Friday, April 15, 2016

What's Coming Down the Street? (and what it has to do with ministry)

This post is a peek out our front window, where what comes by might look different from in your neighborhood, and what on earth this has to do with ministry.

I played undercover detective, trying to take pictures and videos without showing people's faces or letting them know they were being filmed! (Below is a video where I got caught!)

We live in a very middle-class neighborhood by Honduran standards. It's packed full of cement block/concrete plaster homes with metal roofs (i.e., it's hot and noisy), and there are guards at the entrance. It's nice enough to be safe and not too nice to draw attention to ourselves; I am the only gringa resident so far.

You know it's hot when this is what a stick of butter looks like.

Activities start early in the tropics (click here for a blog series about a "typical day"). By 6:00 A.M., big vans called busitos pick up kids for school. Although Honduras has public schools, families do whatever they can to send their kids to the multiple private and/or bilingual schools for a better education. Public schools do not offer bus service to students. Many families pay for a busito to take their kids to and from private school each day. They herald their arrival by honking (the effect on light-sleeping toddlers merits a separate post).

A busito bright and early

Meanwhile, neighbors also leave for work. Those who don't have cars can either 1) go to the neighborhood taxi stop to take a colectivo, which has a lower fare and a general route taken by all the passengers, or 2) walk 10-15 minutes to the highway to wait for a public bus.

While many residents are leaving, construction workers are arriving. Homes continue to be built and sold in this area, including one house right down the street from us right now. Workers begin at about 7:00 A.M., rain or shine. Manual labor is essential since heavy machinery is scarce.

At any point in time, one of the security guards, called wachis (for 'watchman'), might walk or bike by our house as they patrol our neighborhood street-by-street. You'd see them carrying a gun and maybe listening to music or texting on their cell phone at the same time. In spite of having guards, multiple houses have been broken into (once again, that's a topic for another post!). The wachis are friendly and have even been kind enough to let me know why the power or water might be out, if they know!

Speaking of water, tap water is unsafe for drinking and cooking. Purified water may be bought at the corner store but is most conveniently purchased from vendors that pass by daily in large trucks. Usually one young man walks down the street calling out the brand of water being sold (my personal favorite is Pingüino, for 'penguin,' because anything cold sounds refreshing :) ) so that residents can be prepared when the truck comes by. It costs about $1 to exchange an empty jug for a full one. Mr. J could easily help the vendors out since he is a pro in yelling, "¡Agua, agua!"


Most people cook with gas stoves: it's cheaper than electric, and you can still cook when the power is out. If your gas tank (chimbo) goes out (fyi, in my experience, it usually goes out before you have people over for lunch), you can either get one at the corner store or call a gas company to send someone on a motorcycle and exchange a full tank for your empty one. It's kind of like pizza delivery. The motorcyclist honks loudly as he comes down the street so that the buyer knows he's there.

For the most part, other vendors are not allowed in the neighborhood. Before the guards were hired, people came by selling brooms and cleaning supplies, bread, pots and pans, and other articles. But now the only regular vendor sells guineos, green bananas, which are prepared boiled as a filler for lunch or fried in slices for dinner. Since we never buy guineos, I reasoned I could get a great video without being detected; why would the vendor/driver look my way? I was wrong!! Here's how that played out:

Garbage pick-up is provided free by the city government. You never know what day or what time the garbage truck will come by, but you can hear the specific honk of the truck when it enters the neighborhood, alerting you to haul your garbage out to the curb. This happened yesterday at 6:30 A.M. Happily, my family members slept right through it (whew!).

As for animals, there are dogs and cats who roam the neighborhood, and prior to the guards' installment, some farmers used to herd their cattle right by our house; apparently, the neighborhood was built where they used to transfer their herds between grazing areas.

Given the warm climate and fairly open culture here, people often go out in the late afternoon. Just on our street, there are Latino, Garífuna, and islander kids of different ages. Mr. J likes to run around with them when they're all out at the same time. Sometimes they kids like to come to gate to see him or come in to play, especially if they know we have oranges, watermelon, or bananas on hand. :)

So what does this list have to do with ministry? Looking out our window, I see many needs and opportunities, including:

1) Family Influence

Only one of kids we know on our street lives with both of his parents. In fact, two little ones are in the care of their aunt since their mothers immigrated to the U.S. It's clear that some of the children are well-loved and cared for, while others are lonely, and most are friendly and love to talk. By giving them a piece of fruit, looking in their eyes, smiling, addressing them by name, we can communicate God's love to them in a simple way. When we go out to walk together as a family, when Fernando hugs and kisses us when he gets home, they can see that there are loving, committed fathers and, over time, understand that God is a loving Father. Many are still too young to care about language, racial, and cultural boundaries; by being kind to everyone, we can set an example for our kids and develop relationships, or at least goodwill, among our neighbors.

2) Education

When I observe how difficult it can be for people to earn a living, particularly those whose trade is in manual labor, I think of how important access to education is, particularly for young people, including those who would not dream of studying at a higher level. It reminds me of a young man who works with Fernando. He thought he would become a mechanic but now isthe first in his family to work toward a college degree and is thriving in his studies (in his second language!). I am happy that Fernando can be involved in providing studies, training, and preparation for people who might not have access to it otherwise.

3) Violence and Insecurity

When I see the wachis come by, I am reminded of the toll that violence and crime take on a country and its people (it's easy to grow numb to that because it's "normal" to us). Beyond the more obvious physical needs, there is a desperate need for integrity, fear of the Lord, and courage. When I see how God is shaping young men's lives through mentoring, the opportunity to serve others, and accountability, I hope that many more young people can be reached. I think of those who have been robbed at gunpoint but who refuse to participate in crime, even in the midst of financial need. There is opportunity to help young people walk in a direction that not only benefits their individual lives but also the future of society.

In conclusion, some of the sights and sounds outside our window can be entertaining (or, at times, annoying!), but they point to the deeper reality of what God has called us to be as a family and do as His servants. Please pray that He will help us glorify Him as we interact with others and carry out projects here, that His kingdom would come here where we live as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10), and that we would "shine like stars" (Phil. 2:15).

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