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: &

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

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.