Wednesday, October 19, 2011

BIG Update - Part 2 - Car Thefts

Just a few days after all of that happened, someone told me at school that Dona Elsa's car had been stolen. I found out later that that was true, but not the whole story.

She was leaving a store somewhere, when the thief (thives?) came up and robbed her. They took her watch and her wedding ring, her purse with her wallet inside and all of her credit cards and license, and then her car. When she got to the school after Tammy went and picked her up, she was still pretty shaken.

This was also a bit of a wake-up call for me. I knew it wasn't safe here, but something about being in a house protected by electric wiring and being within view of several huge mansions while you spend a few hours a day just cruising the web on the house's wi-fi signal tends to lull you into a false sense of security. Even the murder a few days before that didn't increase my fear too much, because they lived in an area surrounded by several gangs. I had begun to question whether Honduras was as dangerous as people seemed to think.

I still go to bed at night feeling safe, but I'm more vigilant when we're out and about, always having a plan in case something happens. Maybe it won't matter because I don't know that I could actually fend off an attacker if it really came down to it, but I think about it. I'm staying more alert, and am more aware than ever of the people around me. I've always been somewhat alert with my surroudings, so the change isn't huge, but it's there.

Just a few days ago, there was another car theft of a different church member. Her car was stolen from right in front of her house, but nobody was robbed there. I can't decide if that makes it better or worse, to have your car stolen from in front of your house, or while you're out on the streets. Either way, there are some crazy things happening against the church right now.

They had an extra car here, probably for one of their two teenage children who are around the driving age, that Dona Elsa now uses. It's an automatic, so it's funny to see her make the switch from a manual. Well, that's it for now, I guess. I'll be posting a few more updates tomorrow.

BIG Update - Part 1 - A Death in the Church Family

So, I haven't posted in a while, and not because there wasn't anything going on, because stuff was definitely happening. There are several reasons that I haven't really updated in over a week. First of all, because of what happened and I wasn't sure how many details I can share. Second of all, because there were so many different things happening I was having a hard time knowing what to talk about. And thirdly, I sort of fell into a "funk" where I didn't want to do much of anything. But, I'm better now, and will start the updates. I'll post a couple different blogs today, and then a couple more tomorrow to get everyone caught up. Sorry about that.

I'll start with the events of a week and a half ago. I was over at Tammy's house, trying to play Mario with her son (who's in my class at school), which is hard because he spends half of the time trying to throw your character off a cliff and the other half of the time running ahead, which will get you killed if you don't keep up. Tammy came in and told me Jeimy's dad had been killed, so they were going to go to the house. She asked if I wanted to come, and I did for Jeimy's sake, because she's in my class.

So, we went. I didn't know what to expect, but I was too afraid of the answer so I didn't ask. When we got to the house, the police, and the medical examiner were still there. I followed mi familia through the gathered crowd (why do people always gather when something bad happens?) and under the "DO NOT CROSS" police tape. We embraced the members of the family members that were there and offered our comfort the best we could.

There was a lot of standing around after that. Several members of the family had some severe break-downs, and the members of the church were quick to step in and hold them while offering quiet words of comfort. It was hard to watch. I felt helpless. I couldn't offer words, but I did embrace those who I knew and didn't hide the fact that I was crying. I didn't really know the young man who died, but I did know two of his daughters and some of his other relatives, including his nephew who I worked with.

While we were there, they took the body away, wrapped only in a yellow plastic bag. I realized how much I've grown as I didn't get as nervous as I thought I would, seeing as bodies used to completely freak me out. The police left then, and the crowds got bored and dispersed.

Among all the pain, I think the worst was little Jeimy. She was running around hugging people without a tear on her face or any indication that she had been crying. I don't know that she understood what had happened, and I continue to pray for her that she grows to understand and accept what happened, and to make God her Father.

As it began to grow dark, we gathered to pray for the family and then said our good-byes. I wish I had known it was a real good-bye.

At church the next day, none of them were there. I didn't realize how big the family was until they were all gone from church, and the congregation was nearly cut in half. We also didn't have a worship leader, or band. The entire service that day was prayer. Although I didn't understand most of the words, I could hear the passion and sincerity, and was so moved by the way the church acted the way a church is supposed to act. As a church, we are instructed to mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15) I was amazed at the way the chuch responded so Biblically. I feel like most churches would have solumnly announced it, said a sincere prayer for the family, but then moved on with their normal Sunday morning activities, not wanting to bring down the rest of the church. But aren't we instructed to mourn with those who mourn? In the same way, we are supposed to be rejoicing with those who are rejoicing, and I don't see too much of that in a lot of American churches today.

When by Tuesday nobody from that family had shown up to school, I asked someone when we could expect them back. Being without all of the kitchen staff and two teachers was difficult for the rest of us. I didn't know if there were certain traditions of mourning, or what, but I found out that they were gone for a different reason. The gang that had killed Jeimy's father had threatened another member of the family. Not knowing why the gang was after them, or how far they would go, the entire family up and moved away.

Because of that, we are permenantly down the two teachers, our cook, and our entire worship team. At the school, we're just managing as best we can. I've taken over teaching the Bible class and P.E, and Lindsay has taken most of the other classes. We did hire a new cook, so that part is working out fine. Last Sunday, worship was led by a friend of Tammy, who just played music off the computer and sang in a mic. It was a great time of worship, but I just feel like live music is better. Maybe that's just me.

So, that's what went down two Saturdays ago. Deep sorrow, but great response from the church.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Quick Update

I just wanted to update really quickly to let everyone know what I've been up to. There's been a lot going on, so I haven't had much time for anything, and have been distracting myself with fun things when I did have time. Because I spent all day Sunday hanging out with mi familia and babysitting, I didn't really get to work on my 20 articles yet this week. So, once I get caught up with that, I will be posting a longer blog on the subject of the passing of a beloved member of the church family here. It's been really hard, but really amazing at the same time to see the church's response. So, off to work!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Drawing Beggars and Crayon Thieves

Today, we went to Los Bordos to teach school, and Lindsay had me go in with the littlest ones. There are four different classes at our little school there: 3 and under, 4-6, 7-13, and adults. Dona Elsa takes the women into the building next to the school to teach the various subjects, and today, we had the 7-13 year olds that Lindsay teaches outside. The youngest two groups sat around 2 tables inside the school.

I thought that having the little ones would be easy, because Lindsay implied that the hardest part of my job would be making sure nobody tried to steal the crayons. I quickly learned that that was not the hardest part of my job. As far as problems went, stopping the crayon thieves was actually the easiest one to solve.

All the little ones do is color these big pictures from Blue's Clues. But most of these kids don't have crayons and such at home, so even the older kids wanted to join in and color the pictures. I had to tell them no, because there wasn't enough for everybody, and they had their own classes to focus on.

As much sibling love as there usually is there, it was sad to see this lacking. There was one girl who claimed to be 8 but looked older (she also tried to tell me she was 5 when she first talked to me, so I wasn't very inclined to believe her the second time around) who had a little brother, who was probably 5 or 6. When I turned her down because she was big, she had her little brother ask, and I went ahead and gave him a drawing and let him take some crayons. When I looked over at the table they were at (because the little kid table was full), I saw that they boy was standing there looking sad while his older sister leaned over the table coloring the drawing that was meant for him.

When the older kids started finishing up the test they were taking, they started coming in and asking for drawings. Even the slightly older group started asking, and they had gotten to glue balls of tissue paper into the shape of the letter A, which was probably a new experience for them, and was definitely more grown-up than the coloring that the littlest ones did. I turned child after child down, and most of them would give up after a couple of "no"s.

But there was one little girl, whose name I don't know, who was desperate.She was in the oldest group, but I'm guessing she's around 7. She kept asking me for a drawing, telling me it was for her sister. After telling her her sister wasn't here several times in Spanish, I gave up trying to be rational with her. As she continued to (more and more loudly) demand a drawing, I started telling her why she couldn't have one in English. At one point, as she said "hermana" over and over, I repeated it back to her, saying "I can say it too: hermana!" The girl who had taken her brother's drawing came over, too, and they both were talking to me. She told the smaller girl that I didn't understand Spanish and only talked in English.

The small girl didn't give up, though, and went outside, then came back in telling me someone had said she could have one. Maybe someone did, but not someone in charge. Eventually, we got in the car and left, and she didn't get a drawing.

There were a couple of boys that came in that wanted to draw, too, or just steal crayons. One of them sat at the table for a bit coloring with another little boy, then was asking me for more crayons. I noticed immediately that he was sitting strangely in the seat, and I knew that there had been at least 4 crayons on the table near him just seconds earlier. When I asked him why he didn't have crayons, his impish smile and a little girl confirmed that he did indeed have several crayons. All four, to be exact, tucked in between his legs. I took them all forcibly from him, except for a purple one, which he tossed back into the bag anyway.

Later, him and his friend were in the corner eating oranges near a little boy who I had given a drawing and 6 crayons to. When I went to collect the crayons from the boy that was done, I got 5 back, and my little theiving friend had his arms clenched at his side, quite unnaturally. I put out my hand to receive the crayon, and his guilty smile gave him away again. I tickled him, and he eventually revealed where he had the red crayon hidden - under his arm, as I suspected.

As I gathered all the crayons and started stacking chairs because it was time to go, he said goodbye and walked out the door as I was returning from putting chair away. He had, beneath his orange, a crayon. Why he thought he could hide it there, I don't know, but this time when I held out my hand, he walked away quickly. I caught him by the arm, and as he wiggled, the crayon fell, and he ran off as I calmly bent down to pick it up. I'm not sure why he thought he could get away with it a third time.

As I was telling the small girl, and several others that they could not have a drawing, even for their "sister," part of me felt guilty for not giving them what they wanted. After all, this little girl comes from this poor villiage and they can't afford coloring pages and crayons, so it's wrong to withhold something like that from her.

But then I thought some more about it, and realized that it would have been wrong to give in. By her angry reaction to my "no"s, I'm guessing that she usually gets exactly what she wants, which means that she has little or no discipline at home. A lack of discipline is a lack of love. To give in and let her continue to think that she can get what she wants when she gets angry and yells is only going to further cripple her. Maybe I didn't teach her respect or anything like that, and she probably doesn't see my act of refusal as being loving, but I hope that eventually, she'll realize that she's worth something, and not because some richer people came and gave her stuff, but because God loves her and created her to do great things in His name.

Don't get me wrong, here. It's good to go into a villiage that's suffering economically and give them gifts for their children that they couldn't give them themselves. It's good that we're going in and spending time and money on teaching them reading and writing, and english. But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. If we give them everything they need all the time, they'll become dependent on our goodwill and won't be able to do anything for themselves.

Imagine a child who grows up never having to make their own food, or wash their own clothes, or wake themselves up to get ready in the morning. If that continues until the child goes off to college, they're going to have an EXTREMELY hard time adjusting and being able to take care of themself.

It's the same way with these villiages. If we come in and provide everything, they'll just sit around waiting for the next thing to come, and won't do anything for themselves. They begin to believe that they are good for nothing because they aren't providing for themselves, and the mindset of dependency and worthlessness will continue to cycle.

I know that's not what we're causing with them, and I don't think giving the girl a drawing or letting the boy steal a crayon just so he could have one would have caused them to spin out of control into dependency and worthlessness, but it's a cycle that's been going for generations, and if that's one way to possibly start to break through and be able to show them that they can do things for themself and that there's more to life than waiting around for the people who have more than you to come and give you drawings and crayons, then I'm going to have to keep telling them "no."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Why I'm a Missionary

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a missionary, because I don't really feel like one. All I'm doing right now is working at the school, teaching English, Math, and Music to 3-5 year olds, and going to do ministry (more teaching and occasionally handing out donations) at Los Bordos with Dona Elsa and Lindsay. Essentially, I am doing what Lindsay is doing.

When that thought first occurred to me, I was disappointed and a little frustrated at the lack of "real" ministry I'm doing. But then I got to thinking, and I realized I'm not a missionary by the usual definition. I'm not a missionary because I live in Honduras; there are 7.5 million people living in this country. I'm not a missionary because God sent me here; God has placed every person exactly where they are right now. I'm not a missionary because I have a purpose in my life; God has given a purpose to each and every person. I'm not a missionary because I serve and follow God; every Christian ought to be doing the same thing.

The reason I am a missionary is because I am showing God's love to each and every person I meet. I am pouring love onto my students at school, even when they won't stay in their seats. I am displaying how much he cares when I hug the grubby little boy at Los Bordos who always tried to get me to lift him off the ground and who once threw dirt at me. I am a missionary because I am exactly where God wants me to be, and I am serving Him in the exact way that He wants me to serve Him. I am a missionary because I am going out and loving people the way God loves them to the best of my abilities.

When it comes down to it, that makes us all missionaries. God sent you to your place of work to be a light to the people around you. There's no one else He wanted in that position, because you have unique gifts and talents that you can use to reach out to the people around you. You are a missionary because you are showing God's love to the people in your family, and to your friends.

The Great Commission is simple: "Go out into the world, and make disciples of all nations." We're all in a nation somewhere, and that's where we're supposed to be making disciples out of men, women, and children.

I'm realizing now how insignificant I am. Who am I? Not some amazing gift to the Hondurans sent by God to lead them to the path of righteousness. No. I'm just one person serving Him to the best of my abilities, and it's Him working in me that will get things accomplished. It was only through Him that I was able to realize I was handling my class the wrong way. On Friday, I didn't even have to draw the sad face to imply that someone's name was going to have to go there. Even at the end of the day, they quietly read books or did puzzles when they finished their work. That wasn't me. That was God. All I did was listen. That's what love is: putting words into action. And love for us means taking the words that God gives us and putting them into actions.