Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gifts for Gracias - going strong

I'm sure you all know by now how we had to delay the shipment of donations which were to have been Christmas gifts for the pastors we work with, their families, local orphans, feeding center children, etc. Since the shipment arrived well after Christmas, we are still working on distributing the gifts. It's a big job.

Although we receive many pre-made gifts for children and for families, we receive a much larger amount of general donations - used clothing, household items, toys and stuffed animals, etc. All of the general donations are sorted, by us. If they are new or like new, we use these as parts of the gifts. If they are stained, torn, missing parts, etc, we put them in what we call the "give away pile." Pastors are grateful for the opportunity to get part of this pile, to give to the poor of their communities, who are grateful for even these items.

Once this initial sorting is completed, we start making gifts. We actually personalize the gifts for the families, and this takes a lot of time. Here is an example of what a gift for a pastor (and his family) might consist of this year:

4 bars of soap
1 ball cap
1 toothbrush for each member of the family, and at least one tube of toothpaste
2 spiral bound notebooks
1 pencil box, and a selection of pens and pencils
1 large container of mouthwash
1 bottle of conditioner (we didn't get many donations of shampoo this year, but we got a large donation of conditioner and mouthwash)
1 large can of chicken (another donation we received in quantity)
1 man's tie
1 woman's scarf
2 items of clothing for each family member
1 gift box for each child 13 and under (these include toys, candy, school supplies, etc)
1 kitchen or decorative item for the wife, or a purse
1 item from the donated linens (sheets, towels, blankets, etc)
a big handful of candy
1 selected item specifically for the man in the family (wallet, flashlight, etc)

If the family has children over the age of 13, we put in some items for those family members - extra ball caps, soccer bags, etc for boys, toiletries or hair things for girls, plus extra school supplies for either gender.

As of today, we have created and distributed approximately 75 gifts for pastors and their families. We expect the final number to be around 250. We always have more children's items than adult items, and these are given at the orphanages and feeding centers.

My goal is to have this project done by the end of April. My house is also the bodega/warehouse, so we are currently living in the midst of the boxes and bags. I'm looking forward to having my house back!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm a bit behind on posting this

Life is busy here right now. With the new kittens, making and distributing Christmas gifts for the pastors and their families, renewing passports and continued work on our new home, I haven't yet posted about Russell and Iris' engagement event!

But first - there were five kittens! Bethany tried to get some pictures for me to post, but they all came out too blurry, so I'll try again soon. They're darling!

Okay, so last Saturday was the big night. Russell planned a dinner for both families, to be held at Iris' parents' house. He moved (from our house) folding chairs, our gas grill, several large pots, plates and silverware, and a cooler full of marinated steaks and corn on the cob.

Allen and Rachel did most of the cooking. Here's Allen at the grill (click on the photo for a closer shot, and check out the expression on David's face):

Here's Rachel, boiling corn and throwing together the (instant) mashed potatoes:

We all sat down for a fun family meal, Allen and I with 5 of our 6 children, and Juan and Paz with their 5 children plus the gal who will be marrying one of their sons later this week, for a total of 15 people. Here's the group starting to gather for the meal:

Iris' family is every bit as funny and silly as our own, so together we have a fun time, in spite of what still exists of the language barrier. Here are Melvin and Haydi, who you might think are practicing for feeding each other cake at their upcoming wedding - but Russell tells me that particular wedding tradition doesn't exist in this part of Honduras (although he and Iris might do it, just to add some US culture to their event):

After dinner, Russell popped the question, in a very family-inclusive manner:

In case you're wondering, she said "Si" and just to make sure everyone understood, she also said, "Yes!"

Afterwards, the men of the family played a few songs for us, because we asked them to:

So there you have it - the engagement of Russell and Iris is official!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Where's the Beef?

We have some chunks of beef in our freezer, and they got there in a rather unusual way.

Yesterday evening, Russell headed over to Iris' house for a visit. Before very long, Iris' grandmother hurried into the house, in a state of great excitement. She had just gotten word that one of her cows had fallen off a cliff and died. They needed to go and butcher the cow immediately, to salvage the meat.

Russell, of course, was happy to help, especially since only one of Iris' brothers was home at the time. The understanding was that the cow was a short walk down the river from the house, so even Iris and her mom tagged along for the stroll.

In fact, the cow was a looong walk from the house, and it was hard up and down walking over steep little mountains. Once they reached the cow, they butchered it on the spot, using the skin of the cow to keep the meat off the ground. Then, the menfolk, including Russell, all carried the meat back to the house. On the return trip, they took a longer route, which followed the river. The longer distance was offset by the lack of ups and downs. Carrying the loads of raw meat up and down the slopes seemed a bit too much, especially in the dark!

Much of the meat was immediately sold. Some was frozen, and we received a couple of bags of miscellaneous beef. I decided, under these circumstances, to boil all the meat for stews and soups, and freeze it. So now we have some mighty fresh beef in our freezer!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A quick and (mostly) painless trip to San Pedro Sula

Yesterday we made an essential trip to the American Consulate office in San Pedro Sula (3 or more hours drive each way, from Gracias) to start the renewal process on some of the family passports. Children's passports are renewed every 5 years (until age 16), adult passports come due every ten years. In the next few months, Bethany, Rachel and Gus' passports were expiring, as well as mine. Happily, Rachel and Gus are both old enough to receive 10 year passports this time (which are no more expensive than the five year version). So, in five years only Bethany will need a new passport.

So, with the cost of passports, photos, gas and fast food, we spent a quick $500 we don't really have, but of course this wasn't an optional expense, so we'll just tighten the belts a bit more, until finances get back to a more even keel. (Things are tight financially everywhere, and we're no exception to this rule!)

Happily, except for the money, this was an uneventful trip - but it was a close call! The consulate is only open three afternoons each week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday), for 3 hours each day, and they have had more people to help than they've had time to serve them. When we arrived, an hour before the consulate was due to open, there was already a long line of people in front of us. Then, there were also a few people who arrived with a previous appointment, because they'd been turned away on earlier days.

Numbers were passed out at the door; we were number 19. Number 11 was called up first. After 20 minutes, Allen started to worry. He had already done the math, and realized that if every applicant needed 20 minutes (or more), they wouldn't likely get to us before closing time. In fact, the first person in line worked with the consulate official for over an hour! Things were looking quite unlikely for us to get in before closing. We were already discussing our Plan B, in case we couldn't be seen yesterday. Driving home and back is huge, but staying over for two nights in a hotel (there were 6 of us there: Allen and I, Rachel, Gus and Boo, plus David), and eating restaurant food, was an expensive option.

Happily, not everyone's business took as long as the first group, and we reached the front of the line with about 20 minutes until closing. The official immediately said there was no way he could complete 4 passport renewals in 20 minutes, but he went ahead and started in, knowing he'd be stuck staying late in order to finish our paperwork.

One part of the passport renewal process is placing an order for the express mailing of the new passports, and this has to be paid at the bank, on the first floor of the same building. Allen grabbed that paperwork, and ran down to the bank before it closed, while I juggled photos and birth certificates and such at the consulate. We finished all four applications 25 minutes after the office should have closed - we are so grateful to the consulate office for being kind enough to handle this in spite of the timing - but we felt bad for others, some of whom had come from a great distance as well, who will have to come back to the office again to complete their business.

Thanks to all who pray for us, without always knowing what craziness we might be experiencing. We are always very grateful to have a safe and successful trip such as this behind us!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Guess what's happening at my house RIGHT NOW!

Number 4 arrived since these pictures were taken. From the size of Mama, there are still more to come!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Am I ready for this?

My children are turning into adults at an amazingly rapid rate.

Kirstin (22) no longer lives at home. In fact, she no longer lives in the same country with us. She left last summer for a "we'll see how it goes" trip to live, work, and study in the US. It has mostly gone well - she actually got a job, which is somewhat amazing in the current economic situation. So, Kirstin is busy having some of those everyday American experiences she missed growing up here. Which is good, but we miss her.

Russell (20) is about to become officially engaged. His girlfriend is Honduran, so our ties to this country are becoming a bit more permanent than they were previously. This weekend we will be attending an official engagement event, with our family, Iris' family, and pastors from the church they attend. Then we will really start in on the planning for a cross-cultural wedding, to be held in Honduras but hopefully attended by some of our North American family.

Russell and Iris

Rachel (18) is dating a long-term friend, who is living and studying at the Air Force Academy (Honduran, in case you were wondering). She doesn't get to see him often, and she's counting the days until the week he gets to come home to Gracias for Semana Santa (the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday).

Recently, Russell drove Rachel over to the city of Comayagua for a visit to the Air Force Academy. They were having a special event there, so it was open for visitors. I had her take some pictures to share with you - and to share with me, as well. I was curious!

This is Rachel's boyfriend, Brandy.

The front gate of the school.

The ceremony involved some stepping stone achieved by the first year class. Brandy is currently in the second year class.

Brandy tells us he was in this group with the plumed hats during the ceremony - we haven't been able to find him in the picture. Without hair, these guys all look alike!

More cadets, in their regular uniform.

Visitors viewing the air field.

I've got to publish this, and get back to work now. Those pastor gifts don't make themselves, you know.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Christmas has finally arrived!

Several separate situations combined to cause the delay of our shipping container this year, but it is finally here, and we are up to our eyeballs in boxes and bags! The house is full to the brim, with only aisles between the essential rooms. It's hard to sort and organize with absolutely no room at all, but hopefully after more of the donations have been passed out things will get easier. In previous years, we've had some outside helpers, but this year it's just our family doing all of the work on the Christmas gift project, so that's keeping us pretty busy! I have to admit, though, if we had extra people here, we'd all just be tripping over one another. As it is, we're tripping over dogs and cats and each other pretty much constantly!

It looks as though we have enough stuff, with the pre-made gift boxes and the donations of assorted items (with which we make more gifts), so that we will be able to make gifts for all of the pastors we work with, and their families. We always have more childrens items than items for adults, so there should also be enough for us to give to several orphanages. It's going to be tighter this year than in the past, however. I know people in the US are feeling an economic pinch, and it is showing in the quantity of donations - but we are so very grateful to everyone who chipped in to help with this project. The pastors and their families appreciate the blessing!

Today we sent out the first batch of gifts, so the tally of gifts given is all the way up to 18! Only about 232 more gifts to go!

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Surprising Outcome

It's been a crazy week!

On Monday, there was the car accident.

Allen and Russell returned from their trip to the port (to arrange for the customs on the container) on Tuesday.

On Wednesday (around 4:30 pm), the truck carrying the container arrived in Gracias. We knew the truck couldn't make the trip up the road to our property, so Allen had arranged for two smaller local trucks (which are able to traverse rougher roads) to meet the delivery truck in town. With a crew of about 18 people, the entire contents of the container was unloaded from one truck, and reloaded into the other trucks. Then those trucks, along with the crew, drove to the property, and unloaded everything, again, into our bodega/house. We finished at about 12:30am.

Thursday morning, at 4:30, Allen and Russell drove the 4 hours to El Progresso, for their morning court appointment, for the ruling on the car accident. Amazingly, the ruling was in our favor! This means that we won't have to pay for the repairs to the other car. The driver of the other car convinced us that he couldn't afford to pay for our repairs (as well as paying for his own repairs - auto insurance isn't common here and often doesn't pay). Allen made the decision to have the other driver pay only 1000 Lempiras (about $50), so that it would be clear on the record that the court had found against him (not us) in the accident.

We have much to be grateful for here. In truth, this is a better outcome than we'd expected.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Update on our Car Accident

Well, the news is a bit better than I had thought after talking with Allen and Russell on the phone yesterday. The damage to our Land Cruiser was less than expected, and it was driveable after the accident. A friend here in Gracias drove our other vehicle down to Allen, and drove the damaged vehicle back here. So, we didn't have to pay for towing, and we expect to save money on repairs, since we can have the work done here where we know people, rather than in a strange city.

Allen and the kids continued on their way last evening, and completed their trip this morning. They visited the Loma de Luz Hospital, in Balfate, this morning, and dropped off some medical items we'd received, but which could be put to better use at the hospital. The midwife there was thrilled to receive the pre-natal vitamins that we didn't have much use for! Bethany is visiting a friend at Balfate, for about a week, so they settled her in and then got back to the business of getting the container through customs.

We hope the container will be set to travel to Gracias tomorrow. It would be good to have that taken care of, as Allen has to travel back to northern Honduras again on Thursday morning, for the hearing on the car accident. Please be praying with us that the truth will be presented at the hearing.

Thanks for your prayers! We have much to be grateful for, concerning this accident, but it's still an unexpected expense, at a time when funds are particularly tight.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Car Accident!

This afternoon, Allen, Russell and Bethany were traveling to the north coast of Honduras, to deal with the paperwork related to the arrival of a containerload of donations. They were involved in a two-car accident, about 4.5 hours from home. No one in our vehicle was hurt, and the driver of the other vehicle apparently only had some minor cuts. But, our vehicle is not able to be driven, so a friend is now driving our other vehicle to the site of the accident to pick them up. They were pulling a trailer, so they have that to deal with, as well.

Allen says that the driver of the other vehicle was clearly at fault, but the rules don't always apply in Honduras the same way they do in the US, so we'll be waiting to see who ends up paying for the damages. And we'll be praying about this.

Allen and the kids won't make their destination tonight, and they'll be making lots of difficult decisions (having the vehicle towed, where to have repairs done, where to sleep tonight, dealing with security for the trailer and the stuff in the trailer, etc).

Please pray with us:

-In gratitude for their safety during the accident

-That they would remain safe as they finish out this trip in unexpected ways (due to the delays)

-That they would be able to find honest businesses to handle the towing and repairs

-That the delays due to the accident will not mean that we will incur additional fees related to picking up the container at the port

-That the blame for the accident would be fairly determined, so that we don't have to pay for someone else's mistake

-That no unexpected issues would arise due to this accident

Thanks so very much for your prayers!

Bits and Pieces

Several small items, none of which really merit a separate post:

The nightly ant invasion:
The two back doors to our house have potential food sources just inside. The kitchen trash can is right next to one door, and the bird's cage (with any leftover food) is next to the other door. Pretty much every night the big colony of ants living just outside the house come in to grab a bite, at one food source or the other. They're big ants, and there are lots of them, so this is not easy to ignore. We're dealing with it.

My two near-misses: Twice now I've found scorpions in the bathroom, but I haven't yet been bitten. Once, I was gathering up dirty laundry from the floor (how does it end up on the floor, when the hamper is right there?), and I uncovered a scorpion which was hiding under the clothes. The second time, the scorpion was just sitting on the floor of the shower, so I saw it before I was very close. I'm not freaking out about these, but I'm not liking them, either.

Re-decorating the house: We're close now, to the arrival of that container of donations, so we've been busily moving furniture around in our house, to make room. The space that used to be only the kitchen is now the kitchen and the living room. That's cozy.

Another anniversary and birthday: On February 28th, we celebrate the anniversary of our arrival in Honduras, in 2001. On March 1st, we celebrate Chris' birthday. He's sixteen today, and we have now been living in Honduras for nine years.

Sad to say: People have been posting advertisements and other unrelated stuff in the comments section of my blog for some time. I've just deleted anything objectionable, when I've seen it. Recently, however, there has been an upswing in the number of nasty links posted, so I've figured it's time for me to increase the security on the comments section of the blog. Starting immediately, I'll review all comments before they appear here. Since my internet time is limited, you can expect significant delays. Sorry about that.

That takes care of the bits and pieces of stuff I've been thinking of posting. I didn't have enough interesting information to make a post out of any one of them, so here they are all together.