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.