Friday, August 31, 2007

Weird Electrical Happenings!

Something extremely odd happened here yesterday. Allen was off working with the team, and a few of the kids and I were at home. The kids were listening to an audiobook, and I was working on the computer, when the power went out. The power goes out rather often, of course, so that wasn't the strange thing. When the house went dark and silent . . .the computer and internet stayed on! That has never happened before!

We immediately started checking the fuse box, but quickly found that this did not hold the solution to the problem. In the course of checking around the house, we actually found that a small number of outlets were working, although most were not, and none of the overhead lights or appliances were receiving electricity.

I called Allen, and since he was working close to Gracias, he came home around lunchtime, to see what could be done to get the power back to the rest of the house. First, of course, he had to investigate the situation, to find the cause of this strange problem.

He rechecked the fuse boxes, checked for problems in our wiring, and checked to make sure we had paid our most recent electric bill. The thought behind this was that perhaps this house had one of those electric lines which runs directly from the street to the house, without ever checking in at the meter. If that line connected to some of the outlets, and the power to our house had been cut off by the electric company, those few outlets would keep working. But, we found that our bill was paid, and we were unable to discover any extra power lines running into our house from the street.

Since he hadn't found any problems in our house, Allen went to ask the neighbors if they had power. The neighbors all said 'yes,' they had power in their houses. So, Allen went back to looking for problems relating directly to our house.

After he was still unable to find the cause of the problem in our house, Allen went to the neighbors again, and asked them, "Are you sure you have power in your house?"

The older lady across the street answered, " Yes, I have power to my phone."

So Allen asked, "Is anything not working?"

Her answer to this? "Oh, the refrigerator doesn't have power, but I do have power to my phone."

So, now that Allen had learned how to ask his question, he went around to the neighbors again, and discovered that they were all having the same problems in their homes that we were experiencing.

Ahhhh, so now we were able to call the power company, and they came out to repair the lines. I don't have a thorough understanding of how electricity works, but here is my low-tech attempt to explain what happened.

Electricity is run in three lines. Two of these lines run 110, and one line is the ground. Together, these three lines make up the 220 system that is used here. Apparently, one of the 110 lines was not connected. When the lines enter the house, through the fuse box, some fuses are connected to one 110 line, some to the other. So, the fuses which were connected to the broken line were not working, but my computer was on a fuse connected to the good line, so it kept on going. That is my attempt to explain something that I don't fully understand, from Allen's explanation of the situation to me. Don't blame Allen if I'm not making sense here - I must take all the blame for that.

A few hours later, the line was reconnected, and full power was restored to our house. Just another educational day in Honduras!

Breakfast with the Kor-ingos

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Fun with Kor-ingos!

What a fun week we are having here! A team from a Korean church in Ohio (Korean + Gringo = Kor-ingo) is visiting, for the second year in a row, and we get to enjoy a double cross cultural week with them! All of the team members were born in Korea - no second-generation Korean-Americans in this entire group. During their visit, we experience some great Korean foods (they eat gringo meals with us, then cook Korean foods later in the evening - SPICY!!!!), learn a little (very little) Korean, and just generally have a blast. This year, I noticed they are toting a globe around with them, when they go to the villages. I assume this is to show the local Hondurans where they are from. I wonder if they claim Ohio or Korea as home, or both? (I don't travel out with the teams during the week - I stay home to cook and try to keep up with the dishes and laundry.)

I have been thinking, these past few days, that this team seems to have much less difficulty dealing with the day-to-day inconveniences and differences of being in another culture than do many suburban North Americans. Perhaps this is because they live cross-culturally all the time, in the US.

Emotionally, this is an interesting time for the Korean team to visit us, as a mission team of South Koreans is being held hostage in Afghanistan at this moment. We are praying for the safety of those Korean Christians, and we feel a special closeness to them, as we fellowship with these Korean Christians.

One other incident of note, concerning this group: they have now removed four teeth from my family members! Our dear friend Younggi (this is his third trip working with us) is a dentist. He removed two of David's teeth, which were severely rotten (probably due to the poor nutrition he experienced during his first years of life), and two of Russell's wisdom teeth, which threatened to crowd his front teeth.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This Blog Needs a Name

Well, it's been over a month since I started blogging. When I set this site up, I couldn't think of a good name for the blog, so I decided to just use the Sowers4Pastors label, which is the address for our ministry website, until I could think of something I liked better.

In spite of having had a month to cogitate on this, I'm no closer to finding a name! Obviously, I need some help here, so I am inviting you to help me with this.

Some guidelines:
1. The name must be a G-rated, family and missionary appropriate name.
2. I'd prefer something with a bit of humor.
3. Members of my extended family are welcome to participate (especially my brother Brad, who has the same sense of humor that I have - his wife says so).
4. Names which contain a reference to one or more of the following facts will be given special consideration: we are a family, missionaries, homeschoolers, Christians, and generally fun people located in Honduras.

I'm looking forward to your wonderful suggestions!

Ohhhh, in case you don't already know this . . . you can click on the word "comments" (located directly below the horizontal line below this post) to leave your suggestion, and to see what names others have suggested.

Practicing Medicine without a License

More and more often we now receive requests for help with medical problems, from the very poor of our area. This is challenging for us, because, except for the knowledge acquired from having kept our own six children reasonably healthy, we have no training for this.

We can help, fairly often, with just this parental level of knowledge. Passing out bandaids, antibiotic ointment, children's tylenol, vitamins, etc isn't beyond us. Recently, however, we have had some more challenging problems brought to us. We appreciate your prayers, as we try to help those who come to us for medical assistance, in spite of our limitations!

A few weeks ago, a young nursing mother, her husband, and their month old baby knocked on our door (an unidentified young girl was with them - sister of the mother, I think). The mother had developed an infection in one of her breasts. She had opened the pockets of infection herself, and the infection had worsened, so that she could no longer nurse the baby on that side, because of the pain and the open wounds. She visited the government health center, and from them she received Tylenol. She visited another health facility, and was told they didn't have any medical workers there to help her. I don't know who sent her our way, but there she was, in dreadful condition, still needing help for her raging infection.

We contacted health workers in the US and Canada, using the internet, and were able to start her on antibiotics (which are available over the counter here), and advise her on how to care for her wounds, keep the baby healthy, and hopefully retain the ability to breast feed her child through the treatment and after.

Very frequently, when people come to us for help, we ask them to return at a later date, to check on their progress, or for other reasons. In many cases these people do not return, but happily this little family has returned three times now, and we have been able to oversee this woman's recuperation. She is due to check in again later this week, and we hope to see her well enough to restart nursing on that breast. So many many situations arise here, which we cannot help. It is exhilarating to see that we have been able to make a difference for this family.

Today, the mother of one of the children in our Special Needs Program approached us about an ongoing medical problem she has been dealing with. Two years ago, after giving birth at the local hospital, she was given three injections of penicillin, 'in case she should get an infection.' About a month later, welts and wounds began to appear at and around the sites of the injections. She complains of much itchiness and pain at these locations. I am posting a very small picture here, in case anyone has a delicate stomach for such sights. You can click on the image, if you'd like to see a larger version. We imagine that perhaps she is allergic to penicillin, but we haven't ever heard of an allergic reaction like this - so localized and yet ongoing (for two years?). Thus begins another romp through medical sites on the internet, and emails to medical professionals. I'll let you know how this progresses.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Wonderful News - an update

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a little Honduran baby girl, who needed a surgery to save her life. I was able to get an update on her today, and it is really terrific news!

The missionaries in Erandique were able to connect with a Honduran doctor in San Pedro Sula who was able to help. I do not believe the surgery is the same as that which the doctors at the mission hospital were planning to do, but according to the doctor in San Pedro, this surgery will allow her to function fairly normally until she is about 6 or 7, at which time she will need some additional reconstruction work.

The surgeon and the anesthesiologist both donated their services, so the total cost to save this baby's life turned out to be quite minimal, and the travel was much less than expected, as well. I am so pleased to be able to post this report! My grateful thanks to everyone who prayed for this child!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Construction Has Begun!

Our mission organization has purchased land just outside of Gracias, where eventually we will house visiting teams, hold the Bible school, sort and store the items we receive for distribution, and also where our family will live. We are excited to announce that construction has begun!

Of course, Allen has been working for months on repairing the road into the property, grading the building sites, and on the preparations to connect water and electricity. But now, we can show you the beginnings of buildings!

We actually started digging and pouring the footers while a team was here a couple of weeks ago. Now, the footers for the exterior walls of one building are completed, and we are starting to lay some of the brick and block. Everything you see in these pictures will eventually be underground. This particular building will be a dormitory, which will be used to house teams from the states, and students who come for the Bible school.

Because our construction site is not yet easily accessible, we haul in our supplies (cement, sand, gravel, bricks, block, and even water) in the back of our pickup truck. Loading and unloading the materials,

mixing the concrete . . . everything is done by hand.

Happily, our enthusiastic construction crew is on the job!

Our plan is to build this building and one more, and then move the family up onto the property, while we continue construction. We all love to be up there so much! We can't wait until we can live with that fabulous view every day!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

A Trip to the Market

Our city of Gracias is a market town, which means that the farmers from smaller villages come here to sell their products and make their purchases. The market is a nice place to get fresh fruits and vegetables. I needed a few items for dinner tonight, and I decided to take along the camera, and document our trip through the market.
This is just inside one of the main entrances to the market. The entire block is walled off, with the market inside, so many of these shops are able to set up permanently.

To get to the area with fresh produce, we have to pass through the cowboy supplies:

dried beans and corn:

and many, many other things:

But eventually, we do arrive at the produce section:

We bought beets and green beans, and also some of those red fruits in the bags on the right side of the picture. Those are called lichas or peludas (which means "hairy").

One more photo, as we find our way out of a different part of the market.

Thanks for shopping with us!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Bible Training School

The week of the monthly Bible Training School is a busy time for our family. Now that we are having the fifth session of the school, however, things are running quite smoothly. Here is what is involved:

Ahead of time, Dr Julio, who teaches the classes, chooses the training materials, and gets them to us. We make enough copies for all of the students, and punch holes in the pages, so that the students can add these to their notebooks. Russell makes sure that all of the registration information is updated from the previous session, so that he can be prepared for the current registration. A team of ladies from town purchase the food supplies for the meals they will cook. All of this takes place before the school session starts.

On the second Tuesday of each month, the school opens. The pastors, pastors-in-training, and church leaders travel to Gracias from the departments of Lempira, Intibuca, Ocotepeque and Copan, and even from the north coast cities of San Pedro Sula and La Ceiba. One regular attender travels 12 hours by bus to come each month. Several of the pastors who live far into the mountains start their trip on horseback, from areas where there are no roads, then stable their horses with friends and finish the trip by hitching a ride on the back of a pickup truck. Some of the students go directly to the school location, a retreat center owned by a local denomination, situated just outside of the city of Gracias. Others gather at one of the town churches, and we shuttle these pastors out to the school. We also make sure that the styrofoam cups, coffee pots, and coffee supplies are in place, for these students love their coffee!

At the school, Russell registers the arrival of each student. We are excited about the attendance we have been having - approximately 80 students each month. Dr Julio usually has time for a short morning teaching session before lunch the first day.

In the late morning, Allen (or Russell - he's 18 now, so he has a Honduran driver's license) picks up the ladies who do the cooking and the food they have prepared, and carries them out to the school, along with disposable plates, cups, and silverware. They stay for lunch with the pastors, and afterwards bring back the ladies and their dirty dishes . . . so that the ladies can get to work on supper!

At home, sometime during the day on Tuesday, at least one or two pastors will arrive who got to town too late for the morning shuttle service (this month, there were four late arrivals). We serve them coffee (of course) at the house, and either have them wait for the next scheduled trip out, or give them some money for a taxi. The road out to the school is pretty bad, and we've decided the cost of a few taxi fares is a better use of our money than the extra wear on our vehicles from additional trips!

At the school, classes go all afternoon, with only a short break for coffee, relaxation and fellowship, in the beautiful mountain setting. The students are extremely serious about these studies, and there is a lot of interaction during the classes. Dr Julio is a lot of fun, and a good teacher, and everyone has a good time, while covering a lot of material.

Back at our house, during the afternoon on Tuesday through Thursday, Rachel, Bethany, or I make cakes for the evening dessert. This month, we sent out 4 cakes each evening. Around 4:30 Allen (or Russell) picks up the cooks and the evening meal - and the cakes - and heads out to the school. They only forgot the cakes once . . . now, I think the students remind them!

After dinner, they bring the ladies and the pots back to town. Usually there is an additional class session after dinner, and then some time of fellowship, impromptu worship sessions, etc.

On Wednesday and Thursday, this schedule continues, except that Russell has to leave the house at 7am to take the ladies out with the breakfast, in addition to the other meals. The class sessions go all day on these days. On Thursday, Allen goes out in the afternoon, with a large selection of the Bibles and Bible study materials that we have for sale. He sets up a table so that the students can shop during their breaks from class. The book sales are subsidized, so that the prices for the books are actually less than what we pay to purchase and ship them. We tease Allen that his business degree didn't teach him much, since he seems to be setting up his bookstore to intentionally lose money!

On Friday, breakfast is served at the school, and then the pastors depart. Many stop by our house before leaving, to look over the books some more, or just to visit. Some bring us small gifts. They all tell us how extremely grateful they are for the chance to come to this training.

The pastors do not pay anything for these classes, or for the food and lodging during the school session. But they are all sacrificing as they pay the cost of transportation, and as they miss most or all of a week of work. None of these pastors is paid a salary by their church - they all work a secular job, usually in agriculture.

We keep pretty busy during the week of the Bible Training School, but it is exciting, as well. Even though Allen and I are not trained pastors or Bible teachers, nor do we have good enough Spanish to teach in the language, God has allowed us the privilege of starting this school and running it each month. We are able to use the funds from our donors, our vehicles, and Allen's ability to orchestrate the logistics, to help with the things we can do, and that the local Christians would not have the resources to do. God provided the teacher, and placed the desire to learn into the hearts of these pastors and church leaders.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Reflections on the Value of a Life

We had guests this week; missionaries who live a few hours away in the town of Erandique. These wonderful folks have set up and run a medical clinic, amongst other ministries. One of the missionary families living there includes about nine children (the youngest is around 12, while at least one of the older children is married and has settled in with their spouse to work in the vicinity), and several other families which have come to live there, as well.

Our guests consisted of some of the younger generation, a twenty-something nurse who works in the clinic, a young married couple, and siblings. They came to us for networking help, among other things, because they have a difficult medical situation in their village, and they are trying to figure out what can be done.

A single, first time Honduran mom in their area has a lovely nine month old daughter, who was born without a rectum. Normally, without a colostomy surgery, a child with this condition would not survive any time at all, but this little girl had a small opening into her vagina, so that she was able to evacuate her bowels as long as her stools were soft. It is incredible that she has not died long ago from infection, but she is, in fact, still alive at this time. Her condition was undiagnosed at the hospital where she was born, and at subsequent doctor visits. Recently, however, she began to have trouble with harder stools, and her mother brought her to the missionary clinic when she noticed that the child had not had a bowel movement for some number of days.

At this point, it seems fairly certain that this child's life is dangling by a thread. There is no amount of time a person can live when their body cannot get rid of wastes safely. She is already living on 'borrowed time,' and is needing immediate surgery.

Our best option for safe, inexpensive surgery for this child is the American missionary hospital at Balfate, on the north coast, which is a trip of about twelve hours from here, by bus. The doctors there conferred with us by phone, about the logistics. The child needs a series of approximately five operations. The first would need to happen immediately. A trained Spanish-speaking nurse would need to accompany the mother and baby to the hospital, help with the post-operative care there, accompany them back to Erandique, and stay with the child between surgeries. This entire process of multiple surgeries would involve about 18 days of nursing care away from Erandique, plus months of nursing care back in the village, by a trained nurse. The surgeries themselves, and the transportation, would cost almost nothing.

As our family and this group of young missionaries worked together, along with surgeons on the phone from the hospital, to figure out the logistics of this situation, it was difficult for me to think about how all of this related to one tiny baby girl. We discussed how the nurse, who has the responsibility of caring for all the patients of the clinic in Erandique, could not realistically be away from the clinic for this amount of time. We talked about the problems and logistics of the travel. Meanwhile, this little girl's life is still hanging by the same thread. Can we help her? I still don't know what will be worked out.

It is really too sad to contemplate. This is just one little Honduran girl baby. She can grow up to be anyone . . . although more than likely she will not grow up at all. If she had simply been born into my family (or yours - you who are reading this blog), not only would she have received this needed medical care long ago, but no one would have dared suggest that perhaps we 'can't afford the time' to save her life. And this isn't to criticize the missionaries involved. We are all just trying to figure out how best to work, in a country where the needs so outnumber the available solutions.

But, what I really want, is to be the mommy of this one little girl, and make it all better. If only I didn't know that there are thousands of others in line behind her . . .

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Fabulous news . . . see the update on this, posted August 22nd!

Motorcycles For Pastors

There is a lot of excitement at our house this morning! Twelve pastors have arrived to pick up their long awaited motorcycles. Here is the story:

Every year, the Christian Motorcycle Association (CMA) raises funds to donate motorcycles for the use of Christian pastors and missionaries throughout the world. Because of their partnership with our organization, Missionary Ventures, we were able to receive funding allowing us to distribute four motorcycles in 2006, and five in 2007.

Of course, there were complications - this is Honduras, after all! First, we had a situation involving a dishonest salesman at the dealership, who pocketed our deposit money, instead of putting it into the company account. We are pleased to report that the Yamaha dealership made this right, and we did not lose this money - an amazing show of good business sense and doing right in spite of taking a major financial hit ($2000)! Good for you, Yamaha dealership of Honduras!

Second, we had to have each of these motorcycles titled in the names of the individual organizations receiving them. This involved a vast amount of paperwork and government activity, but eventually we got it all through the system.

Of course, we had the rest of the logistics to deal with - transferring the remainder of the funds from the US, changing dollars to Lempiras, moving the money safely into the hands of the dealership, arranging transportation for the bikes up to Gracias, and setting up the meeting to deliver the motorcycles to their new owners. In the course of all of this, the Yamaha dealership delivered the motorcycles which we had expected to receive to another customer, since (due to the dishonest dealings of their former salesman) our order didn't actually exist on their books and schedule!

So, today was the culmination of months of work - finally the motorcycles are in the hands of the pastors who will be using them!

Many of these pastors have never owned a motorcycle before, so we are also taking them through a brief lesson in motorcycle ownership and riding. Lots of coffee, cookies, and revving of engines at our house this morning!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Spanish "Embarazadas"

After living on Guanaja for five years - where they speak ENGLISH - we are now working our way into the Spanish language with a vengeance. I've started a fun collection of misappropriate and embarrassing Spanish usages, and I thought I'd share some of those today. None of these are my personal experiences, but they are funny!

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The Spanish word for sin is extremely similar to the Spanish word for fish. Therefore this conversation:

Sweet little Mennonite missionary gal comes into a new village, and asks, "Where do the men go to sin?"

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The Spanish word for comb is extremely similar to the Spanish word for the specific masculine appendage. Therefore:

Nice female Christian team member, to Honduran Pastor who has been riding in the back of an open pickup truck, "Oh, my, you need to get yourself a __________(she meant to say comb)."

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The Spanish verb meaning "to ordain" (for ministry) is extremely similar to the Spanish verb meaning "to milk" (a cow or other animal).

American missionary speaking Spanish, in Honduras, during a church ordination ceremony, "We are here today for this very solemn occasion, to milk Pastor So-and-So. Pastor So-and-so has worked hard, and prepared himself so that he can be fully prepared to be milked." Etc.

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The word "embarazada" actually means "pregnant," although most English speakers assume it means embarrased. So, with remarkable frequency, Americans make some foolish mistake while speaking Spanish, and then apologize by saying, "Oh, I'm so pregnant!"

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Visiting Team - Update

This is Kirstin, Trish’s daughter. The fever that my mom mentioned in the last post has her down for the count, so I decided to write a blog about the visiting team (also mentioned in the last post).

Sheesh, where do I start?

As previously stated, my mom is sick with a fever, a headache, and cough (the pain in her side is gone). Other sick people include Rachel, Boo and Gus (my younger siblings). Yes, Rachel is in charge of meals for the team. She is still plugging away and plodding along, being careful to only handle food that will be cooked. Ellen, Rhoda and I are taking care of whatever she doesn’t dare touch (they are our gringo translators). Some of the team members have also been sick with tummy troubles, but for the most part they are on their feet ready to mix cement.

About ten members of the team have been going up to our property everyday to dig the foundation for one of our team houses. Yesterday, we started to mix cement. We also managed to spot several of the “ugly mystery bugs” and get sunburned. The original plan was for the team members to take turns going to the property and going to the medical clinics, but one group had to go to the property twice, because . . . the medical team got stuck up the mountain.

This is a team of firsts - the first team we ever hosted in Gracias (this was last year), the first team to work on the MV property, the first team to spend the night outside of Gracias and the first medical team to service Monte Verde in years, which is where they got stuck. The road to Monte Verde has been horse-only for a long time, but recently the government graded it. The First Lady’s Office requested that we take our medical team on the two and a half hour drive up there. On Tuesday, the medical portion of our team started up the recently graded road, which will probably remain passable for only a short time. I have been informed that at one point all three four-wheel drive trucks were trapped in mud, and that they did not managed to get moving again until late afternoon. Since it would be dark before they could get back down the mountain, my dad decided to continue on up, and so they slept in the town they were planing to visit. Yesterday afternoon they came home, tired and bruised. Rachel, who went with them, still cooked us pancakes this morning. What a trooper.

Today the medical team is going to La Iguala, and possibly the construction team will just go with them.

This is the part of the show where someone says “at least it can’t get any worse,” and then it does. Wow, I hope not.