Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Honduras, Day Two

Early this morning, we made our way to a nearby project located in a dangerous inner city slum. There are 192 children in this project, 18 of whom are not yet sponsored. The pastor and his wife, along with the staff of this project, are absolutely passionate about their ministry to children. It is the heart of their church.

The children were thrilled to get some visitors, and they swarmed around us with hugs and giggles. They are so beautiful and so full of joy.

There was little in the way of language barrier -- love is universal.

We split into three teams, and each team took turns playing with the children, visiting the project's administration office, and helping in the kitchen.

On the way to the administration office, I tripped on a wire anchored into the ground and made what was probably one amazingly ungraceful tumble. The kids got to see the whole thing unfold – way to leave an impression, eh? No worries, I managed to protect my camera and not land on any little children :)

The administration office was something I had looked forward to learning about in greater detail. This is where all the behind the scenes work is done. There are files on each child, and we were invited to look through a child's file to see the records that are being kept, how their development and progress is tracked, any correspondence they've received or sent, a record of any gift they've received. Their health and dental care is noted, every home visit is tracked, every bit of information on a child can be found in these files. The records are impeccably kept. I was impressed.

We saw a large stack of letters that were prepared by the children to be sent out. It's exciting to see this side of it. I learned later that day when talking with my mom that we had just received a letter from Bessy, our sponsored child from Honduras. Having seen the letter writing process from the Compassion project side, this made me smile. At some point, her letter was in a stack similar to this...

I loved how the toothbrushes are kept for the children!

The advocates and our Compassion tour guides worked side by side, interacting with the kids.

One of the Compassion guides, Ayax, was such a great sport... he allowed the little girls to paint his fingernails. I love that guy!

The children were so eager to play with us. No matter where we go in the world, the joy of children is so universal. They love to laugh and to play, and no one in the world makes a friend easier than a child.

The kids went across the street into a makeshift soccer field, and many of the boys from the project played along with the neighborhood boys. Carson, one of the advocates on the trip, along with Christian, the son of one of the leaders, played with the local children. How they played in the heat is beyond me, but they were having so much fun. While they played, the kids gathered around to watch.

Melvin, one of the boys from the neighborhood watched from afar. Melvin does not attend the project. He is not registered in their Compassion program. When more of the children currently waiting for sponsors are sponsored, children like Melvin will get a chance to start attending the program. Until then, they are at risk for gang recruitment, as gangs pray on those who feel as though they don't belong anywhere, or aren't valued by society.


I found that there was such a drastic contrast all around us. At first glance, you see children playing soccer together, such a typical North American scene... until you looked past the soccer game and saw the surrounding reality. They were playing barefoot in a field littered with garbage, bordering a very polluted river along which the dangerous slums were built. The slums are where these children call "home".

Nearby, a boy played soccer in his backyard.

Back at the center, we played with the children some more, and walked to construction site where a new facility is being built to accommodate more children. We prayed for the new construction and the fundraising needed to finish it. They are $7000 short of what they need, but have faith that God will provide in time to finish the structure by the end of July. If your church is looking for a project to support, this is a phenomenal opportunity to bless the children of this area, and the local church that supports their holistic needs – contact Compassion today!

We walked back to the center and then settled for lunch. Lunch was a traditional Honduran bean soup with rice added to it. It was incredibly tasty!

After lunch, we presented the project gifts that we had collected back home to the project leaders, and we prayed for their project ministry to be blessed and fruitful.

For the afternoon, we split into four teams for the home visits. These are powerful opportunities to witness firsthand the family situations we represent through our work with Compassion.

The first home that our team visited was the home of Isabel, a married mom of two little girls. Her youngest daughter rested in a relative’s lap in a second hammock. Her oldest daughter, Emily, was sleeping peacefully in the hammock as we spent time with the family.

Their home was situated along a very busy and noisy street. Children could be seen crossing this dangerous street or walking alongside of it without adults. Back home, this would be unimaginable. Their home is not situated on their own land. The entire slum comprises of squatters on government owned land, and they face eviction at any given moment. They tap into a source of water and electricity that is not their own, therefore they do not have monthly utility bills or a mortgage, and still, they struggle to put food on the table. It’s a one room house, with a double bed and a twin bed, with only about 10x5 feet of space left for food preparation. There was no bathroom.

Isabel’s husband was at work while we were at their home. He recently got a job as a welder, but the pay doesn’t reach the Honduran minimum wage. He makes $35... a week.

Aside from the extreme financial hardships, Isabel personally struggles as the sole spiritual head of the household. Her husband, like many Honduran men, does not have a relationship with Jesus and share the faith of their wives and children. This leaves the entire responsibility of the family’s spiritual leadership to the mothers. That hit home for me. Hard.

We may be from different countries, in different financial situations, but our faith and our marriage situation is strikingly similar.

At the end of our visit, we presented her with some food and necessities as a token of our appreciation for opening her home to us, and we gathered around the hammock where I led the team in prayer as we watched Emily sleep, unaware of the love being poured into this family.

We had gathered a group of onlookers as we visited.

The onlookers followed us down the alley toward the next home we would be visiting.

They loved having their photos taken, and kept asking for more, more, more, doing sillier faces each time.

There were multicoloured baby chicks wandering around. The green one started following Tracy and Christian. It was hilarious!

The next home we visited was one of the most difficult home visits I had personally experienced to that point, from a poverty level perspective. I wrote about it here... please keep this family in your prayers, along with all the families we serve as Compassion Advocates. There are twelve people living in this tiny home measuring at the absolute most, perhaps 12 feet by 12 feet. Most bedrooms in North America are roughly similar in size... and yet three families live here; Two couples and a single mom, with 7 children amongst them. There were only two double beds. In fact, I'm not all that sure they were double beds... I think they may have been single beds. My heart hurts...

Their kitchen... wasn't a kitchen. It was merely a "hot plate" setup on a little stand by the front door.

Neighborhood children watching as we visit with Karen and the children from that home.

The makeshift electricity set up in the home was a bit frightening. This would never pass North American safety standards. It’s a choice between safety and survival, and in these parts of the world, survival is their only choice.

The only adult at home at the time of our visit was a 21 year old mother of three, Karen, who was in charge of watching a handful of the other couples’ children while they worked. The children are all 6 and under. Such a heavy responsibility for this young mother. She feels the burden of it.

We left them a gift of food and supplies, and prayed with them. As I went to hug the mom before leaving, she grabbed a hold of me and held on for dear life, and we both started to cry... she kept holding onto me as I prayed with her, while the translator let her know what I was saying. It was a powerful moment... there are no words that can give it justice.

So difficult to say goodbye.

Back at the center, I took the opportunity to look for an unsponsored child for my mom. I needed some help to find the ones without a sponsor, since there were only 18 out of the 192 that attend this project, and not all of them were necessarily there right at that time. That being said, I have gotten quite good at asking “Tiene Patrocionador?” I haven’t gotten quite so good at understanding the answer unless it’s a clear yes or no. There were a few little girls without sponsors, but there was one in particular that stood out for me. Her name is Jeisy, and I got to spend some time with her. She was, in one word, delightful. In two words? Sweet and spirited. In three words? Full of joy. She had just lost her two front teeth, and her smile was infectious. She has older siblings, but they’re much older, so she’s the only one in her age group at home.

Someone may have actually sponsored her online or through a child pack somewhere else and the center hasn’t received word yet, so there is no guarantee that we will be able to sponsor her. My mom is calling Compassion on Tuesday to find out... I’m eagerly anticipating the outcome. It would be so sweet to have had such a personal start to a sponsorship. (Note: I just learned tonight that Jeisy has indeed found a sponsor – praise the Lord! We won’t be able to sponsor her, but it was still such a blessing to spend time with her and love on her. If her new sponsor ever reads this, I hope she/he will drop me a note so that I can send him/her the photos!)

Jeisy started introducing me to all her friends as they were gathered around the table doing crafts. She and her best friend gave me the craft they had worked so hard on – I’m going to bring them home. Can’t think of a better souvenir!

(Jeisy is on the left)

All too soon, it was time to go. We climbed back on the bus, and I realized that I still had a small backpack of things to leave behind at the center in case we were able to sponsor Jeisy. In the end, it ended up being a project gift, but I know it will bless the children who receive it. God will know just who needs it.

We drove back to the hotel and had some downtime. I showered and headed down to the lobby to work on some photos. The highlight of the afternoon, other than everything we experienced at the project, was to get a chance to talk with my mom via MSN. She’s been one of my biggest supporters and prayer warriors for this trip, (and in life!), and being able to connect with her was priceless. It was very encouraging. It was just the boost I needed. We met in the lobby before supper for our “share & debrief” time. I love hearing about everyone else’s perspectives, wisdom and experiences.

We had special guests for supper, the staff of the Compassion country office. It was so interesting to hear them share how their side of the organization operates. They were so kind and passionate about what they do, and how important it is to support the church. It was so important for me to hear that Compassion doesn’t control the church’s project, they support it. Just as I support my own church by volunteering and tithing, I support worldwide churches through my Compassion volunteer work and financial support, as well as through the sponsorships. That’s why you’ll never see a big “Compassion” sign on a church/project – the church is the heart of what we do and the heart of the community, and the children and families are those who directly benefit.

Back at the hotel, I stayed up quite late writing, processing, praying, and worshiping. It was worth it – I know there was little chance that I would have slept anyway, the adrenaline was flowing a little too freely.

All in all, another great day here in Honduras. The more time I spend here, the more I fall in love with the people and the places we see.

Doris, the pastor's wife, said something that touched my heart. "Blessed be the feet of those who bring the good news." Our feet have been blessed to have walked through this area where the Gospel is being carried out so beautifully.


Anonymous said...

Bravo Jolaine pour ce que vous faites pour ces p'tits enfants! C'est ├ępatant et merveilleux! Merci de leur apporter du bonheur dans leur vie!Ils sont tellement beaux!

Docile said...

I will never forget the face of that gentle mother. Love, Mom

Kasie said...

wow. this post reminds me of the time I spent in India. We visited orphans in a small village & got the chance to walk through the town. People flocked to our sides. The children were so amazing & full of life. The joy of a child is so unconditional. I was the videographer/photographer of the trip & the people did the same thing there... they all wanted me to take their picture & show it to them on the screen of the digital camera... young AND old. :) It was precious.

I LOVE the chicken picture. SO cute.

I also loved hearing how the church is so supported & NOT controlled. I like that.

JD, please pray as I continue to talk my husband into sponsorship. It's not in "the budget" right now, he says... but as I see it... we can't afford NOT too.

I love you.

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