Thursday, September 26, 2013

So, How Big IS a 40 Foot Shipping Container, Really?

If you're familiar with our ministry, and with the way Allen likes to run things, you already know that he's not one to shy away from a challenge! One of our annual challenges is trying to fill a 40' shipping container with donations each fall.

A 40' shipping container is huge. It's gigantic, really, and it holds a vast amount of stuff. We know this on a very personal level, because every year about half of the contents of a 40' shipping container is unloaded into our house!

But we realize that most normal people - that would be people who don't find themselves regularly emptying shipping containers into their homes - wouldn't likely have a good grasp of how much stuff fits into a container of this size. So Allen and I sat down and worked out some examples to help you understand the enormity of this task.

A 40' shipping container has an interior space of 2540 cubic feet. You could fill this space with:

150 car trunks jam packed full of soft items (like clothing and bedding) . . . or . . .

the contents of 15 full-size commercial vans (with no back seats and no passengers), loaded full to the roof . . . or . . .

1250 large black plastic garbage bags, full to the brim (except for room to tie the bag shut) with soft items . . . or . . .

10,000 shoe boxes filled with Christmas gifts (or shoes) . . . or . . .

19,000 gallons of paint . . . or . . .

100,000 cans of Coke . . . or . . .

the interior space of your average suburban 2 car garage, loaded to the rafters with NOTHING but items for in the container, and no pathways.

That's a lot of stuff.

Just for fun, here's a list of some of the strange things we've brought down in containers in the past. NONE of these items filled a container entirely, they were surrounded by other donations:

a 31,000 pound Caterpillar front end loader

a 15,000 pound John Deere backhoe

a 28,000 pound John Deere road grader

11 motorcycles, 2 all-terrain vehicles (4 wheelers)

a Kubota tractor and 14 generators

20 solar panels and 4000 pounds of batteries for our solar energy system

400,000 children's meals for use in our feeding centers

40 refurbished desktop computers (for Christian schools)

20 miles of steel cable for constructing hanging bridges

5 miles of PVC plumbing pipe

So what is the point of all of this? 

It is once again time for us to collect gifts and donations to fill a 40' shipping container! We're requesting donations of pre-made gift boxes, bulk items for use in creating gift boxes, gently used clothing (nothing larger than size adult large, please) and bedding. Sweaters, jackets and blankets are especially appreciated. We are in BAD SHAPE for donations this year, as several churches which have previously supported this project very generously are no longer able to do so this year! We desperately need your help with this!

You can find all the specific info you need, in order to take part in this project, on our Gifts for Gracias web page, and our Gifts for Gracias Facebook page. We're collecting in Florida and Maryland, and you can donate by mail or in person. The Florida mailing deadline is October 10th - just a short time away now! The Maryland mailing deadline is November 30th. In either location you could squeeze in an in-person delivery for about a week or so after the mailing deadline.

Won't you help us help them?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Putting Jesus into the Kidnapping Story

Last week I spent a few days in counseling, to sort out "stuff" related to the whole kidnapping situation. One thing the counselor had me do, which I found really helpful, was to go over the whole two days when these events happened, in my mind (which wasn't a problem, as I was already reliving the kidnapping every time my mind wasn't actively engaged with anything else), and visualize Jesus at work in each moment of these events, as things progressed.

At first, I was sort of sticking a cardboard-cutout version of Jesus into each scene. He was just sitting there, and patting my hand and saying, "It'll all work out in the end."

But then I did my "homework assignment", which was to take a specific passage from the book of Luke, where Jesus did a miracle, and use the pattern of that story to put Jesus into our story. This worked so well that I wrote it down. Last week it was something rather private that I wouldn't have wanted to share with anyone but my closest friends, but this week it doesn't feel that way, so I thought I'd put it out there.

If you'd like to read the original story, it is found in Luke 7:11-17.

Here's the Trish version:

Now it happened, the day after, that Jesus was near a city called Gracias . . . and when He came to the village of Catulaca, behold, a child had been carried off, away from his mother, by a bandit. A large multitude of people from around the world were with the mother, crying and praying with her over her lost and endangered son.

When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." Then He came and touched the heart of the bandit, and the bandit's heart was softened toward the boy. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, do not hurt this child, but return him to his mother." So the bandit turned away from the evil he was plotting, and released the child unharmed. And Jesus presented the child to his mother.

Then amazement came upon all, and they glorified God, saying . . . "God has heard and answered His people." And this report about Him went throughout all of Facebook and the rest of the Internet.

I can't tell you exactly why, but once I had done this whole exercise, I no longer found the story entering my mind whenever I wasn't otherwise occupied. It has been a relief to no longer be obsessively dwelling on it! Obviously I had known that God was at work throughout the whole situation, but somehow it helped to be able to "see" Him there, in person, in my mind.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

You've Made Your Bed . . .

Even before the kidnapping, life was kind of crazy around my household. Getting ready for the wedding consumed much of our time, of course. We also had a relatively busy season of summer teams, including one team which was scheduled just two weeks before the wedding. Prior to the arrival of our out-of-town guests, we had to rearrange our warehouse/home so that it was a bit more home, and less warehouse - as much as is possible! Rachel was also packing and sorting for her move into her first home of her own, which was a very big deal for my oh-so-domestic daughter! She's been collecting and making items toward this end for several years, and now it was time to pack up her dishes and bakeware, cast iron pans and handmade braided mats, her quilted wall hangings and her few items of furniture.

In the midst of everything else, Rachel was also making a bed. She had seen a photo of a bed online that she liked, and she and Allen had been working on this project for months. First, they had to plan out what wood they needed, and purchase the lumber during one of our trips to San Pedro Sula. The lumber, when we get it, is very rough - there was a long process of sorting through the lumber, choosing which pieces would be appropriate (straight and untwisted enough) for the long supports, and which pieces were more knot-free to use in the most highly visible parts, etc. Then it all had to be cut and planed and sanded and sanded and sanded some more. I know there are photos of this part of the work, but they're not on the laptop I have with me on my travels, so I can't post those.

Of course, as we ramped up into near-panic mode in the weeks just before the wedding, the time spent on the carpentry also had to increase, to have the bed ready in time for Rachel's move to her new home!

With all the kidnapping excitement, the trip to Tegucigalpa with all of Rachel's household goods was delayed a bit. The bed parts, and all the hardware to put the bed together, left our house without us ever seeing the final, put together bed. I'll nag Rachel to send a photo of her homemade bed, installed in her new house . . . but since she doesn't have internet it may be a while before I get anything back from her! Hopefully you can get some idea, from these photos of parts of the bed, how nice it will be!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Another question for my readers

Thanks to everyone who has read and commented on Ben's kidnapping story. It has blessed me to see how very many people have been touched by it! 

It has been a month now, since these events happened. I can't say things are back to normal, especially since I'm in the US right now and the rest of the family is in Honduras, but life is certainly in the process of "normalizing." I still think about the kidnapping every day, and get suddenly weepy-eyed at unexpected moments, which isn't like me. Ben, I'm told, continues to do great with all of this. He's a tough little guy - he's already had to process a lot of "stuff" at a younger age than anyone would have liked for him - and he's handling this as well. When I meet with a counselor (next week) about how to mentally and emotionally process the kidnapping in a healthy manner myself, I'll also be getting suggestions on how I can be of help to Ben in this area, when I'm back home with him again.

Here at the blog, I still have around a hundred people visiting every day to read Ben's story. The odd thing is that usually I get information, on my statistics page, telling me where visitors are finding a link to my blog . . . but currently I rarely get any indication of a link. I am wondering if the story is being passed about by email, or if there is some other way it's making the rounds. Finally, I got curious enough to just ask here on the blog! So, if you've come here specifically for the purpose of reading the story of my son's kidnapping, would you mind responding in the comments section to this question: How did you happen to find your way here? I'd sure appreciate it!

And, we'd still love to have you praying for us, as we get through the aftermath of this experience - especially early next week, when I will actually be attending counseling! Thanks so much! Now I'm off to munch on a bagel (one of the perks of being in the US for a few weeks, LOL)!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Back in Maryland!

Monday I flew back to the US from Honduras. This trip has been scheduled for months - well before the kidnapping - because I really wanted to come for my brother's wedding! Today I took it pretty easy. I'm stiff and sore from romping around airports yesterday schlepping 70 or so pounds of suitcases and laptop and such, but I expect that feeling to be gone soon.

This week I'm visiting with a wide variety of friends. With the advent of Facebook I've reconnected with high school and even jr hi friends - and I'm looking forward to visiting with several of them this week, plus other moms I met during my earliest homeschooling years, church friends I've grown close to over the years, etc.

I'm here for a month, and originally the whole month was to have been visiting and having a relaxing fun time. The kidnapping changed this for me, however. I'll be traveling part of next week to meet with a counselor/therapist who specializes in missionaries who've experienced trauma. I also have a lot more people wanting to have me come and speak than I'd originally expected. I'm up for it, though, and hey - I can always rest when I get back to Honduras, right? LOL

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Want to see my puppy?

Remember my Great Dane puppy, Duke? Remember when I posted a photo of him . . . back when he was about the same size as our cat? That was in April.

Look at him now! Way to grow, Duke!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How to Survive a Kidnapping

Last night I stumbled upon an article called "How to Survive Being Kidnapped." The article was an interview of Ben Lopez, a man who travels the world negotiating the release of kidnapping victims (and who also has a book for sale on Amazon). I wasn't looking for an article of this type, but it came up in one of my Google searches, because of the topic of kidnapping, and the name "Ben."

As a recent survivor of a kidnapping, I found the article quite fascinating. My son Ben and I were not at all prepared for the events we were caught up in - it wasn't something that we'd seen as a likely concern, as kidnappings have not been common at all in our part of Honduras, plus we'd have considered our family an unlikely target, because we don't have enough money for such a crime to be worthwhile. So it amazed me to find that much of what the expert advised kidnapping victims to do, in order to survive a kidnapping, were things that Ben and I had, unknowingly, done while kidnapped!

If you've read the story of our kidnapping, you'll see what I mean, as you read the quote from the article below. If you haven't read the story, you can find it here.

Stay calm. In moments of high stress, you’re being stressed is only going to make the kidnappers more difficult to deal with and dangerous.
Don’t give them an excuse to mistreat you by not co-operating. Don’t give them an excuse to mistreat you by sticking out, by being too anxious. The thing is, the more anxious you are, the more anxious you end up making people. The more anxious you make people the more angry, the more dangerous, the more difficult you make them to deal with.

Eat and drink whatever you’re given – if it’s edible or drinkable, obviously – because you don’t know when you’re going to be fed again.

Try to exercise your body and your mind if you can – it lessens stress and helps pass the time. One of the worst things about being in captivity is the boredom. Especially to people from the western world who are used to instant gratification for information, the internet, telephones, TV. The inactivity of being captive can often be the most difficult thing to deal with.

Make mental notes about your surroundings. It might come in handy later in the event of a rescue attempt.

Another important thing is to humanise yourself. Make yourself a human being to these people because it’s harder to hurt another human called Peter than it is to beat the crap out of a piece of merchandise. Use your name. Don’t necessarily give away too many details about your family but try to connect or establish a rapport with your captors.

I am amazed all over again at how God saw us through this event! Over the past few weeks, as I've thought back to decisions we made and actions we took (or chose not to take) while we were with the kidnapper, it has been easy to second guess everything. You can imagine how delightful it is to have at least some of those decisions validated by a kidnapping expert! It wasn't our knowledge that brought us through this safely - Ben and I were just feeling our way along, in the midst of each highly stressed, scary moment! I feel confident we were being led to the correct decisions, at a time when we weren't ready, knowledgeable, or emotionally capable of making the best decisions for ourselves!

Again (and again, and again), thanks so much to everyone who prayed for us!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Is it safe to visit Honduras on a mission trip?

Now that Ben is the poster child (and I'm the poster adult) for American crime victims in Honduras, I'm starting to get emails, asking me this question: Is it safe to come to Honduras on a mission trip?

(For those who missed it, HERE is the story of our kidnapping.)

I'll be honest with you . . . it's not a topic I really want to think about right now. My family has prayerfully made decisions which have brought us to a place where we aren't considering living outside of Honduras. Two of our adult children are married to Hondurans, and plan to continue living in Honduras for the foreseeable future (in Brandy and Rachel's case, his military commitment will require his presence in Honduras for many years to come). Ben is not officially adopted, and we cannot get a passport or visa for him to travel. For us, leaving Honduras would mean leaving our young child behind, as well as moving away from some of our adult children. You can see why our level of commitment is on a slightly different level than that of many expats here, whether or not they are missionaries - and reasonably enough, it is a different level of commitment than that of people considering coming for a week long mission trip!

I'll also add that my husband, Allen, has the perspective of having grown up in southeast Asia in the late 60s and early 70s. He went to school with missionary kids who had lost their parents in incidents related to the Vietnam War and been adopted by other missionary families. He knew people who were captured and held prisoner during the war. He knew people who were killed. He doesn't shrug off dangers and think they can't happen to us. We pray, and carry on, because that's what we're called to do.

We've long since decided that being in the center of God's will for us is where we want to be, even if this does involve risks to our physical safety. It's what God made us for, and we've chosen to stay within His will, for better or worse. Honduras is our home.

The emails I'm receiving are from people who are scheduled to visit Honduras in the near future on short term mission trips, or are considering signing up for such a trip. They are obviously concerned about whether such a trip is advisable. We all have to pray about and weigh these kinds of decisions for ourselves. Many people come to Honduras just to vacation - it is a beautiful country with friendly people and a fascinating history. The vast majority -practically all- of these visitors have a safe and pleasant visit. Many people also come on short term mission trips and return safely to their homes. But there are risks, and the risks are real. Only you can decide what risks you are willing to venture, for what return.

As a Christian considering a mission trip, you can't make this decision based solely on the possibility of danger. You need to ask yourself, what is God calling you to do? Some people are truly not called to missions, and if that's you, then you should go do the thing God has put upon your heart. This is not something I can answer for you, except to say that feeling fear isn't the same as not being called to missions. You can trust me on that one.

I will say that, should you choose to sign up for such a trip, you should voice your concerns with the mission organization with whom you will be working. Security issues are different in different parts of the country, and the host of your group should be someone who is very well informed about the area of the country where you will be visiting. They ought to be giving you some very specific guidelines, and you should definitely follow their instructions! If you follow this advice, you are much more likely than not to have a safe, enjoyable trip.

Is that a guarantee of a safe trip? Not even close. But then, you know there are no guarantees in this life. Our faith isn't in our physical safety and security in this world . . . or it shouldn't be.