucigalpa from where I am. This makes for a lot of early mornings and late nights, depending on our reason for going.

There really is only one way to get there, and it’s a two lane highway, one lane per side of the road. Which means sometimes traffic moves slow, and sometimes people don’t like that. There’s a tendency to just drive how you want, passing whenever and wherever. Now, I have never felt unsafe as a passenger, but other cars making crazy risky moves have cause me to feel unsettled. You could say all the rules of the road go out the window in a place like this.

It makes it easier that the countryside is filled with beauty. I mean, the mountains, come on. Every outlook is a new perspective. We will travel from 4500’ down to sea level in 30 minutes, then begin the ascent back up toward the capital. It’s not a ride for the faint in heart, or the weak stomach. My first time, I genuinely thought I was going to throw up, and Emilia kept saying “it’s okay, I can stop, don’t feel bad.” But this ride into the capital, I was thoroughly enjoying it.

And we went Wednesday to visit the doctor and research some materials cost from a hardware shop. I try not to fall asleep when I’m riding along, because I sympathize with the drivers who have to make the trek. The roads are tough, pot holes literally everywhere, people and cows too. It’s like playing real life Frogger. You have to be paying attention. And I feel responsible if I fall asleep, because they can’t sleep on the long drive, but rather must devote all of their attention to the road for my safety. I try my best to stay awake, and on this trip I did. I couldn’t eat because we were going to the doctor for my stomach problems, so I was too hungry to sleep, and we listened to music and chatted the whole way.

After visiting the doctor, eating a sweet meal, and collecting our information from the hardware store, we began the journey home. The afternoon rainstorm hit and our ride slowed. We made it back around 7pm to no power, and the tired me went to be shortly after.

Just to get up early the next morning again and head out for the next adventure, this time to El Salvador. We left at 5:30am and started the drive. The mountains were settled with a thick fog, making for a beautiful and peaceful sunrise as we headed down into the valley. After an hour on the highway, we veered off to the left to take the route towards the border. Crossing the border was trick, but mostly HOT. We went through Amatillo, which is a sea town, meaning 100 degrees and high humidity. We waited for an hour to get our passports stamped and the car scanned, and finally kept on.

I couldn’t help it, this time I fell asleep. The car ride to Santa Ana, El Salvador is a little over 6 hours, plus the time traveling through customs. We were heading this way for a meeting with a leather tannery, a prospective provider to our vocational school of materials. Once we got out of the forest, and into the cities, the drive became something crazy beautiful, like passing the huge volcano and fields of lava surrounding it. Something unprecedented for me.

Our meeting went quite well, and I was so glad to have taken business classes in Spanish, so that I could keep up, despite the language barrier. When we left, I felt that we had a good thing started with them, that the trip was worth it. Then we started home, got a little lost in downtown San Salvador, and eventually made our way back. We listened to music until the speakers died, and I knew we were all tired, so I started the questions game around 8:30, to keep us awake and the energy up. We talked through the last 2 ½ hours of the drive, learning about each other’s lives. To me, this was the sweetest gift, to be welcomed in and included like this by two men I really admire and look up to. It made me feel like I really belonged.

By the time my head hit my pillow, I was thanking God for grand adventure, that my health was under control, that we could have successful trips and even have the ability to do this as a ministry. Who knows where we will be heading next!




No Nutella Left

Over the past 5 weeks, I’ve gone through 1 jar of peanut butter, half a jar of strawberry jam and 2 Jumbo bottles of Nutella. I wouldn’t call it stress eating, but I wouldn’t call it a healthy habit either. See, I am a muncher. I like snacking when I am in my work zone. I like peanut butter with apples and bananas and I like my Nutella with a spoon. I really like Nutella. And two jars later, there’s still a lot of work to do and no Nutella left.

I am here working with the vocational aspect of our ministry with Mission Lazarus. Our program educates and trains young men in leather craftmanship, and the beautiful products they made are sold  as a sustainable form of revenue to keep the ministry running. This is social enterprise at its best.

On the business side of things, a lot of gears have been turning, things finally clicking into place. We have a calendar of production up and running, so close to finishing the inventory of all material parts, our purchase order system is running smoothly. These are all new measures installed within the past three months of me being here and its really rewarding to see the fruit bearing. There are new prototypes in the works, a relationship with a supplier developing, the materials management system struggling to hang on. But we are making it. And we are doing it with significantly less stress than we were before we had these operations in place.

It has been challenging. Coming into this project, I thought I knew what the situation would look like, but I couldn’t have anticipated the depth of the many areas that needed attention. And it felt like I was transported to the bottom of the deep deep hole, trying to dig my way out in the dark without a flashlight or ladder. My task-oriented, goal-focused, driven-self started making to-do lists, assigning tasks to different days. But as I worked on a task, I realized the situation was much more complicated that I had thought, that it would take A LOT longer to organize these leather storage closets than I thought. That it would be nearly impossible to KEEP them organized unless I was personally maintaining it week to week. That we couldn’t communicate about the organization process if we weren’t calling leather swatches by the name same. That this one item of my list actually had 5 or 6 parts buried within itself, requiring a week (or more) to actually be completed.

I remember walking back home after a long day of cleaning out the workshop, with dirty hands and a heavy heart. I hadn’t finished the task I set out to do that morning, even after 6 hours of working on it. I had lost my peace. This happens to us more often than not, right? We base our value on the work we get done, the number of hours in our schedule occupied by the obligations of clubs/family/school/work/internship/extracurriculars/you name it. We compete in our conversations over who is busier and has the least amount of free time, because the length of our to-do list and the number of items crossed off represents our worth in the world, because busyness equals success, right?

Wrong. Success is the accomplishment of an aim or purpose. And purpose is the reason something is done, created or exists. And we exist to serve our God to the best of our capabilities day in and day out. Sometimes our best is cleaning out the leather workshop’s closet for 6 hours, leaving it half-finished and walking home with dirty hands. If I did the best I could with the time I was given, it was success in the eyes of my God. And that day, I did give my best. I really did.

Your best IS good enough.

When we rise from our beds, God already knows the amount of work we will achieved for His glory in that day: “all the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be” (Psalm 139:16). Be affirmed in your worth through His eyes, and set yourself to the task of the day with all you have. And if you finish, great; and if you don’t, great. It will still be there tomorrow.

I’m writing about this because I need it. I am staring down the pike at my last days here. In one month, it will be a Monday and I will be in Nashville hopefully eating a donut. My opportunities to improve our vocational program will be gone, or made much more difficult because I won’t be side by side with the students or our program coordinator, I won’t be in it with them. And we still have a lot to do. I outlined the list of tasks left for us to accomplish and it seems impossible. And that feels disheartening. BUT when God formed me before I breathed life, He already knew what would transpire this summer. I could make all the lists in the world, but He will have me accomplish exactly what this ministry needs, nothing more and nothing less. To believe it’s up to me to do it all is selfish, it’s not trusting of the power and almighty hand of our Father or its plan. It’s not truth. Mission Lazarus is God’s ministry to God’s people in Honduras, and I get the opportunity to play a role under His authority and guidance. I just want to be useful and if I can do that with a jar of Nutella, even sweeter.

Dirty Hands

The only time my hands really get dirty at home is when I willingly garden on the 4’x6’ foot patio of my fourth floor apartment in Nashville. Once the weeds are gone and all the succulents and catci are comfortable in their new pots, it’s time to clean up. I’ll sweep the deck, finish my watering and then take my hands to the sink. As I scrub my hands under the cold water, the water runs brown- a sure sign that my hands got dirty, that good work was finished today. It’s a rewarding feeling, to scrub your hands and clean under your nails, restoring your hands from their soiled state to fresh, clean, new life again. This is how most days are here in Honduras.

Everything is covered in a thin layer of dust at the very least, so wiping something down with a damp rag can instantly change its color. Taking water and soap to our store completely transformed the experience of our clients- a new fresh scent, shining products, restored. Our staff cleans the trucks each night, to take the dust out from the inside floorboards and wash the mud from the tread on the tires. And part of me has to laugh, because I know that tomorrow night, they’ll have to do the same thing.

I’ve always leaned on the side of clean-freak, so this has been a good challenge for me. In my first weeks, I swept my floor every night before my shower, and I couldn’t dare to leave my cabin once I had showered for fear of getting dirty before crawling into bed. I wore close-toed shoes to keep the dirty from getting on my feet. But eventually I had to give in; no matter how hard I tried to keep the dirt out, the next morning, there would be dust on the floor again that needed sweeping. And how much time would I lose by obsessing over the cleanliness of my space which is worlds better than many of the homes people live in here?

I started realizing this as I was organizing the leather workshop at the vocational school. It’s one of those projects that’s always been on the list to accomplish, but never managed to make it to the number one spot. A long time coming, things have built up and it is dirty. It’s one of those situations where you look around and ask yourself how things even got this way (I know we’ve all felt like this before).

As I’m working on the closet, I can hear my mom’s voice ringing in my head saying, “don’t touch your face with those dirty hands!” But I need to wipe the sweat from my brow and I need to pile my hair up on top of my head to keep it from sticking to my face. So I take my hands over to this wash bin. It is hard to describe without seeing it firsthand; it’s a big tub of water that’s somewhat clean, but not really clean enough to drink. There’s not soap, but its good enough to rinse most of the dirt, leaving the rest for later when there is running water. And I realize I am notorious for this with my heart. I take it upon myself to do my cleaning, the confession, the fixing, and it ends up halfway done, good enough for now but nowhere near good enough to actually be good. Not what I was made for.

Isn’t this true of us all? We all have dirt in the cracks and crevices of our hearts, but we so badly want it clean- or to at least appear clean to others. We can’t dare to be vulnerable when we are fixated on how other perceive us. So we are continually under maintenance. Rather than embracing our dirty hands, our broken state of being, we are trying our best to keep things looking pulled together from the outside. And this self-righteousness cuts us off from all ties to glory. It tries to pick up the cross and walk rather than accept the gift of grace Jesus already completed for us when HE picked up the cross and walked. No matter how many showers you take, or how many times you sweep the floor, whether or not you use soap and water- you cannot make yourself clean enough by your own works before The Lord.

And you don’t have to.

As I start to pull out the items gathering dust and dirty from the shelves of the closet, I’m uncovering more and more dirt. It’s discouraging and uncomfortable, and you want to stop- cause cleaning two shelves of the closet is good enough for now. But no, God wants all of it. If we withhold from Him, we are only cheating ourselves. The parts that we bury will only surface later in a new form, they’ll keep squelching out your progress until they reach the surface. Your heart, the entire heart good and bad, needs addressing. God wants you to bring every crack and crevice before Him so He can restore it, cleaning it with the blood of Jesus and breathing into it new life, that it could be made clean. He doesn’t want us to hold anything back from Him. There is no such thing as too much, there is no limit to His grace. And this is far more than we could do on our own.

So yes, it’s a little comical that we have to clean continually here, washing the trucks each night, sweeping the floors with frequency. But it is the picture of Your God who does that same. Your God who joins us little plants in our dirt to weed us, to re-pot us, to help us grow, without fear of soiling His hands. He is the source of our clean water.

See, we cannot stay clean on our own, with our faults we return to our Lord at the end of the day for restoration. And His mercies are new every morning. Without hesitation or resentment, He cleans us. And He doesn’t keep track of how many times He has had to do so. Embrace your dirty hands, and bring them to the spring of life, your Living Water for restoration, and watch the water run brown as you become new.

Letting Go

A week ago, I came back from the US feeling strange. After 6 weeks in Honduras, returning to US living was startling, a contrast I had somewhat expected. I loved being with my family and enjoying the comforts of life, but I felt strangely guilty. What I didn’t expect was feeling out of place upon my return to Honduras. Shifting from culture to culture to culture in a matter of ten days took a toll on my mental state of being. Each place held people I loved, who know and love me in return, but I didn’t know where I fit. And when worry creeps in, we look down at our feet to find our place instead of fixing our eyes above where a place has already been made for us.

So I busied myself in work, which there is plenty of. And it was enough to keep me from asking the deep questions: am I leaning on myself or on You God? Am I trusting in my efforts or in Your provision here? I avoided this well, until midday Tuesday. God knew what I needed.

On a mission to complete a Western Union transaction with a new supplier in China, Nacho and I went to Choluteca. What we didn’t know was how to complete a Western Union transaction with a new supplier in China. Apparently, of the 10 Western Unions in the city, each is designated for certain countries, specified for sending or receiving, only for transactions below a certain amount, the list goes on. After the spending 2 hours on a goose chase, we landed at the third one where they worked with us for an hour before realizing the amount of the transaction was too large. So we tried two more, each of which required copies of paperwork we did not have. After 6 hours (delayed from a torrential down pour), we called it quits and went home empty handed. Most of this day had been spent sitting in the passenger seat looking out the window, asking God why this was so hard, why we couldn’t finish the task and move on. He showed me a wall that carried his affection- “I want to be the reason behind your smile.” I want to be the reason behind your efforts. I want to be the purpose behind all things.  I want you to trust me.

And we went home empty handed, but I went home with a little more peace. It let me take on the next day’s attempt with a spirit of joy and gratitude. Though we spent another FULL work day completing this transaction among other errands, I could better enjoy the process. Laughing when the internet went down at the Western Union, which prompted us to find a ciber-café to print our proof of transaction report. Laughing when, upon our return, the clerk told us she was on an hour long break, to come back later. Nacho and I had an hour to kill, so we share pupusas, which is a special treat since we don’t live in the city. And it allllll worked out eventually. God used this to encourage trust, that things work out in His timing. I am seeing Him teach me this continually this week.

Thursday, I asked a friend to pray for my weekend, ‘cause I thought I would be alone at the Posada, bored with my thoughts. And I wasn’t sure I wanted that. So I began plans to work through the weekend, to get ahead.

Friday, again overwhelmed by the hours that lay ahead creating our new inventory system, I thought- I will ask if I can keep the shop key so I can work through the weekend, since I will be here and don’t have plans. But I couldn’t find Geiby all day to ask her. My plan to take matters into my own hands, thwarted. I even thought, there’s work I can do without the shop key, I will start that tomorrow.

But I woke up Saturday sick, forced to stay in bed most of the day. God knew I needed to slow down, to hear his voice and rest. To be at peace. So Sunday, I did that. Completely better than the day before, I relaxed. I watched Ethos Church’s streaming service, I talked with family, I read Captivating, I went to La Iglesia Las Palmas, I sat on the edge of the mountains and looked out for an hour. I was still. I built a fire that night and prayed for the people I loved. I felt peace. And then I slept. Today, I awoke feeling refreshed and ready to take on what this week brings.

Stress and inadequacy are not feelings we are made for. They creep in when we haven’t handed our work to The Lord and said, here let me do this for you. And once we let go of the tight grip we have on our lives, He floods us with peace and direction. He takes care of us. And I am ready for where He is taking us. Let’s go.


Misericordia. It’s one of those false cognates in Spanish. It sounds like it would mean misery, what you experience in the valleys. In a way, it is what you experience in the valleys, but it’s not negative. It’s the gift you receive the in the valley, mercy.

This word is painted on restored wood, now hanging on the wall in the clinic in Las Pitas, and I thought “surely they would not hang the word miserable on the wall of a place where suffering people come for healing.” It must mean something else. I hear it in our prayers during devotional, it is written in scripture. God, have mercy of us. But what is mercy, what is my relation to mercy, what is Misericordia?

The word comes from two bases in Latin. “Miseriae” signifies misery, suffering, great distress or discomfort. “Cordia” represents the heart, the central and innermost part of something. When suffering and the heart meet, it is a noun, a thing that causes change when it is given and received. And this is the truth about mercy. It is given, and in its gift, the heart of the giver takes on the suffering of the receiver with compassion. The receiver is removed from the weight of misery because of the giver. This is God.

God is mercy.

His heart extends mercy to us, meeting us in the valley with a mercy that absorbs our misery so experienced in a fallen world. Mercy is a gift not given because it is deserved or earned, rather it reflects the heart of the giver. A heart that takes on the suffering of others to lighten the load the sufferer carries, regardless of their efforts. And He doesn’t have to give mercy, there is no obligation of God towards us to show mercy, there is no thing we can offer Him that He needs from us. He doesn’t provide mercy to us because he has to; God is merciful on us because He wants us, He loves us, He desires our love of Him. His mercy given reflects His affection toward us. He gave us His son in an act of mercy.

Jesus is mercy.

His heart, faultless and without shame, took on the weight of sin through death. Not because man had proved his worth, but because of His heart for man, Jesus opened His heart to carry our suffering, having mercy on our sin. His gift of mercy on us in the valley which was deeper than we can ever come to know, altered our standing before The Lord. But, He didn’t leave us there, one and done. Though the death and resurrection of Jesus covered the earth and everything under the sun in mercy and forgiveness, His heart for us in our misery continues.

The Holy Spirit is mercy.

Residing in you is the Spirit of Your Lord, the guider of the Holy Trinity. His prompts on your heart lead you daily. And when you stray, His twinge guides you back to the cross, to your Merciful Savior who is never through with you, but continually meeting you in the valley each time you visit. We know this by the declaration of Jeremiah in Lamentations 3:22-23, saying:

The steadfast love of The Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

The word new here could seem contradictory. How could something be given daily, continually, and still be new? (Jon Bloom tackles this questions much better than I could here) Because it is fresh; rekindled fire does not look the same as the original, but it provides the needed warmth. It is new. This kind of love, daily new, is hard for us to imagine. The third time your co-worker asks you to help her load the copier with paper, you do it. But you meet her out of obligation, and likely with some sense of frustration, because you’ve given her this lesson twice already and she should be able to maintain the copier on her own by now. But God doesn’t act like us. When we come to Him the 70th time, the 700th time, with our dirty hands and stained souls, He ushers us in with mercy, without hesitation or resignation in the fact that He has already granted us mercy countless times. His mercy is new for us every morning, in every moment.

So yes, Misericordia should be hanging on the wall of a clinic where suffering people come for healing, because this word is available for all of us, the physically sick and the sick in heart, so that healing can reach us at a soul-level, at a place where mercy is so needed.

“Man is redeemed not by his meritorious efforts but by the unmerited gift of unbounded love expressed by God’s ineffable mercy.” Steven Jonathan Rummelsburg.