Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Word of the Day: "Trámite"

It's hard to believe that, for first time in four years, I have absolutely no pending task in the trámite category of my "to do" list. This is monumental!

What does trámite mean? There is no good equivalent term in English, but www.wordreference.com offers these definitions: "process; procedure; step, stage" or, additionally, "formality." My own definition goes something like this: "A (sometimes lengthy) legal or financial process that requires extensive paperwork and is fraught unforeseen delays and complications due to bureaucratic dysfunction and political corruption."

Of course, trámites are a necessary part of being international family and/or involvement in missions. We have completed them both here in Honduras and in the U.S., and some have been seemingly unending and complicated, and others have been straight-forward and simple.

A file for a "big" trámite

Praise God, now the three of us can live indefinitely in Honduras and also travel to the U.S. whenever needed (I will spare you the list of trámites involved in that...). The final two were my Honduras residency, which I started applying for almost four years ago (check!), and my Honduras driver's license (check!).

Each process has taught me important lessons in faith and character, although some have been blessings in disguise that I am more thankful for now that they are over. :) For example, the obscure document Fernando needed from a small country in West Africa where he lived: that piece of paper traveled a long way to the visa center only to be rejected because one letter was spelled wrong in his second last name (!!!). Anyway, here is what I've learned:

* It can be tempting to procrastinate trámites and all of the minute details each step requires. However, it is more than worth it to be as prompt and thorough as possible. Being proactive makes all the difference now and down the road when you need it the most.

* Fretting and getting angry when things go wrong does not help (this is obvious, but is difficult!). After doing all in our power, we can rest in God's sovereignty. There are stories of divine timing behind many of our trámites, beyond our knowledge and power during the process.

* Trámites would be impossible without a lot of help: powers of attorney, errands to FedEx, international wires, and someone to vent to occasionally. :) You know who you are! Now we get to help others; just this morning I sent some information to a friend.

* Life isn't fair this side of eternity. It might not be fair that I had to wait several months for my residency I.D. card to be printed because the machine was broken, but it is equally "unfair" for Baby J to so easily have dual citizenship that many people could never obtain! It goes both ways.

Baby J's very first trámite photo

* Although corruption and irresponsibility exist, kind people of integrity have helped us along the way and do the best job they can given the circumstances of their job.

* Our citizenship is in heaven; when we repent of our sins and believe in Jesus as Savior and Lord, we are "citizens with God's people and members of God's household" (Eph. 2:19). Nothing on earth can rival that kind of good news.

At some point, another trámite will be added to the "to do" list, but for now I will enjoy the break. I'd love to hear your trámite stories and what you have learned along the way.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Gift of a Listening Ear

One of the greatest gifts I have received is a listening ear, particularly when the one listening also has a caring heart and wise words. As my family and close friends can attest, I process ideas verbally, either through journaling or, better yet, conversation. In fact, if I am "stuck" in a situation, talking about it with someone can clear my thoughts and help me find a solution I would struggle to find otherwise. Since this kind of listening requires time, a lot of energy, empathy, trustworthiness, and tact, it is truly a gift!

Commission to Every Nation (CTEN), our missions agency, has "pastoral care couples," who pray for, communicate with, and visit CTEN missionaries in a given region. Stephen and Tammie, the pastoral care couple for Central America, visited us for several days last week. We first met them in May 2011, when we were in the process of joining CTEN, and saw them on their last visit two years ago (picture) and at our orientation last year. In between, we have appreciated being in touch via email or Skype concerning prayer needs and administrative questions.

During their stay, Stephen went with Fernando to Garífuna Bible school classes, and Tammie stayed at home with me. Baby J thought she was the best because she helped him walk around whenever he wanted:


Tammie and I talked about many topics, from our families, to her travels in this region, to cooking, and to books about Christianity and missions. I especially appreciated sharing with her about being a wife and new mom on the mission field and receiving fresh insight and practical advice about some of my questions and struggles. By the end of our time together, I had more clarity about changes to make and renewed perspective and purpose for this time in life. What a valuable gift!

Tammie giving her time, energy, and kindness to missionary women reminds me of this verse:

"Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people." Philemon 1:7

Friday, November 21, 2014

Fernando's Trip Report

Dear friends, thank you for praying for Fernando's trip to the U.S. and for those who gave special gifts to cover the cost. Here is a report with praises for what God did:

BILD Conference: Training and Fellowship

Fernando attended the annual BILD International Summit in Ames, Iowa, for the second year in a row. Leaders in theological training programs around the world attend this event to receive classes, learn more about how BILD can assist their ministry programs, and hear about what the Lord is doing through BILD at an international level.

Fernando took two classes. One was about the leadership model of the New Testament church in Antioch, from which Paul and his apostolic team strategically spread the gospel throughout the Roman Empire. The other covered the essential teachings of the church: the kerygma, or message of salvation through Christ, and the didache, or the apostles' fundamental teachings in the New Testament epistles.

Class session
 
We praise God that Erick, a Garífuna pastor who lives in Houston, could attend the Summit for the first time and learn about how to train other Garífuna leaders in the U.S. He and Fernando enjoyed talking with people from India, France, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and many other countries. Not only did they gain information, but they also were encouraged in the work God has called them.

Fernando (far left) and Pastor Erick (far right) with other participants


Visiting Ministry Partners

Fernando spent several days in Minnesota to meet with prayer and financial partners. He shared at a supporting church, an excellent opportunity to talk about what God is doing and thank people for their role in helping the Garífuna church.


Garífuna Church in Houston

Fernando traveled back to Houston with Pastor Erick to spend time with his family and church. He gave the sermon at the Sunday service. It was a real blessing for him to spend time with them and see how eager Pastor Erick is to start teaching his church about the Christ and the apostles' teaching, as he learned about at the BILD Summit.


Follow-Up Praise

We thank God for providing replacement laptops for those that were stolen when our ministry office was robbed in September. Fernando, Alex, and Wilber are in a different office in a safer location. Thank you to those who prayed and gave special gifts to meet that need!


Finishing 2014

Garífuna Bible school students will meet for this year's final class session the first week of December. Pastor Mark will come and share again. You can pray for students' travels (more difficult in rural areas due to rainy season), for the Lord to speak into their lives and ministry, and for a strong finish to this year. Thank you!


Just for fun:
Baby J enjoying oranges, which abound this time of year

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Typical Day Part 5: Evenings and Expecting the Unexpected

This is the final post of a five-part series about a "typical day" for us in Honduras.

Part 1: Rise and Shine!
Part 2: A Somewhat Quiet Time
Part 3: Dinner Time?
Part 4: The Great Escape

After Baby J and I get home from our late afternoon walk, I start preparing a simple, light dinner. Honduran dinners usually consist of either flour or corn tortillas, or fried green bananas or plantains (tajadas), with refried beans and cheese, egg, avocado, or a combination.

Proof I can make almost-round flour tortillas, although I have taken a hiatus since having a baby because it takes me so long and they don't always turn out right!

After dinner Baby J sometimes Skypes with his far-away grandparents. He loves bathtime, being read to, and burning off lots of energy before bed. He usually wears himself out (and his mommy out) by 8:00 or so. Then I finish any remaining chores, spend time with Fernando if he's home, read a bit, and go to bed! I have a hunch that moms all over the world look forward to when their babies drift off to sleep. :)

Good-night, world!


Several evenings each week Fernando goes to meetings and church events, and it's usually this time of day when "the unexpected" occurs. Something I love about Fernando is his servant heart and willingness to help people last-minute in times of need (day or night), such as:
  • Taking people to the hospital for emergencies. There is no reliable ambulance service, and some people do not have their own cars. At the hospital relatives often must provide basic ítems, such as IV ports, bedding, and medicine for the patient; dealing with the hospital system itself can be more thorny than treating an illness. Fernando is good at helping people in these situations.
  • Being with families who have lost a loved one. Garífuna families hold wakes when a relative passes away, and people from their home communities and acquaintances show solidarity with their presence.
  • Talking in person or on the phone with pastors and leaders who need counsel and encouragement in personal or ministry situations.
  • Mediating conflicts.

God has given him the ability make strategic plans in his work but also be flexible and available as needed (OK, I'm biased, but I'm sure others would agree with me!). Although these situations only occur on occasion at night, it has not always been easy for me not to worry about his safety, but I am learning and continue to praise God for how Fernando is a willing instrument of His love and care to others.


As for other exceptions to the "typical day" I've described include:
  • Fernando stays home with Baby J when I go to my weekly Bible study and when I run errands.
  • Fernando is gone all day when the Garífuna Bible school meets for classes.
  • Every once in awhile he travels to rural areas for ministry events and meetings.
  • Sometimes relatives stay with us when they travel to La Ceiba.

In many ways, our daily life is probably similar to that of our friends in North America: we love to spend time together, we try to use our time and resources wisely, and we long to see His kingdom come and His Name glorified where we live. In other ways, our life is quite different: you most likely don't have razor wire around your house or bars on your windows, and you probably don't stop by at a friend's house without calling to plan it ahead of time!

Some of you might not know how encouraging it is for me in daily life to know you pray for us and care so much about our family -- and on the not-so-good days it makes all the difference! My prayer is that even in small details of everyday life we will faithfully praise the Lord, love our families and those around us, and share the Gospel through our words and actions. Thank you for reading!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Typical Day Part 4: The Great Escape

"Part 4: The Great Escape" continues a blog series about "a typical day" for us in Honduras.

You can find the other parts here:
Part 1: Rise and Shine!
Part 2: A Somewhat Quiet Time
Part 3: Dinner Time?
Typical Day Part 5: Evenings and Expecting the Unexpected

Caribbean afternoons can feel sweltering and lethargic. (Hammock time, anyone?) In order to stay motivated and focused on whatever I need to do (even if it takes me longer than it would in morning), I look forward to a "great escape" at the end of the afternoon. When Baby J takes his second nap I work miscellaneous projects, such as analyzing Garífuna grammar, blogging, menu planning, helping Fernando with behind-the-scenes ministry tasks, etc. When Baby J gets up, weather permitting, we are both very ready to get out of the house!

"Let's go, Mom!"
 

Our neighborhood is home to other families who enjoy sitting or walking outside as the sun gets lower and the breeze becomes cooler. Baby J loves riding in his stroller in the fresh air and seeing other babies and kids, and I enjoy exercise with a view of the mountains.

We are getting to know some of our many Garífuna neighbors. In fact, lately I have had more of a language workout than physical exercise! I am looking forward to getting to know these other mothers and their kids, and especially to sharing the Gospel with those who are not yet believers.

Just the other day we stopped by someone's house, and Baby J was included in impromptu drumming while his little friends danced around the living room. He didn't want to leave!

A few things that might be different than going for a walk in a U.S. neighborhood:
  • We are wary of dogs roaming the streets. Usually they are harmless, but once I was almost bit on the ankle! (We don't go down that street anymore!)
  • Kids run up to say hi to Baby J, sometimes giving him a hug or "shaking" his hand. It's very cute, and it's a great way to meet people!
  • Boys of all ages love to gather to play soccer in the street, setting up rocks or flip-flops as goal posts.
  • People use part of their houses to set up pulperías, or small stores, and there are quite a few in our neighborhood. You can buy cell phone credit; basic food items, such as eggs, bread, rice, and more; everyday household ítems, like laundry soap, matches, and batteries; over-the-counter medicines; and more.

 What a typical pulpería looks like from the outside*...

...and the inside.*
It gets dark here around 6:00, so our escape comes to an end; we are tired and ready to go home and finish up the day. We always feel relaxed and refreshed when we get back.

Next time I'll finish the series talking about the end of the day, which sometimes is the least predictable: "Part 5: Evenings and Expecting the Unexpected."

*Pictures from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/24962422 & http://www.scrollpublishing.com/store/Honduras-newsletter-March-2007.html

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Typical Day Part 3: Dinner Time?

"Part 3: Dinner Time?" is the next part in answering the question, "What is a typical day like for you guys?"

You can find the other parts here:
Part 1: Rise and Shine!
Part 2: A Somewhat Quiet Time
Part 4: The Great Escape
Typical Day Part 5: Evenings and Expecting the Unexpected

It is common in Latin America for families to share the main meal around noon, instead of in the evening like in North America. Some schools have a two-hour break for students to go home and eat dinner with their families before returning to afternoon classes, and some smaller businesses are closed during this time. Here are some of the reasons I like having our main meal at noon:
  • I feel better when I eat more around noon and a lighter meal before bed.
  • It's cooler and I have more energy to cook in the morning.
  • Fernando comes home!
A typical Honduran almuerzo (dinner) includes rice, meat and/or red beans (whole, not refried), and some other side, like boiled ripe plantains or green bananas, corn tortillas, or salad.

Rice and beans, fried chicken, fried plantains, and salad* -- hungry yet? :)

I usually make only one carbohydrate, usually rice, but sometimes potatoes or boiled plantains; meat; red or black beans; and vegetables (usually cooked instead of raw). I avoid using the oven and find stove-top cooking more efficient (and less hot!).


Dinner time is more fun now that Baby J is eating solid foods!


This window of time together is also perfect for touching base, especially if Fernando and I need to talk or help each other with a particular task or project, or if Fernando will be gone that evening for a meeting.

Afterward, Fernando heads back to work at the office, to meetings, or to run errands, and start looking forward to "The Great Escape," which I'll share next time in Part 4.

*The picture above is from http://www.honduras.com/foods/

Monday, October 27, 2014

Typical Day Part 2: A Somewhat Quiet Time

This little blog series is an attempt to answer the question, "What is a typical day like for you guys?" Part 1: Rise and Shine! was about starting the morning; Part 2 is about one my favorite times each day: "A Somewhat Quiet Time."

You can find the other parts here:
Part 1: Rise and Shine!
Part 3: Dinner Time?
Part 4: The Great Escape
Typical Day Part 5: Evenings and Expecting the Unexpected

While Baby J takes his morning nap, I spend time alone with the Lord to study the Bible, pray, and memorize Scripture. It's the best moment to take a break from activity and to focus my heart on the Lord, enjoying His Word and presence. Of course, this habit is important wherever I live, but here I have a greater awareness of how thankful I am to have God's Word in my own language.

My "somewhat quiet time" spot


Afterward, I work on administrative tasks (answering emails, finances, meal planning, etc.) until Baby J wakes up.

For the most part, mornings are a calm time because many people are at school or work. However, some days are quieter than others, depending on construction noise, neighbors' music, or people stopping by: the man who distributes the electric bills; the garbage pick-up crew; and vendors selling jugs of purified water, produce, or household items. But these interruptions are usually minimal, and they can happen at other times throughout the day, too.

A few children occasionally come by asking to do jobs for pay or for food. It can be tricky figuring out how to best respond to this. I like to give them fruit, tortillas, bread, or a small bag of rice to take home, if I have these ítems on hand. I avoid giving money, and I don't give food every time they come. Praying for them as they come to mind throughout the day, and being kind to them (even if I don't have food to give that particular day) is the very least I can do.

Earlier this year there were power outages several times a week, and Baby J had a hard time sleeping without a fan to keep him cool and block out some of the noise. Lately we hardly ever have power outages, and that makes the whole day easier!

The key to a good nap? A fan!

 As noon starts to approach, I feel refreshed and ready to prepare for "Part 3: Dinner Time?"

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Typical Day Part 1: Rise and Shine!

During our furlough last year, people often asked us to describe a typical day of our life in Honduras. This was difficult to answer for two reasons. First, life Latin America, as well as missions/ministry, can be somewhat unpredictable. Second, I have spent more time in Latin America than the U.S. in the past ten years and continue to blend aspects from both places into everyday life to the point of not being able to quickly or easily describe what is "typical" or "different (exotic)"!

Now that I've thought about it more, I will share a five-part series about what everyday life is like for us, with some pictures to give you a better idea. This is "Part 1: Rise and Shine!" You can find the other parts here:

Part 1: Rise and Shine!
Part 2: A Somewhat Quiet Time
Part 3: Dinner Time?
Part 4: The Great Escape
Typical Day Part 5: Evenings and Expecting the Unexpected

By 6:00 on the Caribbean coast the sun starts to rise, the temperature begins to go up, and people are getting ready for work and school; some schools start at 7:00 A.M. It's good to start the day early, before the heat becomes more stifling.

A "typical" Honduran breakfast usually consists of tortillas, scrambled eggs, refried beans, cheese, and sometimes avocado... and, more often than not, strong coffee. We sometimes have variations of this, or granola, cereal, or toast... and always have coffee. :)

Those who do not have coffee makers or electricity put grounds inside this
and then pour hot water through. It works just as well!


After breakfast, Fernando goes to the office or to run errands; I get started on laundry, cooking, and cleaning; and Baby J usually plays contentedly (most days!). This might sound familiar to some of you! :) However, our mornings might be different in other ways:


First, the amount of laundry I do depends on what the weather looks like because I line-dry clothes. Unlike dryers, washing machines are fairly common; however, many women wash clothes by hand in a pila (see picture below) or, if they don't have one, in a river.

Pilas, found in most Honduran homes, have a water tank and washboard. Although I use a washing machine, I love how useful the pila is and always miss it when I'm in the U.S.


Second, I cook with a gas stove (great to have if the power goes out) and rarely use the oven: it's too hot, hard to regulate, and takes too long.

This is our stove with the tank on the left. When it runs out, I call a gas business, and they send a delivery guy on a motorcycle to replace the tank (kind of like pizza delivery!).


Third, we eat our main meal at noon, which is common in this part of the world, so I mostly cook in the morning. One bonus: it's cooler! Another advantage: I have more energy in the morning. I'll describe a typical Honduran lunch in Part 3.


Fourth, houses have tile floors and get dusty, so it's best to sweep and mop on a daily basis. I prefer this simplicity to complicated vacuum cleaners. I also like how easy it is to clean the floor after Baby J eats and wash the mop in the pila.



I always like having a productive start to the day, but I'll be post about one of my favorite times next time in Part 2: "A Somewhat Quiet Time."

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Book Review: Expectations and Burnout

A few weeks ago I was sick with a cold and my laptop wasn't working, so it was the perfect time to read a book my mom had given me that had been on my "to read" list. "Expectations and Burnout: Women Surviving the Great Commission," by Sue Eenigenburg and Robynn Bliss, discusses expectations missionary women have of missionary work and life, which they are often unaware of, and how this relates to burnout. This compilation of Eenigenburg's graduate dissertation, based on a survey she conducted with missionary women, is interwoven with Bliss's personal experience of burnout and recovery.

Six sources of expectations, both real and perceived, are examined (p. 19):
  1. Self: what women expect of themselves compared to "ideal missionaries."
  2. Sending church: expectations supporting individuals and churches have of women missionaries.
  3. Mission agency: expectations women have of their agency and vice-versa.
  4. Fellow missionaries: relationships between teammates.
  5. National friends and host culture: what women expect of individuals in the host culture and what she perceives they expect of her.
  6. God: what happens when God does not act the way missionary women expect He will.
Iin addition to the statistics and anonymous responses to Eenigenburg's survey, readers also find practical survival tips and Bliss's story as it relates to the given topic. The authors also include numerous references of research related to expectations and burnout; however, they note that more research is needed specifically about women and their unique needs in missions. Readers are challenged to honestly examine their own expectations, to take action where possible, and, above all, to trust in the Lord and allow Him to work in our hearts through our weaknesses and difficult circumstances.

Overall, this is a helpful and solid resource for missionary women. I found the statistics a bit tedious and the references to other material somewhat distracting, and chapter subheadings would greatly aid retaining the information returning to specific subpoints later. However, I appreciated the honest yet compassionate tone; it felt as though the authors were sitting in a circle of women sharing from their own struggles, victories, and contagious love for the Lord and the Great Commission. In addition, the anonymous voices from the survey communicated multiple perspectives that fleshed out each point.

I would recommend this book to women preparing to go the mission field as well as those with years of experience; to team leaders; to sending churches, missions pastors, and mobilizers; and to family and friends who want to pray and encourage women they love with greater understanding.

Here are my personal take-aways:
  • I now can see how expectations, based on my experiences learning Spanish and being immersed in Latino culture, have been a disadvantage in how I approach learning Garífuna and have distorted my perspective as a newcomer. I became aware of more of these expectations and how dealing with them can help me avoid pitfalls that lead to burnout and allow me to be much more open to how the Lord is working right here, right now.

  • My situation is different from many of those the book represents because I am not on an actual team with other expats and because my husband and his family are from here (and I love that part!).

  • Moving to Latin America as a single woman and developing close relationships in a Latino context allowed me to work through culture shock and lifestyle adjustments before getting married and having a baby. At least for me, I think it would have been more difficult to come of the field married with kids and accustomed to running a home in the U.S.

  • While we all need margin with time, resources, and energy, this is particularly crucial in order to thrive cross-culturally. In addition, my relationship with the Lord must always be a high priority, in spite of busyness and distractions.
In conclusion, this book could help many women evaluate their expectations and take steps to avoid burning out on the mission field.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Review: Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter

I wanted to share a review of "Building Family Ties with Faith, Love & Laughter," by David Stone, because I found it an inspiring, helpful, and practical source of ideas others might also enjoy. Stone, a pastor, posits that joyful Christian families are "an endangered species" (p. 16) and that, not only is it posible to be such a family, it is one of the things that ultimately matters at the end of our lives.

Each chapter discusses a way to reach this goal, including these topics:
  • Creating a family mission statement together, encouraging each other to live it out, and regularly evaluating how the family is reaching this goal.

  • Cultivating trust, starting with marriage commitment and unity as a foundation for parent-child and sibling relationships.

  • Making lasting special memories and teaching kids about the Lord through humor, just as Jesus used hyperboles to make His audience laugh and remember spiritual truths. Stone clarifies humor should uplifting and edifying, not belittling or cutting.

  • Making the "hour of power," or family meals together, a high priority and a productive time to  focus on others and demonstrate hospitality. This chapter includes a variety of mealtime activities and practical ways for kids to be actively involved in showing kindness to guests.

  • Developing contentment, gratitude, and generosity, particularly with material possessions. The heart of this chapter is that "[joy is not] dependent on your possessions; it's derived from your purpose" (p. 96).

  • Maintaining loyalty within the family, showing mutual respect through confidentiality, such as not sharing embarrassing stories with other people about a family member.

  • Recognizing the power of words, how hurtful comments affect people for decades, but using kind, truthful, and uplifting words unifies and strengthens families.

  • Actively practicing service together as a family, which creates special memories and sets an example for kids. Stone discusses the "Good-Better-Best Principle" in which parents and kids discuss what good behavior woud be in a specific situation, but what would be even better, and what could be best (p. 136).

  • Keeping an eternal perspective as a family practices these principles in daily life.

I particularly enjoyed these characteristics of Stone's writing style:
  • Numerous Scripture verses throughout the book.

  • Humor and memorable anecdotes that illustrate key points in a memorable way.

  • Creativity, such as breaking the family meal chapter into "courses" (appetizers, main course, dessert) correlating to main points.

  • Abundant concrete, practical examples of family activities.

  • Clear organization of chapters and sections for easy reference on a particular topic.

  • Lighthearted tone, challenging the reader to serious action in a motivating and inspiring way.

My own take-aways:
  • I have a lot to learn about how to raise a godly, joyful family! It's obvious but worth reminding myself that parenting is all about example! The most important contribution I can make to my family is walking closely to Jesus and learning from others.

  • I want to re-read this book periodically to evaluate how our family is doing and to acquire fresh ideas and perspective about specific topics.

  • I am not too into the family mission statement part. I understand the rationale, but it would feel forced to me.

  • The material could be used for group discussion with other parents or for sermon or teaching ideas in church settings.

  • Some ideas in the book could be useful for missionary families: the importance of family traditions in the midst of the many transitions that come with missionary life; providing a safe haven of trust and loyalty for missionary kids who might feel like they live in a "fishbowl" both overseas and in their home countries.

  • Cross-cultural families could discuss how to apply principles in their specific contexts. For example, Garífuna families do not often sit down together at a table for a meal (everyone eats whenever he/she is ready), but they do spend quality time together in other ways (such as gathering in the kitchen in the evening).

In summary, I was challenged and inspired by this book, and I highly recommend it to others.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall Newsletter

We just sent out our fall newsletter! Click here to read it and here to subscribe to our quarterly newsletters. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Catching Up: Good News, Bad News, and More...

Hello everyone! Between travel, sickness, and a laptop problem I got behind on blogging, so this post is an overview of the past month or so.

As for ministry news:

Pastor Training: Worship and Leadership

Pastors met for another class session. Pastor Mark, from the U.S., taught about Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus, addressing pastoral work. Pastor Eric, a Garífuna pastor who lives in Houston, held discussions. Fernando led the BILD International portion with texts and discussion about churches being a "family of families."

Highlights included rich times of worship first thing each day and a pastor thanking Mark for his teaching, saying: "I had been guiding my church the wrong." We pray that each student will be more prepared to follow Paul's example of investing in emerging leaders, like Timothy and Titus.


The Not-So-Good News: Robbery

Fernando has rented an office space where he, Alex, and Wilber can work, since we now live in a house that does not have an office area. Earlier this week, an armed man forced one of the guys to wait in the bathroom while he stole the laptops they use for working on the Garífuna oral story project and for their college homework. Although the the material loss was significant, we are thankful he is OK and did not resist the thief. We like to focus on the many good things about Honduras, but it is impossible to ignore the level and impact of crime here. We appreciate prayer for God's protection.


Prayer Requests: What's around the Corner
  • We are looking for a pick-up truck for traveling back and forth to "Wageira" (pseudonym), the rural community where we live and minister. We praise God for His provision of funds and are asking Him for just the right vehicle, which would enable Fernando to travel more easily and oversee construction of the house.
  • Fernando and several other Bible school leaders plan to attend the annual BILD International Summit, where they will meet with leaders from around the world and learn more about how to implement this program in their ministries. Please pray for those who need visas, for plane tickets and flight itineraries, and for a productive trip.

As for family/personal news...

Baby J's First International Trip

I took Baby J to see my family in Washington - his first time on an airplane and my first time traveling with an infant. We made it! Baby J enjoyed the kind attention of those along our way: other travelers, flight attendants, and even security agents. :) It was well worth the long trip for Baby J to meet his grandpa and great-grandma (who is almost 90). He seemed to enjoy the cooler weather and, of course, being spoiled by his grandparents.




He is now eight months old! He loves "dancing," being read to, and giving "kisses."



Women's Bible Study

The women's Bible study group I meet with in La Ceiba has started up again, and I am grateful for being able to study God's Word in English and learn from the other women, most of whom are older than I and share a wealth of experience as wives, moms, missionaries, and Christ followers. I've written about how this group has blessed and couraged me here and here.

Rainy Season has Begun

The intense hot season is subsiding into refreshingly cooler weather and more frequent rains. This means I hang laundry early and keep an eye on the clouds, take more precautions while driving on roads with standing water, and enjoy cooking our midday meals much more than before! :) This is the view looking out our carport gate toward the mountains; it's a good day for laundry... at least for the moment!



Thank you for reading our news and standing with us in prayer. Coming soon: two book reviews and our fall newsletter.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Connecting the Dots

"Where are we now? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?" These are the kinds of questions Fernando and the Garífuna seminary leadership team addressed this past week during strategic planning meetings. Several years ago, the Lord gave Fernando the vision to see Garífuna pastors and leaders receive ministry training, many for the first time, and He has faithfully met needs with his perfect and faithful provision.

For example, there was a great need for training materials and curriculum pastors could study and then teach in their own churches. God provided a link to BILD International, which offers materials for grassroots local church ministry all the way to college-level degrees. Fernando also needed others to help, and God has brought together a team of Garífuna leaders committed to the vision. God has also provided people with experience in theological training to help with teaching and planning.

One of these people is Pastor Al, who has used years of experience in the business world to help people like the Garífuna leadership team make strategic plans for implementing BILD. We met him on a ministry trip to Minnesota last year and were impressed with his kindness and heart for pastors around the world. Since then, Al and Fernando have worked together via Skype and email, and Fernando has in turn met with the other leaders. This week, Al came to Honduras to meet with them, and they addressed important questions and ideas for how to more effectively continue theological training and reach more pastors, who, in turn, can reach more Garífuna people with the gospel.



We praise God for how He has "connected the dots," providing connections to materials, resources, and -- most importantly -- people to carry out the work He has called us to. In the midst of great needs and unknowns, He is faithful. We also thank God for providing you, our partners who have joined with us in this challenge, and please pray for the Lord to give continual strength, clarity, and unity to this team as they take what they learned and apply it to their work.


Left to right: Pastor Jose, who trains people from churches in his home community and helps teach a new group of pastors (you maybe remember from this video); Pastor Eduardo, who leads a Garífuna congregation in La Ceiba; Elvis, who has assisted Fernando, especially while we were on furlough last year; Fernando; and Deiby, who recently joined the team by helping with administration and logistics for training events.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Praise Update

Thank you for your prayers for last week's Bible school classes with a new pastor training group! This time even more participants were able to join the group, and they were very encouraged with what they learned in classes and fellowship. The morning sessions were led by a very experienced pastor and seminary professor from Oregon; he taught about leadership. In the afternoon, a Garífuna pastor, who serves in Houston, led discussions based on students' questions and comments about the practical implications of what had been covered in the morning. We thank the Lord for how He worked in everyone's lives throughout the week and for all who served in various ways to bring the details together. Here are some pictures:





Thank you also for praying for Fernando's family, as two of his relatives were sick in the hospital. Both are doing better and have been able to continue recovering at home. It is always encouraging to share prayer needs and know you all are lifting them up. Thank you!

Fernando is preparing to meet with a pastor with extensive experience in strategic planning in the business world, as well as teaching BILD discipleship classes in a local church setting. Pray for this time to be fruitful and Spirit-led and that, ultimately, the seminary can even more effectively train pastors and leaders to reach and disciple more Garífuna people in the good news of Jesus.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Your Prayers, Please!

Hello, friends and prayer partners. I wanted to share a few prayer needs you can be lifting up in the next few days.

Next week a group of pastors and leaders will come together for classes. The morning sessions will be taught by a man visiting from Oregon, and the afternoon sessions by a Garífuna pastor who lives and serves in Houston, Texas. Here are some specific ways you can pray (in addition to however the Lord leads you):
  • Pray for Elvis, one of the main seminary leaders, as he communicates with the participants, who will be coming from many different Garífuna communities.
  • Pray for safe travels, good health, and God-prepared hearts for the students and leaders.
  • Pray for Deiby, who is responsable for the administrative details (meals, lodging, etc.).
  • Pray for Fernando as he coordinates the training and translates for the English-speaking teacher.

Also, two of Fernando's relatives have been ill and are in a hospital in La Ceiba. Some of you may understand how difficult medical situations can be here. If you think of it, please pray for continued recovery, for strength for the family, and especially for Fernando during this busy time. Thank you!

On a happy note, Baby is J is six months old! We are having lots of fun watching his little personality come out!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Some Praises to Share

Hi friends! We wanted to share a few praises with you:

Last night, Fernando led a story fellowship group (telling an oral Bible story with questions and dicussion) in a nearby Garífuna community, and a woman accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior! Thank you for praying for the OneStory project.

Alex and Wilber, who work full-time with Fernando, both found out this week that they have been accepted into college programs. Wilber received a scholarship for a one-year program that covers administrative and computer skills in the same university where Fernando completed his MBA program. This will give him solid preparation for future studies and jobs. Alex will be studying a four-year eco-tourism degree in one of the main Honduran universities. We praise God for providing them with the opportunity to study and still continue working on ministry projects with Fernando. We are proud of them, too. Thank you for praying for them!

I'll post soon about activities and prayer requests for this next month. Thank you for standing with us in prayer!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Memorizing Scripture: Why? How?

Almost two years ago I sat across a fast food restaurant table from a high school girl who had tears running down her cheeks. She was dealing with grief, rejection, and weighty burdens I have never experienced. It was one of those moments where I knew none of my words would do much good, and I really wanted to share a few Bible verses that could speak into her current situation.

I realized that, although I could paraphrase verses (more easily in English than Spanish) or locate them in my Bible, I felt the conviction that I needed to be intentional about memorizing Scripture – a spiritual discipline I simply hadn’t focused on in the past few years. I wanted to have a mental index of verses according to topics and doctrines that I could, by the Spirit’s leading, turn to in a given situation. As I had conversations with other girls about different circumstances, I was reminded I needed to begin, but I needed a good system to keep me motivated and diligent.

In fall of 2012, I found this great list of verses by topic, and this website helped me figure out a system:
  • Mondays/Thursdays: memorize a new verse, reading it aloud ten times and then repeating it ten times, looking only when needed.
  • Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Fridays/Saturdays: review previous verses once each and repeat the newest verse ten times (twelve verses total).
  • Sundays: review all verses from the beginning, once each.
Over time, I added new verses more frequently, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

I finally completed the whole list! There were times I had to put it to the side (moving back to Honduras, having our baby, etc.), but I thank God for helping me stick with it and reach the goal. I have found this mental list of verses helpful when studying the Bible with people, sending someone a note, keeping my mind calm before going into the operating room (twice by now!), meditating on truth before falling asleep, and more.

Now I'm eager to memorize more. The BILD discipleship program has questions and discussions designed around biblical texts that are foundational to our faith, and I plan to focus on these passages next. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit will use the Word to renew my mind, change my heart, and speak truth and hope into others’ lives as He leads.

I wanted to share this with those who might feel overwhelmed by the idea of memorizing Scripture, in case some of this information is helpful and encouraging. However you make it work for you, it's more than worth it! Feel free to share your own strategies, challenges, or ideas about Scripture memory in the comment section below.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

Thursday, July 17, 2014

It Happens Once a Year...

Every July Garífuna Christians come together for four days to worship, fellowship, and hear from God's Word all in their language. This year they met in a rural community near where Fernando is from.

Fernando enjoyed reconnecting with pastors and fellow believers not only from communities in Honduras, but also from Guatemala, Belize, and the U.S. It was encouraging for everyone to share about what the Lord is doing among Garífuna people in those places. About 500 people attended!

Fernando shared a message about how unity is an essential element to expanding the gospel, and he also served on the team that plans and carries out the details of the event. He took Alex and Wilber, who work with him full-time on ministry projects, and it was the first time they participated.

Praise the Lord for those who received Jesus as their Lord and Savior in response to an open-air meeting with the aim of evangelism, and also for how He strengthened His people as they met together.

Unfortunately, I charged the camera battery and forgot to put it in the camera when I gave it to Fernando to take with him (I discovered the lone battery shortly after he left...). This is a picture from two years ago:



Next year we should be able to share pictures with you, but we at least wanted to share these praises with you.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Summer Newsletter

You can read our latest newsletter here. You can subscribe to our newsletters here. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Beautiful Sounds

Recently I had the chance to combine several of my favorite things: phonetics (the study of the sounds of languages) + Garífuna language + teaching. The OneStory workshop we have helped with includes a one-week module about language learning. The facilitator offered the course in English to a missionary family who feel called to serve in Garífuna communities and would like to learn the language. The following week, the same material was offered in Spanish to the OneStory participants, who will spend the next few weeks in a Garífuna community to apply what they learned about language learning.

I was invited to share about sounds of the Garífuna language. Here is a little snapshot for those who might find it interesting:

These are the consonants in Garífuna that sound like English sounds:

b as in 'boy'
ch as in 'child'
d as in 'dog'
f as in 'fun'
g as in 'girl'
h as in 'hand'
m as in 'man'
n as in 'nap' (one of my favorite words these days, as some of you might understand)
s as in 'sun'
w as in 'win'
y as in 'yes'

These consonants sound more like Spanish:

k as in 'coco' ('coconut'): it's a softer, unaspirated 'k'
l as in 'lata' ('can'): it's a lighter-sounding 'l' in which only the tip of the tongue is used, unlike the English sound of 'dull' where the back of the tongue is also raised
p as in 'poco' ('a little'): softer, unaspirated, like 'k'
r as in 'pero' ('but'), but never 'rr' as in 'perro' ('dog')
t as in 'taco': softer, unaspirated, like 'k' and 'p'

This consonant is not found in either English or Spanish: ñ. It is like a blend of the English 'y' and Spanish 'ñ'; it's like saying a nasalized 'y' or saying the Spanish 'ñ' without letting the top of your tongue touch the hard palate.

These vowels are like Spanish: a, e, i, o, u. A sixth vowel, ü, is unlike either English or Spanish. It is like trying to say 'ooooo' (or the Spanish 'u') with a smile instead of rounded lips. Any of these six vowels can be nasalized or lengthened. This six-vowel system with lengthening and nasalization is common in Amerindian languages.

As for prosodic features (musical characteristics), syllable stress is important for differentiating meaning. For example: 'agüragua' (first syllable stressed) means 'to bite' and 'agüragua' (second syllable stressed) means 'to tie up.' Also, intonation tends to be falling, or descending, even with questions.

While phonetics may be fun for some of us, the goal of linguistics and language learning is to communicate in the heart language of people for the Lord's work. If you think of it, pray for this missionary family, for the OneStory participants, and also for me to push on in language learning and remember why it is important. Thank you, and if you have questions you can post them in the comment section below!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Reaching More Pastors and Leaders

This past week a new training group was launched through the Mua Buiti Garífuna seminary. Pastor Mark, from the U.S., who has helped with classes in the past, taught an overview of the gospels.

Pastor Mark teaching and Fernando translating 

 
Pastors José, Emilio, and Elvis, who graduated from the first series of BILD International training, led the BILD portion of classes. They are teaching the same materials they have studied and also used for discipling church members in their communities. Their experience helps new participants as they prepare to implement the same program in their churches, as well.

BILD training discussion groups


Alex and Wilber, the two young men who have been translating a more advanced BILD series into Garífuna and who are involved in the OneStory project, were among the participants. This was a great opportunity to learn more about God's Word and see how their translation work will be applied in similar trainings in the future.

Several leaders were a great help to Fernando with the preparation details. Elvis, a young assistant pastor in a Garífuna community a few hours from here, has been Fernando's right-hand man in the past few years, such as while we were in the U.S. on furlough last year. Elvis was responsible for inviting participants and providing them with information about classes. Deiby has helped as administrator, coordinating classroom and dormitory repairs, meals, and materials.
 
Pastor Mark will return in September, when the group will meet again to continue their studies. In the meantime, they will complete homework assignments and meet in small groups in their regions.



Thank you to all who have prayed for the Bible school and specifically for this new group of students. Please pray students and leaders, for commitment in their studies, for unity, and for wisdom and vision in applying what they learn in their various contexts.

Friday, May 30, 2014

OneStory Workshop: Worldview


Thank you to all who have been praying for the OneStory workshop the past two weeks.

Fernando has been helping the Wycliffe missionary coordinating the training. Participants include four young Garífuna men, two Colombians, and three Mexicans, along with two Miskito men who have also helped facilitate.

One afternoon this week I taught a module about cultural values and worldview influence the story selection of a OneStory project. The term "worldview" refers to the beliefs and assumptions a group holds about origin of life, God and/or supernatural beings, good and evil, causes and consequences of circumstances, etc. I was fun to be back in "teacher" mode and discuss different kinds of worldviews, their strengths and weaknesses, and how God's Word addresses those.

Today they will finish these classes and spend the next few weeks practicing crafting stories, leading story fellowship groups, and learning about language and culture acquisition. Afterward, they will travel to a Garífuna community.

You can pray the Lord will use this experience to prepare them for serving in missions.


P.S. Today Baby J turns four months old!

Friday, May 16, 2014

First Mother's Day + OneStory Workshop

I had a very special first Mother's Day! Baby J had a little gift for me in the morning. :)


Fernando gave me this cute top, and we had a relaxing morning together before going to church.
.

On Mother's Day of last year, I prayed for a baby sometime in the coming year. I had some health problems, but the Lord answered our prayers and gave us a beautiful baby boy!


For the next two weeks Fernando will help facilitate a OneStory workshop near La Ceiba, as I did a year ago (I'll go once or twice to help teach and bring along Baby J as my assistant!). Participants are from various Latin American countries, including Honduras, who are interested in using OneStory in global missions. They will learn how to craft stories and lead story fellowship groups. You can pray for Fernando and those facilitating and coordinating the training, as well as participants, that the Lord will prepare workers for the harvest and be glorified as they learn together. Thank you!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Dramatizing, Batteries, and Cake

This past Sunday our church family in La Ceiba celebrated its 14th birthday. During the special service, the fellowship group Fernando leads performed a drama of two stories they recently learned together ("Creation" and "The Fall"). I intended to take pictures and video, but just as they began, I realized my camera battery was dead, probably because of a spontaneous photo session just before leaving the house:


At least I was able to take a picture of some kids doing a choreography earlier in the service, just to give you an idea of what church looks like (in the middle of a building project):



Anyway, it was great to observe how the group has enjoyed learning the stories and interacting together, including several people who are new to the Bible and church.

The group usually meets at another house each Wednesday evening, and I usually stay home with Baby J. But this past week, everyone came to our house, so I was able to join in the story-telling time. We are thankful for a home where we can have groups of people crowd into our living room for meetings like this. I was too busy serving them cake I made to take a picture, and I didn't want to distract anyone during while the story was being told! Maybe another time.

The latest story was about God's covenant with Abraham. Fernando told it several times, and then we broke into small groups to retell it together. I was able to tell most of the story in Garífuna, not perfectly, but still worth celebrating! After we retold it, Fernando led a short discussion in which people were free to talk about their observations.

In addition to learning God's Word together, another benefit of story-telling is finding out how to improve a current narration. Fernando and I noticed some spots that were difficult for people to remember, and this helps Fernando know how to make revisions.

Please continue to pray for good progress with the Garífuna story set and for the Lord to work in people's lives as they hear His Word. Thank you for your partnership in this work!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Heat Wave!

The past few mornings, when I first look out the window and see gray I think, “Is it cloudy today?! Does this mean rain?!” Then I look outside and see the sun hiding behind a thick layer of smoggy humidity, and I know it's going to be a very hot day.

 
We are in the middle of some of the hottest months of the year – when the temperature hovers in the 90s, but the high humidity makes a “real feel” of 110 degrees or more. The past two days the electricity was off for several hours (no fans!!!), and this prompted me to remind myself what I do like about this time of year:
 
  • This is a good time of year to have already had a baby (I can't imagine being pregnant right now...). Diapers dry quickly!
  • I get tan without trying, just by doing laundry!
 
  • My skin looks good thanks to constant sweating.
 
  • We are in the middle of mango and avocado season.
 
  • I no longer dislike rain, as I did in Washington. I love rain here!
 
  • I feel so much better when it's hot than when it's cold, even though I grew up in a cold climate. If I had to choose one extreme, I would definitely take this one.
 
  • We know that it can't get much hotter, so it's all downhill from here!

 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Bible Stories: Written or Oral?

When people learn about OneStory (creating story sets in vernacular languages to be used for evangelism and discipleship) some ask, "Are you trying to replace reading the Bible?" I was reminded of this question when Fernando shared with me the impact stories have had on several people, and it brings up two key points related to Bible storying.

First, for those from cultures where the written word is foundational for communication and learning, it can be difficult to understand the role of storytelling in cultures where oral communication is the primary medium for teaching history, instilling values, or creating entertainment in a social group. The vast majority of Garífuna people in mainland Honduras learn Spanish in school, and it is the language for written communication in this part of the world. In contrast, the Garífuna language has a wealth of stories shared orally both over time and from community to community. Spanish is a necessity for education and work, but Garífuna is the "heart language." This is why we are working to create a set of oral stories in Garífuna that illustrate Jesus' redemptive work.

Second, in both Old and New Testament times, biblical truth was often communicated orally. For example, Jesus used parables to teach spiritual truths, stories that His listeners could remember and share with others. In a OneStory project, stories must be accurate (faithful to Scripture), natural-sounding in the vernacular language, and also reproducible so that listeners can share them with others during their everyday lives. As the Lord has used oral communication to transmit and establish His truth for generations, we pray that the good news will be available and reproducible orally.

However, our goal is not for people to stop reading the Bible -- rather, we praise God for how stories in Garífuna lead people to read their Bibles more! Fernando, together with a consultant and some young men, has been creating and revising stories for the Garífuna set. One day he went to the get his hair cut and told a very well-known story to the barber, who is not a believer yet. When Fernando went back, the barber said, "The story you told me last time -- it IS in the Bible! My wife and I looked for it, and we found and read it." Because of a story (during a haircut!), a couple was prompted to read God's Word for themselves.

Fernando has been teaching the stories at one of our church's weekly fellowship groups. Everyone hears the story several times, learns to retell it, and has a discussion about it. One woman, a believer who knows the Bible very well, says that she looks up the stories afterward to compare the story to the written text. Sometimes after reading a passage many times, hearing it as a story directs our attention to what we haven't noticed before.

So, NO, the goal of oral storying is not to replace reading God's Word -- and we are seeing how oral storying prompts people of different levels of biblical knowledge to read God's Word! Please continue to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide the story crafting process and to use storying opportunities, whether infomally or formally, one-on-one or in groups, to bring people to Himself.