Friday, January 29, 2016

Honduran-Style Holidays

We spent Christmas and New Year's in La Ceiba, as our village house isn't quite ready for a toddler and baby. (Here is a post about what holiday celebrations are like in rural Garífuna communities.) Although many people prefer to travel to their home communities instead of staying in the city, we still had a fun time as a family (Part 1), and we now realize God had a plan for Fernando to be here (Part 2 below).

Part 1: Enjoying the Holidays

Many Hondurans decorate for Christmas, stringing lights on their roofs and winding them around palm trees. Garlands and trees with artificial flowers and pinecones, lights, and ornaments, are common, as well as snowmen, reindeer, and other symbols. With such a hot year, it made the north pole feel a tiny bit closer!

Our toddller-friendly wreath

Christmas music plays in stores, including carols and songs familiar to us but in Spanish, and also typical upbeat Latino carols. You can hear one about how the fish in the river drink water when they see baby Jesus is born and the burrito (donkey) who traveled to Bethlehem. (These two get stuck in my head whenever I go to the grocery store during the Christmas season.)

Honduran women spend Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) in the kitchen, preparing tamales, arroz con pollo (rice with chicken), roasted meats, and cakes and breads. Families stay up until midnight eating the food and setting off fireworks. People sleep in on Christmas Day and then visit and share food with family, friends, and neighbors. We were given some delicious dishes from both Garífuna and Latino friends and neighbors.

Check out the Christmas lights on this taxi. Sadly, I didn't have the camera when a car with antlers went by.

New Year's is considered the most important holiday of the year, and the exodus from urban to rural areas increases. Like Christmas, women prepare food and families await midnight to set off fireworks and celebrate the start of the year... and then spend New Year's Day recovering!

Although we missed the more colorful traditions of Garífuna communities, and especially spending time with family, I made my mom's Christmas Day coffee cake and some cookies (which had to be refrigerated so they wouldn't melt), and my Christmas "gifts" were the extra quiet and increased water pressure due to an emptier neighborhood. :)

Having fun together over the holidays

Part 2: Joining Others in Suffering

We saw how God allowed Fernando to be in La Ceiba to minister in two difficult situations. The first occurred near the village the day after Christmas. A relative got stuck crossing the sandbar in the early morning hours, the common time to begin the long trip to the nearest city. Some other travelers stopped to pull the stalled pick-up across and, tragically, were mistaken for drug traffickers by a military group, who opened fire and killed one young man.

No drugs or weapons were found on anybody or in any vehicle. Another man, about 20 years of age, was wounded and transferred to a hospital in La Ceiba, where he passed away. Fernando joined the family and others from their home community at the morgue as they prepared to take the body back to the village for burial. (A big thank you to our supporters, who enable us to help with such expenses in these situations.)

It is impossible to live here without knowing people who have lost their lives or been affected by drug trafficking and violence -- hardworking people going about their everyday lives in their communities. I have become used to Fernando occasionally going to wakes late at night, and I recognize by the tone of his voice when he receives a phone call with bad news. But this incident was a shock, since we have traveled in that location at that hour.

Several days later, Fernando found out that a friend and fairly new believer was hospitalized for a blood condition he has had for several years (doctors think it's leukemia). Fernando visited him each day, reading Scripture to him, praying with him, and listening to him share his heart. He is now home with his wife and two young children, and we continue to pray for his healing and for strength, peace, and hope in the Lord.

Praise God for sending His Son, Emmanuel, God with us in both celebrations and in tragedies, who saves us from our sin and provides an eternal home for His children. Even as we enjoy holiday food and time with family and friends, how good it is to know that the wedding banquet and eternal life are promised to us. May He use us to bring His hope of justice and restoration and His light to darkness in this new year.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Best Gift of 2015

Hi friends! I'm enjoying a cool, rainy afternoon while my babies sleep, and I want to tell you a little about our family's greatest gift from this past year: our daughter, Miss A! Born August 31, she has been a delight, and in many ways her birth and first few months have been full of God's redemption and light.

I started 2015 with the news that we would be having another baby, and I was overjoyed but also wary. My first pregnancy coincided with fundraising in the U.S., losing a dear relative to cancer, and my mom being hospitalized with pneumonia a few weeks before she planned to travel to Honduras for our son's birth, which ended up being via C-section, followed by feeding issues. When I reflect on the months before and after Mr. J's birth, the adjectives that comes to mind are "dark" and "drained." I loved my baby, but difficult circumstances clouded the joy of his arrival, and I began to feel anxious about what a second time around would be like.

My Bible study group and some close friends prayed for me to have peace and trust in the Lord, and He answered in His love, mercy, and redemption. Here are a few ways that happened:

  • Pregnancy was healthy, peaceful, and, for the most part, enjoyable. Unlike the first time, I was strong and rested, even in the final weeks.

  • I had a much better C-section experience and opportunity to enjoy Miss A; her first hours of life will be some of my most cherished memories.
  • My mom was able to come for her birth, at the hospital with me that first day, helping in countless ways at our home for five weeks, encouraging me and giving of herself in a way I hope I can do for my daughter someday.
  • I felt buoyed by prayer support during the first few weeks postpartum.
  • Miss A has been a dream when it comes to feeding, and she's in the 80th percentile for weight and height.
  • Mr. J has been happy to have a sister from the very beginning, and their sibling relationship is blossoming (the exception being when Miss A, who is learning to grab objects, steals her brother's blankie, an unpardonable offense).
Of course, the past five months have not been without challenges, but God has reassured us with His presence and answered prayers specifically and powerfully. Thank you to all who have prayed for Miss A and for our family in this time of adjustment. May the Lord be glorified in her life, and may she always know that, as her name means, she is dearly loved. She is now awake and talking to me, so I better get going before her brother wakes up to join the fun!