January marks the beginning of a new year. In the waning days of the old year many of us reflected on the year that passed and began thinking ahead to the soon arriving New Year. While there is nothing more magical about January 1st than December 31st it certainly has symbolic meaning. It is a time to begin doing things differently. It is a time to execute plans. It is time to get serious. Well not for me, at least not as far as this article is concerned.
My primary spiritual gift is encouragement so the Coffee Talk articles lean towards the serious side because I really like to help, and well, encourage others. While I don’t make official New Year’s resolutions there are serious matters that need to be planned for and there are things I have identified that must be done differently this year. But before all of that I just felt like writing about some things that have happened to us recently. Some serious, some not so serious, but either way hopefully this article will be encouraging to you.
Last year was our first full calendar year of living in Honduras. We moved there in May of 2015 but came back to the U.S. in mid October and stayed through Thanksgiving. So we actually only lived in Honduras for about 5 months of 2015. We experienced our first Christmas and New Year’s away from our natural families but with our new La Campa families. Then shortly after Christmas things got busy with mission teams and continuing to learn about life in Honduras.
One thing that is occasionally a source of humor but more often a source of fear in Honduras is driving. In the cities there is pavement, traffic lights and signs, and sometimes even lines on the road that you can see. I remember one day last year driving into downtown San Pedro Sula and, for the first time, actually being able to see all of the traffic lights because the lenses and bulbs finally got replaced. I don’t know what the useful life is for those things but they had been used many, many years beyond the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Vehicle lights are usually treated the same way. It is rare to encounter a vehicle with a full complement of properly functioning lights. This is one of the reasons we rarely drive anywhere at night, and never drive at night on the main roads. But often even when the lights do work, specifically the headlights, there appears to be some kind of conservation effort at hand.
We were driving up the mountain to our house early one evening. It wasn’t completely dark yet but it was dark enough that you would have had your headlights on even if they hadn’t already turned on automatically (not a common feature in Honduras). There was a motorcycle behind us and there was a large truck coming towards us that was actually on its own side of the road. Of the three vehicles ours was the only one with headlights on.
The motorcycle driver decided that we were not traveling fast enough for him so he swung out to pass. In the near dark. With no headlight. He may not have had one or the batteries in the flashlight that he rigged up to replace the headlight may have burned out, I can’t say for sure. But when he swung out to pass the truck driver was somehow (probably because our headlights were on) able to see him so he flashed his lights to warn the motorcycle driver that he was there. At least the truck had working headlights. The pass was narrowly made as they usually are and we all continued on our way. Why didn’t the truck driver just leave his headlights on you might be asking? We’ve asked the same question and it seems that most Honduran drivers consider headlights important for seeing and less important for being seen.
2016 was a year full of firsts, with plenty of highs, but plenty of challenges and some lows too. It was our first full year with full responsibility for all of the short term mission teams who came to serve with us. By January 1 last year we had a nearly full schedule of teams for the year, with most of them concentrated in June and July. Why we thought scheduling 7 straight weeks of short term mission teams in June and July was a good idea I’ll never know.
I guess the Lord knew this wasn’t a good idea so a couple of those teams cancelled their summer trips. Then at the end of April my mother in law had the first of a series of strokes that brought her into the presence of the Lord on June 27th. Jean was blessed to spend much of that time helping her mom while I stayed in Honduras to keep things moving forward there.
One of the highs was that we had planned a long weekend at the beach at the end of July after the last mission team for the year went home. Even though we underestimated how tough seven straight mission teams would have been, we at least were smart enough to know we would need some time to recover afterwards.
In February, while with one of our mission teams, we discovered a great little beach hotel that is very nice and very affordable compared to the resorts on the popular island Roatán where all of the cruise ships stop. The team leaders, who are dear friends of ours, asked us if they could come down and join us for that long beach weekend. What a blessing it was to spend that time with them. We played games, we read, we talked about important things that had happened, and we talked about silly things too.
Our fall trip to the states is an important part of our ministry because this is the time when some of our churches host missions conferences and everybody is starting to make plans for ministry in the upcoming year. Because of the passing of Jean’s mom there were extra things for us to do last year so we planned a longer stay last year that included all of October, November, and part of December. While this was an enjoyable trip for us it was not a vacation. There are many, many, meetings, presentations, conferences, etc. and we log thousands of vehicle miles during this annual visit.
Last fall was really a neat time for us to be in the U.S. We got to be here to see the election of a new president and to see the Cubs win their first World Series championship in 108 years. For me especially, that was just another proof that God cares about us and delights in the details of our lives. The Cubs winning the World Series has no eternal value that I can identify, but it provided a bit of happiness for Cubs fans like me who have endured a lifetime of disappointment. I would be remiss to not tip my hat to Cleveland fans because they have likewise suffered for a long time. God doesn’t care less for the Cleveland fans so I believe their year will come soon.
We looked forward to our long visit to the U.S. last year and then, just like that, it was over, almost. We had a complication with our flight and ended up having to stay for a long weekend before we could get on another flight, but God had a purpose for that unexpected delay. We had run really hard during that trip last year. We knew we would have to do that but we were hoping to also have a little quiet time to recharge our batteries.
However, we were not intentional about making plans to set aside time specifically for that. And the result, unsurprisingly, was that there was very little time to recharge. After we got over the surprise change in our plans and the economic impact of that change, we decided that perhaps this was God’s way of making us stop so we decided to do just that. We stopped for those four days and recharged. This turned out to be one of our personal highs in a year that was full of ministry highs.
We are excited about the ministry plans that have been made for 2017. But one other thing that is exciting, and that we are being intentional about this year, is planning for times of rest so that we can recharge our batteries periodically. We learned that it doesn’t have to be a lot of time, just the long unplanned weekend of rest we had at the end of last year did wonders for us. So if as you enter 2017 you feel like you are burning out and that your light isn’t shining very brightly please make time to rest and recharge. The time will be made for you eventually, one way or the other.