After breakfast and briefing, we drove an hour and a half from San Pedro Sula in the direction of the Honduran coastline, to the village of Pueblo Nuevos. The Compassion village would be the first Compassion project we would visit on this trip. We know it as project “HO-311”.
We had been invited to attend church at this project and to spend the rest of the day with the project leaders and staff. What a genuine and warm welcome they gave us. From what I have witnessed, this is very typical of the people of Honduras. They are so welcoming, humble, and kind hearted. We felt at home.
The pastor gave a passionate sermon which spoke straight into our hearts.
The experience of hearing worship songs in a language we didn’t understand brought us even closer to God as we relied on the Holy Spirit to interpret what He would have us hear. The voices of the local people were strong and powerful. The mother sitting next to me nursed her baby during the service, right beside me – as though it was the most natural thing in the world – because... it is. Where did North America go wrong? I love that it was so full of worship, yet so completely down to earth.
The children at the church service were charming. This is Victoria...
After the church service, our team of 19 was split into 4 teams so that each team could take part in a home visit.
People with children sponsored through project HO-311 had agreed to open their home and their hearts to us, and help us understand firsthand what it is Compassion does for the families, what their experiences have been like working with Compassion, what they need from us in our role as advocates and sponsors... and simply getting to know the families that Compassion serves here in Honduras.
Our team was welcomed into the home of Leslie, a single mom of two children – 15 year old Wilson, and 11 year old Jasmin.
Wilson loves Math and works hard in school. His favorite things about the Compassion project is to study the Bible and learn scriptures. Jasmin has been learning hairdressing skills, and her hair was beautifully done. She will be a great stylist someday!
They live in a simple but well kept house with a backyard orchard of coconut, avocado, grapefruit, lemons and more, with hens and chickens roaming freely through the yard.
In Honduras, the lemons are green. We thought they were kidding us... but they are really green. This one isn't ripe yet...
The bedroom in their home was too small to photograph, but big enough for two mattresses.
And the place where they store their kitchen necessities.
This reminds me of the Chicken Chalet in Ohio!
Leslie’s brother owns the property. Wilson and Jasmin are both sponsored, Wilson’s sponsor is Canadian, I believe, and Jasmin’s sponsor is from Australia. They have both been attending the project since it opened 9 years ago. My heart is heavily involved in the letter writing portion of our sponsorships, it’s integral to building the relationship between the children and their sponsors, so I was bracing myself for the inevitable – asking whether or not their sponsor writes to them. Jasmin showed us a Christmas card sent to her by her sponsor. She brought it out to show it to us.
Sadly, Wilson hung his head and explained that in the nine years he has been sponsored, he had never received a note, a card, or a letter from his sponsor. There has been no communication to tell him that he is loved, to encourage him to keep working hard in school, to ask him what his dreams for the future are, and to share the love of Jesus with him.
This broke my heart... the pain and longing in his eyes said it all.
As the rest of the team entered the home with Leslie so that she could show them the living quarters, I asked our translator to tell Wilson that I will be praying for him to receive a letter from his sponsor, and that I will hold his personal experience with the lack of letter writing in my heart, as a sponsor and as an advocate, and that I will use his story to tell people how important letter writing is for a child like Wilson. I told him that even if he never receives that letter, that I want him to know that he IS loved, that we do care, and that I want him to keep being encouraged to work hard in school and to do his best in everything.
I have learned that many children who are not encouraged by their sponsors through letters sometimes drop out from the lack of connection and relationship. Children who receive regular correspondence see a marked improvement in their schoolwork. These letters mean everything to these children.
We prayed alongside of Leslie, Wilson and Jasmin, and when we were finished, we were all overcome with emotion, especially Leslie, who seemed to understand the impact her family was making on us advocates, how much significance she had in teaching us today, and how much we truly care about her and her children, that we will be praying for them often.
After tearful goodbyes, we headed back to the project, and talked about the visit while waiting for the other teams to arrive. One of the teams, led by Tracy Smith, was visiting the home of her sponsored child, Felipe. We were so eager to hear about her experience.
When all the teams returned, we walked through the neighbourhood and down to the beach. It was my first time putting my feet into the Caribbean sea... it’s very, very warm. Not like the near freezing Bay of Fundy back home!Some of us were journaling, others were taking photos and exploring, but we were all enjoying the moments, regardless of what we were doing.
Teresa had a chance to spend some time at the beach with her sponsored child, Lillian.
After the beach, we walked back through the neighbourhood and made our way to an outdoor kitchen area and had a feast of fried fish, Honduras style. I felt like I was back home on the north coast of New Brunswick, having an Acadian style lunch... there wasn’t much left of the fish when I was finished with it!
We gathered around after the meal and gave the project leaders the gifts that we had collected for them back home. They were so grateful, you could see it in their faces. During prayer time, they asked God to bless us many times for what we had done for them, for visiting them, but already, God has blessed us beyond a hundred fold, it is them that teach us, it is them that bless us by who they are, by what they do, and by witnessing their faith in God. We are family.
When I went to hug the women from the project staff who had spent the day with us and made our lunch, the last two hung on a little longer, hugged a little tighter, and although the language was a barrier, I knew all over again that love and gratitude were a universal language.
We took a tour of a Spanish Fortress on our way back to the hotel, it was amazing. It reminded me of Louisburg in Cape Breton.
Even though it was very hot, and my blood pressure was giving me some issues, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time there as I let the sights and sounds of the day soak deep into my heart. What an amazing experience... and it was only the first day.
Back at the hotel, we showered, changed, and met for supper on the 7th floor restaurant, which had no windows in the dining area... the breeze was wonderful. I loved getting to know the rest of my team members -- the more I get to know them, the more I love how God put this team together, knowing just who we'd need to meet and work with. Amazing... absolutely amazing.
The internet connection here isn't great at nights, so I worked on my photos and writing, and will be posting this in the morning. That will likely become the routine while I'm here.