Friday, December 25, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ten ways you can support your missionaries, besides sending money

Of course your missionary wants -and needs- the funds that are donated. Most can't live on the field without ongoing financial support, and they also need funds for various ministry projects. Sometimes, however, you aren't in a position that allows you to support a missionary in this way. Here are ten other ways you can support your missionary.

1. Pray! 

There's no doubt that this has to be the first, and most important, item on the list. We need prayers during the times when we put out prayer needs, and prayers when you aren't hearing anything from us. Pray as often as you desire, pray when the Lord puts us on your heart, pray everyday as part of your schedule . . . just pray!

2. Let us know you're praying! 

I can't stress enough how much it encourages us, when people tell us that they remember to pray for us and for our ministry. If you want to make your missionary's day, tell them you're praying for them!

3. Take the time to read the information your missionary sends out and/or posts on the internet.

This is huge! Stay informed about what your missionary is doing. It will help you remember to pray for them, and to know better how to pray for them.

4. Post a comment! 

I, personally, spend a gigantic amount of time writing blog posts and Facebook posts and emails and newsletters . . . and sometimes, when no one responds, I feel like I've just thrown all of that out there into the wind. It's discouraging. If it is your desire to make your missionary grin, write a comment on their blog or Facebook post, or write a quick response when they send out an email newsletter. It will mean a lot to them!

5. Ask us what we need . . . 

. . . and then ask us about what we don't need, but would make us feel happy, and help make that happen! Some missionaries live in areas where they can't get certain comfort items, and these missionaries might love a care package, while others live in cities where they can purchase the same items anytime they want. Some missionaries would love to receive Christmas cards. Someone might enjoy having a video of their home church's Christmas pageant . . . but you won't know what your missionary needs or wants, until you ask.

A friend of mine wanted to give me a Christmas gift, and she asked what I'd like . . . and she asked on the same day that I was debating whether or not to spend some money on a service that would allow me to listen to music from the US over the internet. The cost of the service was exactly what she'd hoped to spend on a gift (around $50), and so, when she asked me what I wanted, and I told her about my desire, she was delighted to pay for me to have access to this music for a year. It was a much appreciated gift, but she wouldn't have known to give me that perfect gift, if she hadn't asked.

6. Start a conversation with us about life on the field . . . and then listen to our response. 

Life on the mission field is a complicated mashup of blessings and challenges, excitement and discouragement, triumphs and embarrassments. When people ask us about it, we often don't know if they want to hear the details or not, so we'll likely feel them out with a short answer like, "Oh, we're keeping busy." If you want to do something which will absolutely warm your missionary's heart, take the time to have a real conversation with them (face-to-face when they're home, or talking by phone or internet when they're far away), about what their life on the field is like, and how they're handling it all. (As a side note - be careful about making suggestions to help resolve your missionary's on-the-field problems. People who haven't lived in a particular culture have been known to make completely inappropriate suggestions. Feel free to suggest ways we might communicate better with folks in the home country, though.)

7. Ask us about the ministry . . . and listen to that information, too. 

As a rule, missionaries are passionate about what they do, but they know that sometimes people avoid the subject because there is the chance that the conversation will turn into a request for money. Ask the questions and listen to the answers anyway. I can't guarantee that the conversation won't come to the point where funding needs are discussed, but you can always tell us you can't help with that, if you need to. You wouldn't be the first to do so, LOL. We can handle it, and we'd still love the chance to talk about the ministry to someone who shows a real interest.

8. Tell us what's going on back home

This may be more pertinent for the newer missionaries. After a while, the new place often becomes home, but even then, it's always nice to hear the news from the old place. What's happening back there, while we're here? It feels good to be kept in the loop . . . as long as you let the missionary have a chance to share about their life, too (see numbers 5 and 6).

9. Become an ambassador for the ministry

Our organization, The Foundation for Missions, has an official ambassador program that our supporters can plug into . . . but if your missionary doesn't have this available, you can still be their ambassador, by sharing your excitement about their ministry with others. Share their posts on FB, pass along their newsletters, talk to your friends about what they're doing. Frequently, special projects (like our annual Gifts for Gracias project) are the ideal time to get your school, church, club, etc, involved with a ministry you support. The people who help our ministry in these ways, as official or unofficial ambassadors, are invaluable! See what your missionary is doing, and see how you can help!

10. Pray some more!

Okay, I know that's a repeat, but really, that is the single most important thing you can do for your missionary, so I want to make certain that you hear and remember it!

Not everyone is called to be a full-time missionary, but everyone can help the full-time missionaries survive and thrive. There are lots of additional ways that you could support your missionary, so if you've got a suggestion, please share it in the comments. Not only will we all benefit from your idea, but you'll have completed number 4, as well! 

Saturday, December 5, 2015

We're off to a great start!

Just a quick update on our fundraising drive, for the purchase of newer vehicles . . . check out the thermometer to the right -------->

We're up to $4,000 now! 

This is a great start, and we're excited to share this news with you! Our grateful thanks to those who have contributed so far, in helping us move toward the goal of meeting this extremely important need! Traveling to remote locations on the very difficult road conditions of western Honduras is central to our ministry, so safe, reliable, RUGGED transportation is essential.

If you'd like more information about this, or would like to contribute, here is the link you need.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Reclaiming ME!

I was speaking with a friend, recently, about baking bread - and I mentioned that I haven't done much of that for a very long while. Then I glibly explained, "Well, you know, I was kidnapped."

When my friend responded that it has been two years (!) since I was kidnapped, I recognized that I've been taking the easy way out in conversations . . . lumping together a lot of stressful and hard things which have happened over the past couple of years as part of the kidnapping. I know it's not all about the kidnapping, but I haven't necessarily wanted to explain all of the reasons I've been . . . floundering . . . for so long.

I believe, however, that I am starting to come out of that season of my life, and in honor of reclaiming me, I thought I'd give you a glimpse of what's been going on in my life, and where I believe things are headed.

You will likely recall that my daughter, Rachel, got married just three days before the kidnapping. Even though I'd had two children move out previously, her departure had an especially large impact on my day-to-day life because Rachel is a natural home-maker. Over the years, as she developed her skills in this area, I sacrificially (umm hmmm) allowed her to handle most of the housework: the cleaning, cooking, organizing, decorating, planning, household budgeting, shopping, menu planning, scheduling . . . well, you get the idea. Rachel ran the house. Of course it was hard on me, when Rachel left, trying to pick up all of the pieces of running the household - especially while recuperating from the trauma of being kidnapped. Makes sense, right?

Then, though this may be TMI for some, I'm a woman in my 50's and it was inevitable that menopause would be rearing up at some point. Although I'd had no noticeable signs before the kidnapping, I was in full menopause just a few months after. That was fun, dealing with wacky emotional and physical responses to the hormonal fluctuations, while also recuperating from being kidnapped, which apparently can also produce some interesting emotions.

Ben, partly in response to being kidnapped, partly in response to me being all over the place emotionally, and partly because he was in the throes of becoming a teenager at this same point in time . . . well, Ben became a handful to parent. A really BIG handful. And homeschooling him became the worst thing in my life. That was especially hard to deal with, while we were both getting over the effects of the kidnapping. (Are you sensing a theme, here?)

Then, within six months of Rachel getting married and moving out, Gus also left, to begin his life as a working adult and college student, in the US. This was hard on everyone. Gus had been the one who handled big things around the house for me - the lifting, the hauling, the filthy and dangerous stuff, etc. He also was GREAT with Ben, as Ben was struggling; so both Ben and I felt his loss very keenly.

Things shambled on in a messy way for a few months longer, until we came to a place where we had to resolve some serious, ongoing Ben issues. There's a lot of middle-story I'm leaving out, but in January of 2015 Ben started attending school, rather than being homeschooled. This has been a good change for everyone - but it has required a LOT of time and hard work in the adjustment, and we're not done adjusting yet! Because Ben was behind in his studies, he and I basically homeschooled in the evenings after school, from January through the end of the school year in June, to get him caught up with his class in the subjects which are taught in English at the school (math, science, history, Bible, and English).

Through the summer, we continued a (slightly less grueling) study schedule, which also included several hours of tutoring in Spanish, three days each week. At the end of the summer, just as Ben was heading back to school, Boo, the youngest daughter of the family, moved back to the US, to work for a year before starting in on college. Boo is a quiet one, but her sweet spirit and her willingness to jump in and help wherever she was needed is sorely missed here now!

Suddenly, I was alone in the house all day - no kids at all! Since this hasn't been the situation in my life for the past twenty eight years - and as homeschoolers the kids and I spent huge amounts of our time learning, working, and laughing together during those years - I think you can imagine how . . . adrift . . . I've been feeling lately.

However, with Ben's school situation gradually stabilizing - and now that I've had some time to adjust to the new realities in my life - well, I can see that the world is sort of opening up in a new way for me. I'm working on setting up some systems to get our home running more efficiently (including hiring household help) to free up my time for the things that I think God is calling me to do in the future. I'm not entirely sure what those things are, exactly, but I want to be ready for them!

I'm sure that working on writing my book is part of it. I'm suspicious that some public speaking may also be involved (although I haven't a clue how that would fit in with living in Honduras, but that's God's problem to figure out). I'd love to have a more hands-on part in our official ministry, now that my hands aren't as full with the ministry of raising the children. Beyond that, I'm praying and waiting to see exactly what the next season of life will hold for me.

Meanwhile, maybe I'll do a bit more baking . . . .

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Phew - October was a tough month!

I never mention this online while it's happening, but now that it's over, I can tell you that Allen was gone from home for weeks, recently, doing fundraising in the US. While he was away, Russell, Clay, and I handled things here . . . and it was a particularly rocky time for me.

Here are just a few of the "special moments" I was privileged to experience in October . . .

First, I was driving home at dusk one evening, with Ben in the Land Cruiser, when suddenly my steering went out! It was quite a blessing that we were climbing a very steep hill at the time, and so making an immediate stop was not a problem. We were in a very dangerous spot along the road, where the one-lane-wide road has long, sheer drop offs on both sides! Had we been traveling the other direction, going steeply downhill, when our steering went out, this could have been a much more serious situation.

Another blessing was that, although we were on the road to our house, which hugs the side of a steep hill which completely blocks the cell phone signal the entire way, we were in the one spot where there's a ravine instead of a hill. Because of this, our phone was receiving a good cell signal where we broke down and we were able to contact Russell immediately, to come and rescue us.

Russell and Clay came out quickly, while Ben and I sat in the dark, with the car mostly blocking the road - which wasn't a problem, as no other vehicles came along before Russell got there. The guys were able to make an impromptu repair using wire, so that Russell could carefully limp along in that Land Cruiser to get it up onto our property. Clay drove Ben and I home in Russell's vehicle.

Then, because I wouldn't be able to drive Ben to the bus stop for school the next morning, Ben packed his clothing and school needs and headed back into town with Clay and Russell. For the following few days, Russell worked on repairing the damage to the vehicle, and Ben spent the nights in town. Russell was able to purchase the needed part and repair the vehicle before the following weekend, so I was back on the job, driving Ben back and forth to Gracias everyday . . . until . . .

Saturday morning, I picked up the gal who works for me in the house, out on the main road. She brought along her 13 year old sister (though I'm not sure why). Although my helper is comfortable around my dogs, her sister was not . . . and she screamed and ran, and one of the dogs attacked the girl, thinking she was protecting me. I grabbed the girl and was able to keep the dog from biting her face or neck, but in the process the dog also bit me, in the ankle.

We both had to go to the hospital for stitches (and our family had to put down our most protective watch dog), and then I spent another week staying home, while Ben spent school nights at Russell's house. I had to sit quietly, with my ankle elevated, most of that time, as it was difficult to walk on that leg, and it would swell up if I didn't stay off of it.

After just over a week, my wounds were healed enough that I could start driving again. The first day I drove Ben to town in the morning, but when I went back to pick him up following his after-school sports my engine started making a strange noise. Since I was in Gracias at the time the noise started, I drove the few blocks to Russell's house and had him check it out. Sadly, the problem was that my 16 year old engine was in need of being rebuilt - a huge and expensive undertaking!

Once again, Ben packed up and moved in at Russell's house for the week of school. This time I wasn't injured, I was just stuck at home without a vehicle. Russell was, as always, amazing about picking up my responsibilities in addition to his own. This repair took two weeks to be completed, but finally the vehicle was back together and Russell and the mechanic took it for a short, gentle test drive. They drove to the nearby gas station to put in some fuel.

At the gas station they told the attendant to put in 1000 lempiras worth of fuel (in Honduras, there are no self service pumps in gas stations), and while the attendant was pumping the fuel into the vehicle, Russell and the mechanic both had their heads under the hood, adjusting things in the engine. After paying for the fuel, they headed back up the road, but the didn't get very far before things went VERY wrong. The engine began racing uncontrollably, and the Land Cruiser began to spew huge clouds of black smoke! They tried to turn off the vehicle, but the engine wouldn't stop running! Eventually they were able to stop it by disconnecting a fuel line, but not until significant NEW damage was done to the engine.

It turns out that the cause of this event was that the attendant at the gas station had put gasoline into the vehicle, instead of diesel . . . in spite of the fact that it is clearly labeled for diesel! Here in Honduras there is no expectation that companies will be responsible for damages caused by their employees, so we knew we had to pay for yet another major engine repair. Sigh.

The vehicle went into the repair shop again, and after another week the fuel injector was repaired (or possibly replaced, I'm not sure). Everything was put back together again, and we started to drive the Land Cruiser again . . . but . . .

A few days later, the engine started making a continuous high pitched whine. We haven't yet found out the cause, or what it will cost to repair.

Sigh. Currently, Allen and I only own this one, 16-year-old vehicle. We sold our other Land Cruiser a few months ago (it was older and higher mileage than this one - and we sold it because of the cost of continued repairs and maintenance), and we are anticipating purchasing a newer used pick up truck, fairly soon. Meanwhile, Russell and Clay keep loaning us their vehicles, or chauffeuring us to town and such.

So, that's the recap of some of the difficulties we've been dealing with in October. It has been a long, annoying and expensive month! Because some of you reading this are our supporters, and will want to know this information, the costs to repair this vehicle, so far, have been around $6000. We're always trying to find the most economical line between purchasing a newer vehicle and repairing the old ones. Up until recently, repairing the Land Cruisers - the ultimate vehicles for our location and terrain - has been the obvious choice. Now, we're praying again about how best to use the funds we have, to make sure that we have the transportation we need for both personal and ministry uses.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

The big coffee planting season is now behind us

August and September bring regular, torrential rains to our area. It is during these months that the tender young coffee plants are moved from their sheltered nurseries out into the fields. 

Landowners in our part of Honduras are putting in acres and acres of coffee; more every year. It's a fabulous crop for the conditions here - since it can be grown on rocky hillsides, which we have in abundance, and the plants thrive in this climate. Another benefit is that the coffee can be planted in the ground below existing trees, which decreases the likelihood of erosion problems.

The mountainous terrain excludes the possibility of mechanized farming in much of Honduras, and the country people in our area are quite knowledgeable about and experienced with agricultural work. We have no difficulty finding extra laborers when we need them for our busy planting season.

This is the back of Russell's Land Cruiser, with the seats folded up,
moving a load of new coffee plants down to the fields for planting
This hillside has already been planted with coffee plants in straight rows among the existing trees. 

Workers fertilizing the young plants. The fertilizer is in the baskets strapped to their waists,
 and they use the tool, with a single straight blade on the end of a long handle,
to create a small pocket in the dirt near each plant.

In areas where there are fewer shade trees available, the men plant plantain or banana
 plants.These fast growing, leafy plants quickly add shade to the fields, 
as well as providing us with additional crops of bananas and plantains!

Workers spraying to prevent bug and fungus damage. Here in the tropics, either of these can 
wipe out a field of plants pretty quickly, so it's a constant battle to keep them under control.

Russell giving you an idea of the size of the stem
of a coffee plant which went into the ground last year

We're definitely pleased with how our sustainable ministry project is coming along. So far, there has been a large investment of time and money, and we've made great progress! A harvest is not expected in the first or second year, but in spite of that, it looks like we will be able to collect enough beans this year to fill a couple of large sacks, from the plants which went into the ground last year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Taking a drive on the wild side

As I drove Ben to school this morning, we noticed that damage from last night's torrential rain was unusually apparent. We saw several minor rock and dirt slides, places where debris had been washed all over the roads, and lots of new potholes. The rivers were very full, and running tremendously fast - and clearly they had, in several places, come up out of their banks onto the roads during the night.

I decided to document some of that this morning . . . and then I got the totally brilliant idea to go home by a different route, where I would have to travel on dirt roads the whole way home. That, I thought, would assure me of some especially impressive photo opportunities. It might have been wise to consider the fact that my original route of the morning did not require me to actually ford any of the rivers, and this route would . . . but that didn't occur to me until a bit later. And, really, what's the fun of living in Honduras, if you're not willing to take on the occasional adventure, right? LOL

It turns out that the dirt road has recently been graded (since the last time I used it), and most of it did not experience much erosion from the storm last night, and is still very smooth. Good thing I had some rivers to ford, for better photo opportunities!

(Click on the photos to see a larger version.)

This spot is some pretty rough driving!
The road heading down to the river took a beating.

Here's one of the three rivers I had to ford on this trip. On a normal day, none of them are worth a second thought. 

Closer view of the water flow - making me nervous that the concrete bed of the ford might have suffered some damage. Did it? I don't know - the part my wheels touched was okay, though.

Normally, during the rainy season, the water is about 1/4 as wide as this

Closer look at the flow of the water I was preparing to ford. It's not so very bad, though I do get nervous when I can't see the state of the ground at the bottom . . .  

This is where I turn off the main road, to get home

Not very clear in this photo, but the little "ditch" the water created, between the main road and my road is about a foot wide there, and probably around a foot deep. I  hugged the left side of the turn, to avoid it. 
A spot on the side road which keeps getting larger, as the rainy season progresses . . . 
Yeah, I'm hoping not to slide down there . . . 

I picked up these hitch hikers on their way to school.

We have several months of rainy season still ahead of us. Things may get interesting. With Ben in school now, I don't have the option to just stay off the roads.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Church Construction Project - El Rodeito

The congregation led by Pastor Santos Heriberto Reyes, in El Rodeito, had outgrown their small church building. They have been working to expand the existing structure, and we were able to assist them with this project because generous donors have sent funds specifically for the purpose of helping with church construction projects in this part of Honduras. If you're interested in how it all works, I wrote a post about this recently.

Here are some members of the congregation outside their new (not yet painted) church building

A peek at the beautifully finished interior

If you look down the side wall, you can see that a portion of the wall is painted.
That is a section of wall from the old building  . . . you can get
some idea of the much smaller size of the original church building.

During the construction process
We're so excited to be able to play a part in the spread of the Gospel throughout western Honduras . . . and we hope you are, too! God placed us in a location where the harvest of souls is coming in, NOW, and we are working hard - with your help - to ensure that this moment of opportunity is not wasted!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Progress Report for Ben

I'm thinking, now that we have a month of the new school year under our belts, it might be time for a progress report. In order to see the progress, we will first take a look back:
Up until January of this year, Ben was homeschooled, with mixed results. He learned to love reading, science, and history, but he wasn't happy studying at home, and this situation became worse for my extroverted boy, as more and more of the older children grew up and left home (especially hard was the departure of Ben's beloved brother, Gus, when he moved to the US).
Following the kidnapping, in August of 2013, Ben and I both had trouble getting back to the business of homeschooling - we had other things on our minds, to sort through and deal with - and Ben fell behind in his schoolwork, especially in math and writing. As other aspects of our lives began to normalize, school became more of a problem, and things were tense around here.
For reasons too varied to discuss in a blog post, the decision was made to put Ben into the excellent local Christian bilingual school. He took a placement test, which said he was prepared for approximately the middle of fifth grade. With the agreement of the school administrators, he was placed into the sixth grade, because of his age. At ages 12, 13, and 14, there are a LOT of physical and emotional changes happening, and we wanted Ben to be with his peers.
This meant that the six months of school Ben attended last year were incredibly grueling for Ben, and for the rest of the family. Every day, in just math, for instance, he would have to learn whatever new thing the class was learning, but he would also have to learn and practice a number of other types of problems that the rest of the class had previously learned but he had not yet experienced - and he had the same situation in many of his other subjects, as well. Two days per week, he would attend tutoring sessions after school, with his 6th grade teacher, Miss Whitehead. When Ben arrived home every afternoon, he and I would go straight to work on his homework, and, except for a brief stop for dinner, we usually worked straight through until bedtime! Our family was extremely impressed, from the start, with Ben's effort and mostly good attitude. He loved going to school, and was determined to make this work.
It was still a long, hard struggle, though. Over the weekends we would spend time catching up on any homework he hadn't been able to complete during the week (especially in math), and Ben would spend a lot of time writing, writing, and writing! If things went well, Ben would find himself with Sunday afternoons free . . . but that was it! Poor guy (and, just fyi; poor me, too. LOL).
We made it to the end of the school year, and Ben passed all of his classes . . . and for the most part he either received a high A, or he barely squeaked by to pass, in each of his subjects.
Now, you may have noticed that I said this is a "bilingual" school, and I haven't yet said anything about Spanish. Ben speaks English as his first language, and, when we started school, he had a minimal ability to get by in Spanish. He certainly was not ready to take 6th grade classes (social studies and Spanish language arts) in Spanish, with students who speak Spanish as their first language! During the time his classmates took those classes last year, Ben worked with a tutor at the school, to improve his Spanish. At the end of the school year, we felt that he was catching up pretty well in his other subjects, but our greatest concern was whether he was ready to enter the 7th grade classes in Spanish, as a regular student.
Over the summer, Ben attended tutoring sessions, three times each week, with a Honduran teacher from the school. Miss Amy did such a great job with him - her friendly, gentle manner encouraged him to open up and talk in Spanish about anything and everything - and we felt guardedly hopeful about Ben's Spanish abilities, as we started this new school year. (Fortunately it is comparatively very simple to read and write in Spanish, if you can already read and write in English - the reverse is much more complicated.)
As we started the new school year, I was guardedly hopeful about Ben's progress, but, to be honest, I was mostly dreading it! One thing that is available to the students at the school, when they reach 7th grade, is the opportunity to participate in after-school sports. I had promised Ben that he would be allowed to participate, if his grades weren't negatively affected, and if he could manage to get all of the homework done in the time that would be left over, after he'd spent time in the after-school activities. So, he had extra incentive to do well this year - he excels in sports and desperately wanted to be involved in those, as much as possible!
Now, after a month of seventh grade, I'm delighted to report that everything, so far, is going so much better than last year! Happily, Ben is no longer the strange new student who doesn't know how anything works . . . and this has helped him a lot, in adjusting to the new teachers and other differences that are in effect now that he has moved into the second level of classes at the school. He is now attending the classes which are held in Spanish, as a regular student, and the teachers have expressed to him that they are pleased and surprised at his progress! He has been doing an amazing job at keeping track of all of his assignments, and is taking full responsibility for making certain that his homework is completed in the evenings. He's participating in after-school sports four days each week, as well! I'm thrilled, of course, and just a little bit amazed at his progress!
There are still - and certainly will continue to be - many struggles and difficulties along the way . . . Ben is a teenager now, you know, LOL! But I wanted to take a moment and just be grateful for where we are, where we've come from, and that the future looks so bright for Ben, right now.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Poverty Enters my House

For almost 15 years now, my family has worked with the desperately poor, in rural villages in Honduras. I like to think my eyes are open to the needs and the problems, if not the solutions, related to the economic situation in Honduras. When visitors arrive, and exclaim over the level of poverty they see here, I nod my head sadly - because, of course, I've seen it.

But recently, our family hired a young woman to help with the cooking and housework. Most missionaries do hire help - it is seen as both a tool to allow the missionaries to concentrate on the work they are sent to do and also valuable employment to individuals in the community. Additionally, the missionary family benefits from the interaction with a speaker of the local language. We already employ a group of regular workers, men who have learned valuable skills while building bridges and water projects with us, and who are currently working with us in the coffee fields. But I've been reluctant to have household help . . . it's too personal for this hermit, having someone working

Recently, though, I gave in to the inevitable (I posted about this here), and hired a helper. I've had friends praying for this need, and then for the transition - mostly because, while I knew it was necessary, I was dreading it! I've been so grateful for the prayer support - and am delighted to report that things are going swimmingly! I really like my new household helper - not only is she hardworking, but she's also pleasant company, and she's fond of my menagerie of animals - which is huge when you consider how much extra work they create for her! We are already forming a friendship which transcends the differences in our ages (she's the same age as my oldest daughter), our communications difficulties, and so many other aspects of our lives. Either of us will stop at a moment's notice to share something with the other - a joke, a serious story, something silly one of the animals is doing, a beautiful view, an interesting bug, etc.

But, there has been another thing that has happened, with her arrival into my house. It's not unexpected, but somehow I managed to be surprised by it again . . .suddenly, poverty has entered my house. No longer can I sit back and view poverty as a problem to be addressed on a large scale. Now, it has a name and a face; dreams and aspirations. Poverty wonders how to make life better for her children. Poverty has a sweet attitude, and a brave smile, in spite of setbacks. Poverty is my sister in Christ.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

On the Twelfth Day of Gifts for Gracias . . .

I have been writing, for twelve days, about the different ways people have participated in the Gifts for Gracias Project over the years. Today is the twelfth - and final - day! If you are unfamiliar with Gifts for Gracias, or would like to see an overview of how it works, click here for more info.

The Twelfth Day of Gifts for Gracias: Gifts are distributed to the pastors!

As the Gifts for Gracias project has grown, over the years, it has become difficult for us to deliver the gifts individually, to all of the recipients in their homes. We could do it, of course, but only by neglecting other important aspects of the ministry, as it would take an immense amount of time.

Our ministry is all about getting resources into the hands of local pastors and evangelists, and letting them do whatever they can do for themselves from there. In the case of the Gifts for Gracias project, the pastors, denominational supervisors, and local pastor associations have helped us as the project has grown, by taking on this final part of the process. As always, this multiplies the number of families we are able to help! 

Since we generally receive lists containing the info for groups of pastors, we make up all of the gifts, group by group. When all of the gifts for one group of pastors are completed, we contact the individual who submitted that list. They tell us whether they would rather pick up the gifts at our house, out in the country, or at Russell's house, in town. 

This means, however, that instead of taking pictures of the pastors and their families at their homes, receiving their gifts, we take pictures when the truckloads of gifts leave our home, and we receive photos from the supervisors who pass along the gifts. Please know, as you look at these photos, that these group pictures, and photos of truckloads of boxes, represent the opportunity for us to deliver gifts to more delighted children and grateful parents, than we could otherwise do. 

Pastors of smaller churches in the ADEMIC denomination,
receiving their gifts at the large ADEMIC church in the city of Gracias

Because I know everyone loves to see them, however, here is a link to a post with photos of families receiving gifts in previous years. 

I believe that now, with the completion of these twelve (!) posts on the topic of Gifts for Gracias, I have answered all the questions anyone could possibly have about this project. If I'm wrong, then please leave your question in the comments, and I will make sure you get an answer.
A huge "Thank You" to everyone who participates, in any of the ways I've mentioned in these posts,and any I may have left out. As a reminder, I am posting the shipping and deadline information below.

Shipping/Delivery Information

If you wish to mail gifts, there are two mailing addresses available:

Gifts for Gracias
c/o Norma Irvin
7921 Broadmoor Pines Blvd.
Sarasota, FL 34243


Gifts for Gracias
c/o Jim Cofer
7047 Blue Mountain Road
Thurmont, MD 21788

If you live in Maryland or Florida, contact us if you would prefer to deliver your gift in person. At this time, there are only two locations set up to receive donations, but there may be a few other private options which can be arranged.
trish @

DEADLINES: All gifts coming to us in Florida MUST be received before September 24th! Currently, the Maryland deadline is the end of October.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

On the Eleventh Day of Gifts for Gracias . . .

I am writing twelve posts about the different ways people have participated in the Gifts for Gracias Project over the years. Today is the eleventh day. If you are unfamiliar with Gifts for Gracias, or would like to see an overview of how it works, click here for more info.

The Eleventh Day of Gifts for Gracias: Come to Honduras and help us make up the gifts

This may sound crazy to you, but people have done it before: you could come and stay with us for a few weeks or months, and help us when the container arrives here. There is a TON of work involved, and we try to do it all as quickly as possible, so we can have space in our house again! The trickiest part of this is that we generally don't know exactly when the container will ship, until very close to the actual date, making planning a trip in advance difficult (and therefore increasing the cost somewhat). Here's a fun post, documenting the time Kate Cofer came and helped us: Boo and Katie make Christmas Gifts for Pastors.

The work goes like this: 

1. We empty all areas of our buildings in which we intend to store the incoming donations, and use the opportunity to clean them thoroughly. We plan out the locations where each type of box should be put upon arrival - boxes of food, used clothing, pre-made gifts, personal items, etc.  2. Once the container has been released from Honduran customs, and has been transported to the city of Gracias, the menfolk head down the mountain to unload the large shipping container into two smaller trucks, which finish the journey by transporting the donations up the rough and steep dirt roads to our house. 
3. The menfolk accompany the fully loaded trucks to our house, and unload everything a second time, into our buildings.  
4. After recuperating from the unloading, we open all of the boxes and do additional sorting and organizing, so that when we are making boxes, we know right where each item is located (ahem, more or less). Anything which we find to not be usable for inclusion in gifts (mostly this would be somewhat damaged, but still usable items) is given away to pastors who distribute these items to the poor families in their communities.  
5. Finally, using the lists we received from the pastors and supervisors, we put together personalized gifts for all of the families on all of the lists - generally around 325 families, which represents slightly less than 2000 people (a significant majority of these are children)! I told you it was a LOT of work!

Would you like to join us here in Honduras, to help us with this project? We'd love to talk to you about this possibility. trish @

Never fear, though, there is still time to get involved, without buying a plane ticket! Read the previous posts for more ideas, and for shipping information. Deadline information is below:

All gifts coming to us in Florida MUST be received before September 24th! Currently, the Maryland deadline is the end of October!

Tomorrrow I will write the final post about how people help us with the Gifts for Gracias project. Thanks for hanging in there with me, as I attempted to cover all of this information!

Friday, September 11, 2015

On the Tenth Day of Gifts for Gracias . . .

For 12 days, I am writing about the different ways people have participated in the Gifts for Gracias Project over the years. Today is the tenth day. If you are unfamiliar with Gifts for Gracias, or would like to see an overview of how it works, click here for more info.

The Tenth Day of Gifts for Gracias: Help load the container

The final step - on the US side - of the Gifts for Gracias project, takes place with the loading of the container. Over the years there have been several different storage and loading locations, all roughly in the area of Frederick Maryland. This year (same as last year) the container will be loaded in the parking lot of the Fredericktowne Baptist Church, in Walkersville, MD, just north of Frederick.

I have already blogged about the process of loading the container, here. If you haven't seen that, you might want to check it out, and if you live in the vicinity, perhaps you'd like to help with the loading. If so, just let me know!

Since this post is so short today, I will take this opportunity to remind everyone that RIGHT NOW is a fabulous time to find bargains on items which are much appreciated by the gift recipients here - school supplies, especially, but also fleece blankets (which are generally relatively inexpensive and also pack down nicely into a small amount of space) - and I'm sure those of you who have done back-to-school shopping more recently that I have will be able to come up with additional ideas!

Also, as you're pulling out your stored fall and winter clothing (and handling items which are outgrown or no longer wanted, but still in good shape), here's a reminder that we accept clothing from all seasons, and in all sizes up to adult large (nothing XL, please). It might surprise you to hear that winter clothing is especially appreciated, since we live in the tropics, but the houses here aren't insulated or even capable of being totally closed up (even out house is this way) . . . so when it gets down into the 40s and 50s here, it is the same temperature inside the houses - and that is c-c-c-cold! Our family keeps some sweat pants, long sleeve shirt, and fuzzy slippers, for that part of the year - and our house is significantly more air-tight than many of the houses in the mountains. 

Clearly, this house will not be keeping out the cold! 

Tomorrow I will share MORE ways that people can be involved with the Gifts for Gracias Project!!!! The link at the top contains the information regarding shipping, but I will post the information on the looming deadlines:

All gifts coming to us in Florida MUST be received before September 24th! Currently, the Maryland deadline is the end of October!

Thank you so much for taking the time to learn about this project, and doing what you can to help us - we appreciate it!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

On the Ninth Day of Gifts for Gracias . . .

For 12 days, I will be writing about the different ways people have participated in the Gifts for Gracias Project over the years. Today is the ninth day. If you are unfamiliar with Gifts for Gracias, or would like to see an overview of how it works, click here for more info.

The Ninth Day of Gifts for Gracias: Help sort, organize, and pack donations

We have individuals in Maryland and Florida who give of their time, helping to sort, organize and pack the donations which are received in each location. Sometimes items are donated which don't fit the parameters of this project, and we really don't wish to pay to ship things we cannot use here. Our volunteers in the US work to weed out those kinds of donations.

When the container arrives here, we have a very short time for unloading, and of course we don't have lots of extra space or manpower . . . so it has been very helpful that, in recent years, the volunteers in MD have labeled the boxes, using a color code and spray paint. With this method, the men who unload the truck (who, as a rule, aren't able to read English labels) can place the boxes into categorized piles, during the unloading process. This has been hugely helpful to us, as we begin the work of creating the gifts!

In Maryland, most of this sorting and organizing work is happening at Fredericktowne Baptist Church, in Walkersville, where they have also stationed a container on site, to collect donations! We are so blessed to have them involved with us in the Gifts for Gracias project! 

Friends sorting and packing boxes,
at Fredericktowne Baptist Church, last year

Tomorrow I will share MORE ways that people can be involved with the Gifts for Gracias Project!!!! The links above all contain the information regarding shipping, but I will post the information on the looming deadlines:

DEADLINES: All gifts coming to us in Florida MUST be received before September 24th! If you are mailing a package after that date please use the Maryland address! Currently, the Maryland deadline is the end of October!