Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rachel's Water Woes

Rachel is NOT a whiner. So she rolls up her sleeves and deals with the water issues which are a part of life in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras.

Here's how it works.

There is a water schedule. Rachel and Brandy can count on their water coming on at midnight, every other night. It is on from midnight until about 8am, then it goes off again, for the rest of the two days.

Rachel and Brandy don't start running the water at midnight, because they're already asleep by then, and also because the water coming into the pipes is noisy. Rachel gets up early the next morning, and starts collecting water in the pila.

A pila is a water storage and washing area, combined. Here's a photo of Rachel's pila:

This is a rather small, rough version of a pila, and it doubles as the bathroom sink, as it is located inside the bathroom. The bottom part is for water storage. The area at the top left is where Rachel washes her laundry. The dirty laundry from the washing area drains out, not into the clean stored water.

Every other morning, Rachel gets up very early and fills up her pila, and also fills a clean, lidded trashcan that she and Brandy keep for water storage. More well-to-do homes would have a large water storage tank on the roof, but homes in this price range have to make do with their pila.

While the water is coming in, Rachel hurries to wash her laundry and dishes, mop her floor, and take a (cold) shower. The goal is to have all of those completed, and still have her pila and trashcan full of water, when the water supply turns off!

Rachel told me that sometimes, toward the end of the second day, they have to make difficult choices about what they'll use their dwindling water for. Flushing the toilet has been known to trump taking a shower at that point in time.

This water is NOT their drinking water, by the way. Just like other places in Honduras, the tap water isn't considered safe for drinking, so Rachel and Brandy purchase 5 gallon jugs of purified water for their drinking water. As far as I know, there isn't a shortage of drinking water.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More about Rachel's new life

I've received a few requests for more information about Rachel's apartment and her lack-of-water situation. First, the photos. Above is Rachel, making the first meal she and Brandy ate in their own home as a married couple. They didn't have a stove yet, at this point in time! Behind her is the exterior door, and in front of her is the little kitchen area. The whole apartment is 250 sq.ft., including the bathroom.

Here are Rachel and Brandy (he's the one taking the picture) sitting on their mattress, eating their meal, before Russell delivered the bed Rachel made. To the right in the picture is the wall of the bathroom, which is cut out of a corner of the rectangle that makes up the whole apartment.

In this picture you can sort of see Rachel's little kitchen area. That's all the counter space, and there aren't any cabinets. This sort of kitchen is pretty common in Honduras. When you rent a house or apartment here, the appliances are rarely included, so Brandy and Rachel purchased a stove and refrigerator. 

Rachel's new stove runs on propane, but the gas sold in Honduras is slightly different, and ovens and stoves sometimes require some extra parts and adjustments to work with this type of gas. Rachel is looking sad in this photo because she can't use her oven yet. Some of you know how Rachel LOVES to bake!

Rachel seems happier with her fridge. All you have to do to make it work is to plug it in!

You'd be standing in the kitchen, to see this view. The wall of bathroom which doesn't face the bed has the stove and refrigerator up against it. You can see their little table, with two chairs, to the right, as well as their clothing storage shelf.

And that's about it for the layout of Brandy and Rachel's apartment. Just for fun, I posted a photo of Rachel and Brandy (along with some other people I don't know) at an event at the officer's club.

This post is long enough now, with all of these photos, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the explanation about the water - or the LACK of water.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Videos - the fun begins!

Yesterday Bethany and I went to town for groceries. Just for fun, we decided to take a couple of videos of the drive, and see how they turned out. I was surprised at how easy it was to upload them to YouTube . . . I haven't put up a video in years and it was much more complicated the last time. It did take a long time to upload, but it was just slow, it didn't use up too much of my limited internet, or keep me from using the computer for other things. So, based on this experience, you might be seeing more videos from me in the future!

Here are the two videos taken yesterday. They're both just short clips from our regular drive to Gracias. One shows the very roughest part of the drive, the other is just random. I think you'll be able to tell which is which!

If there's something you'd like for us to video, let us know, and we'll see what we can do - it's kind of fun!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Finally! The picture of Rachel's bed

Last month I posted some photos of Rachel crafting the bed she would be using in her new, married life. Here's the link to that post.

Rachel visited us this week, to help as a translator for a visiting medical team, and while she was here, she gave me a photo of her bed, all put together and made up in her new apartment in the city. She couldn't email me the picture, the way most people would have done, because she and Brandy don't have internet in their home. Most of the time they don't have water, either, but that's a story for another day.

Today, say nice things about my amazing daughter, who is not only a fine wife and housekeeper, but a pretty good woodworker, as well!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What? You think I've got a rough life?

Lots of people are impressed with how difficult our lives are, as we live and work in Honduras. And, yeah, if you compare to the average suburbanite in the US, we're living a pretty rough lifestyle involving lots of extra work just to get through the regular housework, let alone the added difficulties involved in our ministry work, schoolwork, travel, health care, security, etc.

But . . . we don't compare in that way. We compare our lives to the Hondurans who live in the mountains around Gracias. When we look in that direction, it's sort of embarrassing to complain about having to do so many things the "hard way." Some photos might show you how ridiculous my complaints sound:

I'm annoyed at how I have to wait until we have enough power coming in, before I can run the washing machine or the dishwasher.

It's so hard, keeping our older vehicles in safe running condition, especially with such really rough roads here.

I miss those convenience foods I used to be able to get in the grocery stores in the states!

Cooking and baking are such difficult and unending chores (in my thermostat controlled gas oven). I wish we could go out for some fast food once in a while!

My housework would be so much easier if my house was truly big enough for the size of my family!

If you find yourself thinking about how much more difficult my life is than yours, and are impressed with how much HARDER are the lives of these Hondurans . . . consider helping us make life one little bit easier and nicer for the Honduran pastors and their families with whom we work. Get involved with the Gifts for Gracias project - it's happening NOW!!!!!

Click the following link for info on how you can help:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

From a friend of a friend . . .

This afternoon, I spent a few moments searching in my Facebook group for posts related to Ben's kidnapping. Because I was busy living the events as they happened, I wasn't on Facebook to read everything that was posted at that time - especially posts written in the first hours and days after Ben was released. It has been meaningful to me to read about how my friends were caught up in the situation with us, how fervently they prayed, and how exuberantly they celebrated his release!

During my time in the US, many people told me that they were praying for us during the kidnapping, and that they shared the prayer request with other people. In some cases, whole college campuses prayed for us, in others, groups on mission trips in foreign countries prayed. I've heard versions of this story over and over . . . that people felt compelled to stop what they were doing, and pray, and share the prayer request with others. And how those "others" felt compelled to pray, and share with others, and on and on. I have never before seen a prayer request spread so quickly to so many people! To have been the focus of all of these fervent, heartfelt prayers is absolutely overwhelming.

As I was reading these earlier Facebook posts, I came across something a friend posted, relating a message she had received from one of her friends. The friend, Mary Beth, is not anyone I know, at all. She had never heard of me before she saw the prayer request. I read this for the first time today, and was so touched by it - partly because it's just so amazing, but also because I've heard many others express similar sentiments! Here's what she wrote:

I just have to share with you that when you shared the prayer request about Ben, I felt something that I rarely feel...absolute confidence that God was going to move. It was like I could see the angels, legions of them, lined up and waiting to move, waiting on the prayers of the saints. I always pray when someone shares a request, but this time I felt compelled to call Ed into the room and for us to pray out loud together. I felt led to share it on FB, call my mother-in-law to have her pray and put it on her church's prayer chain. I was, for lack of a better word, obsessing about this all day today. Not obsessing as in, worrying, but like God wouldn't let me stop praying about it. It was like He was encouraging me to not just knock, but to pound on the door of heaven. I just knew that He wanted to move but that He wanted US to pray for it. Very strange, I've rarely had that kind of faith, that kind of confidence in what God was doing. Normally I'm all, "Your will be done" etc. But this time I was like, "Go God, go get him and bring him home!" I spent around 2 hours on Trish's website and blog just "getting to know" her and her family and their ministry (I figured since I couldn't stop praying, it would be nice to find out who I was praying for, lol! And I wasn't focused on work anyway, so...). What a cool family and what a wonderful ministry. I'm always happy when people focus equipping local people to minister. I was VERY impressed with their financial stewardship as well. I'm so glad that Ben is safe and I can't wait to hear how God made this happen. Thanks for your faithfulness to share the need of your friend! I love you my dear. MB

We're still sort of stunned here by this whole situation. Please forgive me as I keep dwelling on it!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My daily walks . . .

I started going out and walking everyday, for exercise, a few months before Rachel's wedding. After the kidnapping I completely stopped doing a lot of things I had been doing, and this included the daily walks.

Now that I'm back home again, I've started the daily walks back up. They're still good exercise, but I also appreciate having the time alone, to think, and pray, and sometimes cry, when that seems to be the thing I need to do.

Because our house is located at the top of a very large hill, any direction you take from the house goes downhill, and the return trip is uphill. It's difficult, having the most strenuous part of the walk at the end, when I'm most tired, but that's just the way it is. Yesterday, the kids went partway down the hill and hung a hammock for me, so that I have a place where I can rest in the middle of my walk. It's also a nice place to sit and think and pray, and the views from the hammock are exceptional!

I took a camera with me yesterday, so I could show you a bit of my walk. Sorry some of the view photos aren't that great - it was right at sunset, with the sun shining right over the tops of the mountains, and some of the photos are washed out as a result of this (and as a result of my not taking enough time with the pictures).

Heading off into the woods . . .

I have a large number of canine walking companions. They make me feel very safe as I head off into the woods!

Starting to head downhill now . . .

Arriving at the hammock!

One of the lovely views from the hammock!

Another view from the hammock, in a different direction.

Here's a different view from the hammock! That's my puppy, Duke. He likes to keep an eye on me, and make sure I'm doing all right. He worries about me - you can probably tell. LOL


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

It's been 2 months since the kidnapping . . . so, how are we doing?

I've tried (and failed) to write an update several times over the past week. Part of me thinks that everyone MUST be tired of hearing about the kidnapping by now. Part of me worries that people who aren't accessing my personal Facebook page will worry when they hear nothing here on the blog. Confused as I am, I've finally managed to type up an update!

I've been back at home for a week now. I'm doing well. My sleeping and eating have returned to normal. I'm not feeling fearful about being here, and I've even driven to town once, by myself. The roads are horrible - it must have rained a LOT while I was gone - and as I drove I barely had time to think about anything but keeping the Land Cruiser from falling into the deep ruts and potholes. I think the distraction may have been a good thing.

I've been sort of easing back into life. My trip to the US was hectic, so I'm not feeling "rested and ready," but at the same time, life has a kind of "new beginning" feeling to it right now, and I'm trying to take advantage of that.

As a family, we're doing great! I can honestly say that my marriage came out stronger for this experience, and the kids all proved themselves to be so strong and resilient! While I was in the US, the family here hosted two teams, and we have another coming next week. Between teams, the menfolk are working hard on the bridge project. We're still on the job!

And then there's Ben. People keep asking me, specifically, how he's doing, so here's the answer.

Ben continues to handle all of this amazingly well. There just don't seem to be any negative long term changes in his behavior since the kidnapping. He has received a lot of praise, and a few gifts, and he seems pleased with his new "famous hero boy" status, LOL. He was asked to tell his story to a visitor from a recent team, and enjoyed doing so. I've only been back with him a few days, and to me he seems a bit less childish than previously - I think he kind of impressed himself, with his poise and self-control during the kidnapping, and is thinking of himself more as an adult now than he did previously.

Ben and I have had several opportunities, since I've been back, to talk about various aspects of the kidnapping. I recognize some of the same thought processes that I went through, coming out in his conversation. He wondered why I was so traumatized, when I only had a couple of hours of being kidnapped, and he'd had so many more hours. So we talked about how scared we both were in those first hours, how we didn't know what would happen to us, and that we knew there was some likelihood we wouldn't live through the situation. Then we talked about how, after I was released, the kidnapper treated him reasonably kindly (given the situation!), but that the rest of the family didn't know what was going on with Ben, and we couldn't assume that he was even alive, let alone being treated well, for many hours of that time. The rest of the family was actually much more terrified than he was! I assume the conversations will be ongoing, until we eventually get to the point where these events aren't so very much in the forefront of our thoughts.

The kidnapping appears less scary when you look at it in hindsight, of course - not knowing what will happen next, and how everything will come out in the end is a huge part of what makes a situation like that scary - and as a family we are in danger of downplaying the gravity of what happened to us and underestimating the affect it has had on each of us. In general, though, I think we're doing really well, as we settle back into what we've come to call "normal" around here!

Thanks so much for all of the prayer support throughout the kidnapping, the aftermath, my trip to the US (and the trauma counseling), and now, as we move forward with life and ministry! We praise God for his faithfulness to us through this adventure!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Home again!

Hey all - I just wanted to let you know that I have arrived safely back at my home in Honduras, after uneventful travels. Thanks to everyone who's been praying for me as I return to my real life!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

My Most Asked Question about the Kidnapping . . .

My time in the US is growing short, and so my days are very full of activity. Today I'm going to very briefly answer the question I am asked most often about the kidnapping, which is: Who is this "Ben" kid, and what happened to your son "David"?

About two years ago, my son (originally named David) asked me, out of the blue, what I would have named him if he'd been born to me. I didn't know the answer to this question, exactly, but we have some patterns in our children's names, and so I knew that his first name would have started with the letter "B", and his middle name would have been Daniel.

He asked if I might have named him "Ben." This name had popped into his head because he had two friends near his age at the annual MK camp named Ben. Since I have a father and a brother with the name Ben, it sounded like a possible choice to me, so I said, "Sure, maybe."

Then he asked if we could change his name to Ben Daniel Sowers. Sadly, I had to tell him that we don't have the legal right to change his name, since he isn't legally our son. But I did say that we would call him Ben, if that's what he wanted us to do.

He did want that, so that's what we do. I occasionally slip up and call him David, but it doesn't happen often.

And that caused many people to be confused, when they heard the story of Ben's kidnapping - they knew we had a son called David, and they hadn't heard of us having a son named Ben.

I hope it makes more sense now!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Bridge Construction Project - it's moving forward again!

We've experienced months of  inactivity with the current bridge construction project - the huge one in Las Flores. There were funding issues and other delays regarding the rental of the two large cranes for lifting the beams into place. Once that was completed, there were additional funding issues. We had put some of our own money into the project, to keep things going, but eventually that had to stop, and we waited for the government to release additional funds to keep the construction on track.

For many months this year we worked on the construction of our personal residence, since we had some money set aside for that, and our construction crew wasn't working on anything else.

I'm still in Maryland right now, of course, so I didn't really know what the menfolk were doing with their time . . . until one of our good friends from MD, who is a recurrent guest and a full-of-fun part-time-missionary, posted some photos of the bridge project on his Facebook page!

Yay! Looks like some of the government money has come through, and construction has been going forward. Here are some of the photos, which I stole off Benjamin Dearing's page. I hope he'll forgive me!

These first photos show the guys from our crew, installing a webbing of rebar. This metal will be inside the poured concrete, adding strength to the deck of the bridge.

After all of the wall panels are in place (wall panels are used to create the "mold" for the concrete pour), and the gazillions of pieces of rebar are secured in their places, comes the Pour Day, when we actually mix up the concrete and pour it into those forms! The local communities send workers to help on these days when a really large amount of work needs to be completed within a single day. Our trained crew handles the mixers and deals with the parts of the job that require more knowledge, and the local volunteers mostly move vast quantities of materials around in five gallon buckets! Here - in no particular order - are some photos from a big pour day which took place during Benjamin's visit.

Below are photos of the completed section of the concrete deck of the bridge!

And, for contrast, photos of the current bridge, which is still carrying vehicle traffic across this river:

For this final set of photos, you have to remember how the bridge looked before the deck part was added . . . just sets of huge beams balanced across support piers. Some of the work on the deck involved men having access to the underneath side of the deck, so a scaffold was constructed and men worked way up in the air on rather scary-looking pieces of lumber wedged between the beams. Here are some photos of this . . 

Thanks so much, Benjamin, for these pictures! I hope you enjoyed your stay in Honduras!

Isn't this exciting?!?!?!