Thursday, March 31, 2011

A thank you, a photo for my sister, and a prayer request

First, I wanted to say that I really appreciate all the comments I've been receiving on the recent bridge construction posts. I figure my blog friends are being kind to me, after I whined recently about not getting comments on ministry subjects, so I wanted to let you know that I appreciate it!

Second, I took some pictures this evening, of a parasitic flower growing on a pine tree near my vegetable garden. I think it might be a wild orchid, but I don't know for certain. Since my sister grows orchids in her kitchen in Maryland (with much effort, I'm sure), I thought perhaps she'd appreciate seeing the possible orchid that is growing here, without any human intervention. Here's a closer shot:

Finally, I wanted to mention that we just noticed that a fairly large forest fire has started a few miles from here. Everything is extremely dry, because we're months into the dry season, and it's quite windy right now, so this has the potential to be a difficult fire to extinguish. We don't believe this fire will endanger us on our property, but it appears (from here) to be close to the village of Villami, and also close to the national park on the mountain of Celaque. Please pray with us that this fire won't become a major problem and danger for the community.

El Mongual Bridge Project - now we're rolling along!

This post will give you some idea of the actual process of moving the beams, on the log rollers, into position across the river, at the foot of the support walls.

The picture above shows the hill down which the beams had to travel. On the right side of the picture is a building with a fenced yard (you can see one of the fence posts leaning over). That's the yard where the beams were made, and so it was the starting point of the short but difficult journey.

The second picture is taken from the yard where the beams sat, looking down the path they took to the river. Upon reaching the river, the beams had to be moved into place between the two support walls, so that they could then be elevated into place on the walls.

The following pictures will show the journey of the second beam (you can see the first beam sitting atop the support walls):

Russell, driving the front end loader, pulls the beam down the hill toward the river.

Frequent adjustments had to be made to the rollers and to the path. At times, the progress in an hour would be less than a yard.

As the beam heads into the riverbed, it must be turned to manipulate it into the space between the walls. More log adjusting is required, of course. Adjusting logs while a 20 ton beam sits on top of them isn't a quick or simple process!

The soft, damp soil at the edge of the river made it necessary for the men to create a "roadbed" for the rollers, so they wouldn't bog down.

Manipulating the beam into place by the wall was another challenge. With the first beam in place, Russell was working in tight quarters, as he maneuvered the second beam around while the first beam was in his way.

With the beam basically in place, it was time to lift it up onto the top of the 9 foot high walls. Those pictures will come soon.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

More on moving the beam at El Mongual

At the end of yesterdays post, we had the first beam moving, barely. The work of preparing the beam to actually travel over to the river was not completed. For one thing, more logs were needed to be used as rollers. Abandoned utility poles were offered for our use:

There's the old pole.

Digging it out turned out not to be an effective plan, because it was sunk into a large chunk of concrete.

A rope was attached to the pole . . .

and another rope . . .

While these men pulled in the right direction . . .

Russell used the chain saw to cut the pole down.

The pole was cut into usable lengths, and similar work was done with several other old poles.

Sadly, all of this work turned out to be a waste of time and effort. The utility poles were too old and dried out to work. When the men tried to roll the beam over these logs, the logs crushed under the weight. With the help of the alcalde (mayor) of El Mongual, Allen got permission to cut down some living trees, to cut into stronger logs for rollers (the laws regarding logging are pretty strict in Honduras, so you have to jump through some bureaucratic hoops for permission to cut down trees, even on private property). Eventually 6 large, straight pine trees were purchased and cut down (some of this wood was used in a later part of the project - you'll hear about that in a future post). Through an arrangement between the government and a reforestation organization, 6 new trees will be planted for each tree which was cut down. None of the lumber we cut will end up as part of the structure of the bridge, so it will all be available to the municipality for use in future projects.

Here are the pine logs which were eventually successfully used as rollers.

Check in again soon, as we graaaaadually move this beam to the bridge!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

El Mongual Bridge Project - starting to move the beam

As you probably recall, two huge beams were fabricated for the bridge in El Mongual. The beams had to be moved into place on the riverbed at the foot of the supporting walls, and then lifted up to sit on top of the walls. Just to keep things confusing, some of the pictures I'll post will be from the moving of the first beam, and some will be from the second. I didn't have a photographer there every day of this long project, so that's the way it is. The picture at the top shows the first beam already in place across the river, and the front end loader dragging the second beam toward the river, using logs as rollers under the beam. Easy, right? No, I know you know that nothing comes easy here. This post will show some of the work of getting ready for the moving of the first beam:

Some dirt was dug out from under the beam.

Logs were collected from downed trees.

Cable had to be connected from the front end loader to the beam.

After several tries, it was determined that the best way to connect the cable to the machine was to weld a metal post to the bucket, and put the cable around the post.

Here's the very first lift, just barely lifting the beam up off the ground.

Impressive, huh? Yes, it's just the teensiest bit off the ground.

With the weight of one end of the beam lifted a bit, more work is done to clean out under the beam.

More dirt is dug out from under the beam, the wall panels which were under the beam are pulled out, and stacks of lumber are used to prop up the beam, so that the machine can lift it up a bit more. Henri, in this picture, is signaling to Russell, who is at the controls of the front end loader.

Progress is being made.

This is enough pictures for one post. More to come.

Friday, March 25, 2011


This week, the menfolk accomplished a task which has had us all praying overtime, because of the significant difficulty and danger involved. We're all grateful and relieved to have the job successfully behind us! The task was the placement of the huge concrete beams onto the bridge supports in El Mongual.

I didn't post about the work that was done to make the supporting walls on each side of the river. Here's a picture of the completed walls, so you can see what was involved:

You can see the trickle of water between the two walls. It's still dry season, so the water is low. At its worst, the water has been known to almost reach the houses you see on the far side of the river, so the bridge had to be built up high enough for those events.

You'll remember the two gigantic beams which the crew fabricated about a month ago. (If you don't remember, check here and here.)

The picture doesn't necessarily make clear the immense size of these beams, but they're 43' long and I'm guessing about 4' tall. Plus, they weigh approximately 20 tons. They're really big.

So, the task of moving those beams down to the river, and lifting them onto the supporting walls really should have involved a crane - but we don't have a crane, or access to a crane. What we have is an elderly front end loader, Allen's ability to manipulate objects using his knowledge of physics, a collection of people who aren't afraid of hard physical labor, a large quantity of testosterone-induced gutsyness, and prayer. Much prayer.

More to come on exactly how this overwhelming and dangerous task was accomplished. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Milestone, of sorts

The number of feeding centers we supply continues to grow. Recently we discovered that the total number of centers under our auspices has exceeded 100! This number represents approximately 7,500 children.

Just so you know just what we're talking about, our family isn't actually running these centers. They are run by many pastors throughout a large part of western Honduras (some pastors run more than one center). These pastors organize the centers, pick up the food from us, oversee the cooking of the food, acquire adequate cooking fuel and other supplies (like cooking pots, plates and such), teach a Bible lesson at each gathering, and keep records for us of the number of children being fed, number of times meals are served each week, etc.

Our family uses the funds from our donors to pay for the shipping and customs to get the donated food to Honduras. This food costs us just over 1 cent per meal. (Here's some information about the food we supply to the feeding centers.) We keep records on each center, to maintain some level of accountability over the whole program, and we distribute enough food for a few months at a time to each center, based on the number of children being fed. We visit the centers on an occasional basis, getting pictures to help our donors see how they are blessing the people of Honduras (our visits are also part of our work of keeping everyone involved accountable).

I have to say, though, that having 100 (now more like 110) feeding centers isn't a milestone we've been striving to achieve. Sadly, the need for additional feeding centers is a result of increasing poverty in the mountains of western Honduras - an area which was already massively poor. We'd much prefer to see the need for feeding centers go down, instead of seeing the rising need for the nutritional help.

For now, we're just grateful that we still have the means to help. Our thanks - and the thanks of many in this part of Honduras - goes out to everyone who plays a part in this ministry!

Monday, March 14, 2011

From the garden - RADISHES! Featuring the mutant radish!

I've been harvesting radishes for a few weeks now. They're quick and easy, except when some unknown insect comes at night and eats all the leaves off the plants. I've learned that radishes have trouble growing tasty fat roots when they have only gnawed off bits of leaves remaining attached to them. This time the destruction didn't come from leaf cutter ants - I recognize their work. I'm thinking the monster grasshoppers ate the radish leaves. But, as I had radishes planted in two different spots in the garden, some survived to show up on the blog, and in our dinner!

When I was pulling up radishes this afternoon, I came upon this mutant:

I wish the picture was better - I'm not so good at closeups with this camera. While in the ground, the radish had split in several directions. I'm thinking this was caused by the fact that we had a lot of rain for a few days earlier this week. I've been watering the radishes steadily, but I think the sudden influx of that much water just overwhelmed this radish, and it grew too fast for its skin. Anyway, that's my guess.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Tooooooo Cute!

Boo has a new puppy - a lap dog for a change. So far the pup has no name - but isn't she adorable?