Today we arrived on the school grounds for what we called the fun day. When we got there all of the kids were running around - it looked like a huge recess. The kids more than welcomed us to play; they immediately surrounded the bags of toys. As soon as the toys were released they started to play. I joined a few girls in a game of pass that soon turned into a game. Although I had to run just to keep up with the girls I never seemed to get tired of playing with them. Before we came to Honduras I was worried that I would not be able to communicate with the kids, luckily there are other ways to communicate with them than speaking Spanish. I liked playing soccer with them because I do not have to try and talk to them in Spanish, if someone wanted the ball or wanted to say they were open for a pass they could simply make a noise and you would participate just as much. I played some more games of soccer, drew with chalk, ate lunch, an dthen walked back to the house. We were exhausted when we returned but it was not long until we were all outside playing soccer again.
By Maggie Breen
I have heard the phrase, "There are many different ways to be rich" many times before and I have each time nodded or smiled in agreement. But I guess I haven't really heard what was being said on these previous times or there was a piece of me that was resistant to accept this wholeheartedly as being true. There are many good and complex reasons for this resistance that I won't go into now but related I think to really wanting each to have what they need and really being desperate to believe that I am truly valuable.
But there was something about the way that Stefan the National Director at NPH Honduras said it or something about the stories he told that accompained his claim that "There are many ways to be rich" that caused me to believe him, that caused me to let go of some of the resistance that I think I had to this idea.
There were many things that he talked about that helped me to see in a new way. He talked about the beauty and Spirit of children that had endured the most horrific of circumstances but that now could laugh and play: "Forgive and move on" was how I think he put it. He talked about the presence of a good and loving God that he saw moving and being reflected in the new life that had found these kids. He talked about a home in severe financial crisis but that refused to believe that there was not a way to keep going. The way Father Wesson once said it, "We refuse to believe we can be more generous than God." He talked about decisions and a life lived in generosity because of deep, deep faith that there is a way. He talked about always having room for more because the children that come need a place now, not next year, and they cannot be turned away. He talked about the riches he has found in this home for 500 brothers and sisters: a home, a place of belonging, a place to know that you are loved and to love.
During play time today Josue (Ho SWAY) crawled into my lap. He is autistic and non-verbal. He carries an empty chip packet around in his left hand. He must like the way it sounds or looks or feels. With his other hand he pulls on his ear or presses on his eye almost constantly. From what I understand he is much more tranquil than he used to be when he would bang his head and be difficult to hold. The way he has had his needs met at NPH has helped him settle. He sat in my lap for about an hour and whenever I tried to take an arm away from around his waist he would pull it back. Eventually his ever moving hand and arm stopped moving and his breathing was slow and easy. "Esta dormida" declared one of the girls skipping by. He had fallen asleep. We sat there on the concrete for another hour and then as I shifted him towards the end of our time I felt his little body start to shake. He was chuckling. I looked down and his face was creased in a smile, his dark brown eyes were twinkling and he was chuckling. He did this for about 10 minutes more, burying his little head into my chest and just shaking with laughter. When I took him back to his caregiver and explained they smiled, nodded and said something to me the only part of which I heard was amore: love.
Thanks be to God for Stefan and Josue and this place. I believe there are many ways to be rich.
By Claire Anderson
Today (Saturday) we got our first opportunity to sleep in, which was much needed! Yesterday we spent the afternoon doing various activities with the kids from Casa Suyapa (the baby house). Those kids have a ridiculous amount of energy! Pete, Megan, Connor, Roger, my dad and I played things like soccer, catch and Frisbee with the kids. I found that it didn't matter to the kids if you spoke Spanish fluently or not very much at all (in my case) they just wanted a friend to play with. I've found that the phrase "Como se dice" which means "How do you say..." has become my best friend. I also learned two very important and helpful words in regards to playing, "Pelota" which means "ball" and "listo" which means "ready." During the activity time I was drawing with chalk with one of the little girls when another girl came and threw herself over my shoulder. I'd never even talked to this little girl and didn't know her name and she didn't know mine but that didn't matter one bit to her, she just wanted someone to be with. Later on as the kids were heading back into their house I was walking around holding another girl's hand when a little boy came and grabbed my other hand and together they began leading me into their house so we could play together some more. I've found it pretty hard to feel lonely here when around the pequenos.
We've been playing a lot of soccer while we've been here. While walking back from playing soccer in the dark last night, we all stopped walking and talking to look at the stars and listen to the sounds of the ranch. The sky is so clear, unparalleled to anything you could hope to see at home in the city. The air was alive with the songs of the crickets and the mooing of the cows. I've forgotten how good it feels to breathe in fresh, clean air unpolluted by cars or the sounds of the city.
Today as I mentioned earlier, we slept in until around 8:30 which was so wonderful. At 9:30 Ilzir, a former pequeno, took us on a hike up to the new cemetery where some kids from the ranch and their family members have been buried. We wakled through sugar cane, over a dam, and through a forest to get there. While walking back we took some moments to stop and just admire the gorgeous scenery that surrounds the ranch. Everywhere you look you see majestic green hills and tall trees all backed by a clear blue sky.
Now we're off to cut some string for bracelets we'll be making with the girls after mass today! Adios Amigos!
From Lainey Sickinger
After being tired for two days, this morning I woke up well rested, and actually energized! After a hot and exhausting day in the garden, I was looking forward to something more my speed.
Last night Derona and I agreed to meet at 6:30am for coffee and breakfast bars, before heading over to the Tortillaria.
We made it by 7am sharp, shouting "Buenos Dias!"
There was no answer.
So... we sat there for about 45 minutes, watching the kids walk to school.The little ones in pigtails and tidy uniforms, giggling. The middle school aged girls, with their plaid pants, brushing their teeth or their hair as they walked. Some even asked us if we were going to make tortillas (at least we think that's what they were asking). We admitted that yes, we were. One of the American volunteers suggested it was okay she'd be around soon, it's just... "Honduran time."
It turns out the head cook (Dona Gloria) was off today, and our partner in tortilla making was one of the kids doing a year of service, "Verita." She plugged in the boom box and we got busy to the sounds of Shakira, Chris Brown, "Pit Bull" (according to Derona) and several Latin bands.
They make tortillas from scratch... really. When we walked in, the yellow and white corn kernels were soaking in large tubs of water. She put us to work draining the corn and dumping it into the grinder.
After grinding, she piled the damp piles onto the counter adn showed us what to do, expertly kneading the dough, occasionally sprinkling in some water. Then she poked it, then nodded indicating that we should touch it... so we will know how it should feel. Derona made an impressive batch, and I did as well... Verita smiled. "Perfecto!" Whew! I can cook in Latin America too!
After we made a few towering piles of dough, I was eager to use the tortilla press. Verita showed me how to do it, but she indicated it was "difficult." So I didn't get much time playing with it. Derona and I split time at the griddle. Derona rocked the griddle. Verita called her "Caliente!" I guess she was pretty good. She was certainly better than I, but it was hot over that griddle, and not the spicy kind.
Yellow tortillas flip nicely, white are more temperamental. I was impressed that no lard or oil was involved in the process except for a simple sprinkle of vegetable oil on the griddle at the onset of the process.
We flipped tortillas, sang Shakira and Maroon 5 and a lot more. We made 1000 tortillas and bagged them up for the 560 children who live here and the volunteers and workers who care for them. I would totally do that again, and Derona was a top notch partner. Everyone really should experience the satisfaction of burying their hands deeply into a batch of freshly ground, whole grain dough.
I found myself entranced as I was walking home from the 8-11 year old's home with Connor, Elise, and Elzer (a graduate of NPH who now works there). There was so much natural light surrounding me in the night. To the right and left of me there were fields of fireflies, brighter than I have ever seen before. As I looked up I could see the stars shining bright in the sky more vivid than I have ever seen. In addition to that, a mile away there was lightning flashing every few seconds. This had to have been one of the coolest things in nature I have ever witnessed.
I think it is Thursday. It is hard to keep track. I finally saw my first clock today -- in the kitchen -- as we washed and cracked 240 eggs, shaped about 600 rolls (to be baked in the adobe oven outside), cut up 2 wheelbarrows of squash, chopped peppers, washed cucumbers, prepped beans, unpackaged pasta (to be cooked 20 minutes in the pressure cooker), and squeezed pasta sauce out of the tubes they came in. Some of the others weeded the garden while yet others collected eggs. I thought the boys would be hard to rouse this morning, but they were up and off to breakfast at 5:45am (oops, an hour early!). I think they had already played soccer by the time I was up for my cold shower at about 6:30am. The cows are right outside of the boys and girls rooms and apparently pretty noisy in the morning, so tonight some were going to sleep with earplugs.
This is an amazing place. A 2000 acre oasis in the midst of a chaotic country. A place full of the life and laughter of around 560 kids and the adults who love and care for them. Stefan, the director of NPH-Honduras, came and spoke with us tonight. Each person in our group got to share what we really liked about our day and what was hard. For me, the good part was watching the kids take pride in the jobs they were assigned. I saw, what looked like little three year olds, pushing wheelbarrows, hoes and shovels. The hardest part for mehas been not being able to converse beyond a few words here and there. As part of our debriefing, Stefan asked to share his highs and lows of the day. One part of his "low" today was a meeting about NPH's finances. Every part of the world seems to be struggling economically. Here it has meant layoffs and less meat for the kids. His best part of the day was tucking the kids into bed at night. Speaking of bed, I guess it is time for me to go to bed too. It is off to work in the garden tomorrow.
It was a long journey here, but after waiting then flying then waiting then flying, and then going in for the most roller-coaster-like landing we've ever had, we finally got here. We just got back from playing with the littlest kids which was probably the highlight of everything so far. I'm so glad I know some Spanish so I could understand them a little bit. As soon as we got there, they collapsed around us, getting eye contact with their eager expressions and then tossing us a ball or drawing us a picture. Their excitement helped it to be even more fun and even if we couldn't understand everything they were saying, at least we could see that they were happy. The whole ranch is a really nice place. It's not luxurious, but driving through the city and outskirts before made us appreciate it even more. Looking out the window at home isn't as interesting since I'm so used to my city and the billboards on the freeway. When we got to Honduras, though, my eyes were just glued to the window. All of the signs are in Spanish, which is expected, but to actually be in a whole town where everything is in Spanish is really cool. Most of the houses outside Tegucigalpa are makeshift homes built out of wood. I've never seen such poverty before and it made me wonder how the US can have so much while Honduras has so little. Tegucigalpa had lots of barbed wire, things were rusting, and we would consider it a poor town in our country, but to many of the people living outside of it, it seems really nice. The ranch is sort of a haven among all of it, though. It feels very safe here, but still different. What caught me most was seeing tiny kids just doing work like everyone else. Everyone works hard here, but they also take the time to play and just be together. I think they've rubbed off on us... but then again we've always been willing to do work and willing to play. We're all having so much fun (at least from the looks of it). Probably the most interesting thing about the ranch is the cows. They have a field they're supposed to be in, but they usually escape and just roam around. There are dogs and cats, too. The dogs are friendlier than the cats, as you might imagine. In a little while, we're going to have dinner with the kids in the hogares, so I have to go. Sorry my writing is a little scattered, but my mind has been going in all directions since I got to the airport. Hasta luego! Adios!
Apparently there's a little weather going on. Everything going in and out of Houston seems to be running about three hours late. Our flight out of SeaTac left a little less than two hours late and ended up taking longer than anticipated after we were sent on a circuitous route over Louisiana in order to avoid more unfriendly weather. A few of the girls didn't fare so well, and we've used our allotment of air sick bags, but otherwise we made it safe and sound to Houston a half-hour before our flight to Tegucigalpa was to leave. We rushed over to the gate just in time to hear they were putting us on another flight that was created to accommodate, among others, a group of forty mission travelers from Tennessee who had missed their connection the day before. That flight was to leave an hour later, but came in about two hours late from Philadelphia because of, you guessed it, weather.
We had a great conversation while we waited. Tommy came over to see what was up with this bleary-eyed group of brightly-shirted travelers. He's leading this team of doctors, dentists, medical technicians and others--one of 37 groups, I think he said, who will go down this year to a rural area south of Tegucigalpa and just north of the Nicaraguan border with BMDMI, a Baptist medical and dental mission organization. It's pretty obvious Tommy, who is on his 9th trip, is "all in" when it comes to this work. He's an engineer by trade, and I imagine he's put his skills to work in managing a pretty complex operation.
But the passion was most evident when he told stories of ways that generosity tends to flow when people are given an opportunity to give to something significant. (It seems to me we know a little something of this, too!) He told of a complicated series of events and fortuitous encounters, for example, that led to FedEx shipping for free a 40 foot container of supplies their group had put together to send down ahead of them. Tommy pointed out what I've noticed, too -- that these kinds of trips have the power not only to do some good for those we visit, but perhaps even more, to open us to all sorts of goodness and kindness, and to the power of God's presence in those who have little but their good will toward others, their ingenuity, and their willingness to take a chance on opening themselves up.
We will see much, much more of this, I suspect, once we actually arrive at NPH. But I've already seen that in this little group of ours who already seems to be taking such good care of each other. We're all pretty punchy from lack of a good night's sleep, but we have so far absolutely everything that we need, and everywhere you turn, someone is helping someone else out.
UPDATE -- HERE SAFE AND SOUND
We're here safe and sound and now very tired. The landing to the Tegucigalpa airport is a once-in-a-lifetime experience you should ask someone on the trip about sometime (or you can even google it). We made it into Tegus (Tay GOOS), as they call it around here, in good time. Donna and Kristen had left early in the day from the ranch, which is about an hour's drive from the airport, so they didn't get the message that we were going to be late. You'd never know by their grace that they had been waiting around for several hours. They had pizza and water waiting for us when we got on the bus and enjoyed a bumpy ride through crowded streets and rich, lush vegetation that holds onto steep and dramatic mountains and deep valleys.
We arrived at the ranch to a beautiful guest house with banana or plantain trees growing in the courtyard, a cool drizzle gave us a bit of relief from the warmth. After a walk through some of the hogares (oh GAR ace)--homes--on the 2000 acres, a longer stop at the baby house and then dinner, we've had a brief debriefing and everyone is on their way to bed. I suspect most everyone will be asleep by about 8:30 and hopefully well-rested for an early morning.
I hope you will begin to hear from some of the other blogging voices in the days to come, so stay tuned! And thank you for your prayers and support.
Bags are packed and now in the hands of United Airlines. Twenty bright yellow shirts arrived at SeaTac airport at 9:30 on Tuesday night, bags in hand (and on wheels). It's pretty amazing to realize we're on our way considering the planning has been underway for more than a year.
It is quite certain, though, that we are in good hands. Consider the five extra bags we're carrying with us filled with books and games and toys and some clothing items. A little bit of everything, according to Judy. Even ten bottles of Desitin because the rain has created a bit of a problem with diaper rash (with some of the babies at the ranch, not with anyone in the group!).
Roger packed them, giving us one that was, he said, 49 pounds (check-in limit is 50
lbs.). And he was right... to the tenth of a pound. Pretty impressive. Another did come in at 50.5 lbs, but they took it anyway. Of course, if you've been privileged to see the burst of emails over the last few days, polishing off last minute details, you wouldn't be surprised at how smoothly things have gone getting us through security. We’re now waiting for our flight, which is late. Too bad we couldn’t put Roger and Judy in charge of the weather, too!
Assuming all goes well, we’ll get to Houston in time to catch a 9am departure to Tegucigalpa and have wheels on the ground there right around 11am. Right now we’ve taken over a quiet gate N1 at SeaTac – a sea of yellow shirts scattered on chairs and on the floor. Coloring, exploring, and generally having a good time. Keep us in your prayers and we’ll do our best to keep you posted.