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 World in a Frame

A lot has happened in two weeks, too much to write down especially when words just won’t convey the experience. That is the only downside; words don’t do their stories justice, you just can’t capture the world in a frame.

Two weeks ago, I joined our boys vocational program on a field trip. We walked 5k to a rural mountain village so the boys could experience service and learn what it means to love others the way that Christ loves us. These boys don’t come from much to begin with. Yet, when prompted with a service project, they responded through self-organization. Each student donates 10 lempiras toward a fund which they used to purchase rice and beans. They carried these boxes full of food to Guanijiquil that Tuesday. We visited the elementary school there, a building with peeling paint and small, timid children. Ernesto, the leather school instructor, advised me that I may not be able to enter. See, this school had a bad encounter with Americans and he didn’t know that I would be welcome. It was a gift to be invited in to witness the boys passing out food, sharing a message from the Bible about perseverance and the providence of God.

We crossed a dirt road to get to a woman’s house. This 80-year-old woman received us with the warmest smile. She has terminal cancer. Mission Lazarus has provided her medical care, and unfortunately she’s come to a point where there is no further treatment. She’s simply riding out the rest of her life. And these boys gave her food, coming into her home and putting it away for her, holding her hand, praying over her. I’d never seen someone in such pain filled with such joy. It made me cry, and the boys looked at me confused, like they didn’t understand why. See, to them, this is normal and every day. But to me, this is so outside of my normal daily activity, and it breaks my heart to see suffering and the widespread normalcy of it here.


Fast forward to Thursday night. I am standing in the shower around 9:45pm after a long day plugging away at work, and the earth starts to shake. I have never experienced an earthquake before, and I thought to myself, “I cannot go like this, naked in the shower.” I jumped out as it stopped, and I started to question myself. Maybe I was just really dizzy and really tired. Maybe my house- which is up on stilts, mind you- was starting to crumble. But no, I knew it was different when we had aftershocks a few times. The electricity flickered and communications went down, and I really had no idea what was going on until my neighbors, the Yazels, came to check on me and keep me in the loop. It was a real earthquake just a hop across the Nicaraguan border in Somotillo. It is strange that I think it was kind of cool?

Monday was one of the most impactful days of my trip here. The Yazels and I tagged along with Doctor Nelsy and her clinic team for a day of work in Las Pitas. We drove two hours away, from our 4200’ down to sea level and back up again but even higher. My cell phone pinged a Claro Nicaragua cell tower, we were that close. As we were driving, I kept thinking, ‘why the heck would we put a clinic up here in the middle of nowhere?’ Because there are people here, and otherwise, they won’t receive care of any kind. So they built a clinic and a church next door. And their patients walk up to 3 hours to get to the clinic, to receive vital medication, to receive Christ’s love through the medical staff at Las Pitas.

We spent the morning working through normal patients, I mostly translated. I am learning my limitations with language. The brain is like any other muscle; the only way you get stronger is to push through the soreness and fatigue to improve your strength. The more I switch back and forth between Spanish and English, the quicker that connection will fire. Push past the headache.

The afternoon was heavier. We joined Doctora Nelsy, Patricia and Griselda on their house visits. Some patients are not well enough to visit the clinic, but they need care, so the doctors personally visit their homes to prescribe medications and pray for their health. Our first stop was at the home of Maria. A twenty-minute walk through brush from the nearest dirt road, she lives alone in a home constructed of sticks and wooden planks. And she had the biggest grin from cheek to cheek when she saw us. She invited us in, saying “I live poor and humbly, and I don’t have much. Be welcomed to my home.” I was choking back tears translating her invitation. Doctora Nelsy responded, “We don’t need anything, how you live isn’t what’s important. It’s about what lies here,” placing her hand on Maria’s heart.

Maria has been sick with a horrible ulcer of the skin on her right ankle. When they first started treating her, they were concerned they might have to take her leg if she didn’t respond well to the antibiotics. She was put on strong medication and now months later, the ulcer has reduced in size with minimal tissue damage. It’s a drastic improvement. There are photos from this moment, but nothing that invokes the same feeling you get in standing in the 100-degree heat, in a home that is made of sticks with a fire burning to keep the bugs away, praying for the health of a woman who struggles with loneliness.

To God, Maria and I are uniquely different and equally loved. He knows her intimately and values her the same as His son Jesus, who is of Himself. And the same goes for me. He has adopted us into the royal family, as his sons and daughters:

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” Romans 8:17.



Tuesday was a day that changed my life forever. The photos are great, but again, the frame fails to capture the significance. Read more about that here.

The next week was filled with last night mafia games with First Colony church, leather working, hiking, sharing this place I love with a person I love. Kyle and I went to the beach on Sunday, Tiger Island. It was dirty, cause plumbing is uncommon on the island and there is no sense of trash collection. People who live here live in dirt huts, unless the state has built them a home. Yet, it is really beautiful too. You can float in the ocean on a Honduran shore and see El Salvador to the left and Nicaragua to the right. A breathtaking vista, such a juxtaposition of beauty and injustice, a photograph fails to capture it. We came back from the beach and saw Finding Dory in Spanish, no subtitles. Now that was an adventure for Kyle.



The week came to an end and they headed back to the states and things were very quiet here. From this, I was so glad Emilia invited me to adventure with her over the weekend. We took a road trip and I learned 6 different cities in 3 days.

Friday night, we drove into Tegucigalpa and stayed at a home they have there. Pupusas for dinner, great conversations with her abuelito, sleeping in air conditioning (haven’t done that in over a month!!!). We left in the morning for Comayagua, an old colonial town where we had breakfast. The church on their square was constructed by the Spanish during the era of colonization, incredibly detailed and exquisite. After some touring, we moved to our next stop, the intended destination of La Esperanza.


Once a year, after the rain, this small town experiences an overwhelming bloom of mushrooms, called choros. It’s a rare thing which comes about from a mixture in altitude and rainfall. They harvest them and have a festival for the choro, cooking them a million different ways. The Lenca people are an indigenous group native to this area. At the festival, they sell their traditional clothes and fabrics with the choros. It was a beautiful cultural experience, and incredibly delicious. We spent the afternoon in La Esperanza before heading down from the mountains to Taulabé, the town that Abuela grew up in. We were here and visited with family, and then the power went out. And stayed out. And we rested, and enjoyed quality conversation by candlelight, and rested. I think I slept 12 hours.



In the morning, we ate rosquillos again. It’s a local treat; looks like a donut, consistency of a scone, made with corn flour and sweet something, perfect when paired with coffee. I am a fan. We headed for Siguatepeque, where Abuelo grew up, and stopped at their farmer’s market. Now this was legitimate, fresh fruit and vegetables EVERYWHERE. I bought Spinach that had flower blooms because I had never seen real spinach like that and thought it would be beautiful in a vase in my room. I bought a strange fruit that was green and had horns all over it and it tasted like bubble gum with huge seeds inside of its chewy flesh (I still haven’t decided if I like it). And their avocados don’t look like avocados to me, bigger and greener and sweeter. That’s one thing about fruit and vegetables here- they are real, picked when they are ripe and ready to eat, from farm to table in the most literal sense. It won’t be the same when I go home.

We drove back from Sigua to Choluteca, about 5 hours by car. And all along the road are little pit stops of locals selling their specialities. We tried churrasco and quajada and tajaditas. I was full but I couldn’t say no to these opportunities. We stayed in Choluteca at Emilia’s house that night, and rode back up with other staff in the morning for work. It was an amazing weekend of learning Honduras, its history, land and people. I learned local phrases and spoke in Spanish almost the entire time. I can feel myself growing new skin.

On Bended Knee

Three years ago today, I sat outside on steps in Brentwood, Tennessee and was asked to enter a committed relationship. One week ago today, I woke up in San Marcos de Colon, Honduras with a new ring on my left hand, for I had been asked to enter a deeper commitment to the same man. Saying yes to both questions has brought more adventure and life experience than I could have ever planned for myself alone. Yes, “it’s always better when we’re together”.

So Tuesday was any normal work day for me. The night before had been a long one, after helping at the clinic in Las Pitas. Translating all day made my head spin and stomach hurt, but the experiences were well worth it, from house visits and the car ride conversations with Griselda, this amazing woman who works to feed 6 mouths, we were worn out. I had the most assured thought, this is what I was made to do. God has me here and this is His work I get to be a part of. Monday was heavy and rewarding, and Tuesday reflected that. Work to catch up on, moving slowly. As an organization, we had lots of moving parts today because a group of 60 is coming in for their mission trips. 3 churches, at least 9 rented vehicles and 3 buses. Everyone has a job they are hustling to complete. And I was no exception.

I knew I had to be ready at 4pm for this photo feature we were doing. Jarrod wanted us to take headshots and group photos for a story on empowering women in the workplace, and me with my girl-power attitude was all about this. I sat in the sun working on product research until 3:30pm when it was time to go get ready.

We were told to wear dresses, but the ladies didn’t know if they had dresses they could wear, so I wasn’t sure if I should wear one or not. I had heels too, but thought that was too much. I went down to my cabin and put on my Latin sweatshirt dress with the vibrant multicolored pompoms on the sleeves, cause why not. Then I settled on Chacos. They are comfy and probably won’t be in the headshots, right?

I was ready, but the photographer was running late, or at least that’s what they told me. So I went back up to the posada to upload some photos and talk with Socorro. Killing time waiting for them to be ready to go. Bremelly pulls up and tells us to jump in the car, so MZ and Socorro and I get in and we go to pick up Dra. Nelcy at the office before heading up to Prayer Rock, where we are having the photo shoot. It’s a pretty hike, and an amazing view. We are bumping along the road towards the church, which is just below Prayer Rock and I’m feeling good. We park the car and start the final hike to get up to the vista and I am glad I opted for chacos and not heels. The earth here is raw, stone steps carved into the earth, sprinkled with a natural gravel. When you step on it at the right angle, it’s like stepping on marbles. You slide. Luckily, we had no wipe outs, and we made it to the top, to the view. It’s this precariously balanced boulder at the edge of the bluff overlooking the valley below, complete with river, cattle and a farm house. You can see the coffee plantation on the mountains to the right, and another range to the left, and another range behind. It’s a special view, where you realize the intention of the Lord as your God who carved each mountain and cares about the people who live in them. I’ve got goosebumps as I write this.

Kirk, MZ’s husband is already up there and so is our photographer. He’s got Dave Barnes playing on his Bluetooth speaker and I am so happy. I shared Dave Barnes with Kirk and MZ just a few days before, and I’ve heard his sound bouncing from their cabin a few times since. He says it’s to help us with our model poses, and I have no contest to that. Bremelly goes first, then Nelcy, then me, then MZ. We take a few individually, then a group photo. She has up turn our backs to her and we are overlooking the range. We are commenting on Guanijiquil to the right and the new street lights, the smoke coming up from the range, the clear skies. It was beautiful. And then we are done.

And I turn around and Kyle is standing there. And it’s the strangest thing. I mean, I haven’t seen him physically in front of me in a month, so I didn’t think it was real. I must have blinked 12 times in 2 seconds because I thought my eyes were lying. Then I thought I was dreaming. And literally I have a hard time remembering what even happened. Thank our good Lord Kirk was there and took a video. I think I held my breath as he dropped on bended knee.

I couldn’t tell if I was asleep or day dreaming or if it was real. See, I had a dream this happened back in March or April. I only told one person, my best friend Madison. It was in the mountains, Kyle proposed. In the dream, I was wearing a blue dress, but here he was, wearing blue. He was wearing a blue sports coat and a blue and white striped tie and he was real. He was right in front of me. It wasn’t a dream. And I said yes. And it was beautiful.

It probably took me an hour to calm down, I was so shocked and confused and joyful. We hugged all of our people who were there who helped coordinate it, and we walked over to the edge and talked and hugged and kissed and laughed. Then the group gathered by Prayer Rock and we prayed for our marriage, for God’s love to reign over our relationship, to rain down on this dry country. We gave thanks for the light that led us to each other, that it would never go out.

I’m really glad Kyle coordinated the photographer. Otherwise, I might not have believed it happened. He found a professional photographer from Choluteca online and turns out, she is one of Emilia’s friends! That’s Cholu for you. She is so talented, we took many different photos after, then wandered on our own. Walking back, a car pulls past us and someone honks and rolls the window down and shouts, “she said yes!!” So many people were in on the surprise and I genuinely had zero clue it was going on. It made me feel so loved and so special.

They set aside a sweet little table for us overlooking the valley, with fresh flowers cut from our gardens and a wooden sign from the vocational school that read “Love”. We drank water from champagne flutes and sat on chairs covered in cowhide and ate rice and potato and steak. We talked about everything. The distance between us evaporated.

It was such a special thing to have him here. To go to morning devotional with, to hike and sweat with, to run through the afternoon rainstorms with. We drank too many glasses of sweet tea, and ate Reese’s and Nutella every night. We played mafia with First Colony’s mission team and learned others, sharing in the celebration of our engagement. He learned to cut leather, to pull hides, and count inventory, beat the guys at their daily soccer game during lunch break and arm wrestled with the students. We worked the kitchen at dinner time, helping our staff and saving some of the bean dip for ourselves. We went to San Marcos, went through too many uncomfy military checkpoints, went to Amapala and La Isla de Tigre, walked black sand beaches, swam in the dirtiest yet most beautiful ocean you ever saw, standing in one country while looking at two others. He ate a fish that was pulled straight from the ocean and dropped in a fryer, and that night we saw Finding Dory in Spanish, no subtitles. We drank fresh coffee at the farm, slept in a hammock under the stars, sat on Prayer Rock, feet over the edge until the sun went down.

It took me a week to put it in writing, because every second Kyle was here I wanted to spend with him, talking, sharing, planning, smiling. And today is the first day I am here alone. Its the first day I can really think about it all, to reflect, to take it in. It was hard dropping him off at the airport, so Emilia and Nacho took me around Tegucigalpa to get my mind off of it. Today, that was harder. Here really is great, but it was even better sharing this special place with Kyle. Now that he’s gone, it’s like something is missing. Everyone has been asking if I am okay, if I miss Juan Carlos (this is how John Kyle introduced himself to everyone). And this morning, I cried every time someone asked me. But Socorro and Emilia responded best, with such assurance. He came down here, he surprised you, he promised himself to you. He will wait for you. You will spend forever with him. It’s the happy truth.

There’s something particular about writing this on today’s date. 6/22 marks our third year being together, but we’ve never been able to spend our anniversary together. Year one, I was studying abroad. Year two, Kyle was on tour with Kenny Chesney. Year three, I am in Honduras. We always planned a time before or after for celebration, date night with ice-cream, something sweet. This year, we celebrated early with a surprise and a simple ring, and it was more than enough for me.

Ankle Deep

The first week was really about getting my hands around Mission Lazarus, all of the initiatives and operations, how it works. This week is about getting my hands around my job, what I am here to accomplish for the organization. My gears are rolling, my many questions are seeking their answers, and I am gaining traction towards the goals we’ve outlined. In my time here, my goal is to establish processes for the leather vocational school to communicate with the store in the US which sells their project. Two weeks in, I’m only ankle deep and still have a lot of learning before me.

One of the many initiatives at Mission Lazarus is to offer vocational training to young people who are seeking to improve their life conditions. We have a sewing school for young girls, a metal workshop, a carpentry school and a leather school for young men. These students range in age from 9 to 19, and they come from all over to learn here. When the program first began in 2012, there were a few in each program. After the first graduating class in 2015, the interest in the program rose drastically. Most students walk 1-2 hours in the morning and again at night to get to our school from their homes. We have a student in the leather school who walks 3 hours each direction; he leaves his house at 5am and doesn’t get home until 7pm, which is past dark here. He spends 6 hours walking so he can spend 8 hours learning a skill, receiving an education, and earning a paycheck to feed his family.

These are the stories of our students.

The products made by students and graduates of the program are sold in the United States. These sales fund the initiatives operations (the paychecks for the boys in the program) as well as the Mission Lazarus Refuge for children. With the heightened demand of students wanting to join our program, Mission Lazarus has installed new mechanisms to ensure that their students are really in need. Our teachers visit the applicants home to see what their living conditions are like, making sure we are serving people who are really in need. The students that are admitted typically live in poverty and have been taken out of school to work and earn another income for their household. These are the kids we want, so they can earn money, removing that financial barrier to education and vocational training.

I’ve spent a few days with them at the workshop, learning how to brand leather, cut and sew, watching them craft bags that I own and have carried for months. It is an art. I left the workshop Monday with bruised and burnt hands. These boys are disciplined, devoted to their craft.








While I prefer sitting around the workshop with the boys and learning how to work with leather, a lot of my work is analytical. This week has been a lot of research, going through old records, asking question after question, thinking through ways to make things more efficient, dreaming. I’ve got so many things running through my mind, I’m thrilled to be ankle deep in this river of potential, wading deeper as we move towards the other side. Really productive meetings have happened, and we have gears turning regarding our production calendar, quality control measures, organization. It just still feels like a lot to me. I am really fortunate to have the guidance of experienced co-workers who can guide this process along. There is always strength in numbers.

I am most excited for the potential new products that we are working on. It’s a process that allows me to be involved directly, working side by side with Ernesto. On Thursday, he took me in to San Marcos de Colon, the nearest town, to look at potential leather options for new products. Then Friday, we began organizing the leather closet and working on two new designs. This is the fun stuff. There is still so much to be done, but we have good goals outlined for the next four weeks and I am ready for Monday to come, to charge in head first.

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Four hours, Two weeks.

Four hour meetings can be good things, and can be bad things. Like, who wants to sit for four hours and talk about what needs to be done better. But we all know that communicating is the most important thing when working through a growing phase in a business. So we did this. We talked for four hours on a Friday under a tin roof in pouring rain about the struggles and our plans to overcome them. Okay, it was more like shouted. But we needed to do it, it all be on the same page.

Strategies are now in place to install a production calendar, to begin research on local versus international suppliers, to shift our gears in production offerings to better supply the demands of our market. It all makes sense when we talk about it, but it seems almost too big to tackle. The dreaming is the fun part, the implementing is where the challenge sets in.

Dreams are starting to unfold too. On Thursday, Ernesto, Nacho, and MZ took me to a peleteria in town to look at potential other leathers we could use in our new product lines and collections. We took photos and samples of the leather. It’s fun to dream, and me- with my goal focused mentality- sees it like a wide open track ahead, and I will take off running. There’s still so much I need to understand before I can ground these dreams in reality, like costs, actual production time, the market demand, the value we bring to the consumer, the impact we can have on the students in our programs.

I’ve been sleeping better though. It is shockingly colder here than I ever believed it would be. You hear Honduras and you think HOT. Well, in the mountains its different. My toes are numb by night and I sweat by day. Its like the wind and weather can’t make up its mind and my body can’t decide how to react. But I mentioned this to one of the women who works here, and when I went back to my room that evening, a warmer fleece blanket covered my bed. A little gift of The Lord through sweet Yamileth.

That’s one thing I know for sure. When we work in accordance with the will and direction of Christ, He takes care of it. He provides what is needed, and if its not provided, it probably wasn’t needed. And that’s good enough for me. I’m learning daily to trust Him more and more.

The firsts of many.

As I got ready to write my first entry since the trip officially began, we had the first power outage. It’s been two days filled with a lot of firsts. First ride through the mountainside of Honduras. First night of my life sleeping without air-conditioning. First meal. First staff wide devotional. First siesta. First staff meeting (in all Spanish, mind you). First trip into the mission field. First power outage. This summer is going to be full of firsts and I am full of excitement at its prospects.

On Monday, I flew in and was naturally the last through the customs line. It was an intimidating and very foreign process for me, and a man came into my path, praying over me and my trip within five minutes of our conversation. Luis gave my first steps on Honduran soil a sense of peace. We made the drive back to San Marcos de Colon from Tegucigalpa, the capital. These roads are carved into the sides of mountains, views unlike anything I’ve seen before.

Since arriving, I’ve met countless people and seen so many parts of the ministry. I’m spending this first week learning the operations and familiarizing myself with the area. I visited the boys vocational school on my first day, and met our many students. There is a lot of potential for growth here, and they are hungry for it too.

Mission Lazarus hosts many American mission teams for week long service projects. They stay in the cabins here at the Posada, where I am staying, and we share meals. During the morning, they work on various projects for the mission, including roadwork, building fences, and working in the medical clinic. In the afternoon, they travel down into the city to host a Vacation Bible School for the ninos in the rural communities. They needed an extra translator and I was asked to be their photographer, so I joined their adventure today and was entirely humbled.

These families live in 10’x10’ structures of bricks and stones, covered by a tin roof, fenced in by barbed wire. Dogs and trash litter the dirt roads, and it hasn’t rained here in three weeks. As we made the drive, dust covers the countryside, they need rain badly. We arrived at a church in Los Colorados at the base of the mountains, and the kids were joy-filled, we sang songs, colored, painted little backpacks and played kickball. I was one of two bilingual speakers, and I felt like I had a purpose. These kids just wanted love, and the church team had that in abundance. It was an experience unlike any other I’ve had before.

A few girls asked me to come play a game with them, so we walked out to the field and they fought over who got to hold my hand. I didn’t feel worthy of that. It’s a different way of life here, and I am challenged to know what it means for me coming from my blessed upbringing. I just hope that I can bring blessings to them and show God’s love by loving them as easy as they loved me today.

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One More Week.

One week from now, I will sit in the leather workshop for the boys’ vocational program at Misión Lazaro in San Marcos de Colón, Honduras. Just 5 weeks ago, I sat in my Belmont University classroom and dreamt of the possibility. That afternoon, I received news from the grant committee that I had received a Lumos Travel Award to take on this journey in service and travel with a purpose.

Mission Lazarus is a ministry serving the Honduran community through educational, medical, agricultural, and spiritual outreaches. Their focus on social enterprise attracted my attention 18 months ago. In November of 2014, I purchased a beautifully bound leather bilingual bible stitched together by boys in their vocational school. The following summer, I interned for them, learning the ins and outs of the social enterprise on the U.S. side. In the past year, I’ve seen firsthand the customer desire for their leather products, the growth of sales, and the potential of the social enterprise. There is crazy potential for growth in their social enterprise, but like many organizations across borders, we face issues of supply and demand, quality control, supply chain management and communication. In order to reach more Hondurans, we must increase our sales and focus on consistency, branding, and sustainability.

These are the areas I will be focusing on. In just 4 short months, I will focus on securing suppliers, increasing efficiency measures in product creation, moving all Honduran inventory to an online system, and preparing for the 2017 product launch. While these are large projects to tackle, I’m thrilled to be a part of this team working together to improve and better the business. Only time will tell the stories that await.

It seems like yesterday that I found out I’m traveling to Honduras. These 5 weeks have been filled with adventures in closing the financial gap to take this trip. The gentlemen at Project 615 designed a shirt based on the Honduran flag, and kept the cost low on production so I could resell the shirts to raise funds. It is my hope that each time someone wears their shirt, they are reminded of the trip and are prompted to pray for the boys in our vocational school, the success of the project, and God’s kingdom coming to life in our community.

Additionally, I brought my trip to the attention of my staff at Pure Barre Nashville, where I am an instructor. The support and outpouring from clients and staff in my community has been amazing! Fortunately, I was able to teach a donation class to clients at our Green Hills studio, raising money directly for trip costs. Prayer and encouragement through these women is a vehicle that motivates me as I get closer and closer to my travel.

Right now, I’m sitting at my kitchen table with boxes to my right and a stack of potential clothes to pack on the left. It’s been a whirlwind, graduating university and jet setting to a new place. It’s hard to imagine just what it will be like, but I’ve always stood for a good challenge. The Lord will provide for what it needed in this time; good fruit would be brought forth my time in Honduras in the vocational program and in my heart, too. In the space of not knowing, growth happens. You grow in patience as you wait for the path to unfold, you grow in trust as you lean on the faithfulness of God to guide you forward, you grow in joy as the anxiousness transforms to peace, you grow in love as the journey begins to impact your heart and the vantage point by which you view the world. Grow me, God.

For more insight on my trip, visit my personal blog and instagram.

Honduras Tee                           Pure Barre 2                          Pure Barre 1